A prime opportunity for hunters is coming up, and it probably will draw few participants, unfortunately.
A special Canada goose season begins Thursday, Sept. 1, and runs through Thursday, Sept. 15. The hunt is statewide, not just in the areas where the big birds have become so numerous they are nuisances. And the daily limit is five, more generous than the regular season two-a-day.
Goose hunting in Arkansas may be near the category of little-known activities like curling or bocce or four-man bobsledding. Most Arkansas duck hunters look down their noses at the suggestion of going after geese. The firmly ingrained notion of "if it ain’t got a green head, it ain’t worth hunting" is prevalent — but this is changing a little.
Snow geese are so numerous in some parts of the state than a small number of hunters have geared up to pursue them. When they do find success, and it’s not easy, they often have trouble giving away the birds they take.
Canada geese are different in several aspects.
First, these Canada geese are year-round Arkansas residents. They are the giant Canada goose subspecies. They are the result of a successful re-introduction program that began 30 years ago.
Several decades back, Canada geese disappeared from Arkansas in the colder months. This concerned some folks, and a restoration plan that was amazing developed. Some northern cities had non-migrating Canada geese, the giant subspecies, that had become problems, especially in parks and on golf courses. Somebody had the idea of filching eggs from goose nests in those cities and bringing them to Arkansas for hatching.
It worked. It worked so well that in just four or five years, Canada geese were up and down the Arkansas River valley from Fort Smith to Little Rock. Clusters developed in other places like Millwood Lake and Bella Vista.
But Arkansas has city parks and golf courses and fertilized lawns just like they do up north. One of the earlier goose hangouts was the campus of Arkansas Tech University at Russellville, and students soon learned to be careful where they walked.
Limited hunting of the Canada geese began in the late 1980s then was expanded. Still, the birds grew in number. They have kept growing, and this led to the establishment of the special 15-day early September hunt last year by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission with approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The rationale is that migrating Canada geese of any subspecies won’t be in Arkansas this early, so the hunting will only be for those resident birds that have become too numerous in spots.
An experienced duck hunter can shift gears and go after Canada geese with just a little preparation — if he or she so chooses.
The enormous decoy spreads used by snow goose hunters aren’t needed. Canada geese don’t assemble in such large numbers. A few Canada goose decoys and some work with a call imitating their notes are the basic necessities.
A place to hunt is needed, too. Do some scouting, find where the geese are — outside of towns — and ask permission to hunt. Consider the islands in the Arkansas River. These are property of the state and generally are open to anyone for hunting.
Think like a goose. On the islands, the birds probably won’t be hanging out on the channel side where barge tows and bass boats and ski rigs run up and down. The birds will likely be on the back sides near quiet water, maybe around little inlets and coves.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.