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'Tis the season for Waterfowls

August 17, 2003|by BILL ANDERSON / Staff Correspondent

After so many years, it is still hard to get used to waterfowl season opening on Sept. 1.

As has been the case for many years now, Sept. 1 will be the opening day of the early resident Canada goose season. This early goose season allows hunters to reduce the number of resident birds before the migratory birds have arrived from the nesting grounds in Canada.

This year the proposed early Canada goose season in Western Maryland, or the Western Zone, will be Sept. 1-25 with a bag limit of five birds per day. Hunters must possess both state and federal waterfowl stamps and the free Harvest Information Program registration in addition to their regular hunting license. As of Friday, this season was still pending final approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the Maryland DNR expects it to be approved.

Although interest has increased over the past few years, a lot of hunters still say they do not participate in resident goose hunting because of the investment in equipment. The list can include decoys, calls, special shotguns, non-toxic shotshells, and the various accessory equipment needed to hunt waterfowl.

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The simplest method of hunting the birds is jump shooting. The typical approach is to use available cover to sneak in within shotgun range and then rush to birds to put them in the air. I know several farmers who use this tactic to harass the birds and convince them to move to other farms.

The classic approach to goose hunting is to use decoys and calls. When hunting the small family flocks in September, you can get by with only a few decoys. In the late winter, when the birds have concentrated into big flocks, we will sometimes use as many as 100 decoys. But in the early season, the places you choose to set up your decoys seems much more important than the total number of decoys. We have had very good days in September using less than a dozen decoys.

Generally speaking, there are three area types to set up in for waterfowl hunting - feeding areas, loafing areas, and roosting areas. Many times the loafing areas and roosting areas are the same location. Loafing or resting areas are usually a good place to set up in the early season because you can try to decoy the birds as they move from one area to another.

It is also a big help if you can use a goose call - at least a little. Becoming proficient with a goose call is relatively easy. Geese are very responsive to calling and all that is required is a very basic selection of calls. There are many excellent videos available to help you learn the calls needed.

Hunting the early Canada goose season also means that you must observe all regulations associated with waterfowl hunting. In particular, this means you must use an approved non-toxic shot material. A number of shot materials are now approved for waterfowl hunting. The most available and affordable is steel shot. Other popular shot materials include tungsten and Bismuth.

The huge population growth in resident Canada geese has created new and exciting opportunities for hunters in our area. You can take advantage of this opportunity with a minimum amount of preparation and new equipment.




Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at bandersn@weekend-sportsman.com

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