Snow geese passing through state; Rainy opens
Hunting, fishing both options
The snow goose migration was picking up earlier this week, with the arrival of some juvenile geese that were making their way north as last week’s snowfall melted in southwestern Minnesota and east-central South Dakota.
Meanwhile, on the Canadian border, ice on the Rainy River was breaking up, allowing anglers access to some fine walleye fishing.
The best in snow goose hunting has been in South Dakota, where the migration was about three weeks ahead of schedule until snow last week put a pause on the front line of adult snow geese.
“We got about 10 inches last week, but it’s all gone now,” said Bob Berens, a hunting guide originally from Shakopee who guides now in the northeast part of South Dakota.
Most of the snow had melted by Sunday, Berens said.
“Everything had pushed down to I-90 and south, but by Thursday (March 16) they started moving back up.”
Berens said the hunting was pretty stale, in that those adult birds were nearly impossible to get to decoy.
“Nobody was killing anything,” he said, happy that the juvenile birds, which are much more susceptible to decoy spreads, were starting to show up. “Now it’s going to get nothing but better.”
Berens, who plans to finish out the season in South Dakota and expects to go until about April 15, said between him and his clients, they’ve been shooting between 40 and 70 birds each day the past few days, between three spreads, and he’s actually decreased the number of decoys he uses – from the 1,000 commonly deployed to about 200 to 600 decoys.
Another former Minnesotan, Jake Dellwo, a guide who hunts in the same general area as Berens, said the snowfall reset things, and now the migration is closer to its normal schedule as a result.
He said that allowed some of those younger birds to line up with the adults, which meant those birds were schooled by their elders.
“When the adults pushed back, they got mixed in with the juveniles, and then the adults pulled the juveniles away from the spreads,” he said.
But by press time, most of the adults had pushed through the area, leaving mostly just the more susceptible younger birds.
“The better portion is yet to come,” he said. “I expect it to be lower-than-average success rates because of the way the migration has been, but I expect the next two weeks to be very good.”
Farther east, in the larger 10-county area covered by Brett Bowser, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer, he’s seen a couple of flocks of snow geese, with speckle-belly and Canada geese mixed in, on a pair of wildlife production areas north of Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge in western Minnesota.
“They spent two days there, and when I went back, they were gone,” Bowser said, adding that he’s observed flocks of about 2,500 birds and 5,000 birds (all species included) as well as only light hunting activity.
Farther north, in Minnesota’s Traverse County, he noticed a lot of snow geese flying overhead, but not landing.
“They were flying high and just blowing through,” he said.
This week’s Minnesota DNR conservation officer reports included the following observations:
• CO Steve Chihak (Wheaton) spent the week working light goose hunting.
• CO Picht (Montevideo) checked numerous snow goose hunters.
• CO Luke Gutzwiller (Madison) spent time last week monitoring angling, trapping, and light goose-hunting activity.
• CO Andrew Dirks (Redwood Falls) reports several snow goose hunters were checked during the weekend. They were having some success and reported seeing a good number of birds.
Rainy opening up
As for that hot walleye bite mentioned earlier, some photos of dandy walleyes were circulating on Facebook this week, following the continuing breakup of ice on the Rainy River, which has been running ahead of schedule in recent years.
As of Tuesday, the river was open to about six miles west of Birchdale, and Birchdale Landing was open to all boats. Some anglers had been launching their boats by pushing them over the shore ice ledge.
The walleye season here is open through April 14, with a two-fish possession limit (fish 19½ inches and longer must be released). A lake sturgeon season is catch-and-release only through April 23, with a harvest season from April 24 through May 7.