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Outdoors: Start your hunting engines

By Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors writer 

It is really hard to get the hunting bug when it is 90-plus degrees outside, but “a hunting we will go” starting Sunday Sept. 1.

There are several seasons to open on Sunday. Mourning doves and the early Canada goose season both open on that day.

I used to do a lot of goose hunting during the early season and almost none after it closes a few weeks later. The pheasant season opens then, and that has always been my priority. After a few weeks, closure the regular waterfowl season for almost all other ducks and geese starts up around the end of September. The early season is specifically designed to control the numbers of geese that nest and live in our direct area.

These geese return to their sight of origin every year and without hunting would quickly rise to population levels where crop depredation would become an even bigger problem than it is now. The DNR provides fencing materials and land owner shooting permits to help with the depredation problem, but hunting is the key method of population control and hunters pay for the privilege of doing so.

Each summer adult geese lose their flight feathers and become land lubbers. It is this flightless stage that creates the opportunity for these geese to walk overland to the nearest adjoining bean field and start eating. They can mow off the first 20 rows better than a mower. Some areas need replanting, and this is where the free fence from the DNR comes in.

This season looks to be a lot different than seasons of the past. Geese nest in early spring and if you remember we had one heck of an ice storm last spring. From talking to different DNR personnel and from my own observations, the number of goslings that made it through this nesting effort is very, very low. I think that early season goose hunting will be much more difficult than in prior years. There just seems to be very few geese around Nobles County.

During the early season the daily limits are very liberal as is the possession limit. This is because hunters are only harvesting locally grown geese. Once the normal season starts, the limits are reduced over 60 percent.

The reason for this is that there are many different sub-species of Canada geese. These different sub-species are each managed individually. This makes for difficult management. Why, because geese migrate.

There is a sub-species called the eastern prairie flock. They migrate through our area. There are very few of this particular goose compared to other sub-species, and for years the limits on Canada geese in our area was only one per day in the regular season in order to ensure that southwest Minnesota hunters did not kill too many of this specific type.

In other areas of the state where this species was not present, the daily limit could be as high as three or more geese per day. During the early season the limits can be as high as 5-10 per person per day. These high limits are in areas where populations are much higher than desired, and hunters are used to regain the proper balance.

If you were to be able to see all of these different sub-species of Canada geese all lined up right next to each other, you would have an almost impossible time telling them apart. There is one sub-species which is noticeably smaller and the hunting world calls them peepers by the unique sound they make in flight.

Dove hunting and early season goose hunting often take place on the same types of spots. Recently cut alfalfa and small grain stubble fields are really good places to hunt both opportunities. This makes early scouting and permission requests all that much more important.

I am going to chase doves this weekend and into Monday of Labor Day. If anyone wants to participate this weekend, you will need an umbrella and some bug repellent. It is going to be hot and humid.

After a few frosts, the bugs will subside making this effort more enjoyable but for the hunter who has waited all year for the hunting season. Any day of hunting is a totally good day regardless of heat and bugs, compared to sitting on the sidelines.

Pay very special attention to the dogs this weekend if you plan on taking one along. These are very dangerous times for dogs and I will keep mine leashed unless I cannot find the bird myself. Use them when needed but be very careful.

Have a safe and successful start to your 2013 hunting season.