The next segment of Missouri waterfowl hunting is the early Canada goose season which runs from Oct. 5-13 and is statewide. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset and the limit is three Canada geese and/or Brant geese.

As September winds down, much of the hunting talk is focused on archery season (started Sept. 15), dove season (started Sept. 1) or perhaps fall turkey season (opens Oct. 1); but amongst these seasons is a hunting opportunity that will give waterfowl hunters a chance to put some goose meat on the table.

The next segment of Missouri waterfowl hunting is the early Canada goose season which runs from Oct. 5-13 and is statewide. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset and the limit is three Canada geese and/or Brant geese. (Brants are geese that are most common in the western and eastern U.S., but show up on occasion in the Midwest and resemble Canada geese.) Like other waterfowl, Canada geese and Brants must be hunted with non-toxic shot.

Like all of Missouri’s waterfowl seasons, this brief hunting season is based upon a migration pattern but, unlike the state’s other duck and goose seasons, the target of the early Canada goose season isn’t birds from the northern parts of the continent flying through the state to regions further south; its target is resident birds that have flown north to molt and are returning home.

This process, called a “molt migration,” is something that occurs with Canada goose populations in a number of states throughout the central and eastern U.S. Molting is the process through which birds replace their feathers. Canada geese become flightless during their molt. Not all Canada geese travel to go through their molting periods – it tends to be younger birds that fly north to molt in summer. The reason for this is that most Canada geese don’t breed until they’re three or four years old. Thus, it’s easier for young adult birds to migrate to other areas to go through their molt because they aren’t watching over goslings. (They either haven’t mated yet or perhaps, due to inexperience, their first nesting failed). Conversely, it’s more necessary that older, more mature geese stay put because they have offspring to look after.

Missouri isn’t the only state to have an early Canada goose season. A number of other states have these early goose hunting seasons, as well. The early season is one of the tools being used to keep the Canada goose population under control.

Canada goose numbers are abundant today in Missouri and elsewhere, but that hasn’t always been the case. By the early 1960s, over-hunting and habitat destruction had severely reduced numbers of these large birds (they have wingspans up to six feet) in many parts of the central U.S. That’s hard to believe today. Canada goose numbers have rebounded to the point where they are common sights for many Ozarkers – and problem-causers for some homeowners and farmers.

Some people’s goose problems are yards and parks filled with goose droppings. Others have to deal with geese eating their garden plants or crops. Still other problems arise in the spring when these large birds aggressively defend their nests.

The early Canada goose season may not solve goose problems in specific urban areas, but it is a tool that’s helping to keep the overall goose population – and problems caused by that population – under control. In addition to city parks and golf courses, these birds are also becoming increasingly common sights (and causing the same types of problems) in rural grain fields and large ponds.

Urban residents won’t be able to hunt geese inside the city limits, but there are steps they can take to solve their goose problems, too. If you’re feeding geese, stop it. It may be a common practice to throw bread or other food to geese, but when you do that, you’re setting yourself up for trouble and they’re not helping the geese much, either. The junk food the birds get through these hand-outs doesn’t provide good nutrition. This is evidenced by the wing deformities commonly found on geese in areas where they’re fed regularly by humans. Because they have trouble flying, many geese with deformed wings eventually fall prey to dogs or other predators.

Hunting, harassment or eliminating attractants (food, habitat, etc.) doesn’t always remedy nuisance goose problems. In some instances, individuals or businesses may be able to use more drastic control methods after obtaining the proper permits from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. For advice on nuisance goose problems, call your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or contact person. Canada geese information can also be found at www.missouriconservation.org

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.