August Goose Hunting in ND

Jon Boyd

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North Dakota Game and Fish Biologist Doug Leier Reports:

With back-to-school ads, high school sports and college students all shifting from summer into fall mode, I've started to hear some anglers transition from summer fishing to hunting talk.

Which isn't all that surprising considering the early Canada goose season opens Aug. 15. What may be surprising is that this early season for resident geese has become somewhat of a staple of fall within a fairly short period of time.

In 1988, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual spring waterfowl survey indicated about 18,000 resident Canada geese observed in North Dakota. In recent years that number is over 300,000.

Many North Dakota hunters can still remember a time in the 1960s when just seeing a Canada goose was a noteworthy occurrence, especially the large giant Canadas that today are the focus of the early season. At that time, the state had a mere 100 wild breeding pairs.

Following a couple of decades of a multi-pronged approach to raising and restoring Canada goose populations across the prairie, by 1993 around 20,000 resident Canada geese dotted the state's landscape. That was the year the current wet cycle took off, with rain and snow runoff recharging wetlands that were dry for years.

With revitalized habitat conditions, resident Canada geese - the birds that nest and raise their young in North Dakota - responded accordingly.

To account for the rapidly increasing goose population, Game and Fish first suspended relocation efforts, then opened up areas that were previously closed to hunting of Canada geese. Then came the first early goose season in southeastern North Dakota in 1999, and 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.

For the past several years, Aug. 15 has become somewhat of the standard early goose opener, though lack of harvested crops for field hunting in some years can limit hunter interest, as can abundant mosquitoes and late summer heat that are typically not issues on chilled October mornings. But still, the opportunity is there for hunters who are willing to take on the elements.

The days from Aug. 15-31 are considered as part of a "management take" and do not count against the state's allotment of goose hunting days under federal goose season frameworks. Starting Sept. 1 the early goose days do count against the federal framework days.

Several years ago Game and Fish decided to end the early season in the Missouri River zone a week earlier than the rest of the state. By doing that, it provided an extra seven days of Canada goose hunting at the end of the season in that zone, which in some years has plentiful hunting opportunities in late December as tens of thousands of Canada geese may stage on the Missouri River or Lake Sakakawea until severe winter weather drives most of them south.

In the rest of the state, the philosophy is that there are a lot more goose hunting opportunities that extra week in mid-September, than would consistently be available in later December.

Because of the limit on goose hunting days after Sept. 1, extending the season into August was one of the only remaining viable options for adding more hunter harvest into the giant Canada goose population management equation. And for the most part, the early season is helping keep that population in check.

Hunting geese in August isn't necessarily for everyone, but a lot of waterfowl hunters are sure starting to look forward to it.

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Posted by Jon Boyd under Articles, Featured, Hunting News, Waterfowl on August 11, 15 06:29 AM | Permalink

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