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” IN 2017

Light Goose Conservation Season   Gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

February 26, 2021


The snow goose populations has skyrocketed with an estimated 12 million geese destroying their habitat. The Special Spring Conservation Light Goose season, allows hunters like these to help to reduce their numbers during this special season. (Outdoorsmen Adventures television photo)  


  With the weather as cold as it is, with Saturday night predicted to minus 21 degree, it’s hard to believe that the Light Goose Conservation season is open and it won’t be long before the White geese start to head back north to their breeding grounds with the Snow Geese migrating through our area.

  Now that we have snow and the colder temperatures, it looks as if the light goose migration in the upper Midwest will be later this year.

  This year, the Light Goose Season Conservation Action opening season dates in our areas are; in South Dakota February 15-May 15, Nebraska, in the Eastern Zone it runs February 8-April 15, the Western Zone February 8- April 5 and in the Rainwater Basin February 8-April 5, The Minnesota season opens February 18-April 30, while Iowa the season runs from January 23-May 1.

  Because this is a Spring Conservation Action, there are several rules and regulations changes different than those in other regular seasons

  During this spring season, hunters aren’t required to have a Federal Waterfowl Stamp and their shotguns needn’t be plugged, with electronic calls being legal during this special season.

  Also, there are no daily or possession limits during the 2021 season in most states and those mentioned above

  What that means, you can shoot as many as you’re able to carry from the field, yet, it’s illegal to (waste) or not attempt to retrieve and take all birds that you shoot.

  Why is there a special light goose season, it was set up to help bring the monstrous light goose population down to manageable levels.

  Their populations have grown far beyond all estimations and continue to grow. Today their population is estimated to be over 12 million birds, with these huge population of geese eating themselves out of house and home, destroying their own nesting and breeding grounds.

  Snow Geese have not only eaten everything that’s green, they’ve also grubbed out the plant’s root system, turning much of their nesting areas into a wasteland.

  This not only affects the waterfowl; it also affects all species of wildlife in those locations creating a potential disaster.

  Another factor that’s added to the increase in their population, is the increases in agricultural productivity in America and Canada, providing snow geese with more winter food sources, waste grain and other food sources.

  The tundra area where they nest and produce is north of the tree line in northern Alaska, across the Canadian arctic to Greenland and on into northern Siberia.

  Biologists estimate that the optimum number of birds in order for their habitat to survive is 1.5 to 2 million snow geese.

  As any waterfowl hunter can tell you, snow geese are one of the toughest species of waterfowl to call and hunt. 

  It’s because they fly in such large flocks, hunters have to fool hundreds, possibly thousands of weary eyes of the approaching geese.

  In the early migration, a large percentage of those heading north are the older birds, and as any hunter who’s pursued these weary birds knows, they can be a very smart bird.

  Prior to when the special conservation season was initiated, hunters tried numerous ways to draw Snow Geese into range.

  They deployed hundreds of decoys, hoping to get the bird’s attention as they migrated

 No matter how many hundreds of decoys were laid out, it was almost impossible to bring these geese into range. 

  Light “White” geese are very loud and boisterous, and once you’ve heard them, you’d realize how futile it’s for a hunter using a standard Snow goose call allowing us to be noticed when their flocks’ number in the hundreds, with all of the geese loud and vocal as they fly over.

   During the first few spring season, you could get by with one electronic call that allowed us to bring some of the sky-high geese down into range, these electronic calls gave the hunters the volume needed to be heard above the loud calling of the snow Geese to be heard.

  When next couple of seasons rolled around, we and numerous other hunters were at a loss, as it seemed that the Snow Geese had become educated and many times, seemed to shy away from the electronic call.

  We’ve found that using several electronic calls including the smaller hand-held portable calls equipped with different types of Snow Goose calls worked very well.

  Where the smaller hand-held calls really shine is when the Snow Geese come in high or seem to be pulling away from the hunter.

  These calls can be aimed at the departing flocks and with the volume these units puts out, allows the hunter to aim the sound at a particular group of geese.  It’s something different that the geese may not heard and it’s made a difference in pulling call shy birds into the decoys.

  You still need a big decoy spread as well as some type of motion in your decoys

   A few years back, we filmed a spring hunt for my Outdoorsmen Adventures television series with John Neu, Neu Outdoors, Yankton, South Dakota in central South Dakota.

  On that hunt, he used several electronic calls with large speakers placed in different locations amongst his huge decoy spread with numerous styles of snow goose decoys, including wind socks, with a battery powered spinning rig that spun decoys with moving wings around in a circle, resembling waterfowl landing.

   It was a great hunt, with great guides, wonderful retrieving dogs where we filmed a beautiful television show and took a huge number of birds.

    The long-range loads we now have, helped hunters to reach out farther for those birds that wouldn’t commit and drop that last ten feet or so.

  These loads made with high velocity powder, special shaped steel, tungsten and other non-lead pellets are making it easier for hunters to reach out and take the birds.

  Recent statistics show that the spring season has made a difference in the number of light geese harvested and without it, it would be impossible to manage these huge Light Goose population.

  On an ordinary year, if there is such a thing, Snow Geese arrive in the upper Midwest around the end of February and the first weeks in March.

  Of course, the arrival date depends entirely on the weather and birds in areas with heavy spring snow cover are forced to stay there, while others jump over snow covered areas to those with little or no snow or even retreat south from areas with heavy snow cover until the snow recedes.

  Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb. a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide and an award- winning writer, producer and broadcaster, and in 2017 inducted into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame”. He developed and was the Producer- Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series for 23 years that airs throughout the upper Midwest and available on the MIDCO Sports Network and News Channel Nebraska. Howey is also the Host of the award-winning Outdoor Adventures radio show, heard each morning at 6:45 am throughout South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.  If you’re looking for more outdoor information, check out www.GaryHowey’  , and , with more information on these pages, Gary Howey’s, Gary E. Howey’s, Outdoor Adventure radio and Team Outdoorsmen Productions Facebook pages.




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