New England's Finest Coastal Goose Hunts
September 30, 2010
Opportunities for resident and migrant geese abound in the Northeast, where biologists are expecting another banner year for hunters. We'll show you where to find them this month! (November 2009)
Most states in the Northeast offer three distinct goose-hunting periods starting in September and running into mid-February. The second, or middle goose-hunting season is open during some portion of November in all our coastal New England states. Unlike the early and late bonus seasons, however, bag limits are restricted to two birds per day in every state (except for one area of Connecticut -- the AFRP Unit -- which allows five birds) in the 11th month.
That's because migrant Canada geese move southward through the Northeast during late fall, and their population is less stable than the burgeoning numbers of resident geese, which our region has in great abundance.
The logic here is simple: In September, the migrants haven't arrived yet, and by January, they've finished commuting through our region. In theory, only the resident birds are present early and late in the year.
Therefore, when you shoot five-bird limits in September, January or February, it's a safe bet that you'll be helping to thin out our swelling native goose population rather than impacting the migrants.
According to regional waterfowl biologists, the goose outlook for 2009-2010 is good yet somewhat mixed. The northeastern United States had an unusually chilly spring, which affected hatch rates. Nonetheless, goose numbers will be steady and huntable for the late fall season, but they may not be near the peak density of years past.
"Resident goose production was pretty good in Connecticut this year," said biologist Min Huang, Connecticut's Migratory Gamebird Program leader. "From all reports, it was pretty good throughout the Northeast. Thus, there should be a fair number of young in the fall flocks of resident geese.
"Migrant groups of Atlantic Population (AP) and North Atlantic Population (NAP) birds will have lower-than-average production due to the cool and wet spring, which came at least three weeks later than normal. Both the AP and NAP breeding pair estimates for 2009 are slightly higher than in 2008, but with the lowered production of each population, the fall flight will likely be similar to last year," Huang added.
This year's hunting regulations will not be finalized until shortly before this issue hits the newsstands. However, last year's dates, zones and bag limits should be very similar to this season's and are provided here. Before heading out, be sure to log onto your state's wildlife department Web site, listed below, for updated regulations.
Some states, like Connecticut, have now made licenses available only online, so if you haven't done so in the past, be sure not to wait until the last minute to register, because you may not be in their online database.
In that case, you'll need to call during normal work hours and talk to an attendant. In other words, if you wait until Friday night, you may have to miss Saturday's hunt and wait until Monday morning to purchase a new license.
Here is a look at some of the best bets for public-access November goose hunting near you:
Connecticut, like most states, divides its waterfowling regulations by zones. The boundary line for the two zones -- North and South -- is Interstate Route 95, which conveniently separates inland areas from salt marshes. Connecticut has also recently divided its goose-hunting zones into three units: The two coastal sections are the AFRP Unit, which is west of New Haven Harbor, and the NAP-H Unit, which is east of New Haven Harbor. (See the state's migratory waterfowl guidelines for specific details of demarcation lines.)
Last year, the AFRP Unit season ran from Nov. 14 to Feb. 14 with a bag limit of five geese; however, the NAP-H Unit season was open from Nov. 8 to Jan. 14 with a bag limit of two geese. Expect similar dates for both units this year.
Barn Island WMA
In the southeast corner of the Nutmeg State, Barn Island Wildlife Management Area is a 707-acre marsh found between Stonington and the Rhode Island border. On Little Narragansett Bay and south of Route 1 at the head of Wequetequock Cove, this marsh provides a good chance for geese. You can find the launch by traveling east on Route 1 to the light at Greenhaven Road. Turn south on Palmer Neck Road for 1.5 miles.
Charles Wheeler WMA
In the southwest corner of Connecticut is the 812-acre Charles Wheeler WMA on the Housatonic River. You'll find access to Charles Wheeler in Milford one-half mile upriver from the marsh. Take I-95 to Exit 34 in Devon. Turn west on Route 1, and then north on Naugatuck Avenue. The launch is on the left. Plenty of parking is available.
The marsh holds three main avenues where hunters may motor in at full to mid tide, but there is a risk of stranding here at low tide, especially with a full moon and-or strong west wind, which pushes water out of Long Island Sound.
Check Delorme's Connecticut Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 59, for more details.
Like other states, to hunt in Connecticut you'll need a federal duck stamp, a state waterfowl stamp, a Connecticut small-game license and a HIP permit.
For information on current Connecticut regulations, go to www.ct. gov/dep or call (860) 424-3000.
For a Connecticut coastal access guide, log on to www.lisrc.uconn. edu/coastalaccess/. To look at maps of Connecticut's hunting management areas, go to www.depdata.ct. gov/wildlife/hunting/hntareas.asp.
The resident goose population is high in Rhode Island, and with or without migrants hunters should have enough birds available to fill a limit.
Last year, Rhode Island's November goose season ran from the 22nd to the 30th, and then reopened on Dec. 6. The bag limit was two birds.
Narragansett Bay is always a good public hunting access area, especially when the inland waters start to freeze, which may happen by early December. This spot includes the Warwick area at Conimicut Point, Green Island and Rock Island. Boat ramps are located around Narragansett Bay, but a good choice for Conimicut Point is the small sand launch at the end of Shawomet Avenue. A better ramp is off Narragansett Parkway, south of Rock Island. Wickford Harbor is another good hunting option with access off Route 1 southwest of Kingston.
For details, see DeLorme's Connecticut/R
hode Island Atlas & Gazetteer, maps 68 and 72.
For more information, visit the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife homepage, at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/index.htm, or call (401) 222-6800.
While estimations for migrant birds are difficult to predict, the Bay State's resident goose numbers have been high. In recent years, MassWildlife biologists have pegged the number of non-migrants at over 35,000 birds.
Massachusetts demarcates its Coastal Zone as "eastward and southward of the Central Zone line to the coast."
Central Zone boundaries are described in detail on the MassWildlife Web site listed below.
Two of the most reliable public access hunting locations in the Coastal Zone are the Salisbury Marsh and the Parker Wildlife Refuge areas. The Parker River site is divided into A, B and C sections, each with its own restrictions. Area A is attainable by boat only from the refuge boat ramp (vehicles and trailers must be parked in Lot 1, opposite Lot 1 or from off-refuge sites. When planning a hunt, consult a tide chart because this launch may be inaccessible at low water, especially on a moon tide.
Area B may be accessed by boat from either the refuge ramp or off-refuge sites. For hunters without boats, it's legal to walk into Area B from Lot 8 at Newbury Neck Road and Marsh Avenue.
Gunning is allowed only within the posted "Hunting Area" signs. Reach Area B from Lot 8 one-third mile to the left of the trail's end. Hunters must set a minimum of six goose decoys and hunt within 50 yards of them. Jump-shooting is not allowed.
Nelson's Island, also called Area C, is accessed by foot only. Use Lot 9 off Stackyard Road for parking. Hunting is not permitted within 150 feet of the lot.
Be sure to call for more information for current regulations, maps and conditions before hunting either Parker River or Salisbury Park. Hunters may view the area on Map 19 of DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas & Gazetteer.
The 2008-2009 Coastal Zone season was Nov. 26 to Jan. 24, and this season should be similar.
For directions, maps, regulations and local conditions for Salisbury State Park, call (978)-462-4481. For the Parker River Refuge, call (978) 465-5753.
For nearby lodging and good dining, contact Stripers Inn in Salisbury at (978) 499-0400, or visit the Web site at www.stripersgrille.com.
For more information, look at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's homepage at www.mass.gov/dfwele, or call (617) 626-1590. To view close-up maps of these and other Massachusetts wildlife management areas, log on to www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/habitat/maps/wma/wma_maps.htm.
In New Hampshire, the NAP migrating geese are much more of a coastal species than the AP birds. The NAP population prefers Great Bay as a staging area rather than areas farther inland. New Hampshire also has a resident goose population of about 30,000 birds.
The Granite State's coastal zone is in the southeastern corner of the state, east of Route 108.
For the best action here this month, biologists suggest the famous Great Bay. Hunting here, as well as in Little Bay to the north, attracts a mix of resident and non-resident geese to help round out the bag limit.
The bays have several boat launches around their perimeters. A good one in the lower bay is the all-tides Chapman's Landing, which is accessible from Route 108 between Stratham and Newmarket. For access to the upper bay, try the ramp off Adam's Point Road in Durham.
Check Delorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 30, for details. Last year's South Zone ran from Nov. 23 to Jan. 11 with a bag limit of two Canada geese. Expectations are for this year to be nearly the same.
A New Hampshire hunting license is required along with the usual state and federal duck stamps and HIP permit. For more information, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us, or call the New Hampshire Wildlife Division at (603) 271-2461.
For local information and supplies call the only sporting goods store in the area, Suds 'n' Soda, at (603) 431-6320. They are open every day and are on Portsmouth Avenue in Greenland.
Although many of Maine's inland waters are frozen by now, expectations for coastal geese always look promising. Maine's biologists suggest heading to the shoreline tidewater areas, which will still hold waterfowl, often until Christmas.
One of the top choices is Merrymeeting Bay, which is a unique piece of water. Technically a freshwater bay, its unusual geography defies most common landform descriptions. It is more similar to an estuary than a bay and is perhaps best described as an inland delta because six rivers flow into it. The two largest rivers are the Kennebec and the Androscoggin, and the other four include the Cathance, Eastern, Abagadasset and Muddy rivers.
Merrymeeting Bay is linked to the Gulf of Maine and the ocean by the Kennebec River, which is a long, tidal channel. The bay's connection to the Lower Kennebec River is through a 300-yard cut in the bedrock, locally known as "The Chops." The waters of the bay flow out through The Chops at low tide. The strongest currents are normally found here in this narrowest section. Hunters should bring heavy decoy anchors to avoid spending time chasing down drifting dekes!
The bay also has some dangerous sections, so it's wise to learn your intended hunting area at high tide on a sunny day while wielding good binoculars because the navigational aids are a long distance apart. The bay features plenty of sand-mud bars along with occasional "deadheads" (hidden logs with one end protruding from the water).
Be sure to check local tide charts to avoid motoring into an area where low water leaves you stranded on the mud flats. Many areas are inaccessible during low tide, so scout your hunting locations to coincide with the predicted tides during planned trip times.
Merrymeeting Bay has boat access at Browns Point Road off Route 24. Turn right after reaching Center Point Road. Launch waterfowling craft just before Bald Head, a landmark that extends into the bay. Try the area around Brick Island, which is productive throughout the season, although the birds here get wise fast the week after opening day.
For more details, check Map 6 in DeLorme's Maine Atlas and Gazetteer.
Great Works WMA
According to Thomas Schaeffer, a Maine regional wildlife biologist, Region C, commonly referred to as the Down East Region, is the easternmost of his department's three coastal regions. This
region encompasses much of Washington and Hancock counties (along with a few townships in Penobscot County) between the St. Croix River to the east and the Penobscot River to the west. This is where you will find Great Works wildlife management area, a marsh and pond habitat with good November waterfowling opportunities.
Schaeffer noted that Region C includes 15 wildlife management areas totaling almost 8,000 acres that are open to public hunting, and there are many hunting opportunities on these smaller areas, like Great Works, with comparatively low use levels.
Hunters may reach Great Works by traveling Route 86 west of Dennysville and Venture Brook Road. Check DeLorme's Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 26, or look at a map on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's Web site (below).
To hunt waterfowl in Maine, sportsmen are required to indicate their intention of doing so at the time of license purchase. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses the information in its Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP).
This year's Maine waterfowl seasons should be similar to 2008, but be sure to check current state regulations before heading out.
Season dates, bag limits and other information is available at www. maine.gov/ifw or by calling (207) 287-8000.