West Fargo

It’s hard to believe it was more than 20 some years ago, when I was working as a game warden, that the first spring light goose conservation order in North Dakota arrived.

Time flies.

The purpose then — and remains today — is to reduce light goose (snow goose) populations during spring as the birds migrate north to their nesting grounds.

While the opening of the first season was unique, I don't remember much about it. From a game warden's perspective, that's usually a good sign. Often, the most memorable events involve violations or complaints.

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I do remember seeing massive waves of geese in eastern North Dakota, where the birds were trying to consume enough food during their long migration to prepare for spring nesting.

North Dakota’s spring light goose conservation order opened Saturday, Feb. 20, and continues through Sunday, May 9.

Residents must have a valid current season 2020-21 (valid through March 31) or 2021-22 (required April 1) combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. Resident youth under age 16 only need the general game and habitat license. The 2021-22 license is available for purchase beginning Monday, March 15.

Nonresidents need a 2021 spring light goose conservation order license. The cost is $50 and is valid statewide. Nonresidents who hunt in the spring remain eligible to buy a fall season license. The spring license does not count against the 14-day fall waterfowl hunting season regulation.

In addition, nonresident hunters younger than 16 can purchase a license at the resident fee if their state has youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota.

A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents.

Resident and nonresident licenses are available on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, or by calling (800) 406-6409.

Hunters must register annually with the Harvest Information Program before hunting in each state. The HIP number can be obtained online, or by calling (888) 634-4798. The HIP number obtained for North Dakota’s spring conservation order is also valid for North Dakota’s fall hunting season.

The spring conservation order is only open to light geese – snows, blues and Ross’s geese. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The conservation order is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.

To maintain good landowner relations, hunters should seek permission before hunting on private lands or attempting any off-road travel during the spring season. Sprouted winter wheat is considered an unharvested crop. Therefore, hunting or off-road travel in winter wheat is not legal without landowner permission.

For more information on regulations, refer to the 2021 Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations and the North Dakota 2020-21 Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.