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Crow Island State Game Area

Crow Island State Game Area
Phone:
989-684-9141
dnr-wildlife@michigan.gov
Hours of Operation

Open at no charge to the public. 

Open waterfowl hunting at this location during the regular season. No daily draws. 

Description of the area

The Crow Island State Game Area is situated along the Saginaw River and lies on either side of M-13. Crow Island straddles the Saginaw and Bay county lines and features 3,500 acres of marsh, forest land, and cropland. The marshlands provide important habitat for nesting and migrating ducks, geese, herons, terns and other wetland birds. The marshes are also home to muskrats, beavers, frogs, turtles, snakes, and plenty of other wetland critters. Crow Island is intensively managed for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife Several habitat projects have been completed in the past few years, including a drawdown (removing the water) and prescribed burn in the East Marsh to reduce invasive Phragmites and to create a 50/50 hemi-marsh of cattail cover and open water. Ducks love this type of habitat for nesting and feeding and are plentiful at Crow Island.

PDF map of area

Activities

  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Canoeing and Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Nature Trail Hiking
  • Hunting and Trapping
Coming soon.

Weekly waterfowl count dashboards

Weekly waterfowl counts are conducted annually, September through January. Use these interactive dashboards to view waterfowl counts across the Wetland Wonders for current and previous years. When the dashboard loads, you will have a total count of the Michigan DNR's Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas (MWHA) for which counts are provided. The pie charts will show distribution across the areas during the currently selected week (week ending date can be changed using the date selector). Select a specific managed area at the top by clicking/tapping on it to see the numbers for that area. Use the navigation at the bottom of the dashboard to view further breakdowns of area waterfowl numbers.

2022 waterfowl counts

2021 waterfowl counts

2020 waterfowl counts

2019 waterfowl counts

2018 waterfowl counts

2017 waterfowl counts

2016 waterfowl counts

Table of contents

2021 annual report

General introduction

Crow Island State Game Area lies within the Saginaw Bay lake plain, formerly characterized by swamp forest, wet-mesic prairie and emergent marshes. The game area is a complex of emergent wetlands, managed wetland impoundments, grasslands, and agricultural uplands that provide habitat for a wide variety of migratory birds (both game and non-game) as well as associated invertebrate, herptiles and mammalian wildlife.

Crow Island SGA spans portions of Saginaw and Bay Counties along the lower Saginaw River in east-central central portion of the southern lower peninsula. There are presently 3,489 acres included in state ownership.

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Area goals and management emphasis

Crow Island SGA is managed to meet goals and objectives within the Wildlife Division’s Guiding Principles and Strategies (GPS) which are, primarily, to promote safe nesting, brood rearing and migration stop-over habitat for local and migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and to provide for high-quality hunting and non-consumptive wildlife related recreational pursuits. Through habitat management efforts intended for these species, native mammals, herptiles and a variety of game and non-game birds also benefit. In addition to providing for the habitat needs of various wildlife species, Crow Island is primarily managed to provide hunting, trapping, and wildlife viewing opportunities to the public.

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Wildlife production and use estimates

Approximately 30–60 breeding pairs of ducks produced 100–300 ducklings on the area in 2021; approximately 40–50 pairs of Canada geese produced 280–385 goslings. Breeding waterfowl were most easily observed in the Baldpate, Panko, and Davis Units while those using the East Unit were often difficult to observe due to its size and prevalent emergent vegetation. Numbers of breeding ducks and Canada geese appeared to be similar to numbers observed in previous years. Waterfowl observed with young included Trumpeter swan, Canada goose, Mallard, Wood Duck, American Coot, and Pie-billed Grebe. These observations likely do not represent all waterfowl species breeding at Crow Island. Probable breeders included Blue-Winged Teal, Green-Winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Common Gallinule. Other ducks observed on the area at various times included Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Ring-Necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Black Duck and Gadwall. Two pairs of Trumpeter swans used the area and both pairs produced young. Several White Pelicans used the area throughout the summer.

Ring-necked pheasants were observed on the area on several occasions throughout the year. Overall, the number of pheasants on the area appears to be lower than 2020. Crow Island continues to be an important wintering area for the local pheasant population because of the availability of high-quality winter cover in the form of large cattail stands and the close proximity to food resources in nearby agricultural fields and planted food plots. Crow Island has historically wintered up to 20 pheasants, although less than 20 were observed wintering on the area this year.

Wild turkeys were observed on several occasions. Several gobblers were seen in groups throughout the year.

White-tailed deer were frequently encountered on the area throughout the spring and summer months. The size of the local herd is difficult to estimate because of their tendency to frequent dense cattail stands but the spring deer herd numbered around 20–40 animals. Similar to previous years, deer were particularly numerous this spring in the Davis and Panko units. These animals tend to disperse late in spring once croplands to the east begin providing both food and cover.

Furbearer numbers increased in most of the Units. Muskrat populations have traditionally fluctuated in all of the units as water levels and cattail coverage change. Coyotes and foxes were observed on several occasions across the area. Woodchuck, raccoon, mink, opossum, and cotton-tailed rabbits were common on the area.

Other wildlife use and observations on the area included nesting Bald Eagles in the Plowdry, Greenhead, and East Unit; a nesting pair of Great Horned owls was observed in the Plowdry Unit. Breeding numbers of Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were lower this year compared to 2020. Early successional habitats across the area continues to provide significant foraging and nesting habitats for many species of migratory passerines. American Bitterns were heard calling this past spring and were seen flying over the area on several occasions. Black-crowned Night Herons were often seen on the area, as were Great Blue Heron, large numbers of Great Egret, Green Heron, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Black Terns (probable breeders) and a wide variety of shorebirds, particularly on the extensive mudflats in the Plowdry and Davis Units. Infrequently encountered species included Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Shrike, which tend to only be winter migrants to the area.

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Significant habitat management

Planting at Crow Island was completed on a timeframe similar to previous years. Overall, crops planted on state lands made it through the summer in good condition and were harvested before the opening of the firearm deer season. Crops were planted on 111.4 acres in the Stork unit by two sharecroppers.

Water levels were high across the area throughout the winter and spring. Wind events in the spring brought flooding water over several units. High water levels in the Saginaw Bay and Saginaw River have caused some issues as several wind events resulted the overtopping of dikes across the area. The entire game area had high water by the beginning of the duck season; water levels were high in most units but the vegetation was abundant to provide adequate cover.

Beetles (Galerucella spp.) continue to have a significant impact on purple loosestrife in the East Unit. Some purple loosestrife could be found in flower within the original release site in the south end of the unit. The beetles have expanded their range and can now be found across the entire game area.

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Land acquisition

No land was acquired in 2021.

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Area maintenance

  • The East Unit dike was mowed and sprayed for woody sp.
  • Gravel and rock were added to the interurban and parking lots.
  • Dikes were mowed and holes were patched as needed.
  • Parking lots were mowed, signs replaced, and gravel added where needed.
  • Posting of the area was continued.
  • Brush was mowed in the Panko and Stork Units.
  • Davis Units spillway was repaired.

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Equipment

No equipment purchases were made in 2021.

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Special projects

The Davis unit dike repair was started- roughly one mile of dike work was completed, inclusive of material retrieval from the unit that will be used to shore up dike sloughing. Once the retrieved material is dry, it will be graded and reshaped to reform the sloughed portion of the dike that has continually eroded away with more frequent and severe flooding.

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Recreational and educational activities

Table 1. Estimates of user trips and hunter harvest for 2021
Activity User trips Harvest Harvest per user trip
Sept. goose hunting 110 60 0.5
Regular goose hunting 225 160 0.7
Sept. youth waterfowl hunting 15 35 2.3
Regular duck hunting 1500 1000 0.6
Teal (duck) hunting 50 125 2.5
Archery deer hunting 40 5 0.12
Firearm deer hunting 120 15 0.12
Muzzleloader deer hunting 15 3 0.2
Small game hunting 500 N/A N/A
Wildlife viewing 4000 N/A N/A
Fishing 30 N/A N/A
Tours 0 N/A N/A
Hiking/biking 0 N/A N/A

 The data listed above are rough estimates of use at Crow Island. Refer to the “Hunting Season Results” section for the derivation of this information. No facilities or staff are available on site to provide concrete numbers regarding user trips and harvest. Trappers are required to turn in their catch results, see below table for results.

Trapping

Untitled Document

Table 2. Furbearer harvest, Crow Island State Game Area, 2009-2020
Year # of Trappers Muskrats Beaver Mink Raccoons Otters Fox Red/Grey Opossum
2020 12 1817 39 10 5 1 2 3
2019 14 1203 5 5 12 1 1 12
2018 13 1207 8 9 6 0 1 5
2017 18 1583 44 6 2 1 0 2
2016 16 3012 12 4 21 0 1 22
2015 21 3128 17 11 17 3 1 1
2014 21 1406 5 7 29 4 6 8
2013 29 878 14 5 14 0 1 6
2012 32 2119 10 13 34 0 1 19
2011 29 1999 9 14 44 0 1 1
2010 22 2124 29 23 9 0 5 4
2009 20 3225 18 16 9 0 3 3

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Waterfowl banding and surveys

Goose banding was completed with 375 birds banded. Duck banding was successful with 595 total ducks banded (591 mallards, 2 black ducks, and 2 wood ducks).

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Hunting season report

Introduction

Crow Island provides marsh/wetland hunting opportunities in the Baldpate, Plowdry, and Davis Units on the west side of the Saginaw River, and in the East and Panko Units on the east side of the river. Waterfowl hunting opportunities also exist in harvested croplands in the Stork Unit. This year we included the DMDF (dredge material disposal facility) that is located next to the Baldpate Unit as part of our refuge counts.

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Weather and habitat conditions

Temperatures on opening day of the general waterfowl season were in the mid 50’s in the morning with a 10–15 mph wind. Temperatures then climbed into the upper 60’s by noon. After the opening weekend, daytime high temperatures were in the 60’s to 50’s with lows in the upper 20’s to 40’s from October to early November. Temperatures remained above average for the first month of the waterfowl season. The first hard freeze occurred around the 10th of November. The area then opened back up and remained ice free until 23rd of November then ended the season with ice.

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Migration and waterfowl numbers

Teal numbers began to build in late August and were steady until the middle of September. Early teal season proved average compared to recent years. Wood duck numbers were good though mid-October. Mallard numbers were steady throughout the entire season with a little peak in early November. There were good numbers of Wigeon and Gadwall in early November. Overall, duck numbers peaked at approximately 3,390 the third week of November, this is up from last year. Goose numbers peaked at approximately 650 around October 23rd. Table 3 summarizes estimated waterfowl numbers at Crow Island from September 1 to December 1, 2021. The number of both ducks and geese shown in Table 3 represents only a portion of those present at the time of the observation. Both ducks and geese tended to congregate in the refuge in potholes concealed by dense vegetation, thus the number of birds present was likely greater than estimates. We also include the number of waterfowl that were present in the DMDF as part of the refuge numbers.

Table 3. Estimated waterfowl numbers at Crow Island, Sept. - Nov.
Week of Ducks Geese  Total Waterfowl
9/18 585 250 835
9/25 775 400 1,175
10/2 1,233 500 1,733
10/9 1,668 400 2,168
10/16 1,380 400 1,780
10/23 1,935 650 2,585
10/30 2,080 450 2,530
11/6 2,540 550 3,090
11/13 2,940 475 3,415
11/20 3,390 550 3,940

 

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Season dates and area regulations

Duck Oct. 9 – Dec. 5 & Jan. 1-2

Goose Sept. 1-30, Oct. 9- Dec. 5, Jan. 1-9, and Feb. 5 -14, 2022

Crow Island is open to waterfowl hunting without a permit. No permits are required for early goose season or the youth and veteran’s waterfowl hunting weekend. Hunters are not required to report the number of waterfowl or species taken. Hunters can pursue waterfowl anywhere on the area outside of the Greenhead Unit refuge.

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Hunting season results

Because there are no facilities or personnel on site to record the numbers and species of waterfowl taken, any estimate of harvest is highly speculative and is based on observations only. The number of hunters using the area appeared to be higher than 2020. The following estimates reflect the increase in hunting success. Past opening day bag checks showed that average kill per hunter contacted was 1.7 ducks. Based on that average, the estimated 250 hunters on the area opening day killed 425 ducks. Hunting success declines after opening day. Based on a post-opening day average of 0.8 ducks/hunter, an estimated 850 parties averaging 2.5 hunters/party killed 1,700 ducks. An estimated 15 parties for the youth hunt averaging two hunters per party killed an estimated 35 ducks. These numbers, added with the opening day harvest, yield an estimated kill of 2,160 ducks for the entire season. An estimated 335 goose hunters took 220 geese (0.97 geese/hunter) during the early and regular goose seasons.

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Cropland, marshland and water level management

Crops were in good condition at the start of waterfowl season. No crops were flooded on the area. Most crops were harvested by the third week of November.

Water levels were high going into summer 2021. Water level management was hard this year due to the increase of water in the Saginaw River. As water levels remained high during the summer, pumps were operated when needed, and we went into the season with high water.

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Recommendations

  • Construct an on-site storage building for equipment and maintenance items.
  • Continue to improve dike system across the area, as much remains to be done.
  • Connect the Baldpate Unit to the Saginaw River for better water source and water control.
  • Continue the treatment of Phragmites.
  • Create openings in the Greenhead Unit
  • Complete prescribed burns as conditions allow in managed wetland units.
  • Investigate ability to utilize NRDA settlement money to purchase land.

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Prominent clientele/influential groups

  • ITC Transmission
  • Environmental Consulting and Technology, Inc.
  • Michigan Duck Hunters Association
  • Ducks Unlimited

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  • No special events currently scheduled