Western goose hunters may catch break
Thursday, July 7, 2005 12:07 PM EDT
By Tim Spielmant Associate Editor
Bemidji, Minn. - Goose hunters in western Minnesota, often limited by special protections for Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese, which migrate through the area, may have fewer limitations this fall.
DNR waterfowl specialist Steve Cordts recently got a first-hand look at EPP production in Canada, and said things are looking up for the migrants.
Cordts, who spent a couple weeks in Churchill, Manitoba, near nesting sites of the EPPs, said this year's breeding survey was especially promising, especially compared to last year, when a late spring contributed to fewer breeders.
This year, however, "There were as many Canada and snow goose nests as I've ever seen there," Cordts said.
The breeding survey is the first part of what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses to determine season length and bag limits for EPPs. The second part monitors the number of nests and later, the fate of the nesting efforts.
"There are no final numbers, but from what I saw, it should be a good year," Cordts said. A decrease in predators - for a variety of reasons - also could boost goose production.
What does that mean for Minnesota hunters? Most likely, more time to hunt geese.
Last year, the season in the West-Central Zone was 25 days. This year, it most likely will resemble the season of two years ago, when a 40-day season was in place, Cordts said. It also could mean a longer goose hunting season for hunters in other parts of the state, he said.
The early season may change, Cordts said. The Northwest Zone may join the rest of the state (except the Southeast Zone) in offering hunters a bag limit of five geese daily. Cordts said it's likely the season still will be short in the northeast, likely Sept. 3-15. The remainder of the state will have a Sept. 3-22 early season.
The early goose season is aimed at the harvest of local giant Canada geese. The current resident population is about 340,000, well above the current goal, Cordts said. But fewer depredation complaints have been reported lately, and the goal may be adjusted, he said.
The details of the early season should be determined soon.
State and federal officials are entering the period of serious discussions about the duck hunting season framework hunters will have for the 2005 fall season.
This week, Cordts said, the DNR's Waterfowl Committee will get together to come up with recommendations about the season, prior to being offered federal framework options.
On July 19, members of the Mississippi Flyway Technical Section will convene in Mississippi to consider data from spring surveys and to develop recommendations for a hunting framework.
Shortly thereafter, members of the Mississippi Flyway Council will vote on the technical section's recommendation.
In late July, representatives of all four flyways will meet to review their recommendations.
Come August, the USFWS' Service Regulations Committee will meet to "hash out flyway recommendations and come up with recommendations for the season," Cordts said.
That framework is passed on for states to consider. Often, during that process, public review and input is requested.
Spring state duck counts
Minnesota DNR officials this week were finalizing analysis of data collected in May from the fixed-wing survey of wetlands and waterfowl. Cordts said it's the same survey that's been conducted since 1968.
Typically the survey is completed in about 9-10 days, but this year took nearly the entire month.
"It was the longest survey on record; it took almost all of may," Cordts said. "It was mostly because of weather issues."
Details of the survey should be known next week, but Cordts said overall the duck count appeared to be down.
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