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The area has received a bumper crop of snow in the last month in more ways than one.
Snow geese have descended on the Mississippi River corridor in record numbers. Deep snows on the western side of the state have forced a large number of geese that usually fly the migration corridor in that area to divert east and they have joined with the birds normally using this flyway. Eastern Missouri from the Mississippi / Missouri River confluence north is dotted with flocks of snow, blue, and white-fronted geese in numbers rarely seen here.
“We will likely continue to have large numbers of geese until the weather allows the northward migration back to the breeding grounds to continue,” said Conservation Agent Tim McDaniel. “This has made for some exceptional wildlife viewing.”
A drive along Hwy. 79 through Lincoln and St. Charles counties right now is almost guaranteed to treat spectators to clouds of white geese funneling into fields. Unfortunately it has also caused no small amount of grief for area farmers trying to raise a winter wheat crop.
When several thousand geese descend on a wheat field they can virtually destroy that crop in a matter of days. The relief for those farmers’ lies in the fact the light goose conservation order is currently open. This is a federally mandated season running from Feb. 1 through April 30.
This relief was implemented 15-years-ago to help control the burgeoning light goose populations. During the conservation order hunters may take Snow, Blue and Ross’s geese. The blue goose is actually a snow goose with a morphed color phase, giving them a bluish gray body and white head. The Ross’s goose is a species colored similarly to the snow goose but distinctly smaller.
The conservation order is more liberal than regular waterfowl seasons, allowing hunters to shoot from 30-minutes before sunrise to 30-minutes after sunset, use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Also there is no bag limit and only one permit required for this season.
All hunters age 16 and older (including landowners) must have the conservation order permit. It is available from permit vendors or the MDC website for $5 for residents and $40 for non-residents. Also hunters are still required to use non-toxic shot and retrieve all geese they shoot. “Beware there are many waterfowl in the area that are not legal to harvest during the conservation order, including white-fronted geese, Canada geese and swans,” added McDaniel.