By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
Growing up in the Midwest, I always thought August was more about fishing, baseball and the last stretch of summer vacation, rather than a prelude to fall accompanied by football, school and hunting, but times have changed and the transition to fall now seems to start in August rather than in September, especially since the advent of the early Canada goose management season in North Dakota.
While not as much of a tradition as the grouse, waterfowl, pheasant or deer hunting openers, the “August Canada goose management take,” which opened on Aug. 15, now provides the first outing of the “fall” season for a few thousand hunters. The early goose season debuted in 1999 in just a few counties in southeastern North Dakota, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the opening date moved from September into mid-August. So, this is the 10th year for an August start and those extra “management take” days have helped the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s efforts to reign in the state’s resident Canada goose population.
Last year the combined August and September early Canada goose harvest was more than 36,000 resident geese, which was somewhat lower than recent peak years when hunters at times bagged more than 50,000 birds. Now that the 2017 early goose management season is open, it runs through Sept. 15, except in the Missouri River Zone where the season ends Sept. 7. The bag limit statewide is 15 Canada geese daily and 45 in possession. Shooting hours during the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.
Residents need a $5 early Canada goose license and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents age 16 and older need a small game license. Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, and the license is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license. Harvest Information Program registration is required of all hunters starting Sept. 1, and a federal duck stamp is required of hunters age 16 and older also starting Sept. 1.
The Game and Fish Department urges early season hunters to check the daily status of the rural fire danger index, issued by the National Weather Service, to alert the public to conditions that may be conducive to accidental starting or spread of fires. If the fire danger index is in the Very High, Extreme or Red Flag Warning category, recreational off-road travel, such as for setting decoys in a field, is restricted.
Early goose hunters might also want to consider donations of goose meat to help out food pantries around the state. The Sportsmen Against Hunger program, administered by the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, is again accepting Canada goose meat from the early season. For a list of participating processors in North Dakota, and instructions for preparing the meat prior to delivery, visit the North Dakota Community Action website at capnd.org.
More information and required forms for donating meat are also available at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.
Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
(Featured Photos: Canada goose decoys await the arrival of the real thing in North Dakota’s management season, which opened Aug. 15. NDG&F Photo)