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Spring snow goose season hits full swing in N.D.

North Dakota's 2010 spring snow goose conservation season opened Feb 20. No, we didn't make a mistake; the probability of snow geese migrating back into North Dakota before March is slim, but the remote chance of a mild winter, limited snow cover...

Snow geese
The spring snow geese season in North Dakota, Minnesota and several other states is part of a federal conservation order designed to help reduce populations that have become too abundant. North Dakota's spring season opened Feb. 20 but has only recently gotten rolling as birds enter the state. (N.D. Game and Fish Department)
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

North Dakota's 2010 spring snow goose conservation season opened Feb 20. No, we didn't make a mistake; the probability of snow geese migrating back into North Dakota before March is slim, but the remote chance of a mild winter, limited snow cover and early spring are possible.

Yes, I said possible, but improbable.

It seems like forever since those variables have crossed over where a huntable snow goose population has found its way across the South Dakota line. But most hunters understand we'd rather open the season early on paper rather than too late and miss the opportunity to reduce the population -- which is the reason for the season, so to speak. It's the reason the spring season is labeled a "conservation order" and not a hunt.

Proof positive the birds don't really care when we open the season, as the migration triggers are more predicated on the photo period or day length, which tells the birds it's time to press toward the spring nesting grounds.

While the birds react to the physiological migration impulse, the physical barrier of snow limits the northward migration. And while the early March snow cover stretched deep into Kansas, the snow depth to the south shrinks faster than ours, and the past few years, the majority of the snow geese numbers have pushed through in a hurry. The combination of a late spring and the clock ticking on spring nesting resulted in a shorter spring snow goose conservation season.

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Watch the roads

While regulations allow electronic calls, unplugged shotguns along with unlimited daily and possession limits, similar to last year, the need to limit the impact to roads can't be stressed enough. I know it makes sense, and anyone who's been off the pavement knows full well. I'm not sure, but I think we all can do better. That goes for everyone, whether hunters or sightseers -- it's everyone's job to take it easy out there.

Before you just assume it's only for the benefit of farmers, ranchers and the rural community, those same trails and roads can be the difference between life and death when emergency personnel and vehicles need to access those areas. It can come down to a matter of seconds and minutes, so let's all do our part to keep those roads in as good of shape as possible.

Most of North Dakota has been saturated with moisture, from snow last winter to the holdover from a wet 2009 summer, and if you find yourself traveling for geese, even spring turkeys into areas you haven't been, be forewarned even more than ever you never know what you might encounter. Washed-out culverts and bridges can be more than a hindrance, resulting in back tracking or extra time to reach a destination; in some instances, those same road obstacles in low-light driving conditions can become deadly.

One last hunting note: April 1 marks the start of a new license year for fishing and small game licenses, but legally licensed snow goose hunters from last fall are allowed to use their old licenses. The only requirement is obtaining a new Harvest Information Program (HIP) number, which is available when purchasing a license online or by calling (888) 634-4798.

Get out, be safe and enjoy.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. Reach him by e-mail at dleier@nd.gov . Read his blog daily at www.areavoices.com/dougleier .

Related Topics: HUNTING
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