The Light Goose Conservation Order opens the door for February waterfowling in Arkansas. The LGCO's liberal regulations levels the playing field for hunters hoping to decoy these difficult birds. As temperatures begin to warm, light geese will begin heading north, but ideal habitat is holding birds in Arkansas for those looking for late-season opportunities.
Dry conditions in early January had Arkansas Game and Fish Waterfowl Biologist, Luke Naylor, concerned that light geese would move north early, but recent rainfall has provided ideal habitat.
"Typically, farmers are draining their fields as quickly as possible after duck season, and the loss of water concentrates the geese and sometimes moves them out," Naylor says. "We just recently got water and this has the birds spread out. The birds are still here because the habitat is great."
Arkansas issued 4,103 LGCO permits in 2012 and Naylor predicts this year's numbers will be similar. Although he feels Arkansas has seen a slight decrease in numbers as birds moved north the last week of January, plenty of geese remain in Central and Northeast Arkansas.
"Arkansas usually has big light goose migrations the last two weeks of February," Naylor says. "We really haven't had that sustained strong south wind for several days that's needed to get the birds moving. I'm hoping to get out this weekend and hunt."
Waterfowl guide and 2011 World Duck Calling Champion, Antonio Jones, is running his light goose hunting operation in central Arkansas this year. He hasn't noticed a dip in numbers yet, but understands that the birds will be moving soon. Non-stop scouting has allowed Jones to stay on geese as the birds move locally.
"We have been able to locate huge feeding flocks this week," Jones explains. "I'm talking 100,000 birds. We've had some success hunting a few of these big flocks, and it's getting better as they prepare to move."
Jones feels that these big flocks are wintering geese – not migrating flocks–heavily feeding and preparing for their spring migration. As the weather continues to warm, these birds will begin moving north, and Jones is going with them.
"I think we've got about another week to hunt these birds and then I'll move north," he says. "We've got some fields in the northeast part of the state that we hunted last year and they were great."
Reports of light geese arriving at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri has some Arkansas hunters wondering if there are enough geese to hunt in Arkansas, but Naylor reassures those wanting to hunt this weekend.
"I wouldn't doubt it that birds are arriving up there," Naylor says. "But there are so many geese this year the migration is spread out. There are plenty of geese left in Arkansas."
For more information about Arkansas' Light Goose Conservation Order season, visit http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/HuntingLightGooseConservationOrder.aspx