Skip to main content

Shiawassee River State Game Area

Shiawassee River State Game Area

989-865-6211

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

Shiawassee River State Game Area consists of nearly 10,000 acres of managed waterfowl habitat. It is the largest managed waterfowl area the State of Michigan has to offer. With a multitude of hunting opportunities, every type of waterfowl hunter will find enjoyment hunting at Shiawassee River SGA. Its dikes and access roads can be utilized to view an array of wildlife species that are present throughout the year. Mass concentrations of wetland obligated species are found throughout the area and provide exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities.

PDF map of area

Hunting Information

  • Morning hunts: Daily 5:00 a.m. (Reserved hunt first and second weekend of duck season)
  • Afternoon hunts: Daily 11:00 a.m. (Reserved hunt first and second weekend of duck season)

Activities

  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing and Kayaking
  • Nature Trail Hiking
  • Biking
  • Jogging

Week in review

Through 12/17/2023

Weather

Mild weather for this time of year. Lots of warm, sunny days, daytime temperatures in the 40s with one day near 50-degrees. Nighttime lows above freezing temperatures.

Waterfowl abundance

No new refuge counts this week. Previous refuge count performed on December 4th were at 4,687 ducks and 875 geese.

Hunting conditions

Water levels on SRSGA are all being maintained at their current levels as there is no significant ice formation. Water will remain on managed zones for the Dec 30 and 31 hunt period.

Hunter numbers

N/A — No waterfowl hunting currently.

Waterfowl harvest

N/A — No waterfowl hunting currently.

Harvest season totals:

  • 7330 ducks
  • 1013 geese
  • 6541 trips
  • 1.43 birds per hunter average

What to expect this week

SRSGA will maintain water levels in the managed zones as weather conditions allow to provide opportunity for waterfowl hunting on Dec 30 and 31. With the 10–day weather outlook indicating daytime temperatures in the 40s and possibly 50–degree day. Forecast shows that nighttime low temperatures still above freezing look for areas with water to remain open or sheet ice.

Any freezing temperatures are not predicted until around Dec 28 and 29 but the daytime highs are still predicted in the upper 30s, possibly low 40s. Last season hunt period for south zone, Dec 30 and 31, weather is predicted to be in the upper 30s, partly cloudy, with nightly lows in the upper 20s.

Upcoming events

There will be draws at SRSGA for the Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 waterfowl hunt in the south zone. Draws will occur at normal times, 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., on both days. Check Station will open at 4:30 a.m. and close at 1 p.m. on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31.

Other comments

Don’t drive boats through or intentionally knock down corn in managed fields. Use existing slips in the corn to put boats while hunting in and from corn strips.

Please be aware and cautious of ice as we go into the late parts of waterfowl season, i.e. the December 30 through December 31st duck seasons, January goose season, Dec 30 through Jan 7 in South Zone, and the February 3–12 goose season in the South Zone.

Shiawassee River SGA would like to thank all the waterfowl hunters who came out to hunt on the area this season. Shiawassee River SGA would like also to thank and acknowledge the Shiawassee Flats Citizens and Hunters Association in their partnership with the area and the contributions they make throughout the year to help make Shiawassee River SGA a better place. The full–time staff at Shiawassee River SGA would also like to acknowledge and thank our fall seasonal staff for helping assist in draws and field work on Shiawassee River SGA, thank you Mitch and Zack.

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

Victor Allen Weigold

Vic Weigold worked for his entire thirty-three-year career with DNR in the Southeast Region. For nearly all those years he was housed at the Shiawassee River SGA. Vic managed that area through vacancies at the Wildlife Biologist and Wildlife Assistant positions, untold number of flood responses, pump station failures and at least a hundred miles of dike repairs. All too often Vic was a one-man show keeping the gears turning on the state’s largest managed waterfowl hunting area. Throughout his career Vic mentored countless wildlife professionals, each of them blessed with the good fortune to know, and to work alongside him.

Through the 33 years of service, Vic was a constant. Vic played host to hundreds of thousands of hunting opportunities. It’s hard to imagine how many “firsts” Vic was a part of… first hunt, first duck, first retrieve, first sunrise in the marsh. He surely saw more than a few “lasts” as well. Without doubt there were some beautiful last sunsets on the marsh that Vic hosted. Vic was one of the best of us, more than anything, he hosted a lot of “bests.” He probably hosted more best hunts, best days, and best sunsets than we can ever calculate.

Ultimately, Vic was the very heart and soul of Shiawassee River SGA... he will always be. Vic embodied the very best of everything we love, respect, and admire about the people that make up our Wildlife Division family. Rest easy Vic.

General introduction

The Shiawassee River State Game Area (SRSGA) is 9,878 acres of lowland hardwoods, diked impounded cropland, cropped upland, riverine marsh, and managed impounded emergent marsh located about 10 miles southwest of Saginaw in the town of St. Charles. The game area is located within the Saginaw River floodplain (Shiawassee Flats Critical Flood Storage Area) and lies at the confluence of the Shiawassee River, the North and South branches of the Bad River, and Wolf, Beaver, Pickerel, Marsh, and Swan Creeks.

SRSGA initial planning and construction efforts began in 1951 with the clearing of floodplain forest to allow for farmed impoundments, the dredging of ditches, and placement of pumps and water control structures to allow for year-round water level manipulation, and the subsequent placement of over 40 miles of dike. All this effort was geared towards making the game area, and neighboring 10,000-acre Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, a preeminent migration stopover for the tens of thousands of Canada geese and puddle and diving ducks that move through the area each year during spring and fall migrations.

This year was a very difficult one for the area. The area Wildlife Technician, Vic Weigold was diagnosed with serious illness at the end of August. Vic was unable to work on the area for the remainder of the year and passed away October 17, 2022. The area also faced the additional challenges associated with the Biologist’s leaving state employment during the summer and the Wildlife Assistant leaving for 12 weeks of parental leave in late September. Consequently, all of this fall’s flooding, hunt administration, deer check administration, and overall area management was conducted as a team effort. DNR staff from around the state stepped in and stepped up to assist in the absence of any full-time staff stationed at the area. Additionally, SFCHA provided significant assistance and historical knowledge that allowed for the hunting season to be completed as planned. Thank you all.

Return to table of contents

Area goals and management emphasis

The primary goals for the SRSGA are to provide essential habitat for migratory and resident game and non-game wildlife species and to provide recreational opportunities for hunting, trapping, and wildlife viewing.

The operation of managed waterfowl areas is identified as a high priority action for the Wildlife Division and meets several goals and objectives of the Guiding Principles and Strategies (GPS).

Return to table of contents

Significant habitat management

Providing food and cover on upland units continues to be one of the main management objectives for SRSGA. Habitat work and food plots suffered in 2022 due to the vacancy at the Wildlife Assistant position. This vacancy, however, was filled in late summer and this lack in habitat work will improve with this position having been replaced. Late summer also saw a vacating of the Wildlife Biologist position as he accepted another position. The area was delt an additional blow in late summer when the Wildlife Technician became gravely ill and eventually passed away.

Habitat work and food plot planting work were also significantly impacted by severe and prolonged flooding of the Shiawassee Flats due the Sanford and Edenville dam failures in 2020. This event inflicted substantial damage to the game area’s infrastructure resulting in 48 locations that were impacted with dike erosion, complete dike failures, flooded pump motors, and large debris deposits. Increases in Tittabawassee River flows directly impact the game area regardless of the year, but this event was the largest to occur since the flood of 1986. The DNR worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service via their Emergency Watershed Protection Program, which is a federal aid funding program, to help fund repairs. Most the work completed in 2021 was focused on repairs from this flood event, and the final completion of work was completed in the summer of 2022.

Return to table of contents

Land acquisition

There were no new land acquisitions in 2022.

Return to table of contents

Area maintenance

  • Manipulated water levels for planting, hunting, and wetland management.
  • Distributed 200 tons of 23a crushed limestone and 200 tons of 4a limestone to dike tops throughout the area to maintain structure and access.
  • Rented a front-end loader and dump truck for two months to help complete dike repairs from the flood of 2020.
  • Administered sharecrop agreements covering about 2,500 acres of land.
  • Hauled approximately 7,500 yards of fill to holes in dikes throughout the area to address and repair flood damage.
  • Repaired holes in dikes with help from Wildlife Division staff and from Forest Management division.

Return to table of contents

Equipment

No equipment purchases were reported for 2022.

Return to table of contents

Special projects

Upon completion of an application and associated fee, a local beekeeper was again allowed to place beehives throughout the area to provide for more effective crop pollination.

Return to table of contents

Recreational and educational activities

There were many user trips in 2022 that resulted in over 11,000 birds being harvested.

Return to table of contents

Trapping

As of the writing of this report, a total of 14 trapping permits have been issued for the ongoing 2022-2023 trapping season at SRSGA. Trapping permit totals were not collected from 2021 trappers. Due to low fur prices that past few years, it is likely that 2021 trapping harvest was below the past few years average. Trapping permits for the 2022 season were issued out of the SRSGA St. Charles Field Office. These permits are still valid through March 31, 2023, for the 2022 season, which is after the publishing of this report; 2022 season totals will be included in the 2023 version of this report.

Return to table of contents

Waterfowl banding and surveys

Due to reduced staffing, there was a reduction in banding efforts in 2022. All banding on the SRSGA was conducted by Don Avers and the Michigan Duck Banding Team.

Return to table of contents

Hunting season report

Introduction

The location of the draw was the same for 2022 as it was for 2020-2021. The drawing was conducted out of a booth in the equipment shop where hunters had the choice of either walking or driving up to the check in booth. Announcements, draw rules, and drawing results were broadcast over FM radio as well as being displayed on a large screen TV mounted in the drive thru bay. There were two drawings per day, the hunting permits were valid from the start of shooting hours to 12 noon for the AM hunt period and from 1 PM to end of shooting hours for the PM hunt period.

The waterfowl check station was open from 4:30 AM to 4:00 PM seven days a week for the waterfowl hunting season. Hunters were able to pick up leftover permits until 4:00 PM for any non-occupied hunting zone. No zone changes were allowed, there was no checking of licenses, and hunters were not limited by party size to single or party preference zones. Permits were required to be returned either in person, by email, text, fax, regular mail, the kiosk drop box, or by using the drop tubes available in the area’s four main parking lots. There was a strong effort taken to ensure permits were returned this year.

With only one full-time staff, the Wildlife Assistant who was on paid-paternal leave, various other Wildlife Division permanent staff helped conduct the waterfowl check station operations predominated by Nate Levitte (Saginaw Bay Field Operations Manager). Three seasonal non-career wildlife assistants were also hired to help in the check station: Mitchell Young, Alesha Schafer, and Barry Pratt. Special thanks to DNR Wildlife staff members Terry McFadden, Vickie Nagy, Tammy Giroux, Brandy Dybas-Berger, Todd Owens, Theresa Riebow, Barry Sova, Ron Sting, Sara Thompson, and the collective efforts of various section’s support who helped keep the 2022 duck season running as smoothly as possible. In addition, a special thank you should be made to Gary Bronz and Pat Maziarz who provided assistance and their historical knowledge of the area.

During the early teal season, hunters harvested a total of 150 teal; during the early goose season, hunters harvest a total of 115 geese; during the general waterfowl season, hunters harvested a total of 10,125 ducks; during the regular goose season hunters harvested 887 geese. The youth waterfowl hunting weekend, which occurred September 17th and 18th, coincided with the new veterans and active-duty military waterfowl hunting days. These hunt periods were conducted via self-registration and hunters harvested a total of 58 ducks (goose harvest from the youth, veterans, and active-duty military weekend is included with the early goose harvest season).

Participation was high for the late split of the general waterfowl season, December 31st - January 1st This hunt was conducted via self-registration, but harvest data has not been fully entered yet.

The late goose season ran from February 4-13, 2023. Late goose hunting was available on the area through self-registered permits. Harvest for this season has not yet been determined as we are still collecting harvest information from hunters who participated in this hunt.

Return to table of contents

Weather and habitat conditions

For the 2022 farming season, sharecroppers were able to get all the corn planted in a timely manner. Small grains plantings were a bit of a challenge due to lack of staff to help complete the plantings. Small grains were planted with a no-till seed drill set up planting 4 rows of buckwheat 1 row of millet across all fields.

Decoy strips were left as moist-soils areas and that were mowed before the hunting season. The south Prior Road field was left to 90% moist soil with 120 rows of corn planted in the hunting zones. This field harvested more birds than any other field on the area.

Bob Walker sharecropped field 1-4, 9-14, & 30s was our corn and soybeans. 6-8 was our corn as was the 40s. North miller road was soybeans. Broughton Rd (North Prior) was soybeans. Ryan Rd soybeans.

John Oakes sharecropped North and South Prior Road units (55-66) just in our corn. John also sharecropped upland fields behind the Ott Farm in soybeans.

Due to crop damage by deer and sandhill cranes, members of the SFCHA continued their scare program under permit from the DNR. The group took care of all aspects of the program filling propane cannons and moving them around the fields. It is believed to have helped some but did not completely obviate the problem. The group also took on the ambitious task of placing hundreds of scarecrows in the fields.

During the 60-day waterfowl season, temperatures ranged from a low of 0°F on November 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th to a high of 77°F degrees on October 24th.

Return to table of contents

Migration and waterfowl numbers

Weekly waterfowl counts were completed on the Prior Road refuge (Table 3). Counts were conducted every Wednesday around 12:00 noon. The same observers, route and methods were used each week.

The east half of the flooded woods and the B and C marshes were again designated as a waterfowl refuge, but archery deer hunters could hunt the area.

Return to table of contents

Season dates and area regulations

Shiawassee River State Game Area was open for all 2022 waterfowl seasons in Michigan’s South Zone waterfowl hunting zone.

There was an early teal season held again this year that ran from September 1-16 with a 6-bird bag limit.

There was a six duck per day daily bag limit for the 2022 waterfowl season. A hunter’s bag could include six ducks made up of no more than four mallards (no more than two of which could be a hen), three wood ducks, two redheads, one or two scaup depending on the date, one pintail, two black ducks and two canvasbacks. Hunters could also take five mergansers, only two of which could be hooded merganser. The Canada goose season ran from September 1-30, January 8-13 and February 4-13. The daily bag limit for Canada geese, dark geese, white-fronted geese and brant is 5, which only 1 can be a brant. The daily bag limit for light geese (snows, blue and ross’s) was 20.

Return to table of contents

Hunting season results

Pre-registration

The first two weekends of the regular waterfowl season were preregistered hunts (October 15, 16, 22, and 23). These hunt periods were preregistered with a maximum of 40 parties. Some reserved hunt drawings had leftover spots available if some of the 40 preregistered parties did not attend the drawing; a leftover drawing was held if parties were present to fill up to the 40 spots available. The opening day PM hunt and November 5 PM hunt were both youth priority draws; there was a veteran’s preference hunt day on November 11 for both the AM and PM hunt periods.

Harvest and hunter use

In 2022, there was a total of 5,970 hunter trips for the first split (58-days) of the 60-day waterfowl season and hunters harvested an average of 1.69 ducks per trip, up from 1.30 ducks per hunter trip in 2021.

Return to table of contents

Recommendations

  • Continue with the number of pre-registered parties at 40, pending annul area conditions.
  • Continue the following draw procedures that were adopted in 2021 for future seasons:
    • Do not check for waterfowl hunting licenses
    • Remove party zone draw preference
    • Utilize FM radio for draw speech and zone selection
  • Continue to allow for fall tillage in the bottomlands in a manner with minimal topsoil disturbance; do not allow fall tillage of any kind in the decoy opening areas of the field.
  • Purchase front-end loader.
  • Purchase dump truck.
  • Purchase new disk.
  • Pursue long-term sharecrop agreements.
  • Work closely with constituent groups while still being able to manage our game areas to benefit wildlife and improve habitats.
  • Replace the D41P dozer.
  • Backfill vacant wildlife technician position.
  • Staff will continue to explore options for our agricultural program (examples -sharecrop agreements, moist-soil management, wildlife crop damage, tillage operations).
  • Due to changing Great Lakes levels we will have to make recommendations on how to best manage our resources.

Return to table of contents

Volunteers and partners

The following groups helped us to reach some of our management goals. Their generous donations of both time and money are greatly appreciated.

  • Shiawassee Flats Citizens and Hunters Association
    • Funded repairs, planted crops, and provided recommendations in helping to establish waterfowl check station protocols.
    • In the absence of a Biologist, Technician and Assistant, the association provided DNR staff a good historical perspective and plan for the flooding regime utilized annually on the area
    • Undertook major posting of the area, which included navigational signs throughout the area to better direct hunters to their hunting spot.
    • Mowed/removed willow brush at various locations
    • Down tree river cleanup for better navigation and waterway mobility
    • Provided valuable assistance in the fall flooding schedules, protocols, and pump maintenance
    • Continued crop depredation activities to alleviate damage from sandhill cranes and deer in corn zones

Return to table of contents

Economic benefits

Hunters, trappers, fishermen, wildlife viewers, and other area recreationalists use this area frequently throughout the year. The biggest influx of users on the area is during the fall when waterfowl and deer harvest opportunities exist. It is hard to put a dollar amount or percentage of sales amount on the contributions made to local businesses from users of the game area. With 5,970 waterfowl hunter trips, approximately 900 deer hunting days, and the number of trapping days, it is quite significant. This does not include fishing days, bird watching days, kayaking days or days where people are just enjoying the area on a walk. When talking to local business owners the percentage of increase varied from season to season and business-to-business. Overall, the estimates were from 5% to 25% increase in sales from people using the area and doing business with local merchants during times of open hunting seasons.

Return to table of contents

Get out and explore Michigan's Wetland Wonders, our managed waterfowl hunt areas, this fall. Held in early October, these open houses will give you a chance to talk with local staff, tour the areas and see what each one has to offer for the upcoming waterfowl season. 

  • Shiawassee River (Saginaw County) – Oct. 10. 

All open houses begin at 6 p.m. at the area's headquarters.