Doug Leier

081213 early goose column photoNorth Dakota's early Canada goose season has been around for more than a decade and has gone through many evolution's since it started in 1999. The big change this year is that hunters of all ages, both resident and nonresident, will for the first time need a special license.

It's a specific effort to put additional hunting pressure on the rising population of giant Canada geese - the only goose species that nests and raises its young within the state.

While at this time of year, from mid-August through mid-September, these big birds are typically the only Canada goose subspecies in the state, some of the smaller subspecies can begin to migrate in toward the end of the early season.

The early goose season licenses are only available through electronic purchase, either online at the Game and Fish Department website; via phone at (800) 406-6409; or at license vendors in more than 20 counties that are linked to the Department's online licensing system. The special early goose season license is $5 for residents and $50 for nonresidents.

In counties that are not on the Game and Fish system, the licenses are not available with paper general hunting licenses. Visit the Game and Fish website to check out the list of counties where the early goose licenses are, and are not, available at retail license vendor locations.

The new state law that created the early goose license also includes other provisions that will affect hunters including:
  • Nonresidents who hunt during the early Canada goose season will no longer have to purchase a 14-day regular season waterfowl license. Previously, nonresidents needed to purchase a regular waterfowl license, and in all but Richland, Sargent, Benson, Ramsey and Towner counties, they had to use at least seven of their 14 days for the early season.
The $50 nonresident early season license does not have a limit on the number of days a nonresident can hunt.

This year, states can offer a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit for most migratory birds. The early Canada goose season has a limit of 15 daily and 45 in possession. Limits and shooting hours for the early season are different from the regular season. Shooting hours during the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.

Otherwise, the early goose season structure is pretty much the same as last year, with opening day on August 15. The season runs through September 15, except in the special Missouri River zone, where the season closes September 7. The eight fewer early season days in the Missouri River zone are added to the end of the regular goose season in December.

While the season opened August 15, some of the better hunting is available later on as small grains fields are harvested and provide more opportunities for field hunting.

Harvest Information Program Certification

Beginning September 1, a federal duck stamp for hunters age 16 and older, and Harvest Information Program certification for all hunters, is required. Hunters who purchase a license through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, or instant licensing telephone number (800) 406-6409, can easily get HIP certified. Otherwise, hunters can call (888) 634-4798 and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. Those who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once per year.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected]