Dakota Country Magazine October 2016 Edition - Page 12

Jason Mitchell The return of Canada geese O “Who could have ever imagined back when you could only shoot one Canada goose and five snow geese that there would come a time in the fall that you could shoot five, even eight, Canada geese and 20 snow geese? Unbelievable when you look where we came from.” An amazing American comeback story On our television program, we recently edited a documentary style story of the giant Canada goose restoration effort in the upper Midwest for our hunting program called Passion for the Hunt. That conservation story has always fascinated me. I can remember vividly what a big event harvesting a giant Canada goose was in the 1980s. We’d harvest a few lesser Canada geese or “cacklers” over snow goose spreads, but whether the Canada geese were greater or lesser, the limit was one bird. Shooting a big Canada goose was a grand event. In fact even seeing a giant Canada goose was a big deal. I can remember some of the early restoration efforts in North Dakota around places like the Lake Audubon, Lake Darling and Lake Zahl National Wildlife refuges. Seeing big geese around the refuges was Page 12, Dakota Country, October 2016 a big deal, but seeing geese anywhere away from the refuges was even more noteworthy. I used to spend a lot of time as a kid playing around sloughs, and I’ll never forget the time I saw some giant Canada geese sitting on a slough. I was so excited. I was wearing a red jacket and I wanted to get closer to them to get a better look, so I turned my jacket inside out and crawled through cold spring mud for a hundred yards just so I could watch them. I was ecstatic and ran home to tell everyone I could about these geese I saw. As goose broods began to show up on some of the larger sloughs away from the refuges, that was also an exciting moment I can still remember the first time I ever saw a pair of geese with goslings on some particular sloughs. As the story goes, most of the waterfowl community once be- lieved that the giant Canada was extinct, gone like the passenger pigeon. In the early 1900’s shooting any Canada goose in the Midwest was a pretty monumental occasion. Near Rochester, Minnesota on Silver Lake, a small population of wintering Canada geese were found. The Minn. DNR weighed and banded some of these birds and was shocked at the weights of some of the geese. The Minn. DNR contacted Harold Hanson from Illinois, considered the leading biologist and world’s authority of Canada geese at the time. Hanson traveled to Minnesota and confirmed that the small flock of geese in Rochester was indeed a small remnant population of the Giant Canada. Biologists later realized that these birds were nesting in the Interlakes Region of southern Manitoba. What I also found www.dakotacountrymagazine.com