Resident and out-of-state hunters combined to harvest about 48,000 birds during North Dakota’s early Canada goose season in 2013.
While harvest was down 30 percent from the early season in 2012, it was still the third highest on record. North Dakota held its first early Canada goose season in 1999 in an effort, which continues today, to reduce the state’s resident Canada goose population and thereby reduce crop depredation concerns. Seasons dates in 2013 were August 15 through September 15.
Mike Szymanski, North Dakota Game and Fish Department migratory game bird biologist, said the decline in harvest was influenced by a cold, late spring in 2013 that led to poor production for resident Canada geese.
“Some pockets of geese did OK, but for the most part there was pretty poor production statewide in 2013,” he said.
With so few juvenile geese in the mix, it’s more difficult for most hunters to fool geese within shotgun range.
“It’s easier hunting when you have more juvenile birds in the population because younger birds decoy better and will drag adult birds into decoy spreads,” Szymanski said. “With the population made up of mostly adult birds, the hunting gets tougher.”
Another factor to the fall in harvest during last year’s early Canada goose season was the reduction in the number of active hunters, which declined 36 percent from 2012. According to a Game and Fish Department report, an estimated 4,192 residents and 745 nonresidents actively hunted. The average season bag in 2013 for residents was 9.97 geese, while the average season bag for nonresidents was 8.34 birds.
“I think a lot of hunters realized that it was going to be harder to find hunts due to the poor goose production and late harvest of crop fields,” Szymanski said.
For the first time in 2013, hunters needed a special license to participate in the early Canada goose season. The fee, which is also mandatory for hunters in 2014, is $5 for all residents, regardless of age, and $50 for nonresidents, except that nonresidents under age 16 (as of September 1) would pay the resident rate if their state has a reciprocal youth licensing agreement with North Dakota.
The move by state lawmakers in 2013 to create the new early Canada goose license provided the Game and Fish Department a means to better identify who to sample, and obtain better estimates of harvest and hunting effort during the early season.
“We needed our early season harvest survey to be more efficient,” Szymanski said. “It’s a good tool and it’s working.”
At season’s end in 2013, 6,534 licenses for the early season were sold to residents and 789 to nonresidents. Questionnaires were mailed to 2,886 residents and 771 nonresidents.
“Based on the survey information, it was clear that the Department was better able to find active Canada goose hunters to survey,” Szymanski said. “Prior to the new license, the Department sent a lot of surveys to people (70-80 percent) who ended up not hunting. Now a much higher percentage of those who are sent surveys are goose hunters.”
It was also learned, along with the harvest total for the state, that Canada geese were bagged in all 51 counties that had reported hunting activity.
In 2013, resident and nonresident hunters were only able to purchase the early goose season licenses electronically, either online; via phone at 800-406-6409; or at license vendors in counties linked to the Department’s online licensing system.
Licenses, again, will be available only through electronic means in 2014.
Another change in 2013 that runs true today is that nonresidents who hunt during the early Canada goose season do not need the 14-day nonresident regular season waterfowl license. Previously, nonresidents needed to purchase a regular waterfowl license, and in all but Richland, Sargent, Benson, Ramsey and Towner counties, they had us use at least seven of their 14 days for the early season.
The $50 nonresident early season license does not have a limit on the number of days a nonresident can hunt.
For both residents and nonresidents, a federal waterfowl stamp is needed September 1 by all hunters ages 16 and older. In addition, all resident hunters, regardless of age, need a general game and habitat license at $20. Residents aged 16 or older also need a small game license.
All migratory bird hunters must also register with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting. Hunters who purchase a license through the Game and Fish Department website, or instant licensing telephone number, can easily get HIP certified. Otherwise, hunters can call 888-634-4798 and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. Those who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again.
Pending final approval of the governor’s proclamation in late July, tentative season dates for the early Canada goose season are August 15 through September 15, except in the special Missouri River zone, where the season would close September 7.
The eight fewer early season days in the Missouri River zone are added to the end of the regular goose season in that zone in December.
In 2013, the early Canada goose season had a daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 45. Limits will likely be the same this year, pending approval of the governor’s proclamation and finalization of federal guidelines for the 2014 early season.