The 2010 spring snow goose conservation season opened Feb 20. No we didn't make a mistake, the probability of snow geese migrating back into North Dakota before March is slim, but the remote chance of a mild winter, limited snow cover and early spring are possible. Yes, I said possible, but improbable.
It seems like forever since those variables have crossed over where a huntable snow goose population has found their way across the South Dakota line. But most hunters understand we'd rather open the season early on paper rather than too late and miss the opportunity to reduce the population-which is the reason for the season so to speak. It's the reason this is labled a conservation order and not a hunt.
Proof positive the birds don't really care when we open the season as the migration triggers are more predicated on the photo-period or day length, which tells the birds it's time to press towards the spring nesting grounds. While the birds react to the physiological migration impulse the physical barrier of snow limits the northward migration and while the early March snow cover stretched deep into Kansas the snow depth to the south shrinks faster than ours and the past few years the majority of the snow geese numbers have pushed through in a hurry as a combination of late spring and the clock ticking on spring nesting results in a shorter spring snow goose conservation season.
While regulations allow electronic calls, unplugged shotguns along with unlimited daily and possession limits, similar to last year the need to limit the impact to roads can't be stressed enough. I know it makes sense, and anyone who's been off the pavement knows full well but it might be a case of it's easier said than done? I'm not sure, but I think we all can do better. Let me be clear, it's not just hunters out on the farm to market roads. From oil and wind, to even ma and pa just out for a slumbering spring is finally here Sunday drive. It's everyone and I mean everyone's job to take it easy out there.
And before you just assume it's only for the benefit of farmers,ranchers and the rural community, those same trails and roads needed by farmers can be the difference between life and death when emergency personnel and vehicles need to access those areas. It can come down to a matter of seconds and minutes, so let's all do our part to keep those roads in as good of shape as possible.
Most of North Dakota has been saturated with moisture from snow last winter to the holdover from a wet 2009 summer and if you find yourself traveling for geese, even spring turkey into area's you haven't been, be forewarned even more than ever you never know what you might encounter. Washed out culverts and bridges can be more than a hinderance resulting in back tracking or extra time looking to get where need be, in some instances those same road obstacles in low light driving conditions can become deadly.
One last note on the hunting end of it, April first marks the license year for fishing and small game license renewal, legally license snow goose hunters from last fall are allowed to use those from last fall, but a new Harvest Information Program(HIP) number is needed online license purchases will walk you through the survey or you may call 1-888-634-4798. Get out, be safe and enjoy.
Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.