Doug Leier: North Dakota Canadian Goose Population High Despite Increased Hunting


The first official hunting season of 2014 has been open since Aug. 9 when the fall crow season began.

While I’d venture to guess that very few people gathered the evening before to strategize for the crow opener, in the same way they will for waterfowl (residents Sept. 27) pheasant (Oct. 11) and deer (Nov. 7), it is the first hunting season of fall, unless you factor in fox and coyote, for which the hunting season is technically open year-round.

The next season to open in August, however, has become quite popular, despite the potential for typical hot summer temperatures, mosquitoes and birds that are still sporting an abundance of pin-feathers that can make picking feathers a tedious task for hunters who want to preserve a full goose carcass for roasting.

The early Canada goose season opened Aug. 15 and I know that some hunters were in the field that morning. Perhaps not as many as will set up for geese in the coming weeks before the early season ends, but still a good number compared to those who took to the field for the crow opener.

The early Canada goose season has been around for more than a decade. It is specifically designed to help reduce North Dakota’s population of resident giant Canada geese. These are the birds that nest and raise their young in North Dakota, and during August and early September they comprise almost all of the harvest until the migrant Canada goose subspecies start moving in.

But despite increasingly liberalized regulations over the past several years, with longer seasons and larger bag limits, the statewide population remains high.

Last year for the first time, a special license for the early Canada goose season was required. The State Game and Fish Department issued 6,531 of these licenses to residents, and 789 to nonresidents. About 4,200 residents and 750 nonresidents actually hunted, and the 2013 early season harvest was about 48,000 birds.

There is still plenty of time for hunters to participate in the early goose season yet this fall. It continues through Sept. 15 in much of the state, except in the Missouri River Zone, where the season ends Sept. 7. By closing the season earlier in the Missouri River Zone, Game and Fish is able to add eight days on to the end of the regular goose season in December, when large numbers of Canada geese are typically staging on the river and on Lake Sakakawea.

The early Canada goose season has a daily limit of 15 and 45 in possession.

Shooting hours during the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.

The early Canada goose license for residents is $5, and for nonresidents it’s $50.

A federal duck stamp for all hunters age 16 and older, and Harvest Information Program certification, is required beginning Sept. 1.

Hunters who purchase a license through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at, or instant licensing telephone number 800-406-6409, can easily get HIP certified. Otherwise, hunters can call 888-634-4798 and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate.

Those who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once per year.

Despite weather that might not feel like fall, the early goose season has fast become a tradition for many North Dakota waterfowlers. And the good news is that even when this season is over, the regular duck and goose seasons are not far behind.