Make Snow Goose Hunting Great Again
If you’ve followed my blog posts, you know that I’m a strong critic of the snow goose conservation order and its consequential degradation of snow geese as a game bird.
In my youth, the snow goose was regarded as a prized game bird. Sportsmen who lived on the Texas gulf coast enjoyed hunting snow geese. An extreme sport before extreme sports became popular, snow goose hunting is one of the most exciting outdoor experiences anyone could have.
Good hunt with good friends circa 1980s.
Surprisingly, the sport was very popular even though the limit was only five snow geese or four snows and one dark goose (speck or Canada). At first, we hunted with torn-up sheets then diapers and later with cut-up plastic banquet table cloths. (Now we call that the Texas Rag Spread.) Goose hunting was hard work and astonishingly four of us would get a limit of only one out of every 20 hunts. Anytime our group of four bagged more than 10 birds we considered it a good hunt.
Friends after a good hunt in the 1990s.
The early 1990s saw the limit expand to ten snows a day, or seven snows with three dark geese. This eventually was expanded to 20 snow geese a day with three dark geese. In addition, the season was expanded into February, making the goose hunting season an unbelievable 107 days.
Then came Conservation Season with no limits. That’s when I started hearing derogatory terms describing snow geese, such as Sky Carp or Tundra Maggots. I began seeing pictures of truckloads of snow geese and hearing stories of people surrounding a roost pond and shooting the birds while they were asleep. More disturbing were incidents of people killing massive numbers of birds only to check for bands, and then discarding the carcasses in a ditch.
This attitude, this total disrespect for life – for nature – literally turns my stomach, and somehow none of it is illegal. My experience has been that the people slaughtering these birds in this way fully believe they’re conservationists and are saving the tundra.
I love to hunt snow geese and don’t have a problem with our northern neighbors enjoying hunting them. But I do have a problem with the senseless killing of this majestic game bird.
Here are some facts for you to ponder. The snow goose population peaked in the mid-2000s at approximately 18 million birds. Due to a series of below-average recruitment of young birds (i. e. poor hatches) the last population estimates that I’ve seen dropped to 7.5 million. Snow geese need a 16 percent recruitment of young birds for the population to break even each year.
This means that Mother Nature is taking care of the previous overpopulation problem, not hunters. However, the Conservation Order has changed the hunting culture, creating an entire generation of hunters who think that the only time you can kill snow geese is in the Conservation Season. The Conservation Order also has brought out unfortunate and ugly behavior in some people who show little to no respect for this magnificent bird.
In addition, the heavy hunting pressure caused by nine total months of hunting season for snow geese has created a super goose that has become extremely good at avoiding hunters.
It is time to modify the rules of the Conservation Order.
Good sportsmen everywhere need to act. Strongly advocate for placing a limit during the conservation order (twenty birds a day is plenty). We also need to advocate for requiring plugs in guns that restrict shooters to three shots (spraying ten shots at a group of birds just causes cripples. Good sportsmen do as much as they can to have clean kills and zero game waste.) We need to advocate for regular shooting hours and much, much stronger enforcement of wanton killing and waste of birds. We also need to advocate for ending the season at least by April 15.
If you share my concerns and want to ensure that your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have the same opportunities and experiences you have enjoyed goose hunting, contact your local congressman. The sport – and the snow goose – deserve your respect and responsible advocacy.