Seeing double at Lac qui Parle

WATSON -- "It's unreal, the people that are calling about it,'' said Jon Dahlvang, DJ's Sporting Goods, Montevideo. It's been that way ever since last week's announcement that the one-goose limit -- in place since 1969 -- was being replaced by a ...

WATSON -- "It's unreal, the people that are calling about it,'' said Jon Dahlvang, DJ's Sporting Goods, Montevideo.

It's been that way ever since last week's announcement that the one-goose limit -- in place since 1969 -- was being replaced by a two-bird limit in the Lac qui Parle goose hunting zone this autumn. That puts the area on an even keel with the rest of the state, which has a two-goose limit.

The change at Lac qui Parle has generated lots of excitement amongst goose hunters in the state, as well as with the business owners who cater to them.

Dahlvang said it has raised hopes that the Lac qui Parle goose hunt will attract more hunters from the metropolitan counties and beyond.

"Maybe it will be like it was 15 to 20 years ago,'' he said.


Dahlvang was referring to the heyday of goose hunting at the Lac qui Parle refuge, when long lines of camouflaged goose hunters waited in the pre-dawn darkness for breakfast tables at cafes in communities like Milan and Montevideo.

Dave Trauba, manager of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Lac qui Parle refuge, said his phone has been ringing with inquiries from hunters across the state excited about the two-bird limit also.

Trauba said the two-bird limit will usher in other changes that are sure to be popular with hunters:

n Although it has yet to be announced, the long-standing six shell limit in the state blinds surrounding the refuge will be ended. He said a 12-shell limit is likely to be instituted in its place.

n Also, hunters in the state blinds will no longer be limited to one visit to a blind per day. Hunters will now be able to rent one blind in the morning, and return for the 2 o'clock drawing at the refuge contact station and go out to a new blind for the late afternoon evening return of the geese.

Trauba said the change will mean that a goose hunter could shoot a goose in the morning, go pheasant hunting and return to a new blind for a chance at a second goose.

n The 2006 season at Lac qui Parle will run for 40 days, and start later to better coincide with the trend towards a delayed goose migration. The season will open Oct. 19 (Education Minnesota weekend) and continue through Nov. 27.

The change to a two-goose limit reflects a new approach towards managing the Eastern Prairie Population subspecies of geese that use the Lac qui Parle refuge as a migration resting and feeding stop. In the past, the state regulated the Lac qui Parle season to maintain a base population of single and breeding adults of 140,000 to 150,000 birds on the EPP nesting grounds in northern Manitoba, according to Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist with the DNR.


The proliferation of giant Canada geese, and a greater dispersal of EPP geese throughout their range, has led to a change in strategy.

Now, the federal, state and provincial authorities who manage the EPP geese will not implement regulatory changes unless the two-year, running average of single and adult breeding geese falls to 75,000 birds, according to Cordts.

Even if there were a one-year bust in production on the breeding grounds, no regulatory changes would be implemented, he told the Tribune.

Canadian and U.S. wildlife specialists will continue the annual nesting count of EPP birds to monitor their population. Cordts said Minnesota will also keep a close eye on how the two-bird limit affects the harvest of EPP birds at Lac qui Parle.

Everyone believes that the two-bird limit will mean a greater take of birds, but no one is predicting by how much. Trauba pointed out that no one has a greater stake in keeping the harvest at a sustainable level than the western Minnesota hunters who rely on the EPP geese for the majority of their goose hunting.

While hunters are seeing and taking more giant Canada geese at Lac qui Parle as well, the smaller, EPP geese still comprise the greatest share of birds using the refuge.

The Lac qui Parle refuge usually hosts somewhere between 4,000 to 5,000 hunters each year. Trauba said even in recent years, the refuge has continued to see a significant proportion of hunters from the metropolitan area.

Like everyone else, he's expecting to see more hunters this year. But the refuge manager is the first to point out that it won't be just geese attracting the hunters. Roadside counts taken last week show that western Minnesota is poised to enjoy a record pheasant harvest this year.


This year has also seen very good waterfowl nesting success on western Minnesota waters. That, combined with drier conditions in the Dakotas, offers the prospect of improved waterfowl hunting prospects in the area, at least for local ducks, according to the wildlife manager.

Put all those ingredients together, and it's not hard to see why the talk is so animated at places like DJ's Sporting Goods these days. Said Dahlvang: "It should be a tremendous fall. Absolutely tremendous.''

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