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Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center

Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center
231-788-5055

dnr-wildlife@michigan.gov

Hours of Operation

Open at no charge to the public.

This hunting location conducts daily drawings for free hunting zone permits throughout the open waterfowl season.

Description of the area

Consisting of 3,500 acres of agriculture habitat, Muskegon County Wastewater Managed Waterfowl Area (MWA) produces opportunities to harvest both ducks and geese. Along with the hunting opportunities that exist at the Muskegon County Wastewater MWA you may also tour the area to view wildlife including many different species of migratory birds. The lagoons on the MWA attract a wide variety of waterfowl species, including up to 12,000 ruddy ducks and over 5,000 Northern Shovelers. Both counts are among the highest recorded for these species in Michigan.

PDF map of area

Hunting Information

  • Morning hunts: Tues. and Sat. 5:30 a.m.
  • Afternoon hunts: Thurs. and Sat. 11:00 a.m.
  • Hunts continue through November; no longer closed Nov. 15-30.
  • Permits for Tues. morning drawings are valid until close of shooting hours.

Activities

  • White-tailed deer hunting
  • Additional waterfowl hunting
  • Small game hunting
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Additional activities

Week in review

Through 01/05/2023

Weather

Warm temperatures continued through the end of the season (December 23), with high temperatures mostly 40s and 50s. Very little precipitation and almost no snow.

Waterfowl abundance

Good shoveler numbers persisted throughout the season. Mallard counts and goose counts were trending downward. 

Hunting conditions

We finished with 80 hunting positions. Eight corn fields were still open, with standing corn strips in 6A, 7B, and 18B at the end of the season.  

Hunter numbers

Turnout was light throughout the last two weeks of the season. We finished the season with 39 hunts and 334 hunter trips (approximately 9 hunters per hunt period).

Waterfowl harvest

Poor hunting success in the last week. Season totals were 88 geese or .26 geese/huntertrip (long–term average of .32 geese per trip). The season harvest for ducks was 87 ducks or .29 ducks/duck hunter trip (long–term average of .21 ducks per trip).

What to expect this week

The Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center is closed for the season. The last day of hunting was December 23, 2023.

Upcoming events

Closed until next season. The projected opening day would be October 15, 2024.

Other comments

Difficult season with relatively low hunter turnouts and success, compared to 2022.

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.

2023 waterfowl counts

2022 waterfowl counts

2021 waterfowl counts

2020 waterfowl counts

2019 waterfowl counts

2018 waterfowl counts

2017 waterfowl counts

2016 waterfowl counts

Table of contents

2022 annual report

General introduction

2022 marked the 44th year of managed waterfowl hunting on the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center (MCRRC) and Goose Management Unit (GMU).

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Area goals and management emphasis

The goal of the managed hunt is to provide a safe, quality hunting experience within the Federal season framework established for the Muskegon GMU.

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Significant habitat management

Muskegon County staff and contractors plant a rotation of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa on the MCRRC.

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Land acquisition

No land acquisitions were reported for 2022.

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Area maintenance

Maintenance activities include repair and placement of informational and directional signs, field marker posts (carsonite strips), and reflectors (as needed).

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Equipment

No equipment purchases were reported for 2022.

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Special projects

No special projects were reported for 2021.

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Recreational and educational activities

The spring migration birding tour at the MCRRC was cancelled again this year. However, the annual youth hunt (youth hunters aged 16 and younger, both am and pm draws) was held on Saturday, October 29 with three youth hunting parties and three youth hunters participating. Five regular or adult parties also hunted. A single drawing Veterans hunt was also held on the afternoon of Thursday, November 10. One veteran hunting party with two veteran hunters participated.

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Trapping

Trapping activities were not reported for 2021.

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Waterfowl banding and surveys

Due to Avian Influenza concerns and restrictions, there was no waterfowl banding on the MCRRC in 2022.

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Hunting season report

Introduction

The 2022 MCRRC managed hunt opened on Saturday, October 15. Although there were no mandated Covid 19 restrictions, some of the managed hunt procedures from 2020 and 2021 (such as not doing license or bag checks) were continued. Limiting direct contact between staff and hunters served a dual purpose by reducing the possibility of disease transmission of Covid 19 and reduced Avian Influenza concerns. A total of 18 hunter parties (1-4 hunters per party) registered for the opening day hunts with all 18 parties hunting the fields. The Wastewater season started with 68 available hunting positions, but the maximum number of hunting positions (98) was not reached until December 03. The MCRRC/GMU season ran from October 15 through December 22, 2022.

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Weather and habitat conditions

Average amounts of summer precipitation and above average temperatures lead into the fall season in the Muskegon area. October, November, and December temperatures were all above average (+0.2 degrees F, +2.9 degrees F, and +0.8 degrees F, respectively). October (+0.7 inches) was the only month with above average rainfall. November (-1.4 inches), and December (-1.0 inches) were below average for precipitation. November snowfall was normal, but December snowfall was slightly below average. However, in both months the snow accumulation tended to come in larger snowfall events that affected waterfowl use of the MCRRC.

Despite the precipitation patterns, average Lake Michigan water levels helped to maintain respectable water access to the Muskegon River bottoms for the general waterfowl opener on October 15. Both the Cedar Creek and Mosquito Creek systems provided good habitat for migrant waterfowl. Early season migrants, especially wood ducks, were abundant for the opener.

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Migration and waterfowl numbers

The peak MCRRC duck number estimate in 2022 (17,896) occurred around October 15 and was significantly higher than the 2021 estimate (13,280). Season high counts of ruddy ducks (13,000) and northern shovelers (3500) both occurred during this time period. The highest count for mallards and black ducks (1,690) occurred during the first week of December and was almost identical to the 2021 totals (1,670). In general, overall duck numbers in October and November were higher in 2022 due to increased diver numbers.

WWTP Canada geese numbers reached their maximum count of 5,100 birds during the first week of November. The timing was a week earlier than the 2021 surveys and was higher (13%) than the 2021 maximum count of 4,500 geese.

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Season dates and area regulations

In 2022, there were 30 hunting days and 40 hunts at the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center GMU (unchanged from 2021). Once again, license and bag checks were not conducted during the drawings. There were no scheduling, party size, or process changes in 2022. The weekly schedule was an all-day hunt on Tuesday, an afternoon-only hunt on Thursday, and both morning and afternoon hunts on Saturday. Due to regular waterfowl season frameworks, the last day of duck hunting on the MCRRC was December 10. The Muskegon GMU season began on October 15 and the last day of hunting was December 22.

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Hunting season results

Harvest and hunter use

In the 2022 season, with lingering Covid-19 and Avian Influenza health concerns we continued to the policy of no pre-hunt license and post-hunt bag checks. Only hunting party leaders could approach the registration point and all other party members were encouraged to stay in their vehicles. Other changes implemented in 2020/21 were maintained due to positive hunter feedback, including allowing single hunters to register as a party and using a drop-box card return system on the MCRRC property to collect permit cards.

In 2022, goose harvest increased from 120 birds to 252. The success rate of geese per hunter trip was .58 (long-term average of .32 geese) and the highest recorded at the MCRRC. Despite very poor duck hunting in October, duck harvest also increased slightly from 209 birds to 213 ducks taken. The success rate for ducks (.54 ducks per hunter trip) increased and was well above the long-term average of .21 ducks per trip. Hunter trip numbers decreased from 493 trips in 2021 to 438. This decrease contributed somewhat to the average success rates.

Warm and dry conditions in September and the timing of late October rains lead to average crop harvest conditions. Inconsistent Canada goose use continued to be an issue as several large dairy farms and water treatment facilities south and east of the MCRRC acted as well-used refuges for local and migrant geese. Late season goose hunting was much improved because weather systems and snowfall moved geese into the area. 

Species harvest

Overall, 21% of the Wastewater goose harvest occurred during the month of October, 43% in November, and 36% in December. October duck harvest was only 4%, followed by 65% in November and 31% in December.

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Cropland and management practices

Approximately 3500 acres of crops are planted on the MCRRC in a rotation of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. In 2022, corn fields comprised approximately 28% of the fields open for hunting, 13% of the fields were soybean fields, and 59% of the fields were in hay. In the 2022 season, 81% of the goose harvest and 82% of the duck harvest occurred in the corn and bean fields (41% of the fields).

Since 2015, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) has been in effect between the DNR Wildlife Division and Muskegon County. Under the current MOA, Muskegon County agreed to leave up to 11 standing corn and corn stubble strips in designated corn fields on the MCRRC. Four strips were left standing and utilized in 2022. The strips were funded by the DNR Wildlife Division (total cost, $2,800). These corn strips were guaranteed to remain standing from corn harvest to the end of managed hunting season. The MOA designed combination of corn and corn stubble strips and farming practices left waste grain in the MCRRC fields and were well received by hunters. The corn strips also provided additional concealment opportunities for the hunters.

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Volunteers and partners

  1. Lake Effect MDHA
  2. Macatawa Bay MDHA
  3. West Michigan Wildlife Association
  4. Wastewater Hunters Friends Group

Our thanks to the administration, farm unit, and maintenance staff of the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center. Without their support, cooperation, and assistance, the managed waterfowl hunt could not take place.

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Economic benefits

While the Muskegon GMU hunt is relatively small scale, there is no doubt that hunting (and other forms of outdoor recreation) is important to local businesses in the Muskegon area. It is difficult to quantify this effect, but the economic benefits generated by fuel purchases, morning coffees, pre-hunt breakfasts, post-hunt dinners, license purchases, ammunition, hunting equipment, and motel rooms are significant. Northern Michigan, east side, or out-of-state hunters who participate typically spend most of their day in the Muskegon area. In the future, a managed hunt questionnaire may be one method to get a better idea of the economic values associated with the Muskegon GMU hunt.

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Recommendations

  1. Dependent upon season framework, continue holding the preferential Youth Hunt drawings on the last Saturday in October. The Veterans Day hunt would be scheduled on the closest Wastewater hunting day to the holiday.
  2. Continue the MOA between Muskegon County and DNR Wildlife Division to provide standing corn and corn stubble strips in the MCRRC fields.
  3. Maintain the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday hunting schedule with all-day hunts on Tuesdays, afternoon hunts on Thursdays, and two drawings (morning and afternoon hunts) on Saturdays.
     

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  • 11/10/2022 - Veterans preference drawing.