Missouri Early Canada Goose Season

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Hunters taking part in Missouri's early Canada goose hunting season this year won't have to worry about which waterfowl zone they are in. The season dates and bag limits are the same everywhere in the state.

Missouri's early Canada goose season runs from Sept. 30 through Oct. 9 statewide. The bag limits of three birds daily and six in possession also apply everywhere in Missouri. Last year, there were two additional days in the Middle Zone.

North America has several distinct populations of Canada geese, which nest in different areas. Missouri is home to approximately 65,000 giant Canada geese that live here year-round. As autumn progresses, these resident birds mix with migratory Canada geese from areas to the north. The early Canada goose season is designed to give hunters a chance to harvest abundant resident geese before migrant geese arrive.

Giant Canada geese were rare in the Show-Me State before the Missouri Department of Conservation began a restoration program for the subspecies in the 1960s. This effort enjoyed strong support from Missourians and was tremendously successful. The birds, weighing up to 15 pounds, now are abundant, particularly in some suburban and urban areas.

Large expanses of mowed lawns provide nutritious food for grass-eating geese. Natural predators are rare once the birds attain flight, and geese feel safe in the open landscape because they can see dogs or other threats in time to escape to nearby lakes and ponds.

Where geese are abundant, their droppings can foul residential lawns, parks and ponds. They sometimes harm water quality in city water-supply lakes, and their grazing on grass sometimes damages golf courses or suburban lawns.

After achieving the goal of restoring giant Canada geese to Missouri, the Conservation Department instituted a hunting season as a means of controlling their numbers in areas where they become nuisances. These measures appear to have succeeded, as the population has stabilized over the past five years.

Giant Canada geese often visit sand bars on big rivers. The flat, open terrain surrounded by water is ideal for overnight roosting, because it is secure from predators. Farm ponds in the middle of open pasture provide similar safe havens.

During the day, or occasionally on moonlit nights, giant Canada geese can be found scavenging waste grain in harvested crop fields. Fresh plantings of grass or crops - such as winter wheat - also draw hungry geese.

Hunters who discover giant Canada goose feeding and resting spots and get permission to hunt them can put geese in the freezer with relative ease. Geese have excellent memories, however, and quickly desert places where they are disturbed. Hunters must constantly find new hunting areas.

"Looking at a bunch of geese around the pond at an office park or grazing on tender young grass on a golf course, you could get the idea they are tame birds and would be easy prey," said Conservation Department Resource Scientist Dave Graber. "That's just not true. Hunting resident Canada geese is extremely challenging. It takes a lot of time and energy to scout out new spots."

Hunters need three permits to hunt Canada geese and other waterfowl - a Missouri Small Game Hunting Permit, a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit and a federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly called a duck stamp.

The three-bird daily limit during the early goose season is relatively liberal. However, because some migratory populations of Canada goose are less abundant than the resident geese, they need more protection. That is why the daily limit on Canada geese during the later portion of the hunting season is two, and the possession limit is four.