Published November 15, 2008, 12:00 AM

Lac qui Parle goose hunt picks up with cold; refuge marks 50th anniversary

WATSON — Deer hunters may have grumbled about the blast of frigid winds that chilled them in their stands on the opener last Saturday, but it was welcome news to goose hunters hunkered down in blinds at the Lac qui Parle refuge.

By: By Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune

WATSON — Deer hunters may have grumbled about the blast of frigid winds that chilled them in their stands on the opener last Saturday, but it was welcome news to goose hunters hunkered down in blinds at the Lac qui Parle refuge.

The arrival of cold weather has brought geese to the refuge and improved hunters’ chances for success.

Some of the best hunting is ahead, said Dave Trauba, manager of the wildlife management refuge. The migration of Eastern Prairie Population geese that represents the greatest share of geese in the refuge is picking up fast.

Weather conditions at mid-week prevented an accurate count, but Trauba and staff were estimating that anywhere from 80,000-120,000 geese were in the refuge. It’s a safe bet that the geese count will remain over 100,000 this weekend, he said.

This year’s season at Lac qui Parle opened on the Oct. 16-19 Minnesota Education Association weekend, and will run through Nov. 30. The season has been moved later to accommodate the trend towards a later goose migration, said Trauba.

Last weekend’s cold weather represented only the second cold front of the waterfowl season to move birds, he noted.

With weather forecasts calling for continued cold, the geese should continue to arrive. The geese should hold tight for a while, too, unless we receive an early blanket of snow.

The July 30 wind storm that struck the area has meant lots of waste grain is available in area fields for the geese to eat, said Trauba.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the goose management program and refuge. Wildlife managers were working to re-establish the giant Canada geese in Minnesota and to create a resting and feeding area for migrating Eastern Prairie Population geese.

At its start in 1958, just to have seen a goose, at what is now the refuge, would have been front page news, noted Trauba.

By the 1970s, the success of the program was becoming evident. There were goose counts of 25,000 in the refuge, and hunters were lining up behind every telephone pole they could find. In 1974, the first state blinds were installed around the refuge.

Today, there are over 100 state blinds and many more blinds on private lands outside the refuge perimeter.

Perhaps the most telling evidence of the success of the refuge comes not by way of cheers, but gripes. There are still those who call the refuge to ask about the goose count, and complain when it has not yet reached 100,000 birds, said Trauba.

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