Rules of the Game: Light Goose Conservation Season - Texas Fish & Game - December 2012 Rules of the Game: Light Goose Conservation Season - December 2012 The Laws and Regulations Governing Hunting and Fishing in Texas Final Installment of Our Year-Long Series By Chester Moore
In 1999, the light goose (snow and Ross) population had skyrocketed to more than five million birds according to officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).
"Snow goose population indices are higher than they have been since population records have been kept and evidence suggests that large breeding populations are spreading to previously untouched sections of the Hudson Bay coastline."
"Even anecdotal historical records do not indicate that the population has ever been higher. The unprecedented numbers are not only a problem for the snow geese themselves but also for other wildlife and plants that share their habitats."
Service officials said these high population levels, parts of the fragile tundra habitats where snow geese traditionally nest were being seriously degraded and/or destroyed. In addition, complaints about geese damaging agricultural crops are on the rise in states and provinces that lie between the nesting grounds and the wintering grounds.
That year they implemented the first-ever "Light Goose Conservation Order" season that liberalized regulations in hopes of reducing snow goose numbers and stabilizing habitat. This order has been renewed annually with this seasons running Jan. 24-March 24, 2013 in the eastern zone and Feb. 4-March 24, 2013 in the western zone.
During the Light Goose Conservation Order special season, the following rules shall be effect for the taking of light geese:
• The use of electronic calls is legal.
• Unplugged shotguns holding more than three shells are legal.
• No daily bag or possession limits.
• Shooting hours are one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset.
• Light Geese shall include only Snow (including blue phase) and Ross geese.
In addition since March 5, 2012, it has been unlawful to take light geese in Refugio, Calhoun, and Aransas counties on the seaward side of a line beginning at the Gulf of Mexico at Port OConner (including Pelican Island), thence northwest along State Highway 185, thence southwest along State Highway 35 to Aransas Pass, thence southeast along State Highway 361 to the Port Aransas Channel, thence east along the Corpus Christi Channel, thence southeast along the Aransas Channel to the Gulf of Mexico. This closure does not apply to the Guadalupe Delta Wildlife Management Area according to officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
While conservation measures have not diminished overpopulation of light geese, numbers in Texas have dropped due to habitat and hunting preasure factors. Photo: canstock
Despite the misinformation spread by some individuals, the same regulations to all waterfowl hunting apply for the conservation order except where noted above.
For example, you cannot put or leave snow geese or any other waterfowl at any place or in the custody of another person unless you tag the birds with your signature, address, number of birds identified by species, and the date you killed them. Even if you have the birds separated, you must have the birds properly documented if they are in your possession.
Baiting is also off limits.
The following is directly from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"You cannot hunt waterfowl by the aid of baiting or on or over any baited area where you know or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. Baiting is the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could lure or attract waterfowl to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them."
"A baited area is any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or feed could serve as a lure or attraction for waterfowl. A baited area remains off limits to hunting for 10 days after all salt, grain, or other feed has been completely removed. This rule recognizes that waterfowl will still be attracted to the same area even after the bait is gone."
Service officials say you can hunt waterfowl in fields of unharvested standing crops. You can also hunt over standing crops that have been flooded. You can flood fields after crops are harvested and use these areas for waterfowl hunting.
"The presence of seed or grain in an agricultural area rules out waterfowl hunting unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, normal agricultural harvesting, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice."
"These activities must be conducted in accordance with recommendations of the State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Cooperative Extension Service)."
"The Fish and Wildlife Service does not make a distinction between agricultural fields planted with the intent to harvest a crop and those planted without such intent so long as the planting is in accordance with recommendations from the Cooperative Extension Service."
"Normal agricultural plantings do not involve the placement of seeds in piles or other heavy concentrations. Relevant factors include recommended planting dates, proper seed distribution, seed bed preparation, application rate, and seed viability."
This is important to keep in mind because some hunters are prone to think anything goes in the conservation order while nothing could be farther from the truth.
So, has this "conservation measure" worked?
It seems to have stalled any catastrophic die-off but the numbers have not dipped very much. Last years count according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials was 4,021,200 which was 27 percent higher than the 2011 index.
As with all waterfowl in Texas, hunting baited ground is a no-no. Photo: Chester Moore
Last year Texas biologists counted just over 250,000 light geese in Texas, which is shockingly low in comparison to the million plus birds that used the Lone Star State as a wintering ground in the 1970s.
The birds are wintering in other states where there is more suitable habitat (rice, etc.) and less hunting pressure. Times are changing for goose hunters in Texas and we will do our best to keep you informed not only on the regulations but also the population.