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Illinois Outdoors

Goose season a good one

February 10, 2008 at 01:29 AM
In the state's recently distributed survey of waterfowlers, Central Zone hunters have been asked what type of Canada goose season they would like for 2008-09. More specifically, hunters were asked to choose between hunting geese until the end of January or having an uninterrupted goose season. If the season ran without a break, Canada goose hunting would most likely close Jan. 17 instead of Jan. 31. “If we have an overwhelming majority that wants a continuouis season instead of a split season we might have to look at changing that,” waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla said.

The first geese did not fly until just after 11 a.m. But once they started, birds did not stop for nearly two hours.

When we weren’t busy pass shooting at flocks overhead, the Farmer and I stood and marveled. There we were on a cold, snowy final day of goose season at Snakeden Hollow’s public hunting area, yet we still saw thousands of birds.

So it went for Canada goose hunters across much of Illinois during the recently completed season. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets around to estimating the 2007-08 Illinois goose harvest, they will likely come up with a record total — surpassing even last year’s record of 158,000.

“This year with all the glowing reports from northern Illinois and central Illinois and even southern Illinois, I’m expecting we’ll set another record,” Illinois waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla said. “We had a very productive MVP breeding season, so we had a lot of young birds, which helps. We had good weather to move birds out of Wisconsin and northern Illinois. And we had good hunting weather. You combine those three factors and it was kind of like the perfect storm for goose hunting.”

Yet just because we enjoyed a bumper harvest of honkers, there’s no reason to assume we’re headed back to the dreaded quota system. Under that system, hunters called in their harvest and once the Central Zone reached its quota, hunting was shut down.

Instead of quotas, the Mississippi Flyway is in the first of a five-year experiment designed to allow states to shoot more resident giant geese. As part of that experiment, once-conservative goose seasons have been liberalized. Illinois has been without quotas for the past two years, but the first season does not count toward the five-year experiment. In other words, we should have four more years without having to carry a quota card or call in a goose.

And just because we shot lots of geese doesn’t mean other states in the Flyway did. Marshalla said Wisconsin’s harvest is expected to be below average, due largely to early snow and ice there.

According to Marshalla, the only way we’ll see a change is if the spring survey of breeding geese in the Mississippi Valley Population drops to record low levels.

“Even if it drops to minimum numbers (225,000 breeding MVP geese), we’d have to see evidence the harvest rates were very high,” he said.

Those surveys are flown in May and results are available in June.

“And even if we changed, there’s no set rule saying we’d go back to quotas,” Marshalla said. “I bet most states would just shorten the season.”

So why worry? Why not savor what was one of the more memorable goose seasons on record for waterfowlers all over, including Andrew Erickson of Pekin (on the left side of the picture at right) and Jay Switzer of South Pekin.
Illinois Outdoors

How good? Consider that 410 hunters at Snakeden Hollow shot 173 geese for a success ratio of 42 percent — the best in that site’s 17-year history.

“The weather has been just perfect here,” Snakeden site manager Rick Knisely said. “Weather north of here has been perfect, too.”

Indeed, early snow and ice in Wisconsin moved birds into Illinois and snow and ice in northern Illinois kept geese moving. Freezing, thawing and refreezing in much of the state then kept birds on the move and hunters busy.

As a result, not all the action was centered around the Duck Creek reservoir near Canton, the usual goose hotspot.

For instance, hunters at Spring Lake shot 190 geese this year, with 121 coming after duck season. But while hunters at Banner Marsh (located close to Duck Creek) racked up 127 honkers after duck season, that was down from past years.

Private pits also fared well, from Modena to Yates City to Canton. Hunters at Honkers Corner west of Canton enjoyed one of their best seasons. The same was true for Steve O’Neill, who has pits close to the vast Metropolitan Sanitary District no-hunting areas.

“This was my best goose hunting season ever,” O’Neill said. “We averaged 7 to 8 geese per day.”

Closer to Duck Creek hunting was good but not great.

“The birds never got situated in one area where we could just pound on them” said Dan Vinovich of Pekin, who hunts just west of Duck Creek. “I think a lot of the guys saying they had records were hunting on the weekends, because it seemed like the best weather of the season was on weekends.”

Vinovich said he finished with a decent year that included a few highlights, such as the double-banded snow goose pictured at right. Illinois OutdoorsThe reward band was worth $100 for this snow, which was fitted with jewelry in Churchill, Manitoba in 2003.

“We’d have birds for a week, then the guys over by MSD would have them for a week, then they’d move back,” Vinovich said.

For a change, though, few honker hunters were griping.

At Tampico Gun Club south of Duck Creek hunters shot 535 geese — not up to the club’s record of 789 birds but still above average according to manager Kevin Grigsby.

“If we had a quota we’d have been done early,” Grigsby said. “Overall it was an above-average season.”

Illinois Outdoors

EDITOR'S NOTE: Photographs courtesy of Dan Vinovich.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Snakeden had 410 hunters at $15 each—one would think the state could afford to supply one dozen good quality decoys to every pit, as their policy used to be.  What part of Chicago does Blogo send this money?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 01:46 PM

Wasn’t good for all of us.  Out of the five guys in my pit, only one goose was shot.  From what we observed this season, the geese where on a different fly pattern and it didn’t help that Cilco didn’t turn on the “hottub” until late season.  Just my 2 cents

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 02:23 AM

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