March Canada goose season

By on March 5, 2018
(L to R) Joel Hendrick, Cove and “George Clooney” with a few March geese from last season. Provided photo

(L to R) Joel Hendrick, Cove and “George Clooney” with a few March geese from last season. Provided photo

The sweet aroma of thawing cow manure wafted up from the dairy farm in the valley. The early March goose season was in full swing in southwest New York state and the thaw carried a false rumor of spring in the air. My son Joel and I were hunting in the middle of a cut corn field outside of Perry N.Y., hoping that the 500 geese feeding here yesterday would return. The ground was half covered with muddy remains of the snow that had rested here all winter. The remaining unharvested corn that had been hiding under the snow was suddenly accessible to the Canada geese in the area for the first time in two months, and chances were good that the geese would return.

The ground was a sloppy concoction of mud, snow and corn stakes; and our boots were doubled their weight due to the sticky gumbo as we hurried to place our eight dozen decoys. As expected, the first flock of honkers showed from the southeast where they had been spending the night on Silver Lake. The large flock of sixty Canadas was going to be tough to fool. Most groups of this size give you a courtesy look, but will almost always keep going. Joel flagged feverishly and I called sparingly as the flock was giving us the cold shoulder. Suddenly, the back six birds broke from the flock as their elders scolded them to return to the group immediately! The six young geese honked excitedly as they locked their wings and dropped down to our party. I was still under their spell when I heard my son yell, “take-em!” Not ready, I fought to sit up in my lay-out blind, no easy chore for my ancient joints. Strictly out of muscle memory, I pointed the 12 gauge at the big birds and proceeded to break the cardinal rule of flock shooting, rather than picking one target at a time. I failed to hit a single bird even though they were floating almost motionless, suspended in space and time at a mere 35 yards from the tips of my muddy boots. Luckily, Joel was able to double and threw the skunk out of the blinds.

As we all know, the number of resident Canadian geese in our state has skyrocketed over the last two decades and many of those geese no longer migrate. Due to the overabundance of these local geese, the Department of Environmental Conservation has granted a March season in the southern zone opening on March 2 and running through March 9. The D.E.C. is careful to run this season early enough in March, well before any of the geese have started nesting. There is a daily bag limit of five geese per hunter.

The hardest part about hunting these honkers is understanding the hunting area’s boundaries. Knowing the borders of the only open section of the state is critical. It is not uncommon to have geese in a field on one side of the road that you cannot hunt while across the road there are geese you can hunt. The boundaries are confusing to say the least, and I find you must have a hard copy of the hunting regulations in hand to figure them out. I’m sure the D.E.C. has their reasons for limiting this March season to just the southwest section of the state, but as someone that is on the road for over 30,000 miles a year in our state, and always on alert for waterfowl of any kind, there are so many geese in the western half of New York state now, that the D.E.C. could make it easier on the goose hunters and open the entire western half of the state for those nine days, and still not put a dent in the local goose populations.

Here is how the D.E.C describes the borders of the hunting area:

The South Goose Hunting Area consists of the following WMUs: 3A, 3C, 3H, 3K, 3N, 3P, 3R, 4G, 4H, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4W, 7R, 7S, 8M, 8N, 8P, 8T, 8W, 8X, 8Y, 9A, 9C, 9F, 9G, 9H, 9J, 9K, 9M, 9N, 9P, 9R, 9S, 9T, 9W, 9X, and 9Y. The South Goose Hunting Area also includes: that part of WMU 8G lying south and west of a continuous line extending along the New York State Thruway from Crittenden-Murrays Corners Road (near the Erie-Genesee County line) to Exit 48 in Batavia, then south along State Route 98 to State Route 20; that part of WMU 3G lying in Putnam County; and that part of WMU 3S lying north of Interstate Route 95.

Now there, isn’t that perfectly clear? The D.E.C. couldn’t make their waterfowl regulations any more confusing if they were trying to. You need a team of lawyers to figure this stuff out. I guess I can’t badmouth them too badly, they are allowing this March Canada goose season, and most states in the country do not.

If you want to try and figure out the boundaries go to

It recently dawned on me that it does you readers of the paper absolutely no good to put a link in this column. It’s not like you are going to type these long web addresses into your computer or phone. If you are reading this online, you can copy and paste the web address and that helps. But in the future I will include the link and then explain what to Google.

Hopefully, in the future, the D.E.C. will consider opening the entire western half of the state for a March Canada goose season. I am sure we have just as many geese here as the southern area that the state has open now.

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