Guest post from North Dakota Game & Fish outreach biologist Doug Lier.
I saw my first Canada goose of the year on a sunny Tuesday afternoon on February 7 about 4:30 p.m. Yes, I know the exact date and time as I texted a friend who spends more time outdoors than I do talking and writing about it.
He confirmed that he spotted a few earlier in the day. While we understood we had more cold and snow to get through before spring arrived, we also knew the spring conservation season for light geese (no Canada geese are allowed) official opening day was near.
Before the snow geese arrive, Canada geese lead the way.
Nonhunters may wonder why the spring conservation season is open so early. Fair question.
The purpose is to reduce light goose (snow goose) populations during spring as the birds migrate north to their nesting grounds. Seldom is the spring migration pushing birds into North Dakota much before mid-March, but we live in a region of extremes.
Spring in February isn’t as common as winter weather in April, but when the purpose is to reduce the migrating spring light geese, then opening it up well before the birds arrive just in case is standard. Much like baseball spring training starting around Valentine’s Day with the “real” games days away.
2023 North Dakota Spring Light Goose Season Details
Residents must have a valid current season 2022-23 (valid through March 31) or 2023-24 (required April 1) combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. Resident youth under age 16 only need the general game and habitat license.
Nonresidents need a 2023 spring light goose conservation order license. The cost is $50 and is valid statewide. Nonresidents who hunt in the spring remain eligible to buy a fall season license. The spring license does not count against the 14-day fall waterfowl hunting season regulation.
In addition, nonresident hunters younger than 16 can purchase a license at the resident fee if their state has youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota.
A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents.
Resident and nonresident licenses are available on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.
Hunters must register annually with the Harvest Information Program before hunting in each state. The HIP number can be obtained online. The HIP number obtained for North Dakota’s spring conservation order is also valid for North Dakota’s fall hunting season.
The spring conservation order is only open to light geese – snows, blues and Ross’s geese. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The conservation order is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.
To maintain good landowner relations, hunters should seek permission before hunting on private land or attempting any off-road travel during the spring season. Sprouted winter wheat is considered an unharvested crop. Therefore, hunting or off-road travel in winter wheat is not legal without landowner permission.
For more information on regulations, refer to the 2023 Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations and the North Dakota 2022-23 Hunting and Trapping Guide.