Inside the Spring Light Goose Conservation Order

By Doug Leier

Doug Leier

It’s hard to believe that it was more than 20 some years ago when I was working as a game warden when the first spring light goose conservation order arrived. 

 Time flies. 

 The purpose then — and remains today – is to reduce light goose (snow goose) populations during spring as the birds migrate north to their nesting grounds. 

 While the opening of the first season was unique, I don’t remember much about it. From a game warden’s perspective, that’s usually a good sign. Often, the most memorable events involve violations or complaints. 

 I do remember seeing massive waves of geese in eastern North Dakota, where the birds were trying to consume enough food during their long migration in preparation for spring nesting.  

 North Dakota’s spring light goose conservation order opened Feb. 20 and continues through May 9. 

 Residents must have a valid current season 2020-21 (valid through March 31) or 2021-22 (required April 1) combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. Resident youth under age 16 only need the general game and habitat license. The 2021-22 license is available for purchase beginning March 15. 

Nonresidents need a 2021 spring light goose conservation order license. The cost is $50 and is valid statewide. Nonresidents who hunt in the spring remain eligible to buy a fall season license. The spring license does not count against the 14-day fall waterfowl hunting season regulation. 

 In addition, nonresident youth under age 16 can purchase a license at the resident fee if their state has youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota. 

 A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents. 

 Resident and nonresident licenses are available online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website,, or by calling 800-406-6409. 

 Hunters must register annually with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting in each state. The HIP number can be obtained online, or by calling 888-634-4798. The HIP number obtained for North Dakota’s spring conservation order is also valid for North Dakota’s fall hunting season. 

 The spring conservation order is only open to light geese – snows, blues and Ross’s. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The conservation order is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds. 

 To maintain good landowner relations, hunters should seek permission before hunting on private lands or attempting any off-road travel during this season. Sprouted winter wheat is considered an unharvested crop. Therefore, hunting or off-road travel in winter wheat is not legal without landowner permission. 

 For more information on regulations refer to the 2021 Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations and the North Dakota 2020-21 Hunting and Trapping Guide. 

Featured Photo: Huge flocks of migrating light geese make their way through North Dakota in early spring, providing a quick but exciting hunting experience for many waterfowlers. NDG&F Photo.

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