Early Canada goose hunt reports suggest tough ’03

Staff Writer

Detroit Lakes, Minn. The early season for resident “giant”
Canada geese ended Monday, Sept 22. Apparently, the management
effort in many areas fell short of expectations. Early reports
indicate a slim harvest, even in areas of high hunting pressure and
goose populations.

The intent of the hunt, which has become an annual event, is to
manage the population of resident geese throughout the state.

Near Detroit Lakes, goose numbers appeared very high prior to
the start of the season. Once it opened, most hunting groups found
themselves looking at empty skies and wondering where the birds
went.

DNR Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Tom Kucera was somewhat
surprised by the lack of geese around the Detroit Lakes area. Based
on what he witnessed in July, when he took part in a goose-banding
program near Detroit Lakes, he expected a banner early season.

“We saw a lot more birds in July than we did during the season,”
Kucera said. “It didn’t amount to much of a season.”

According to Kucera, even opening weekend was slow, especially
compared to previous years. While he did hear better reports to the
north of his immediate area, limits were the exception.

Hunters near Willmar and Alexandria found pockets of birds. Crop
harvest was limited in these locations, so there were few prime
hunting spots.

Brad Foshaug, of 71 Bait and Sports in Willmar, said those lucky
enough to using the “right” fields did well, while other groups
struggled. He also thought the extreme heat and dry conditions
during most of the season kept hunter participation down in the
area.

“The guys who did their homework shot a lot of geese, especially
early in the season,” Foshaug said. “But the early season was a
bust for most people.”

Reports from Fergus Falls, Faribault, Fairmont, Victoria, Little
Falls, and the metro area also reported a less-than-spectacular
early goose season. As usual, it was feast or famine in these
locations.

“You can sum it up this way you either got them or you didn’t,”
said Jeff Reuter of Cabin Fever Sports in Victoria. “If you weren’t
on the field the geese were feeding in on a regular basis, you
probably didn’t get to shoot a whole lot.”

Randy Markl, DNR area manager in Windom points out that reports
have also been “less than he expected” throughout the southern
counties of the state.

There just weren’t enough geese in this region to provide
consistent shooting opportunities and he has no explanation why, or
where they all went.

“I expected to see a lot more geese than we did during the early
season,” Markl said. “They were here this summer, but I can’t
explain why they shifted out of the area.”

They may have shifted a bit north. The best reports appear to be
coming out of the central regions of the state. Goose hunters in
Benton, Stearns, Wright, Meeker, and Todd counties encountered a
good supply of birds and plenty of places to hunt them.

Dry conditions all summer led to dismal corn and bean crops in
and around the St. Cloud area. As a result, crop harvest is ahead
of schedule. Not necessarily by choice, but because many farmers
are salvaging what they can from their crops.

With just enough water to hold geese and plenty of places for
them to feed, hunters throughout central Minnesota took advantage
of the ideal situation.

“The goose season went well, a bit above average, but definitely
better than a lot of areas,” said St. Cloud Area Wildlife Manager
Fred Bengtson. “There’s still a lot of geese in the area.”

According to Bengtson, one of the keys was that crop harvest
continued throughout the early season. There were always new fields
where the birds could feed and hunters didn’t have to constantly be
pounding at geese in the same location.

Official harvest totals from the early goose season won’t be
determined until after the first of the year. The DNR will soon be
mailing out a survey to goose hunters who purchased the early
season permit, then analyzing those results. The agency will then
determine the final harvest count from the survey.

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