West Fargo

It is hard to believe it has been more than 20 years (1999) since the first ever spring snow goose conservation order was held. I was working as a game warden when that first-ever season arrived.

The purpose then — and still to this day — is to allow hunters the opportunity to increase harvest on the light goose (snow goose) populations during the spring as the birds migrate toward their nesting grounds in the Canadian Arctic.

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.

I do remember seeing massive waves of geese in eastern North Dakota, where the birds were trying to consume enough food during their migration to prepare them for spring nesting. The countless acres of sheet water that form as snow melts, warm up earlier and provide needed nutrients for their trip.

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As for this year? It’s not easy to predict how the migration will develop, but the season will be open whenever the first white birds arrive, as the order officially started Feb. 22.

Here’s some other things that might be helpful to know as the North Dakota spring light goose conservation order continues on through May 10:

  • Residents must have a valid current season 2019-20 (valid through March 31) or 2020-21 (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 2020-21 license is available for purchase beginning March 15.

  • Nonresidents need a 2020 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.

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

  • Resident and nonresident licenses are available online at 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 prior to 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 for harvest of light geese — snows, blues, and Ross’s. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese.

  • The typical migration pattern of birds flying through eastern North Dakota remains consistent, and with the extreme wet conditions from last fall into this spring, to maintain good landowner relations, hunters should seek permission before hunting on private lands or attempting any off-road travel.

  • Sprouted winter wheat is considered an unharvested crop. Therefore, hunting or off-road travel in winter wheat is not legal without landowner permission.