Ducks vs. Geese

April 2, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire

I have often been asked what I enjoy the pursuit of most: ducks or geese. It is a difficult question for a person who would prefer to spend his time scanning the skyline above decoys for waterfowl. For me, I cut my teeth hunting ducks at my family’s lake cabin with my dad and relatives. On my first hunting trip with ‘the guys’, they harvested the first Canada goose ever on our lake. From that moment on I was hooked on honkers. As the recent years have brought an abundance of geese, dark and light, I tend to tip the scales towards the long-necked waterfowl.

When talking about ducks and duck hunting the conversations often focus on low population counts and the poor state of their breeding grounds. The Mississippi and Central flyways were handed the “liberal” season package for the 2006 season, but these liberal seasons may soon be a thing of the past. Droughts and predators on the prairies have had a negative impact on the duck population.

I will continue to duck hunt regardless of the state of the population and lowered limits. I will just have to hunt smarter, doing little things like making the effort to shoot only drakes. With all the negativity surrounding the population of the ducks, I feel that some hunters are even ridiculed for shooting legal limits of ducks when hunting is not the cause of lower populations.

At twenty-five years of age I have come to the conclusion that Mother Nature plays the biggest role when it comes to duck production. Wet springs and dry summers can help duck populations sustain. Ducks Unlimited does a good job setting aside land for waterfowl, and Delta Waterfowl has done an excellent job raising the need the for predator control. Still at the end of the day I feel that the greatest benefit these organizations provide is an awareness of healthy waterfowl environment and waterfowl hunting practices.

If people are not familiar with the sport, they will never have any interest or concern for it. As hunters we need to encourage others to try hunting, or go at least to gain an understanding of why others pursue it. DU and Delta keep waterfowl hunters out in the public’s awareness through many types of media.

If one looked at numbers, they would conclude that our own government, through Federal Duck Stamp dollars, has done the most for the waterfowl population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not only set aside land, they have also trapped predators on that land as well. I know that in the past Delta Waterfowl has encouraged hunters to buy additional Federal Duck Stamps, and I would suggest the same. Funding through the Federal Duck Stamps dollars can produce more birds for your buck.

Personally, I volunteer with a local Delta chapter and help out when I can with the Minnesota Duck and Goose Callers Association. I have helped build wood duck boxes with kids for the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and volunteer at the MWA Woodie Camp. I do my arguing for the ducks behind the scenes in low tones but with firm conviction.

One thing that I have never felt remorse for is bringing a Canada goose to the ground with a load of steel shot. With populations of Canada geese as high as they have ever been, there is no shortage. I encourage others to think of the possibility of more special hunting seasons to help keep their populations in check.

With September seasons for harvesting resident Canada geese and a Conservation Order in place for Snow geese, there has never been more opportunity for hunting. I believe that it is these opportunities that have allowed the younger generations of waterfowl hunters to embrace goose hunting. I myself have fallen into this category where mild weather and liberal bag limits have made hunting geese very enjoyable.

Snow and Canada geese are both vocal and social birds. Their responsiveness to calling and decoys makes hunting them a treat. Goose calling has become a pastime where I live Minnesota, and I embrace it. Calling contests for ducks and geese have created excitement among the younger hunters across the Midwest. It should come as no surprise that Minnesota competitive goose callers have excelled in competitions across the country.

This fall whether I am hunting in Minnesota or North Dakota, I will be setting up for geese. Does this mean that I enjoy goose hunting more? A little, I guess. However I will shoot plenty of ducks along the way. Every waterfowl hunter worth his steel shot knows that ducks decoy better to goose decoys than duck decoys. As much as I enjoy hunting ducks, I will continue to target geese. As waterfowl hunters we could all become conversationalists by targeting the high populations of geese. My suggestion would be to start consulting others for good goose recipes.


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