These days, spending time outdoors in August is no longer just about winding down the fishing season and starting the planning and preparation for hunting seasons that start in September and October.
For hunters of my generation and older, perhaps that’s still a back-of-the-mind thought process, but for nearly a generation of young hunters, the early Canada goose season has always been there as something to consider in addition to late summer fishing.
And for those who remember a regular waterfowl season with a daily Canada goose limit of one or two, the early Canada goose season opening Aug. 15 is a welcome opportunity for some hunters who don’t want to wait for the opening of dove season on Sept. 1 or archery deer on Friday, Sept. 2.
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 from Canada.
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.
For the past several years, Aug. 15 has become somewhat of the standard early goose opener, though lack of harvested crops for field hunting in some years can limit hunter interest, as can abundant mosquitoes and late summer heat that are typically not issues on chilled October mornings. But still, the opportunity is there for hunters who are willing to take on the elements.
Because U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Canada goose hunting frameworks limit the number of hunting days available after Sept. 1, extending the season into August using a special “management take” was one viable option for directing more hunter harvest toward the giant Canada goose population management equation.
Judging by the amount of small grain harvest activity underway already in parts of the state, this looks to be one of those years when a fair amount of grain stubble will be available right off the bat for field hunting.
After the season opens Aug. 15, it continues through Sept. 15, except in the Missouri River Zone where the early season ends Sept. 7. The early Canada goose season has a limit of 15 daily and 45 in possession.
Limits and shooting hours for the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily, which is different than shooting hours on most days during the regular goose season.
Residents need a $5 early Canada goose license and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents age 16 and older need a small game license. Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, and the license is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license.
Starting Sept. 1, hunters age 16 and older will need a federal duck stamp in addition to their necessary state licenses. Harvest Information Program or HIP numbers used during spring for snow goose hunting in North Dakota are valid for this fall in North Dakota.
Hunting geese in August and early September isn’t necessarily for everyone, but a lot of waterfowl hunters are sure starting to look forward to it, and it’s now becoming part of the state’s “fall” tradition.