As Minnesota's Canada goose population continues to grow, the hunting for these bit birds gets better and better. Yet for a hunter new to the sport, goose hunting can be harder than skiing in Iowa.
It's not difficult finding geese or even learning how to hunt them. Geese are abundant throughout much of Minnesota, and goose hunting information in the form of videos, books and magazine articles is easily available. The biggest problem most would-be goose hunters have is finding a specific place to hunt. But even though securing a goose hunting spot can be tough, it is not as impossible as some hunters might think, according to Kevin Lines, DNR Farmland Wildlife Program leader.
The first step to finding a place to goose hunt is to rent or buy a goose hunting book or video from a library or sporting goods store, Lines said. "Before you look for the birds, you need to know about basic goose biology, behavior and habitat."
Once you've digested the biology basics, it's time to get out a map and find a place to hunt. Lines suggests newcomers try one of the controlled hunts at Lac Qui Parle, Roseau or Thief Lake wildlife management areas. These DNR-sponsored hunts are controlled by daily lotteries that allow a certain number of hunters to shoot from permanent pits or blinds.
"A beginner can learn plenty about goose shooting techniques, hunting etiquette and strategy from watching other hunters at these wildlife areas," Lines says.
Pick up a copy of the DNR hunting handbook and waterfowl regulations synopsis at your local sporting goods store, bait shop, or DNR office to find out more about the controlled hunts.
If you're ready to hunt on your own, Lines says, you'll need to find public or private land that geese are using. Canada geese nest throughout much of southern and western Minnesota and when migrating can be found almost anywhere there is water and nearby cropland. That means you can find them almost anywhere. To start narrowing your focus, you might plan a goose hunt around your duck or pheasant hunts where you already know the territory.
"After you've picked a general area to hunt, call the local wildlife manager or conservation officer a few weeks before you plan to hunt and ask where large numbers of geese are flying or where geese are causing crop damage," Lines suggests. "The DNR officials can usually suggest a few lakes or wetlands where geese are most abundant." Now comes the hard part: scouting. "A week before your hunt, head out to the lakes or wetlands and, at dawn, watch the birds fly to nearby crop fields, where they often feed on picked corn or newly planted wheat," says Lines. "Once you've pinpointed fields where geese feed, ask the landowner if you can hunt there." Lines said.
Some farmers are eager to rid their fields of geese and will be happy to let you do the ridding. Others, having endured "slob" hunters in the past, might begrudge you permission. If that's the case, politely say "thank you" and ask elsewhere.
"If you keep trying and ask politely, you can usually find landowners who will allow you the privilege of hunting on their property," Lines advises.
Public land is another option if the geese are feeding or resting in wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, or other state or federal hunting areas. Public hunting land in Minnesota is shown on Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM). The DNR produces these maps for most areas of the state. They show all county, state, and federal lands, including wildlife management areas, state and federal forests, national wildlife refuges, and waterfowl production areas. Also shown are lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as state parks and other public camping areas.