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Doug Leier: North Dakota's early Canada goose season provides August hunting opportunities

Hunting of Canada geese in August and early September is intended to reduce local Canada goose numbers, which remain high.

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The first early Canada goose season was held in 1999 as a regional effort to help reduce resident Canada goose numbers in North Dakota.
Ashley Peterson/North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

WEST FARGO – Much of my work as an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is understanding the point of view hunters and anglers are coming from. It’s important to appreciate the context of a young angler expressing interest in stocking new bodies of water when I think of how we have more bodies of water with more fish than ever in our state's history. How could a 20-year-old angler want even more? Because they’ve always enjoyed the wet cycle that created this bounty of fishing.

When a young farmer is frustrated by problems with Canada geese, I can’t expect them to understand how rare these giant birds were back in the 1970s. When the water came back in 1993, North Dakota fisheries began to grow and so did Canada goose numbers. To a point, measures were taken to help reduce Canada goose numbers, and expanded hunting has been in place essentially since the memory of farmers and hunters under age 25.

The first early Canada goose season was held in 1999 as a regional effort to help reduce resident Canada goose numbers in North Dakota. Season dates covered the first few weeks of September, so most of the harvest took place before other subspecies of Canada geese started to migrate into the state.

At first, only a couple of counties in southeastern North Dakota were part of the early season, but the open area expanded to the entire state the next year, and the opening date was moved to mid-August in 2008. The 15th of the month has become somewhat of the standard opener, though lack of harvested crops for field hunting in some years can limit hunter interest, as can abundant mosquitoes and late summer heat. But still, the opportunity is there for hunters who are willing to take on the elements.

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2022 early Canada goose season details:

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  • Opening day is Aug. 15 in all three zones. Closing dates are Sept. 7 in the Missouri River zone, Sept. 15 in the western zone and Sept. 22 in the eastern zone.
  • Early Canada goose limits are 15 daily and 45 in possession.
  • Limits and shooting hours are different from the regular season, while the zone boundaries remain the same. Shooting hours for the early Canada goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.
  • Residents need a $5 early Canada goose license and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents 16 and older need a small game license. Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, which is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license. Licenses can be purchased online by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.
  • Harvest Information Program certification is required and beginning Sept. 1, a federal duck stamp for hunters 16 and older is needed. Those who HIP-registered to hunt the spring light goose conservation order in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once a year in each state.
  • Waterfowl rest areas, closed to hunting during the regular season, are open during the early season. Most land in these rest areas is private, so hunters may need permission to access them.
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North Dakota Canada goose zones.
Contributed/North Dakota Game and Fish Department

Hunting of Canada geese in August and early September is intended to reduce local Canada goose numbers, which remain high. Game and Fish is attempting to provide additional hunting opportunities to increase pressure on locally breeding Canada geese.

For additional information and regulations, hunters should refer to the Game and Fish Department website.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.
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