Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Canada geese gave state cold shoulder

By P.J. Reilly

Southeast Correspondent

Lancaster, Pa. — Southeast Pennsylvania goose hunters had a
tough year.

Migratory Canada geese that wing through the area each year
didn’t show up for the season in their usual, large numbers. The
most likely reason they didn’t show up is the unseasonably warm
weather the state experienced in December and January.

“A lot of the birds seemed to have held up in southern Ontario
and in the Finger Lakes area,” said John Dunn, the Pennsylvania
Game Commission’s chief waterfowl biologist. “We just didn’t get
the weather we needed to push them south.”

Much of southeast Pennsyl-vania is in the Atlantic Population
Zone, when it comes to managing Canada geese in the state. That’s
because the area annually hosts a good number of migratory birds
considered to be part of the Atlantic Flyway Population.

These geese nest in Canada each spring and summer and then wing
their way south to Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and southeast
Pennsylvania each fall.

In Pennsylvania’s Atlantic Population Zone, the 2006-07 Canada
goose season ran from Nov. 15-25 and Dec. 12-Jan. 20. The daily bag
limit was three geese.

Typically, migrant geese begin showing up in southeast
Pennsylvania in October or early November as the weather grows
colder in Canada and northern New York.

This past fall, however, the weather stayed extremely warm. Dunn
said some geese migrated to Pennsylvania, but not nearly as many as
normal.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists last spring were
predicting about 1.4 million Canada geese would migrate down the
Atlantic Flyway this past fall.

“Maryland seems to have gotten their birds, but ours apparently
didn’t show up like they normally do,” Dunn said.

From Jan. 2-5, Dunn and other Game Commission biologists
participated in a waterfowl count that’s conducted throughout the
flyway. Dunn said he figures the number of Canada geese his teams
saw was down about 20 percent from last year.

“And the birds we did see were scattered all over the place
because there was open water everywhere,” he said. “The geese just
weren’t stressed by weather this year.”

Goose hunters who chat with one another on the HuntingPa.com Web
site gave reports similar to the ones Dunn said he heard from
hunters in the field. The first few days of the hunting season in
the Atlantic Population Zone were outstanding, with many hunters
bagging lots of geese.

“Once we got into late December, it seemed like the geese got
wise and success rates went down,” Dunn said.

Dave Rhine, an avid goose hunter from Lancaster County, said his
group of hunters typically counts on a steady flight of migratory
geese as the season progresses. Without that constant influx of
“new” flocks, Rhine noted, the hunting was tough this season.

“We haven’t had the success we’ve had in other years,” he
said.

When the weather stays warm throughout the Atlantic Flyway, Dunn
explained, Canada geese are spread out throughout the flyway, which
reduces the number of birds in any one area. Also, he explained,
warm weather makes the geese less predictable.

“If they’re not stressed by weather, they don’t feed as much as
they normally do,” he said. “And if they’re not moving around,
hunters aren’t going to have much success.”

Seasonable winter weather finally arrived in southern Canada and
New York the last week of Pennsylvania’s Atlantic Population Zone
season. Dunn said on Friday of that week that he was hearing
reports of large flights of birds migrating into Pennsylvania.

But the season ended on Saturday.

“It looks like they’re going to show up too late for hunters,”
Dunn said.

Just because the geese largely avoided the season in southeast
Pennsylvania doesn’t mean hunters can automatically expect a bumper
crop of birds next year.

“I think we’ll probably see a redistribution of the harvest,” he
said. “If our harvest goes down, I’ll bet New York’s will be
up.”

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