Using a refuge as a migration barometer

Hunting in Michigan has been hit or miss this year with the mild weather and sparse migration.  We enjoyed good hunting early in the season with a large local population

A lack of strong weather fronts midseason failed to drive the ducks into Michigan similar to past seasons.

Significant hunting effort was rewarded with few ducks through the month of November and the first weekend of December.

I use a lake near my house which receives little to no hunting pressure as a barometer for the migration.  Unfortunately this year, the lake held no more than the 20 local mallards that live in front of the houses around the lake.  In normal migration years, this lake will fill up with 400 to 500 ducks, mostly divers and mallards.  Although these numbers don’t usually lead to a fantastic hunt, the increase in numbers is representative of the migration and the increases that occur in areas that will sustain thousands of ducks during the peak of the migration.


This year the ducks didn’t show up on my “barometer lake” until two days after the main Michigan season had closed.  As I have observed this lake over the past three years, the ducks show up on this lake when the pile into the better hunting areas.

We now have ice on all of the smaller lakes and will likely be frozen shut with the exception of some rivers before we get our last chance at ducks in Michigan – the two day late season.  Although hunting in the late season usually produces a plethora of mallards, the main migration of divers and puddle ducks seems to have missed our hunting season dates this year.  This is frustrating for hunters across Michigan who hunted hard all season long only to watch the birds pass us by when the season is closed.

This lends to the question of season dates and should we put a split in the season.  Should the duck hunters solicit the Michigan department of Natural Resources for a split to let us hunt further into December.  My first thoughts are yes, of course, give us the opportunity to hunt later.  As I think to seasons past and remember only being able to hunt rivers when the season closes in early December, realize that the seasons are based on averages to allow hunters the maximum opportunity.  The MDNR has already considered hunting later in December and in more years than not, the birds have usually moved south to warmer states.  A later close to the season would most likely decrease opportunity rather an increase it.  Out of faith in the MDNR and the best available science that they employ when setting season dates, I remember that the MDNR is working hard to ensure that Michigan duck hunters have the maximum opportunity that is feasible.  Years such as this that leave the hunters frustrated will happen.  It is more important to try to take advantage of the opportunities available than to sit on a couch complaining that people who have a greater knowledge than the average duck hunter about waterfowl migration patterns have made decisions that are in our best interest.  We support our natural resource managers and they make decisions that will create the best opportunity possible in order to maintain or increase that support

One thing that no one can predict in August when the regulations are set is when the weather fronts will push the migrating ducks in our favorite honey holes.

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