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Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center
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.
- 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.
- White-tailed deer hunting
- Additional waterfowl hunting
- Small game hunting
- Wildlife viewing
- Additional activities
Week in review
Temperatures ranging from mid 30s to upper 40s during the week. The heavy snow from Christmas has melted from the fields and rain has been falling instead.
Mallard numbers increased with the recent thaw. Canada goose counts also increased slightly.
Hunting is now closed on the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center GMU.
Season totals were 187 hunting parties and 438 hunter trips. We averaged 11.2 hunters per hunt.
The season totals were 252 geese and 213 ducks (mostly mallards). .57 geese and .54 ducks per hunter trip.
What to expect this week
Hunting is now closed for the season on the GMU.
December 22 was the last day for the 2022 hunt.
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.
Table of contents
2021 Annual Report
- General introduction
- Area goals and management emphasis
- Significant habitat management
- Land acquisition
- Area maintenance
- Special projects
- Recreational and educational activities
- Waterfowl banding and surveys
Hunting season report: 10/02/2021 through 11/28/2021
2021 annual report
2021 marked the 43rd year of managed waterfowl hunting on the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center (MCRRC) and Goose Management Unit (GMU).
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.
Significant habitat management
Muskegon County staff and contractors plant a rotation of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa on the MCRRC.
No land acquisitions were reported for 2021.
Maintenance activities include repair and placement of informational and directional signs, field marker posts (carsonite strips), and reflectors (as needed).
No equipment purchases were reported for 2021.
No special projects were reported for 2021.
Recreational and educational activities
Due to Covid-19 concerns, the spring migration birding tour and Wetland Wonders event at the MCRRC was cancelled again this year. However, the annual youth hunt (youth hunters aged 16 and younger) did take place during the 2021 season. The youth hunt (both am and pm draws) was held on Saturday, October 30 with only two youth hunting parties and two youth hunters participating. One regular or adult party also hunted. A single drawing Veterans hunt was also held on the afternoon of Thursday, November 11. Two veteran hunting parties with four veteran hunters participated.
Trapping activities were not reported for 2021.
Waterfowl banding and surveys
32 wood ducks were banded by Muskegon SGA staff on the MCRRC.
Hunting season report
The 2021 MCRRC managed hunt opened on Saturday, October 16. Unlike 2020, both morning and afternoon hunt drawings were held. A total of 33 hunter parties (1-4 hunters per party) registered for the hunts with 27 parties hunting the fields. The Wastewater season started with 34 available hunting positions, but the maximum number of hunting positions (98) was not reached until November 11. The MCRRC/GMU season ran from October 16 through December 23, 2021.
Weather and habitat conditions
Below average summer precipitation and above average temperatures generally continued into the fall season in the Muskegon area. October and December temperatures were significantly above average (+6.3 degrees F and +4.6 degrees F, respectively). November was the exception, finishing 0.2 degrees F below average. October (-0.3 inches), November (-1.1 inches), and December (-0.1 inches) were also below average for precipitation. November snowfall was near average, but December snowfall was almost 20 inches below average.
Despite the precipitation patterns, above average Lake Michigan water levels helped to maintain respectable water conditions on the Muskegon River bottoms for the general waterfowl opener on October 9. 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.
Migration and waterfowl numbers
The peak MCRRC duck number estimate in 2021 (13,280) occurred around October 9 and was significantly lower than the 2020 estimate (16,870). Most of the difference was due to lower peak counts of ruddy ducks and northern shovelers, although they were once again the most abundant species. The highest count for mallards and black ducks (1,670) occurred during the last full week of November but was 39% lower than the 2020 totals (2,720). In general, overall duck numbers in October and November were lower in 2021.
WWTP Canada geese numbers reached their maximum count of 4,500 birds during mid-to-late November. The timing was similar to the 2020 surveys but was significantly lower (36%) than the 2020 maximum count of 7,000 geese.
Season dates and area regulations
In 2021, there were 30 hunting days at the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center GMU. The Covid-19 safety protocols implemented in 2020 were maintained in 2021. The only significant scheduling change in 2021 was the return to both morning and afternoon drawings for the Saturday hunts. Stand-by hunters were also allowed to register for hunting after the drawings. The weekly schedule was an all-day hunt on Tuesday, an afternoon only hunt on Thursday, and both morning and afternoon hunts on Saturday. While the number of hunting days did not change significantly, the two-hunt format on Saturday resulted in 11 additional hunts in the 2020 season (40 total). Due to regular waterfowl season frameworks, the last day of duck hunting on the MCRRC was December 4. The Muskegon GMU season began on October 16 and the last day of hunting was December 23.
Hunting season results
Harvest and hunter use
In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic continued to impact waterfowl hunting procedures on the MCRRC. Due to safety protocols, hunters were not allowed in the building where Wastewater drawings were traditionally held, and all public restroom facilities were closed. All drawings were held outside the check station building by an overhead door, pre-hunt license checks were eliminated, and post-hunt bag checks were also eliminated. 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 were maintained in 2021 due to positive hunter feedback, including allowing single hunters to register as a party and using a drop-box system on the MCRRC property to collect permit cards. The only significant change was resuming both morning and afternoon hunts on Saturdays.
In 2021, goose harvest decreased from 278 birds to 120. The success rate of geese per hunter trip was .24 (long-term average of .32 geese). Duck harvest also decreased from 271 birds to 209 ducks taken. However, the success rate for ducks (.47 ducks per hunter trip) increased and was well above the long-term average of .21 ducks per trip. Hunter trip numbers also decreased from 790 trips in 2020 to 493.
Despite warm and dry conditions in September, the timing of early October rains delayed soybean and corn harvest. Inconsistent Canada goose use created below average hunting conditions as several large dairy farms and water treatment facilities south and east of the MCRRC continued to be well-used refuges for local and migrant geese. Late season goose hunting success improved, but never made up for a slow start. Overall, 19% of the Wastewater goose harvest occurred during the month of October, 49% in November, and 32% in December. October duck harvest was 22%, followed by 73% in November. December had only two days of duck hunting.
Sex and age data were not collected from mallards and black ducks at the FPSWA during the 2021 waterfowl season, due to COVID-19.
Mallards were the bulk of the harvest, followed by Green-winged Teal, Canada Geese and Wood Ducks. In 2021, overall waterfowl harvest increased, but Northern Shovelers (323%), Canada Geese (234%) and Wood Duck (78%) harvest were three species that had the highest increase, however, Redhead (-46%) and Blue-winged Teal (-42%) harvest.
Cropland and management practices
Approximately 3500 acres of crops are planted on the MCRRC in a rotation of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. In 2021, corn fields comprised approximately 30% of the fields open for hunting, 15% of the fields were soybean fields, and 55% of the fields were in hay. In the 2021 season, 87% of the goose harvest and 97% of the duck harvest occurred in the corn and bean fields (45% 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 and utilized in 2021. 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. Previously, the corn strips were harvested after December 1. 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.
Volunteers and partners
- Lake Effect MDHA
- Macatawa Bay MDHA
- West Michigan Wildlife Association
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Continue the MOA between Muskegon County and DNR Wildlife Division to provide standing corn and corn stubble strips in the MCRRC fields.
- 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.
- 11/10/2022 - Veterans preference drawing.