It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

The snow goose season, that is.

Actually, snow geese are lumped under the “light goose” classification, and while the statewide season closed February 15, the Spring Light Goose Conservation Order hunting season commenced February 17 and will extend through half-hour after sunset April 4. This hunt’s expressed purpose in the Atlantic Flyway is to help put the brakes on the light goose population, estimated at 500,000 birds, that is wreaking havoc on staging, breeding and wintering grounds, and also ravaging agricultural crops such as winter wheat. Sod fields are especially savored by these loquacious ‘n voracious wildfowl. So far, these hunts have, during the last decade, have put a dent in the count that was  at least 100,000 higher. Although things are finally beginning to stabilize, it’s still necessary to cull big numbers in an attempt to keep things on an even keel.

During this season, electronic calls may be used, and unplugged shotguns not holding more than seven shells are allowed. What’s more, there is no bag limit and hunting hours are half-hour before sunrise to half-hour after sunset.

The birds are thick up in Warren County near Merrill Creek Reservoir (the Musconetcong Wildlife Management Area’s (WMA) fields are sometimes crowded with them as are neighboring farm fields), and are found in even greater numbers along the Delaware Bay shorelines of Cumberland County. Here, it’s the Mad Horse Creek, Dix and New Sweden WMAs that offer good opportunities.

There’s always a catch or two, though, and for these geese, it’s a matter of intense scouting to find the fields they are frequenting and the flight paths they are traveling, and also having at, a bare minimum of 150-200 full size decoys to get their attention. These birds are beyond gregarious and travel in flocks in the hundreds to thousands. More eyes to see decoy spreads and also spy any unnatural movement that will cause them to keep winging over or flaring out of shotgun range.

Still, it can be a phenomenal hunt. It’s recommended to enlist the services of an outfitter specializing in this type of waterfowling. They have the lands, decoys, blinds and calling expertise to exponentially up the odds of putting geese on the ground. These include Muddy Creek Outfitters (www.muddycreekoutfitters.com), and Reedy Creek Outfitters (www.rconj.com).

To hunt the Conservation Order season, you’ll need a 2020 firearm license, federal and state waterfowl stamps, a HIP number, and the $2 permit. This is available at www.njfishandwildife.com

Photo by Tom P

Turkey Permit Applications

The spring turkey hunting season permit application ends at 11:59pm this Saturday. After that, it will be a matter of waiting until 10am March 30 when the unclaimed and leftover permits go on sale at license agents or via the Division of Fish & Wildlife via the website listed above.

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