Migration Alert: Light geese numbers increasing in North Mississippi

February 8, 2013 – Mississippi 

By Chris Jennings

Mississippi Light Goose Conservation Order re-opened following the February 2-3 Youth Season, and steady numbers may provide excellent opportunities for the upcoming weekend.

"We do a late survey every year and we've spent a good amount of time in the field after that survey. There are a lot of geese here and they do seem to be hanging around," says Mississippi Migratory Game Bird Biologist, Houston Havens. "Whether or not they are geese coming up from the coast on their spring migration, or they are just arriving – that, we don't know. What we do know is that there are good numbers of geese in the North Delta."

Havens explains that light goose habitat improves this time of year due to farmers pulling the boards on flooded agricultural fields used for duck hunting. These fields, which are dry now, provide waste grains that remain in the fields.  These fields are ideal for geese and hunters.

"The geese are searching out these muddy fields that have just been drained and these fields provide great habitat. Whether they are beans, corn, or rice," Havens says.  "Winter wheat fields are ideal, depending on growth stage. Unfortunately, most winter wheat fields in the North Delta are further along in the growth stage than geese prefer."

While light goose numbers are high throughout the North Delta, the hunting can be tough.  John Gordon, Avery Outdoors customer service specialist and avid goose hunter, hunts throughout the North Delta and agrees the numbers are up, but knows that doesn't necessarily translate into great hunting.

"This time of year, it seems that the birds get more difficult to pattern," Gordon says. "In mid-December the birds are constantly moving around, but this time of year they seem to find a spot and hold to it. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that there aren't a lot of people hunting them."

MAP: Major Concentrations of Snow Geese, Jan. 2013

Gordon explains that other hunters not moving the birds around can be a detriment, but that same lack of pressure may help if your decoys are in the right place.  Geese in the area are not seeing multiple decoy spreads, so they can be susceptible to decoys and the electronic call.
"Wintering geese are much more difficult to hunt compared to birds on the move, heading north," Gordon says.  "They are familiar with the area and many times know exactly where they are going."

Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries produced a Goose Concentrations map two weeks ago that still applies to this weekend.  Havens and Gordon verified that these large flocks are still within the general areas on the map, and flock size may have increased.

Last year, Mississippi issued 464 LGCO permits with an extrapolated estimate of more than 6,200 light geese taken. Havens expects this number to be very similar or possibly higher due to the number of geese still around the state. 

"Geese moved north much earlier last year and we have had several people calling and getting their permits this week," Havens says. "A lot of people see these huge flocks and think they are just going to go out and get shots, but it is much more difficult than that. It's possible to have good hunts right now though."

For more information on Mississippi's Light Goose Conservation Order regulations and permit, click here.