Swan Lake

Jawbreaker

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I would guess that there is a strong correlation between the decline of epp geese at swan lake with the increase of the population of giants in states to the north. As the population of giants increased they short stopped the epp birds more and more over time. There were very few canada geese killed in iowa during the 70’s and 80’s. This changed drastically in the 90’s. We kill several epp geese here every year right up till the end of the season. Im sure other factors contributed to the lack of huge numbers at swan in november.

Another note regarding swan and the ag production. I believe mdc had a lease/control of the refuge until 1999/2000 then control went back to the feds. Way more corn prior to 2001 and way more fowl on the refuge.
 

Timber Hole

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Valid and good points riverrat. The only counterpoint to the theory and your point about the corn production declined yet geese still came for 2-3 year stretch after corn production was halted greatly, or a 2-3 year lag in goose numbers after corn production was cut down immensely on the refuge would be imprinting. I do believe ducks and geese will stop at areas they have stopped at where they find available food and low hunting pressure year after year. It may have taken a couple of years of poor or much lower corn production and feeding before the decline started because of imprinting. It may be a stretch, I’m sure other factors were also involved, but the data suggests it may not have been a coincidence. It’s interesting that the ag production was put on the graph. It’s also interesting that in some years the place was a refuge after only 14 days of hunting because the quota was met. We are spoiled with a 60 day duck season now, couldn’t imagine a 14 day season. Geese were being imprinted that the swan lake zone was a safe place for thousands of their buddies for all but 14 days of the year some years pr safe for 351 of them! That had to help with imprinting also and geese coming back year after year. That would have been frustrating to have permission on a field that was loading up with geese there often and only be able to hunt it two weekends the entire year!

This is exactly what I was thinking as I read river rats post. Ad a factor for imprinting and the numbers all make sense relative to the corn quantity.
 

riverrat47

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Many decades ago, back in the days when Illinois hunters had to go to Horicon Marsh, Wi., or deep southern Illinois to kill a goose, I read an article where the biologists at Horicon stated that it took 10-12" of snow to have a big southern migration. Of course, ice or heavy, crusty snow altered that depth.
Since 1986, I've routinely made winter drives across Illinois, from the Mississippi River to Morris, or south to Springfield. During those years, I've observed some changes. As we all know, there hasn't been as much cold and snow on a consistent basis. In my early drives, even chisel-plowed fields were often pretty much snow-covered, with snow building up in the furrows. Today's no-till fields are picked, chopped, baled, rolled, whatever...but they are flat as a pancake-bigger, wide open, and windswept. Lots of windbreaks and fencerows have disappeared during those years.
Friday, I drove from my home, just south of I-80, to Springfield. Most of that route had been hammered by the 8 to 16" snowstorm, two days earlier. Despite the amount of snow along the road, many of the fields were completely clear of snow, despite the shoulders and median being deep with snow and strewn with semis. Thus, even with a major snow event, waste grain in fields was available to migrating birds in the northern half of Illinois.
Couple the open fields with migrating geese possibly joining up with the Giant Canadas, which seem to be year-around residents on every strip-mine, borrow pit, treatment pond, and subdivision lake in the northern half of the state, it might explain why some of our migrating geese aren't making it to their old haunts.
In the last few years, several coal-fired plants have shut down, and several nuclear plants have barely avoided closure. Waterfowling clubs have flourished near these cooling lakes for decades, mainly because of the numerous geese that traded between the lake and surrounding fields. It will be interesting to see how those birds react to no longer having the "hot tub" lakes for winter refuge.
Yes, in talking with my buddies in the waterfowl biology field, I know there are way more factors than I mentioned and it's way more complicated, but I think what I mentioned has had a part in migration changes.
 

WuChang

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Many decades ago, back in the days when Illinois hunters had to go to Horicon Marsh, Wi., or deep southern Illinois to kill a goose, I read an article where the biologists at Horicon stated that it took 10-12" of snow to have a big southern migration. Of course, ice or heavy, crusty snow altered that depth.
Since 1986, I've routinely made winter drives across Illinois, from the Mississippi River to Morris, or south to Springfield. During those years, I've observed some changes. As we all know, there hasn't been as much cold and snow on a consistent basis. In my early drives, even chisel-plowed fields were often pretty much snow-covered, with snow building up in the furrows. Today's no-till fields are picked, chopped, baled, rolled, whatever...but they are flat as a pancake-bigger, wide open, and windswept. Lots of windbreaks and fencerows have disappeared during those years.
Friday, I drove from my home, just south of I-80, to Springfield. Most of that route had been hammered by the 8 to 16" snowstorm, two days earlier. Despite the amount of snow along the road, many of the fields were completely clear of snow, despite the shoulders and median being deep with snow and strewn with semis. Thus, even with a major snow event, waste grain in fields was available to migrating birds in the northern half of Illinois.
Couple the open fields with migrating geese possibly joining up with the Giant Canadas, which seem to be year-around residents on every strip-mine, borrow pit, treatment pond, and subdivision lake in the northern half of the state, it might explain why some of our migrating geese aren't making it to their old haunts.
In the last few years, several coal-fired plants have shut down, and several nuclear plants have barely avoided closure. Waterfowling clubs have flourished near these cooling lakes for decades, mainly because of the numerous geese that traded between the lake and surrounding fields. It will be interesting to see how those birds react to no longer having the "hot tub" lakes for winter refuge.
Yes, in talking with my buddies in the waterfowl biology field, I know there are way more factors than I mentioned and it's way more complicated, but I think what I mentioned has had a part in migration changes.

Your thoughts on the idea that there are 'tribes' of waterfowl and those 'tribes' have an inclination to migrate to a general area that has provided food and safety.

If that 'tribe' continues to get hammered in those traditional areas and may not be able to replace their losses, while other members of the tribe find new places of food and safety and therefore are able to replace their losses. then the new places will continue to see the 'tribe' and the traditional areas will see fewer and fewer each year?

One of the reasons I ask is, The Louisiana boys still think that birds get short stopped in Missouri. Looking at the record bags in the last 10 years followed by what can only be described as a major crash in the number of birds that go to Louisiana......and with their decline in certain habitat....then leave for better places, might be a possible explanation to add to the others such as habitat, weather etc.
 

snipe n

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What I find very discouraging is the use of the resource that once had 10,000 hunters using it during goose season. These days it is like they want to make it as difficult as possible for hunters to use this massive area. Used to live down in MO and it was always an option to take a blind and be out trying to hunt. Just drove by the outside on my way back from KC. Its sad.
 

WHUP ! Hen

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The guy who mentored me when I first moved to this area hunted Swan Lake, often. He and a couple of other guys had a remodeled school bus somewhere around Swan. He was a local farmer and one year he didn't get his crops out till the following spring because the geese were flying and he just didn't have time to come back to pick! By the time I met him, his wife had put her foot down and he'd gotten out of the Swan Lake deal, that was 1987.
He was such a dedicated hunter that he eventually lost almost everything. Finally, he had to take a real job and started moving around the country to get promotions. Sadly, he only had one season after he was able to retire before cancer took him.
 

DisplacedDuck

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The population of Canada Geese in the MS Flyway is in decline, but it is not any worse now than it was in the 'heyday' of SO IL.

Below is a snapshot through time of the wintering populations of Canada Geese according to the USFWS's Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey. Blue colors denote Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. Orange colors denote Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

As you can see, despite the populations' boom, then return to prior levels, the amount of Canada Geese just haven't been making it as far south as in years' past.

If I was a betting man, I'd dare say even the MO and IL Canada Geese shown on this survey for recent years are north of the MO and IL Rivers.

Screen Shot 2022-02-19 at 8.05.56 PM.png
 

WHUP ! Hen

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The population of Canada Geese in the MS Flyway is in decline, but it is not any worse now than it was in the 'heyday' of SO IL.

Below is a snapshot through time of the wintering populations of Canada Geese according to the USFWS's Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey. Blue colors denote Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. Orange colors denote Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

As you can see, despite the populations' boom, then return to prior levels, the amount of Canada Geese just haven't been making it as far south as in years' past.

If I was a betting man, I'd dare say even the MO and IL Canada Geese shown on this survey for recent years are north of the MO and IL Rivers.

View attachment 330992
It’s been known for years that Minnesota and Wisconsin have been short stopping them for a long time. Fortunately we have a large local population to work on. 20 or so years the Feds or MDC turned a big bunch of goslings loose on large watershed lakes and reservoirs, and water supply lakes. I don’t know how many they released, I toured a MDC project and there were a bunch. They were just walking down the road, had to honk at them to get them out of the way. The theory is that geese will come back to the place they learned to fly to nest.

The population of Canada Geese in the MS Flyway is in decline, but it is not any worse now than it was in the 'heyday' of SO IL.

Below is a snapshot through time of the wintering populations of Canada Geese according to the USFWS's Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey. Blue colors denote Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. Orange colors denote Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

As you can see, despite the populations' boom, then return to prior levels, the amount of Canada Geese just haven't been making it as far south as in years' past.

If I was a betting man, I'd dare say even the MO and IL Canada Geese shown on this survey for recent years are north of the MO and IL Rivers.

View attachment 330992
 
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randy merta

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I started hunting Swan in 87. I thought I had found the promise land and continued to hunt yearly there for weeks at a time for 10 years or so. Each year there was less and less geese and the same morning speech about how the geese were still in the Dakotas. I thought to myself that morning that if the geese are not migrating south I will migrate north. Loaded up the truck and drove to ND.
Hunted ND for years and realized I was a few hours away from the geese that were in Canada. So I started hunting Canada.
I looked forward to my ten days or so hunting at Swan each year. I really enjoyed getting to know and becoming friends with the guys at Swan and Fountain Grove.
One one hunt about the last year or two at Swan we noticed the fields around the blinds were grass unlike the years before where they were crops. My friend told me that “a goose would have to pack a lunch to fly across this field “. That was the transition year from crops to grass phase the feds were implementing.
 

Rute3

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The elevated shooting platforms around Swan. Were they Clubs or Private? Pretty cool and unique way to shoot Honkers.
 

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