Featured Managed Waterfowl Hunt Area: Shiawassee River

Check out state's largest Managed Waterfowl Hunt Area, with 10,000 acres of waterfowl habitat.  
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Featured Managed Waterfowl Hunt Area: Shiawassee River


Shiawassee River sunriseLooking for the biggest and best place to waterfowl hunt or a great place for birding? Shiawassee River, with roughly 10,000 acres of intensively managed waterfowl habitat, is the largest Managed Waterfowl Hunt Area (MWHA) Michigan has to offer!


Shiawassee River State Game Area, located in St. Charles in Saginaw County, is a massive floodplain located at the confluence of the Flint, Shiawassee, Bad, Cass and Tittbawassee rivers as well as Swan Creek. This unique geographical feature creates outstanding waterfowl habitat.


Dabbling and diving ducks, along with Canada geese, are plentiful across the area. Mallards are the most commonly harvested duck, with a good number of wood ducks, green-winged teal, pintails, shovelers and black ducks taken as well.


Waterfowl hunters who want to hunt Shiawassee River must enter the managed hunt drawing. Drawings occur at 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily during the hunting season for the morning and afternoon hunts, respectively. If hunters miss a draw, they are allowed to take a leftover spot, if available. There are 128 hunting zones covering flooded agricultural fields, flooded forest, cattail and emergent marsh zones. While walk-in zones are available, hunters visiting Shiawassee River largely will want to use a flat-bottomed boat with a mud motor to get around. A retriever is also suggested. Spinning-wing decoys are not allowed.


"Lying directly adjacent to the 9,600-acre Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, the greater Shiawassee Flats floodplain is an important stopover for tens of thousands of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent migratory bird species,” said Jeremiah Heise, wildlife biologist for Shiawassee River. “These waterfowl numbers, in conjunction with the variety of hunting zones offered, often lends itself to a nice chance at a mixed bag."


Most importantly, Heise explained, Shiawassee River has seen several capital infrastructure improvements over the past two years, which allows staff to better manage water levels throughout the season to exploit available food resources.


"In terms of participating in a daily draw, we always encourage new-to-the-area hunters to stop in the check station at least a day or two prior to their planned hunt so staff can discuss safe, accurate navigation of our ditch and dike system as well as current field conditions and up-to-date harvest information," he said. "Taking this time to pre-plan will greatly increase your chance at a successful hunt."


Hunters not successful in the managed draw can hunt at other nearby wetland areas like Crow Island State Game Area, or take a leftover draw at Fish Point or Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Areas, both of which are Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas. The waters of Saginaw Bay are also available for hunting.


The diversity of habitats at Shiawassee River makes for great birding and wildlife watching as well. Not only can birders spot ducks, geese, grebes and coots, but a number of warblers, birds of prey – including bald eagles and ospreys – sparrows, woodpeckers, upland ground birds and much more also move through the area. Shiawassee River is closed to birding and wildlife viewing from Oct. 1 until Jan. 1.


Being a state game area, Shiawassee River is also open for small game hunting and trapping in designated ‘A’ areas during the waterfowl season, with harvest and season dates following state regulations. Deer hunting is by permit only through a pre-registered draw.


To learn more about Shiawassee River, visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders or contact the DNR St. Charles Field Office at 989-865-6211.


We look forward to seeing you at Shiawassee River!


Don't forget that the Wetland Wonders Challenge, sponsored by Consumers Energy, runs until Jan. 31, 2015. Youth and adult hunters that hunt at three MWHAs can be entered in the contest. Hunt at more than three MWHAs for additional contest entries. Seven winners will be chosen to win ultimate waterfowl hunting prize packages valued at $1,500, including a "golden ticket" that's good for one first-choice pick at an MWHA for the 2015-16 season (non-reserved). Check out www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders for contest terms and conditions.


The Wetland Wonders Challenge is part of the Michigan Waterfowl Legacy (MWL), which is a 10-year, cooperative partnership to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan's waterfowl, wetland and waterfowl hunting community. The initiative is a "call to action" to honor yesterday, engage today and build for tomorrow. To learn more about the Michigan Waterfowl Legacy, visit www.michigan.gov/mwl or look for MWL on Facebook.