Speckled belly or white front goose season is closed and has been since the 15th. Both duck and the regular goose seasons will end on Sunday, Jan. 29. After that, the so-called Conservation Order allows snow, blue, and Ross geese to be taken Jan. 30 through March 25.
The Conservation Order was enacted because the nesting population for the light geese had become too large. In fact, the numbers had increased to such an extent that the food source for them was being destroyed. Besides that, the geese were actually battling each other for places to lay their eggs and hatch their goslings. Several things were considered that would help lower the numbers of light geese that return annually to the tundra.
With their numbers increasing so rapidly, it was feared that once the food was consumed there would be massive die-offs right in the nesting areas. One of the rumors that I can’t confirm is that the Canadian government was considering but did not use napalm to kill off the excessive numbers of geese. Whether or not that was the case, the situation was rapidly becoming a scenario for disaster. Something had to be done and very quickly.
Then several years ago the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Conservation Act decided to make some major changes in how the geese were taken in the U.S. They decided that after the regular season for waterfowl ended to set in place an extended hunting season strictly for the snow, blue and Ross geese. These are the geese that are referred to as light geese. Much less restriction on hunting methods as well as position numbers were put in place. The question is how many more of these birds would be taken. Also, would there be enough geese killed to help the overcrowding? Would hunters have a significant effect on the overpopulated?
A large portion of the light geese that use the central flyway spend their winter along the Texas Gulf Coast. Whenever they begin to arrive, the geese tend to head for whatever grain fields that are available. That would be rice fields, locally. They seem to feed on the spilled rice at night and head to the ridges out in the marshes during the day. Bad weather with high winds can cause them to move around more than they normally would. That’s the time when they hunters will enjoy their greatest success. After awhile, the birds tend to remain in those marshes feeding on the young green vegetation for extended periods of time.
The folks that are in charge of the federal wildlife refuges annually burn the old growth from these ridges earlier in the fall, thus the new green shoots. Many of the local ranchers will plant things such as wheat, oats or rye grass. These will also offer their green shoots for the geese to feed upon. Actually the greenery is for their cattle, but thousands of those light geese can destroy the fields. Add to that the wild feral hogs, and the ranchers face pasture problems. With the extended conservation season, it is assumed that more geese will be killed or at least spooked from the pastures.
During the Conservation Order season, many of the hunting restrictions are suspended. Things such as electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, longer shooting hours, no limits on these geese increase the take. So with such liberal regulations, are the hunters having any success in controlling the overpopulation? I have not been able to get any information concerning the success or failure. Locally, hunters are scarce.
The light geese begin to move out from our area even before the Conservation Order season begins. That doesn’t mean that there are not huntable numbers around. There are. It’s just that once the birds begin to head back north, the hunters will not be afield as often. Most of the outfitters have told me that if there were folks wanting to hunt the geese and if the birds were still available, they would hunt them. Normally these hunts are few and far between. Under such conditions, I doubt if our local folks have much effect on the overpopulation. On the other hand, the migrating geese will become more and more numerous in the mid and more northern sections of the county. The folks north of us should enjoy some super hunts if they are so inclined to head afield during the this season.
So even though the main waterfowl seasons will be over this coming weekend, the extended Conversation Order season goes on.