Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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LqP kill lowest since ’76

Montevideo, Minn. When the last shotgun was cased and closed
Nov. 5, signaling the end of the goose hunting season in the Lac
qui Parle zone, the number taken by hunters during the 30-day
season stood at 2,684 birds, the lowest total since harvest
estimation began in 1976, according to the Minnesota DNR.

The biggest culprit? Mother Nature, said Dave Trauba, DNR’s
wildlife area manager at LqP.

“In a nutshell, the reason the season was so slow is that the
geese didn’t come down from Canada,” he said. “The weather was mild
the whole season and we had no strong northwest winds.”

A year ago, during a similar 30-day season, the harvest of
Canada geese was better than 10,000 birds. However, though the
season was mild, at least there was wind to push birds south.

The past two years, the harvest index has been set at 16,000
birds, a safeguard against overharvest. Wildlife officials set that
number to protect the Eastern Prairie Population of geese, which
migrates from the Hudson Bay area of Canada, with stop-overs at Oak
Hammock marsh in Manitoba and the city of Winnipeg.

Recent poor breeding of the flock has concerned wildlife
officials and warranted restrictions on harvest from the flock.
That’s why, they say, the daily goose limit in the Lac qui Parle
Zone, as well as the surrounding West Central Zone, have had daily
limits half that of the rest of the state.

The season there also opened a week later than most of the state
and ended Nov. 5. This year, with little goose movement, Trauba
said it’s likely more resident giant Canada geese were shot this
year than last.

“The 30-day season was based on the breeding population of EPPs
and this year was a bust,” Trauba said. EPP birds don’t
successfully breed until they’re three to four years old.
Therefore, he added, “The EPP management plan is set up to maintain
the breeding component.”

What that usually means for hunters is more restrictive seasons
for a few years following a poor breeding year.

“Lac qui Parle has a history,” Trauba said. “When the geese are
here, we can have a real rapid harvest. (The 16,000-bird harvest
index) isn’t a biologically set number, but it’s there if the
harvest is very good.

“If we overharvested the flock, we could end up with serious
restrictions, or, heaven forbid, a closed season.”

Shortly before the season was about to close, local guides and
businesses in the Lac qui Parle area made a plea for a two-week
extension to the season.

With the season set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and
agreed upon by the state of Minnesota, as well as others in the
flyway, that extension couldn’t occur without federal
legislation.

Some businesses said state officials didn’t do enough to create
an extension, which they say would’ve aided the economy of the
area.

“we are concerned that our state government is not doing
everything possible to promote and protect the interests of
Minnesota residents and sportsmen,” said Steve Baldwin, hunting
guide and operator of the LqP Hunting Camp in a letter dated Nov.
5. “We expect the DNR to answer our questions, to identify
potential options to extend the season and to aggressively work
with us and other USFWS members in addressing the problems this
year.”

Trauba also answered calls from discouraged hunters inquiring
about goose numbers on the refuge.

“When I’d tell them 25 to 30,000, they’d say they’d come later
when there were more geese,” he said.

Trauba said while businesses likely suffered because of few
geese, other outdoor pursuits still existed in the area, including
duck hunting, fishing, and good pheasant hunting.

While such an extension is doubtful, Trauba said the DNR will
look into ways to improve the hunt during this offseason, including
starting the season next year at a later date.

“If you look back 20 years ago, the peak (of migration through
LqP) was during the second and third weeks of October,” he said.
“For the past five years, it’s been closer to the first week in
November.”

Mild weather has been to blame in most cases, though what Trauba
terms the “Winnipeg effect” has played a role since about 1990.

A largely agricultural city, geese are drawn to it during their
southerly travels, especially since there is no hunting pressure.
And until snow covers the fields, geese aren’t likely to leave the
area.

On Nov. 3, two days before the LqP season was scheduled to
close, there were an estimated 30,000 geese in the refuge area.
That number represented the season’s peak. A year ago at about the
same time, there were about 125,000 geese in the area.

“Most of the season, I sat here looking out the window and
watching the weather forecast and shaking my head,” Trauba
said.

The weekend after the season closed, and after cold, snow, and a
northwest wind blew through, Trauba estimated about 80,000 to
100,000 geese had made their way to LqP.

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