“We need to have a 5 bird limit in Minnesota.”
That was a phrase I heard a few times last fall after my group had shot another 3 birds per person. It didn’t happen every time we set up for honkers, but enough that it seemed liked we had a slight goose problem in this state.
Of course some of those were migrators and there isn’t much we can do about those. But earlier in the season, the resident geese seemed to outnumber every other bird in the sky. There might be a little truth stretching there, but we are way over the population management goals for the local birds and some new options were to be explored.
In April, I’d heard rumors of opening up a spring conservation season as the migration heads back north, much like the light goose season. Also discussed were more liberal bag limits during the early season and possibly starting in it August. The Dakotas had already implemented an August season, opening up on August 15th in recent years. South Dakota went even earlier this year, August 3rd, for residents.
The feds need to be involved so the process began early. When the Minnesota DNR requested an August Canada goose season to start on the 10th, no one would have imagined the late spring that we’d have. So the August season was approved and it was announced that you could hunt from August 10 – 25.
This riled everyone up. From hardcore waterfowlers anxious to break out the layout blinds to opening day traditionalists who were worried that there’d be no birds left for them.
Biologists differed on whether a conservation season would offer noticeable results. But the bottom line is that some hunters and a lot of farmers are happy that they can hunt right now.
Because of the late spring, my excitement level was tempered. I didn’t look forward to battling mosquitos for birds that might not even be flying yet. Then, just before the season opened, small family groups started appearing on the horizon and the hunt was on! It’s still a hit-or-miss situation. You’re not dealing with huge numbers of birds and they haven’t developed a consistent pattern yet.
Armed with this knowledge, we decided to head out in the west central goose management zone and try our luck. Two fields across the road from each other were found last night, with around 40-50 birds apiece. At least that’s what was there when I arrived. I was told that more birds had been there earlier. With a decent field scouted, I packed up my truck and tried to get some sleep.
A calm morning greeted me at 4:15, along with headlights from Tony Crotty and Dillon Brickweg. Our group would consist of 5 shooters, the three of us along with Nick Trauba and Josh Norenberg. We met at the field at 4:35 and started setting up a spread of 50 full-bodied goose decoys. Legal shooting time was just before 6:00 AM and it wasn’t long after that the geese were flying. I had set up a Go Pro camera in front of the blinds to capture the shooters, but didn’t have a chance to turn it on.
For around 45 minutes we watched flocks of geese alternate between our field and the one across the road. Some good volleys dropped birds out of the sky, three times almost landing on one of the hunters underneath. Finally, as the light fog cleared out, so did the geese and our morning was over.
For an early season hunt that can go either way, this was a good one. We shot 17 geese and watched Brickweg’s young lab, Windsor, retrieve his first goose. Even better, the goose was banded! We’d shoot two banded birds, then drew from a bag of shells to determine who’d put them on their lanyard. The lucky hunters would pick 2 black shells amongst 3 red ones. Trauba, who shot a banded goose the day before, would find himself lucky once again, along with his co-worker Norenberg. It was also Norenberg’s first ever band.
It was a theme of “Firsts” today, from first hunts to first retrieves. Hopefully the second hunt isn’t far away!
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