Hunt

Photo © Zach Dosch

Migration Reports

2020 Waterfowl Migration Update

Week 5 October 12- October 16

Northeast

Wetland conditions have remained about the same since last week. No rain has fallen in the area, so drawdown continues.  There has been some movement of both ducks and geese into the area. Several flocks of snow geese have been observed along with a good flight of white fronts.  A few flocks of small Canada geese are also showing up.  Some good concentrations of gadwall and widgeon are in the area with bigger water starting to hold good numbers of divers.  Canvasback and scaup are becoming abundant on some waters.  Looks like some movement of mallards this week cold temperatures in Canada should move some ducks down and I have heard reports in northern SD of a decent push of birds. 

Local goose numbers remain strong with birds hitting recently combined corn.  Harvest has been going full throttle with the dry conditions so new opportunities are presented daily.

A few swans are in the northeast, hunters with tags should expect the main migration in about 2 weeks.

Southeast   

Good numbers of gadwall and wigeon are being seen on many shallow wetlands.  The colder weather at the end of this week should move some birds around and hopefully bring in some new ducks and increase mallard abundance.

Diving diving duck abundance continues to increase on larger wetlands and lakes.  Scaup, bufflehead, ring neck, redhead, and canvasback have been seen in growing numbers.

No measurable rain fell across most of the region this week.  Without some fall rains wetlands conditions will continue to dry. 

Canada goose abundance remains high with lots of available fields to set up in. Good number of white fronts have been seen migrating over eastern SD.

Harvest is in full swing with bean harvest nearly complete and corn harvest well ahead of average. Scouting fields will be key as new fields are opening daily. 

There are reports of swans starting to show up in ND and extreme northern SD.

Lower Missouri River

Waterfowl numbers in the SE corner of the state continue to hold steady.  We have had very little moisture since the opener and wetlands are continuing to decrease in size and may actually dry up completely.  Scouting is a must and those hunters willing to put some miles on should be rewarded.  Still one week away from the Low Plains South unit opening.

Pierre Area

Not much to report about in the Pierre area. Heard some flocks of cranes the last couple of days but with the high winds I assume they have continued south. Expect the cold front moving in to make some changes in the area will see what happens. 

Western South Dakota

No change from last report

Week Four October 5- October 9

Northeast 

Not a lot of change has occurred in the last week in the Northeast part of the state.  I have observed more gadwall and wigeon showing up on area wetlands along with some divers on the bigger water.  Diving duck hunters should start to see some action as flocks of canvasbacks, redhead, scaup and ringnecks appear to be congregation on the lakes.  Smaller number of buffleheads are showing up as well.  Mallard numbers remain low in the area and I don’t see any large influx for a while yet.  Northern shovelers and green-winged teal have been observed more lately too so hunters will continue to harvest of mixed bag when going out.  Most of the blue-winged teal have left but there are still huntable numbers around yet if you can find them.  Once again, scouting is key to finding the right wetland.

Canada goose numbers remain strong and there are good opportunities for hunting them.  The crop harvest is going strong and opening up more fields daily, so the geese have been bouncing around depending on their appetite for the day.

Some swans are just starting to show up in the northern reaches of the state as well.

Southeast 

Early migrants like American wigeon, green winged teal, northern shoveler, and gadwall continue to slowly build.  This is typically a slower time for duck abundance in eastern SD and it will take a little weather up north to start brining fresh birds down.  

Some diving ducks have started moving into the state with ringnecks, redhead, and canvasback observed.  Duck numbers still appear to be higher west of Highway 81 throughout the SE.  

Wetland conditions continue to draw down with exposed mudflats becoming the norm in the region.  Without some fall rains wetlands conditions will continue to dry. 

Canada goose abundance remains high with lots of available fields to set up in. 

Harvest is in full swing with corn harvest well ahead of average.

There are reports of swans starting to show up in ND and extreme northern SD.

Lower Missouri River

No Report

Pierre Area

Not a lot to report from the Pierre area.

Most of the places I checked this week have plenty of ducks on them. 

The biggest change is it appears that there are less teal around than the past couple of weeks.

Harvest is in full swing and a few of the hunters are getting out into the freshly harvested fields and having a little success on ducks and geese in eastern Potter and Sully County. 

Reminder the high plains duck season opens this weekend October 10.

Western South Dakota

No change from last report

Week three September 28-October 2

Northeast

Not a lot has changed in the Northeast part of the state over the last week.  The western reaches of the area are seeing a lot more ducks on the wetlands compared to the eastern side.  Most of these ducks are comprised of gadwall and wigeon with some teal, pintail and mallards in the mix.  Scouting is key to finding the wetlands holding birds and especially in the eastern side of the state where many wetlands remain void of ‘fowl.  Some concentrations of gadwall and wigeon are starting to show up in the area along with some divers making a presence.  Blue-winged teal are being replaced by green-wings and shovelers.

Wetland conditions remain constant from the previous weeks with water levels ranging from full to low with a lot of mud flats exposed.  Little to no rain has fallen in the last few weeks adding to the drawdown of the wetlands.  Harvest is in full swing with many bean fields done and some corn being combined along with some more sileage, so opportunities continue to open for field hunting.

Canada goose numbers remain strong and good opportunity exists to harvest geese.  Geese have been observed in wheat, bean and corn fields across the region along with some fallow fields.  A few reports of whitefronts flying over as well so some migration is taking place.

Overall, opportunity exists for good hunting if you can find the right situation, but the eastern part of the area is lacking in ducks right now.  It would be a great time to concentrate on the geese as they are abundant, and you could pick up a few ducks as well.

Southeast

Little change in duck numbers has been observed since last week except that most blue winged teal have migrated out of the area. Some early migrants like American wigeon, green winged teal, northern shoveler, and gadwall have been observed.  Duck numbers appear to be higher west of Highway 81 throughout the SE.  

Wetland conditions continue to draw down with exposed mudflats becoming the norm in the region.  Without some fall rains wetlands conditions will continue to dry.

Bean harvest is still occurring, and some corn harvest has begun opening additional fields for birds to feed in.

Tundra swan season begins on Saturday but no swans have yet been observed in the region.

Lower Missouri River

Opening day success was fairly high in the SE corner of the state.  Some of the dry conditions have congregated the birds to the larger bodies of water.  Going into the second weekend hunters should expect to see a few less ducks on their favorite ponds.  Canada Goose concentrations continue to be high and a little scouting can go a long way to having a successful hunt.

Pierre Area

Reports east of HWY 83 indicate that plenty of ducks are around yet and were some groups were able to harvest limits.  Canada on the other hand are getting stale and becoming difficult to pattern.   

Reports from the Jones County area are that the number of geese are still good but as more fields get harvested it is also giving the birds more options on places to go.   Next week October 10 high plains duck will open which will give the hunters a little more hunting opportunities closer to Pierre.

On another note I did see my first flock of sandhill cranes on the ground this fall this morning in western Sully county, only a couple hundred but won’t be surprised to see more around before the weekend is over.   

Western South Dakota

No change from last report

Week two September 21-25

Northeast
Habitat conditions have not changed much over the last couple weeks with many wetlands drawing down which is exposing some mud flats.  Depending on where you are hunting, some wetlands look to be full while others are dry to drying up so scouting again will be key to finding a suitable spot.  
As far as ducks go, a large percentage of blue-winged teal have left the state.  Reports in Texas indicate large numbers of teal so many have moved on.  There are decent to good numbers of ducks on area wetlands in the Northeast part of the state, but scouting is necessary to locate the ducks.  Not all wetlands seem to have ducks like a couple of weeks ago.  Hunters should expect a good opening weekend with a mixed bag to be the norm.  Some field feeding is happening in sileage and some wheat yet with mostly mallards, pintail and wood ducks hitting the fields.
There are still strong numbers of local Canada geese to be had.  Hunting pressure has lessened some and geese are using a variety of fields to feed in.  Sileage, wheat and fallow fields are seeing goose traffic right now.  Some bean harvest is occurring, and the geese are also starting to find these spots as well.
Good luck out there and be respectful of each other and the land you’re hunting on.  Please pack out what you bring in, so you leave the area clean
Southeast
The cold snap in early September pushed out many of the blue winged teal, however some blue wings will still be available for the opener.  Remember that hunters can harvest an additional 2 blue winged teal for the first 16 days of the regular (bonus blue winged teal). 
Wetland conditions continue to draw down with exposed mudflats becoming the norm in the region.  This will concentrate ducks, but hunters should make sure to check out their hunting spots to make sure vegetation isn’t too far away from the water.   
Ducks have begun to move around the landscape and some field feeding in silage fields has been observed.  A variety of locally produced ducks should be available in shallow marshes across the southeast part of the state.
As always scouting will be key but with observed duck production I would expect a decent opening weekend.  A strong cold front early next week may cause some movement and provide additional birds for the second weekend.
Canada goose numbers remain strong with most birds feeding in silage fields.  Soybean harvest is in full swing in the southeast.
Lower Missouri River
No report
Pierre Area
According to reports areas east of HWY 83 in Sully and Potter counties have plenty of duck hunting opportunities for anyone wanting go out hunting waterfowl in that area which opens this weekend for ducks. 
No reports of any white fronts moving into central South Dakota. 
 Reports from the unit 1 area indicate that hunters are doing well hunting Canada geese. 
All in all, plenty of public and private ponds small lakes and sloughs in the area holding good numbers of waterfowl. 
Western South Dakota
No change from last report

Week one September 7-11

Welcome to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, 2021 waterfowl migration and habitat condition update.  Each week field staff strategically positioned across the state will provide and update on regional migration, habitat, and hunting conditions.  

Northeast 

Hunters in the Northeast part of the state should expect to see abundant waterfowl of most all species using the wetlands.  Blue-wing teal numbers remain strong but some migration has occurred as numbers are being reported in Kansas along with other southern states.  Regardless of this, hunters should see good numbers for the youth season.  Other species such as mallards, shovelers, gadwall, and pintail are also around in good numbers.  Canada geese are very abundant as there was great reproduction this spring and the population is high.  
Wetland conditions are generally good with some drawdown taking place the latter part of the summer.  Depending on where you are, some wetlands have the water meeting the shoreline cover while others have a mudflat in between.   As always, scouting is key to both finding waterfowl and checking out your favorite hunting spot.  Some ducks have been observed starting to field feed in both wheat fields as well as sileage so this can be another opportunity which can also be tied in with some goose action.
The main migration right now would be the blue-winged teal as they generally start to head south in late August and continue through September.  Some movement of pintails has also been observed but this generally is not a major migration yet.  Regardless, what a great opportunity for the youth to take advantage of with the amount of ducks on the landscape right now.  Good Luck!

Southeast   

Excellent wetland conditions in spring and early summer resulted in great breeding conditions and high numbers of locally produced ducks.  Currently blue winged teal have begun to migrate and are staging in large numbers across eastern South Dakota.  Blue winged teal should still be available in large numbers for the youth duck opener on September 12 providing a great opportunity to give young hunters ample action.  A dry late summer and early fall have led to falling wetland conditions, but this should concentrate birds leading to good hunting conditions in sloughs.  Canada goose reproduction and numbers are high, providing good opportunities for early fall goose hunting.  

Lower Missouri River

Waterfowl numbers are looking good in the SE corner of the state although there are some concerns of low water levels due to very dry conditions over the month of August.  A little scouting is encouraged to make sure your favorite pond has water yet.  Blue wing teal, gadwall, mallards and wood ducks have been seen in abundance.  Canada goose numbers in southern tier counties are fantastic. 

Pierre Area

Central South Dakota has good numbers of ducks on the larger ponds going out to feed in the harvested wheat fields.  Smaller bodies of water have really decreased the past couple of weeks due to dry conditions.  Anyone wanting to get young hunters out this weekend should be able to find plenty of places to go and be successful. 
Increased numbers of resident Canada geese in the Stanley, Sully and Hughes County area have been noted the past few weeks. These geese are roosting on some of the larger ponds and feeding in the harvested and freshly planted wheat fields. 

Western South Dakota

Local production of geese was good with scattered concentrations of Canada geese providing good early season opportunity.  We produced quite a few ducks in Western South Dakota this year as there was pretty good remnant nesting cover from last year and plenty of water.  Conditions are definitely drying out now, but birds are still around. Stock ponds and small impoundments should provide good opportunities for this year’s youth season September 12-13.