Harvest tally ’03 shows geese up, ducks down

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Harvest tally ’03 shows geese up, ducks down

By Tim Spielman
Associate Editor
Lansing — Goose hunters in Michigan took advantage of a longer goose season last year, boosting harvest numbers by nearly 90 percent, according to data recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The preliminary report shows hunters in the state harvested about 192,000 geese during the 2003-04 season, up from about 102,000 during the 2002-03 season.
The increase probably had to do with a regular goose hunting season that was more than twice as long as the previous two regular seasons, said Barbara Lercel, acting wetlands and waterfowl specialist for the Michigan DNR.
Last year’s regular season for Mississippi Valley Population Canada geese was 55 days, she said. The previous two years the seasons were 21 and 17 days, respectively.
“The MVP population (all of Michigan except the Saginaw Bay area and southeastern Michigan) is what drives the interior goose harvest,” she said.
An early September season that targets resident giant Canada geese also has added to the goose harvest, not only in Michigan, but several other Mississippi Flyway States .
Hunters in Minnesota again had an impressive goose kill; the 286,800 harvested in the state made up nearly 20 percent of the entire flyway goose harvest. Louisiana goose hunters killed about 172,000 geese, while those in Arkansas harvested about 163,000.
“The thing that really jumps out at me is the Canada goose harvest and how important it’s become in some states,” said Steve Wilds, USFWS Region 3 Division of Migratory Birds chief. “There are many states that didn’t really have much of a goose harvest before, but are harvesting a lot of them now.”
The Mississippi Flyway’s goose harvest increased 24 percent to a total of more than 1.5 million geese.
But it’s possible the goose harvest could take a leap in the opposite direction this year. Lercel said MVP goose production suffered this year because of a late spring on the species’ breeding grounds in the Hudson Bay area.
“We’re definitely going to see a reduction in the number of days (allowed for hunting),” she said.
Fewer days of hunting and lower quotas are what regular season goose hunters should expect, adds Dave Luukkonen, research biologist at the Rose Lake Research Center. However, he said poor MVP production should have no effect on the early September goose hunt.
Ducks
The Michigan duck harvest decreased by about 12 percent, according to USFWS preliminary numbers. Duck hunters harvested about 367,100 ducks last fall, compared to about 416,600 the previous year.
Louisiana hunters rebounded from a poor 2002-03 duck hunting season by killing 1.3 million ducks, tops in the Mississippi Flyway. Arkansas hunters took about 1.1 million ducks, while Minnesota came in third in the fly way with about 844,000 ducks harvested.
Overall, hunters in the flyway harvested an estimated 6.8 million ducks, up about 13 percent.
In Michigan, the top bird in the bag was the mallard, at about 50 percent. Next came green-winged teal (about 11 percent of the bag), wood ducks (about 9 percent), and buffleheads (about 6.5 percent). The USFWS estimates the state had about 50,000 active duck hunters.
For this year, duck breeding and pond counts have been a mixed bag, in Michigan. In Michigan, the mallard breeding count was up this spring, Luukkonen said. However, “We’re still well below where we were in the late ’90s,” he said.
 
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