Resident geese are plentiful, cagey
Missouri's early Canada goose season is a great opportunity for hunters
who take time to learn where birds are and get permission to hunt there.
JEFFERSON CITY - Waterfowl hunters will have plenty of birds to pursue
during Missouri's early Canada goose season again this year. The challenge,
as always, will be discovering the big birds' haunts and getting permission
to hunt there.
The early season gives hunters a chance to pursue Canada geese that live in
Missouri year-round. The Missouri Department of Conservation monitors these
birds' numbers through annual population surveys. This year's survey found
approximately 62,800 Canada geese in the Show-Me State. That is down
slightly from the 64,200 counted last year. Resource Scientist Dave Graber,
who tracks the state's Canada goose population, says the difference isn't
"When we started watching resident goose numbers in 1993, we had about
30,000," he said. "We saw a steady increasing trend through the year 2000,
when we had something like 77,000 resident geese. Since then, we have
counted as few as 50,500, but for the past two years it has been in
neighborhood of 60,000."
Overall, said Graber, it looks like another good year for early goose
hunting for those who take time to learn the big birds' haunts and habits.
He said the stabilization of goose numbers is a good thing.
The early goose season runs for a total of 16 days (Sept. 27 through Oct.
12) in the North and Middle zones again this year. In the South and
Southeast zones, hunters can take Canada geese from Oct. 4 through Oct. 12.
Hunters need three permits to hunt Canada geese and other waterfowl - a
Missouri Small Game Hunting Permit, a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit
and a federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation (Duck) Stamp.
During the early season, the daily limit is three birds, and the possession
limit is six. Although brant are seldom seen in Missouri, they do
occasionally turn up. Because they closely resemble Canada geese, they are
included in the early and regular Canada goose seasons. The limits on brant
are two daily and four in possession.
The Missouri Department of Conservation instituted the early season on an
experimental basis in 1992. The idea was to develop a way of selectively
harvesting giant Canada geese. This subspecies, Branta canadensis maxima,
lives in Missouri year-round, and they are so abundant in some areas that
they create nuisance problems. The early season allows hunters to keep
numbers of the resident birds in check with minimal effect on other, less
numerous Canada goose subspecies, most of which don't migrate into Missouri
until later in the fall.
Giant Canada geese have grown particularly plentiful in some areas,
following the Conservation Department's restoration program, which began in
the 1960s. Suburban areas are havens to resident geese. Large expanses of
mowed lawns provide nutritious food for grass-eating geese. Natural
predators are absent, and geese feel safe in the open landscape because they
can see dogs or other threats in time to escape to nearby lakes and ponds.
Where geese are abundant, their droppings can foul residential lawns, parks
and ponds. They sometimes hurt water quality in city water supply lakes, and
their grazing on grass can cause extensive damage to golf courses or
"Hopefully the stable trend we have seen in the past few years means that
hunting, and urban and suburban population control efforts are working,"
said Graber. "It looks as if we have stopped the population growth, at least
Giant Canada geese often visit sand bars on big rivers. The flat, open
terrain surrounded by water is ideal for roosting overnight, secure from
predators. Farm ponds in the middle of open pasture provide the same safe
During the day, or on moonlit nights, giant Canada geese often can be found
scavenging waste grain in harvested crop fields. Fresh plantings of grass or
crops also draw hungry geese.
Hunters who discover these giant Canada goose feeding and resting spots and
get permission to hunt them can put geese in the freezer with relative ease.
Geese have excellent memories, however, and quickly desert places where they
are disturbed. This requires hunters to remain alert for new hunting areas.
"Goose hunting isn't a public land thing," said Graber. "Geese have good
memories, and once they have been shot at in a particular area they aren't
likely to be caught off guard there again."
Graber noted that resident geese have practically unlimited habitat to use
and are quick to desert an area at the first sign of danger. Hunters must
find the food source or refuge a particular flock is using, get permission
to hunt, and surprise them. The next day, they will be somewhere else.
"Because they hang out at golf courses and subdivisions, it's easy to get
the idea that these are tame birds and will be easy prey. That's way off the
mark. Hunting resident Canada geese is extremely challenging. You can't just
learn a few tricks and then consistently kill geese from then on. You have
to constantly be doing your homework."
- Jim Low -
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