By Nick Simonson
Where once Canada geese were a rarity in North Dakota, populations now continue to climb, leading to liberalized bag limits and more opportunities for hunters to start after these popular waterfowl. With the August Management Take/Early September Season kicking off on Sat. Aug. 15, hunters will have an even greater chance to harvest their share of Canada geese this year, as numbers in the state have increased over 2019, thanks to an abundance of water and habitat and good recruitment this spring and summer. This continues a trend observed by North Dakota Game & Fish Department (NDG&F) Migratory Game Bird Management Supervisor Mike Szymanski throughout his career.
“Our breeding population estimates have just continued to go up, we seem to get them stable for a number of years and then all of a sudden there’s a big production year and they go up again,” Szymanski relates, adding, “we’re up about six percent this year, which is a pretty nominal increase, but our breeding population estimate was about 335,000 birds, which is quite high.”
Coming with the increased populations of Canada geese are unwanted byproducts, such as damage and messes in urban areas such as parks, golf courses and riparian stretches where people recreate along with impacts to newly-sprouted crops in the spring and some interference with harvesting activities in the fall. As a result, the management take season came to be to help control the expanding populations and their noticeable presence and effects on the landscape. Evolving over time, the opportunity for hunters to get into the field has expanded, and bag limits have increased, most notably from eight birds a day to the 15 which can be harvested this season. Best of all, for managers like Szymanski, the management take season does not impact the days allotted to hunters during the regular Canada goose season.
“It doesn’t count toward our typical 107 days we’re allowed for hunting Canada geese during hunting season, so the August days we have for Canada goose hunters are completely additive opportunities,” Szymanski relates, adding that three zones help keep sportsmen in familiar territories, but they need to be aware of varied closing dates and licensing requirements.
All three management take zones open on Sat. Aug. 15, with the Missouri River Zone closing on Sept. 7, the Western Zone closing on Sept. 15 and the Eastern Zone – where a large number of Canada geese reside and have a greater impact on agricultural lands – closing on Sept. 22. Szymanski notes that the Eastern Zone is open a bit later than it has been in prior autumns, helping hunters take advantage of expanding crop harvest and better opportunities later into the season. Coming with the opportunity of the management take season is an added license requirement for both resident and non-resident hunters.
“Residents and non-residents both need to get HIP registered and folks need to buy their early Canada goose season license, it’s $5 for residents and $50 for non-residents; residents are also required to have their general game and habitat license and then starting Sept. 1, a duck stamp,” Szymanski advises.
Hunters are encouraged to secure their licenses, scout out likely areas and keep tabs on the starting small grain harvest on the state’s landscape for best success as birds can be a bit wary. Getting in touch with landowners and securing permission for those places opening to feeding geese are a great thing to take care of ahead of and early on in the special season for best success.
“You do get a little bit of movement, but typically these birds have a really good lay of the land; they can be a bit unpredictable, folks really shouldn’t be surprised if they happen to go scout a field and the geese just don’t show up, sometimes they just fly the other way,” Szymanski suggests, “spreading out your decoy spread a little bit helps, they very often do land outside of decoys this time of year, they’re in smaller family groups and associating with geese they know so they’re not looking to go jam into a group of 60 other geese, they’re going to land short in the field and you’ve got to be prepared to take all shooting angles around your decoy spread,” he concludes.
More information on the upcoming management take season and all the state’s Canada goose hunting opportunities can be found at gf.nd.gov in the Canada goose section found under the website’s main Hunting tab.
Featured Photo: The management take season aims to control expanding populations of resident Canada geese which impact urban and agricultural lands. Simonson Photo.