On the morning of Thursday, Feb. 9, Bismarck recorded a low temperature of 15 below zero, the third day in a row of sub-zero readings. At that time, I don’t think anyone could have predicted North Dakota would have snow geese within its borders just over a week later when the spring light goose conservation season started on Feb. 18.
At that point, it looked like another year in which the first light goose sighting would not occur until several weeks after the technical opening date on the calendar.
But then the weather pattern flip-flopped into a string of about 10 days of well-above-average to record temperatures in places, and pretty much all the snow in southeastern North Dakota and eastern South Dakota melted away. Just like that, on Feb. 18, I had my first report of light geese in the state. And for the next few days, numerous other reports followed.
Since then, more normal temps and a bit of snow basically halted the northward movement, but it looks like the light goose population is poised to resume this early advancement into North Dakota whenever temperatures moderate enough to allow for continued melting and opening up of sheet water so birds have areas of open water in which to roost.
Whenever that happens, hunters can track general locations of geese as birds make their way through the state through the Game and Fish snow goose hotline, 701-328-3697. Migration reports are also posted online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Updates will be provided as migration events occur, until the season ends or geese have left the state.
To hunt light geese during the spring conservation season, North Dakota residents must have a valid current season license. The 2016-17 license is valid through March 31, but a new 2017-18 combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license is needed starting April 1.
Nonresidents need a 2017 spring light goose season license. The cost is $50 and the license is good statewide.
In addition, nonresident youth under age 16 can purchase a license at the resident fee if their state has youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota.
A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents.
Hunters must also obtain a new 2017 Harvest Information Program registration number before hunting light geese. The HIP number can be obtained online or by calling 888-634-4798. The HIP number is good for the fall season as well, so spring hunters should save it to record on their fall license.
The spring season is only open to light geese – snows, blues, and Ross’s. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The season is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.
Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. There is no daily bag limit or possession limit. Hunters may use electronic and recorded calls, as well as shotguns capable of holding more than three shells, to take light geese during this season.
Nontoxic shot is required for hunting all light geese statewide. Driving off established roads and trails is strongly discouraged during this hunt because of the likelihood of soft, muddy conditions, and winter wheat that is planted across the state.
All regular hunting season regulations not addressed above apply to the spring season. For more information on regulations, refer to the 2017 Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations and the 2016 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide