Snow Goose Problem Equals Opportunity

Snow Goose Problem Equals Opportunity
An overpopulation of snow geese has lead to relaxed hunting seasons. (Wikipedia photo)

Overpopulation of white geese offers lax hunting regulations

Arkansas, like the entire southern flyway, has a goose problem. Barring something unforeseen, the problem's going to get worse before it gets better.

Light geese (snow, blue and Ross's geese) have become so plentiful, they're devastating the entire Atlantic flyway -- as well as their own nesting grounds in the arctic tundra.

The devastation along the flyway is so bad that flyway states from North Dakota to Texas have issued Conservation Orders designed to encourage waterfowlers to help reduce the massive flocks.

Last week, I was invited along on one of those hunts near Casscoe, Ark.

Even as I arrived, it was obvious the geese were making an impact on the area.

I made it to Arkansas during the latest southern ice storm, and thought the bands of white I saw across the huge fields were snow lines. They were snow geese; tens of thousands of them in flocks that covered acres of cropland along the highways.

And there were airborne flocks, each in their typical v-formations. But with the wings of each v was made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of geese. It looked like wave after wave of bomber formations winging over the fields from a World War II newsreel.

For the farmers under those wings, they do represent invading forces.

"They've completely wrecked a couple of my fields," one told me as we stood shivering in the icy rain while fueling our vehicles, "there's just no way to describe how many there. You have to see if yourself to see how many there really are."

No kidding. I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it myself.

The light goose populations are so high they're literally destroying their own nesting grounds in the arctic

Since 2009, the problem has been growing, leading to conservation orders like the one currently extending the hunting season for Arkansas waterfowlers. Under that order, goose hunters can hunt from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. And there are no no daily bag or possession limits.

Another easing of restrictions included the removal of plugs from shotguns. On this hunt, I was provided a semiautomatic shotgun from Franchi. It included a feature I'd never seen in a gun designed for hunting- an extended magazine tube, giving me nine rounds instead of my accustomed limit of three when hunting.

What we called the "3-Squared" capacities made ingrained shooting habits obvious. As flocks were called into range, I'd start shooting. After three shots, I instinctively stopped and reached into my bandolier for more shells.

It was funny in this context, but it proves a point tactical trainers make all the time: the habits we ingrain, whether on a square range or hunting blind, stick with us regardless of the situation.

My unnecessary cease-fire in a hunting blind was the cause of some good-natured kidding. In an emergency situation, however, stopping with rounds still in your shotgun could be considerably less amusing.

Arkansas' conservation order spared me the potential embarrassment of having to try and use the goose call hanging around my neck. After all, one of the guides in our group included the current world champion duck caller. For these hunts, electronic callers were permitted. Their incessant calling and volume controls proved essential in luring the gigantic flocks of geese into shooting range.

So, too did what appeared to me to be excessive spreads of decoys. Turns out the spreads were large, but dwarfed by the sizes of the flocks that occasionally circled

And I was carrying another bit of unnecessary bit of gear, too: a federal waterfowl stamp. Under the Arkansas order, no waterfowl stamps were required. And my Alabama hunting license was all I needed along with proof of electronic registration with Arkansas Game and Fish for a free registration permit number. I carried that along on my iPhone.

If you wanted to give waterfowl hunting a try without many permits and requirements, this would be the kind of hunt you'd want to try- if accompanied by experienced waterfowl hunters- which I was.

The only real obstacle to enjoying the hunting was the weather.

The ice storm had coated everything, and temperatures stayed in the low teens with sustained winds sometimes as high as 30 MPH. That made the chill factor brutal, and the occasionally stinging ice and snow flurries added to the misery. It was the kind of weather where even good hunting gear and pocket warmers couldn't keep toes and fingers from going numb.

But, as one of my experienced hunting companions pointed out, "if you're a serious waterfowl hunter, you expect some of this kind of weather."

The exceptionally cold temperatures were the subject of some discussion- and levity- in the blinds, but any mention of a potentially changing climate brought on some spirited exchanges. But not everyone laughed about "global warming" through chattering teeth.

There has been some recent scientific reporting of a change in the arctic climate that might bring some relief from the migratory assault of the light geese.

"Just before I left the office," said Ducks Unlimited's James Powell, "I saw a summary of a new scientific study saying that warming temperatures had polar bears moving further south than their normal territories. Far enough down that polar bears were actually seen eating eggs in the northernmost edges of the light goose nesting grounds last nesting season."

"If the polar bears help with the new birds up there," he said, "and we keep hunting them hard down here, we might make a dent in them."

"That," he observed wryly, "will take some time. Until then, we'll just have to keep hunting."

I'm never going to be accused of being a serious hunter of any sort, but having been hunting for late season ducks in Alabama and light geese in Arkansas - in unseasonably cold conditions, I'd have to say it's a great sport.

If you've ever thought you might enjoy waterfowl hunting, the current situation with light geese might offer you the chance to give it a try without a lot of the normal permitting and reporting requirements - and the accompanying blessings of the states and their farmers whose fields are being overrun along the flyway.

Recommended for You


New TRUGLO Bowfishing EZ•Rest

May 23, 2019

Brush-style bowfishing arrow rest and kits designed for simplicity and reliability.


Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.


MLF Pros: What's With the Moon?

G&F Online Staff

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think?

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor Hoody

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products helps OSG's Lynn Burkhead understand the new features of the new Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor sun protection hoody.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...


Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

See More Stories

More Stories


Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 30, 2018

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos...


Predator Hunting: 3 Ways to Find Elusive Coyotes

Brad Fitzpatrick - June 26, 2018

Calling all coyotes:'These predators are efficient, so finding and calling them to the gun can


Game & Fish's Top 10 Stories of 2018

G&F Online Staff - December 24, 2018

From a world-record crappie to the best gear of the year, these hunting and fishing articles...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.