Early goose season is looking promising

By Bill
Parker
Editor

Lansing — Hunters participating in the early September goose
season can expect a pretty good year, perhaps better than last,
according to some waterfowl experts. Despite the fact that the
population of local giant Canada geese – the target of the early
season – is below the population goal, biologists are optimistic
about the upcoming season.

“I expect a pretty good season this year because we had a pretty
good nesting season,” said DNR research biologist Dave
Luukkonen.

Successful nesting has a two-pronged effect on the local
population. Not only will there be a good number of
young-of-the-year birds in the flock, but more adults will hang
around, too.

Geese that have not reached breeding maturity, as well as mature
adult geese that for whatever reason have not nested in the spring,
normally leave the state on what biologists call a molt migration.
They fly north in late May or early June and spend the summer in
Canada’s Hudson Bay or James Bay.

“When there is high nesting success, that means more adults will
stay local with their young,” Luukkonen said.

The DNR has sent a proposal to the state Natural Resources
Commission that is expected to be approved at the Aug. 11 meeting
in Lansing. That proposal calls for a season with the same
framework as last year, with the exception of a reduced daily bag
limit from five to three birds.

“Our resident goose population is below the population target,
so we are going to try to resolve that,” Faye McNew, the DNR’s new
waterfowl specialist told Michigan Outdoor News. “We are proposing
a three-bird bag limit instead of a five-bird limit.”

Biologists estimate the state’s flock of local giant Canada
geese has been hovering right around 170,000 birds for the past
couple years. The goal is a flock of 175,000 to 225,000.

Giant Canadas are a subspecies of Canada geese. Unlike the
migrant Canada geese that fly through the state each fall on their
journey south for the winter, giants remain here year-round. These
are the geese causing nuisance problems on golf courses, parks, and
local, lakeside lawns. These also are the geese targeted during the
early September goose season.

“We’ve specifically tried to focus the (early) hunt on the giant
geese – the local flock,” Luukkonen said. “It ends before the
migrants come through. That’s why the dates vary from the Upper
Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula and on Saginaw Bay.”

The proposal before the NRC calls for the same season dates as
last year: Sept. 1-10 in the North Zone (U.P.); Sept. 1-10 in
Saginaw Bay (Saginaw, Tuscola, and Huron counties); and Sept. 1-15
in the Middle and South zones (L.P.)

“The purpose of the early season is to maximize the harvest of
local geese and minimize the harvest of migrant geese,” McNew
said.

According to the DNR’s preliminary harvest results, goose
hunters in Michigan last year killed approximately 79,000 birds
during the early season. The preliminary harvest of all goose
seasons combined was 157,000 birds.

During the early season, hunters in southern Michigan enjoyed
the best gunning, killing an estimated 51,600 geese. Another 21,800
were taken in the northern Lower Peninsula, while Upper Peninsula
hunters downed 5,500 birds.

“We have one of the largest flocks of local geese in the
Mississippi Flyway,” Luukkonen said. “The only state with a larger
flock is Minnesota.

“Compared to most states, we have it pretty good here in
Michigan. Even though the population is down, we still have a lot
of birds around.”

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