Canada geese seem to be everywhere in West Virginia.
Division of Natural Resources workers began stocking them in 1977, and it didn’t take long for the big buff-colored birds to become established. They became established so well that, by the 1990s, DNR officials established a special early season to try to keep their numbers under control.
That season will begin one-half hour before sunrise on Sept. 1. With a generous five-bird-per-day bag limit, hunters will have an opportunity to put a lot of meat in the freezer before the season ends at sunset on Sept. 12.
The only difficult part, said DNR migratory project leader Mike Peters, can be finding a place to hunt.
“There are a lot of places where geese congregate that just aren’t open to hunting,” he said. “City and state parks, for example. Office complexes. Hospital grounds. In fact, just about any place that has a pond on the grounds or nearby.”
Peters said the early season “has effectively managed the portion of the goose population susceptible to hunting” — that is, the segment of the population not protected by no-hunting or no-trespassing laws.
“Waterfowl hunters enjoy getting out and hunting during the early season,” he said. “I know I do!”
In states with farms that produce corn or grain crops, most goose hunting takes place on or near freshly mown or freshly harvested fields. West Virginia doesn’t have many grain farms, so many Mountain State waterfowl enthusiasts have to seek alternate options.
“I usually hunt the little embayments you find along big rivers,” Peters said. “Those are pretty much the same areas where I duck hunt. If I can find an agricultural location where they’re cutting hay or some crop, I’ll definitely hunt there.”
Peters said “jump-shooting” — walking up on a flock and flushing the birds — is an effective way to hunt ducks, but it isn’t particularly effective for geese.
“I prefer ‘pass shooting,’” he said. “I locate a flock and try to station myself where I know they’ll pass through.”
Geese are creatures of habit. They tend to stick to a daily routine — flying to their feeding grounds at a certain time, flying to a resting area at a certain time, etc.
“If you see a flock passing overhead at the same time every day, you can take advantage of that by finding out where they came from and where they’re heading,” Peters said. “If you can find a place to hunt somewhere along that route, you can have some success.”
Hunting waterfowl requires some special licensing. In addition to a current state hunting license, hunters also need to purchase a Federal Migratory Waterfowl stamp (“duck stamp”) and must obtain a free (but required) federal Harvest Information Program (“HIP”) card.
Shooting hours for geese begin one-half hour before sunrise and end at sunset.