By Gary Koehler
Since being reintroduced decades ago to rebuild populations, resident Canada geese have worn out their welcome in many locales. Those once desirable sheer numbers have ironically transformed the birds’ image from that of guests to pests among the general population—hunters being among those who think otherwise.
Resident Canada goose ranks have grown from a relative few to well over 3 million nationwide. Park ponds and lakes, golf courses, corporate and school campuses, and similar venues are among the birds’ favorite haunts. Considering their sometimes aggressive nature and the mess they leave behind, it is little wonder these geese have been tagged as nuisances by those outside the hunting community.
To help control this growing horde, nearly 40 states have established early Canada goose hunting seasons. These specially timed hunts typically occur well in advance of the arrival of migratory geese and focus solely on resident birds. The first week of September marks the most common opening date.
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Resident Canada geese provide the earliest waterfowling available in many regions. Regulations vary from state to state and, in some instances, within each state depending on geography. Because wildlife managers are trying to keep this goose population in check, bag limits are generally high.
“I’ve been chasing Canada geese for 30 years, and we see more and more of them around here every year,” says Mike Armbrust, a resident of rural Hebron in McHenry County, Illinois. “I thought that with the development we’ve had out here, the population growth might slow down. But it sure doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Armbrust, a charter member of the Marengo Flyway Ducks Unlimited committee, which has distinguished itself as one of the top 100 chapters in the country, has hunted all over the state’s northern reaches. But it’s getting tougher and tougher to find a suitable place to set up his decoys.
“It used to be you could go to a farmer and ask for permission and very seldom were there any problems,” Armbrust says. “Now, if you find a place, you have to keep it to yourself.”