Canada goose hunters poised as September hunt nears

Springfield – Illinois’ fluctuating goose population will make
the collective 2009-10 hunting seasons interesting, though hunters
should have little trouble finding birds when the early Canada
goose season opens statewide.

That season, which runs Sept. 1-15, follows a 2008 early season
that featured a total harvest of 17,420 geese. During the 2007
September season, hunters took an estimated 16,207 geese.

This year’s September season includes a daily bag limit of five
geese in the Northeast, North and Central zones and two geese per
day in the South Zone. The possession limits are twice the daily
bag limit.

Most early-season hunting centers around resident giant Canada
geese, which are densely distributed, especially in northern parts
of the state. The giants do migrate, but not to the extent of the
Mississippi Valley population.

In his most recent report, state waterfowl biologist Ray
Marshalla detailed the goose situation in Illinois and across the
Mississippi Flyway, describing the population as a “mixed bag.”

Federal biologists estimated the presence of 1,906,600
Mississippi Flyway giant Canada geese during counts conducted this
spring. That count was 1 percent greater than the revised 2008
count and the second highest estimate on record.

“The harvest of giant Canada geese in Illinois is comprised of
23 percent from Illinois and 21 percent from other states and
provinces, primarily Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Marshalla reported,
adding that 51 percent of Illinois’ goose harvest comprises of MVP
Canada geese.

Marshalla said that low productivity on the MVP breeding grounds
this past year should be offset somewhat by good numbers of young
giant Canada geese in the flyway.

In this year’s count, there were 581,232 MVP Canada geese, 21
percent below the 2008 estimate of 626,358, but only 3 percent
below the 1989-2008 average.

Meanwhile, the MVP breeding population was 239,631 this year,
compared with 305,191 last year. That’s 35 percent below the
1989-2008 average and is the lowest ever recorded.

“A very late spring resulted in too much snow and ice during
breeding season over most of the coast, which is where the highest
nest densities occur,” Marshalla said. “Hunting for MVP geese will
be more difficult because of the low number of young expected.”

The MVP harvest regulations experiment calls for no change
unless the breeding population falls below 225,000, so Illinois
will keep the regular Canada goose season structure as was in place
last year.

The 2009 survey produced a population estimate of 133,550
Illinois Giant Canada Geese, compared with 138,300 and 105,000 in
2008 and 2007, respectively. Results of the 2009 survey indicate
that the statewide population likely is somewhere between 96,750
and 170,350 geese.

The Mississippi Flyway population of giant Canada geese has
increased by more than 50 percent during the past 15 years, while
the population of these geese is also higher here in Illinois. An
increase in the daily Canada goose bag limit during the 2008
September season was put in place in the North and Central zones as
a means to provide more hunter opportunity.

The 2009-10 regular Canada goose seasons include a continuous
85-day season in the North Zone (Oct. 17-Jan. 9), a split 85-day
season in the Central Zone (Oct. 31-Nov. 15 and Nov. 24-Jan. 31),
and a split 66-day season in the South Zone (Nov. 14-15 and Nov.
29-Jan. 31).

The Illinois snow goose seasons for 2009-10 will open on the
same dates as the regular waterfowl seasons and run continuously
through the end of each zone’s regular Canada goose season.

The Conservation Order snow goose hunting seasons will begin the
day after the regular Canada goose season ends in each zone and
continue through March 31, 2010.

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