State goose hunters anticipate September
Springfield – While some of the state's waterfowlers ponder a pending fourth Illinois duck hunting zone, others are preparing for a niche season that hasn't fully caught on.
September Canada goose hunting runs Sept. 1-15.
Harvest and participating numbers have remained somewhat steady in recent years, revealing that the special season has a loyal and eager following but is not attracting many new hunters.
During the 2009 September season, an estimated 16,212 Canada geese were harvested statewide, compared to 17,419 in 2008 and 16,207 in 2007.
Broken down by zone, it's evident that central zone hunters are most enamored by the opportunity to shoot early honkers. Last September, they downed 8,336 geese, compared to 3,086 in the northeast zone, 3,015 in the north zone and 1,774 in the south zone.
This year's September season again 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.
As state waterfowl biologist Ray Marshall points out, 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," Marshalla said.
According to Marshalla, the 2010 giant Canada goose survey in Illinois produced a population estimate of 107,850, considerably lower compared to the estimated 133,550 in 2009 and 138,300 in 2008. The 2010 estimate for Mississippi Flyway Giant Population (MFGP) Canada geese was 1.61 million birds, about 10 percent higher than the 2009 estimate.
The MFGP Canada goose population estimate for 2010 was a record, just above the 1.57 million birds recorded in 2006.
Marshalla said the relatively rapid population growth recorded during 1993-2000 appears to have stabilized over the last decade.
The MVP harvest regulations experiment calls for no change unless the breeding population falls below 225,000.
Pending approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – approval is expected in mid to late September, the 2010-11 regular Canada goose seasons include a continuous 85-day season in the north zone (Oct. 16-Jan. 8), a split 85-day season in the central zone (Oct. 30-Nov. 14 and Nov. 24-Jan. 31), and a split 66-day season in the south zone (Nov. 25-28 and Dec. 1-Jan. 31).
Illinois is also expecting approval for snow goose seasons that open with the regular waterfowl seasons and run continuously through the end of each zone's regular Canada goose season.
Conservation Order snow goose hunting would open the day after the regular Canada goose season ends in each zone and would continue through March 31, 2011.
The white-fronted goose season opens later than the Canada goose season in the north and central zones because federal rules allow only 72 days and there are more white-fronts in those zones later in the season.