Migration Update – February 27, 2014


Photo Credit: Sunrise Snows from MallardMotel.com

A quick glance at the Snow Cover and Surface Temperature maps provide and instant locator for Mid-Continental light geese in the Central and Mississippi Flyways.  The burgeoning population of snow geese continue to stage below the snow and freeze as they await the spring thaw (like the rest of us) and the flight back to their nesting grounds.

Hello folks, and, as always, welcome to Waterfowler.com.

The Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri remains 97% frozen and light goose numbers are setting at a paltry 18,000 as of the last count.  Light goose numbers are good to excellent in Arkansas at this time and hunter success is fair to good.

On the western edge of the Great Plains, light goose numbers in Nebraska have increased significantly over the past week as geese congregate on the edge of the freeze line.  Snow goose hunting and numbers remain good to excellent in Southern Illinois and expected to remain that way as yet another arctic front descends from Canada this week.

For many sportsmen, hunting light geese during the spring, under the special Conservation Order is fast becoming an annual tradition.   Each year the harvest of light geese continues to grow and hunter participation increases.

As the years pass and spring hunting appears to becoming a normal practice, it is important that we continue to remind ourselves and the non-hunting community the reason there is a special spring season, and why bag limits and regulations are so liberal.

Due to changes in agricultural practice and the abundance of waste grains, the Snow Goose population was climbing an average of 3.5% per year from 1970 through 1999. The end result of the population explosion was the fast destruction of the fragile grasses on their Arctic nesting grounds.  In short, the geese were eating themselves out of house and home.  Unlike dark geese that can graze on grasses and leave the roots intact, light geese rip the grasses from the ground and consume both grass and root.  As the population grew, the grasses on the fragile tundra could not replenish as quickly as they were eaten.   Before the Conservation Order was enacted to allow spring hunting, population control methods that were considered included Napalming the birds on the nesting grounds – it was that dire of a circumstance.

Enacting the spring hunting was no small task, as spring hunting was outlawed by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  As such, while we many refer to the light goose hunting in the spring as a hunting season, technically speaking, it is not a season at all.  You are hunting under the special “Conservation Order” with a task and purpose.

While spring hunting has done little to reduce the population overall it has curbed population growth.  While Internet videos and bag limit photographs of snow goose harvests often resemble the hay days of the bygone market hunting era, the end result of the Conservation Order is that managed hunting of a renewable resource results in a no-net impact on healthy animal populations.

As we head into the spring nesting season, waterfowl hunters across the nation must remind themselves that healthy bird populations are our goal and directly related to habitat and habitat conditions.

Waterfowler.com encourages our readers to participate in a conservation program during the off-season and do your part to insure the future of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.

Until our next report, post your snow goose hunting report today.

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