August Goose Hunting

March 25, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Non hunters and hunters who don’t target Canada geese may be a bit take off guard when learning those hunters they’ve seen and heard are out taking part in the early Canada goose season in North Dakota–for good reason.

In 1988 the US Fish and Wildlife Service annual spring waterfowl survey indicated about 18,000 resident Canada geese. The 2007 spring count was at 362,000. Many residents of North Dakota can remember a time in the 60s when seeing a Canada goose was quite a site with a mere 100 wild breeding pairs, which created a multi-pronged approach to raising and restoring Canada goose populations across the prairie. And by 1993 around 20,000 Canada geese dotted the state. About that same time the resurgence of water and snow recharged wetlands which had been dry for years.

Game and Fish began first by suspending relocation efforts, removing closed goose hunting zones and in 1999 offered the first early Canada goose season in south east North Dakota. In 2002 landowners were allowed to apply for permits to directly kill or destroy nests of birds which were causing depredation in early spring and summer.

This year the season opened August 15th with the Department full knowing the obstacles of mosquitoes, and lack of harvested crops for field hunting may limit hunter interest. But realize the need to increase harvest provides the weighing the odds of hunter’s taking part in the season. Which begs the question why aren’t the included in the spring snow goose conservation hunt? To answer that here’s the official response from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

During the spring there are numerous temporal and geographic overlaps between the various Canada goose populations. Because the status of each population varies widely, and because any management action for resident Canada geese must be legally targeted at only resident Canada geese, we see no feasible way to consider spring time hunting or control of resident Canada geese using hunters during this time period.

Hunters understand the difference between the giant Canada’s and the sub-species which are smaller and often referred to as Hutchies or lessers. These different sub-species can make for difficult identification in many hunting conditions and which is why the season in past Septembers was reduced from three weeks to the first two weeks of September as the hunter harvest on non-target sub-species was beyond the acceptable boundaries established by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Extending the season into August was granted as one of the only remaining viable options left under federal regulations for adding more hunter harvest opportunities into the giant Canada goose population management equation.

Hunting seasons in August or November for that matter are an end result of cooperation between hunters and landowners. Any season designed is only as good as the interest from the hunting community and cooperation of landowners. It’s understood many landowners will continue with fall work and in some instances hesitate with granting access immediately due to harvest or fall field work,  but for the good of the management of Canada geese the season depends on providing reasonable access to hunters. Landowners who’ve experienced depredation issues in the past would allow hunters to assist with increasing goose harvest, and hunters need to understand and heed any request  from the granting landowner.


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