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Texas Sportsman
‘Second-Season’ Geese
Goose action galore still lies ahead for Lone Star waterfowlers, some of whom think that the gunning yet to come is the year’s best. So how is Round 2 of Texas’ goose season shaping up? (January 2007)

Goose guide Shane Chesson checks out a specklebelly brought to him by his dog Remy. With the ever-abundant snows wising up to the ways of hunters, these and other geese are playing a bigger role in filling the bags of Texas hunters.
Photo by Chester Moore Jr.

Texas is covered with geese.

By this point in the season, the geese that are going to migrate down are already here; the stage is set for the rest of the season. From here on out the birds will grow increasingly meticulous as to where they’ll feed, their vigilant nature amplified by intense hunting pressure, particularly along the Coastal Bend and Upper Coast regions.

In January I’ve seen geese move in on a field one day, feed until the next and then seemingly disappear from the area. It’s a predicament you can combat only with good scouting -- and a bit of luck.

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Hunters in Texas are now face other predicaments: More NO HUNTING signs go up all the time, and the acquisition of wetlands by the federal government presents new challenges, especially with regard to access. Land once open to hunting in some areas is now a sanctuary for birds already difficult to hunt.

Let’s take a look at what hunters can expect for the rest of the 2007 goose season, and give you some tips for scoring on these wary waterfowl.

The outlook for geese in Texas is promising, as nesting was solid for most species of waterfowl. “Overall, this season should be a little more productive than last year,” said Dr. Bruce Batt, chief biologist for Ducks Unlimited. “The stage was set last summer and fall, when most areas had at least fair precipitation. That left ponds in better condition at freeze-up, and also meant there was better-than-normal residual nesting cover on most upland habitats.

“The increased populations, along with timely precipitation this spring and summer, should help assure good conditions for a strong nesting effort and good wetland conditions for brood rearing.”

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, biologists on Southampton Island -- a key nesting area for snow geese -- reported that spring snowmelt was only about one week earlier than in recent years.

An excerpt from the officials’ report: “Nesting there appeared to be three to four days earlier than in 2005, and two weeks earlier than in 2004. Spring nesting at Cape Henrietta Maria and La Perouse Bay was earlier than average for a second consecutive year and biologists expect production there to be average or better. A fall flight similar to or larger than that of 2005 is expected.”

For the white-fronted geese (often called “specklebellies”), nesting near Queen Maud Gulf in 2006 was about a week earlier than average, and nesting conditions from the Rasmussen Lowlands to Kugluktuk appeared to be favorable.

The report continued: “Production of white-fronted geese throughout most of their range, with the exception of the western Canadian mainland, is expected to be above average. A fall flight lower than that of last year is expected.”

Fewer young specklebellies will be available to hunters in the field this year. Less experienced and so easier to call in and decoy, young geese make up the majority of the bag in seasons during which they constitute a large proportion of the fall flight -- so waterfowlers may have to work for their specklebellies this year. Whitefronts are currently at their lowest population levels since 1990, continuing a trend of 5 percent annual reductions over the last decade.

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