West Virginia‘s hunting seasons get underway with a bang this week. Actually, it will probably be with a series of bangs. The season for mourning dove and the early Canada goose season open on September 1.
Doves are abundant and often draw a large crowd on the first day of the season and a somewhat smaller participation rate on the first weekend. DNR Biologist Steve Wilson says doves are abundant and situating near a crop field with a few nearby perching trees and water source can be ideal for a good day of hunting.
The goose season is opened in the early period for biological reasons. Wilson says it dates back to the 1990’s when the hunting of migratory waterfowl was closed for several years. Biologists made the case of opening the season so early would eliminate the shooting of geese flying south for the winter.
"We’ve got lots of resident birds that need to be harvested to keep their numbers in check," Wilson said. "By hunting in September you’re hunting resident birds before migrant birds arrive in the Atlantic flyway."
Wilson notes the early season will produce harvest results, but not always in the areas where it’s most needed. However, that isn’t necessarily the fault of hunters. Many of those birds are situated in places where they can’t be hunted.
"We keep developing perfect goose habitat all the time," Wilson said. "You put in a golf course or a park and you have this perfect, fertilized, manicured grass. Everybody wants a pond and it’s near houses where nobody can hunt, and presto you have perfect goose habitat."
Although fun to watch for a while, the fun ends when the mess left behind begins to cause problems for park managers or golf course greens keepers.
"They can make a mess, between the droppings and the lost feathers when they’re molting in the spring," Wilson explained. "Occasionally they’ll even get aggressive during nesting time."
"I don’t know that we’ve put a dent in the nuisance problems. We probably haven’t’ had much of an effect on that," Wilson added. "It has helped us to maintain a statewide population that’s pretty stable. Hunters only have access to some areas and the geese pretty soon learn what areas hunters don’t have access to and that’s where they like to hang out."
When shooting starts, geese will put down roots about anywhere they can find a good water source. Wilson says it’s not unusual during the season to see geese in remote mountain areas situated near small watering holes and ponds–well away from the human population.
Goose hunters are reminded there are more regulations than most normal hunts. Hunters need a HIP Card from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the federal migratory waterfowl stamp. Hunters must also use non-toxic shot for goose hunting. Dove hunters must also have the HIP Card, but the other rules are not in effect for dove hunting. The opening day of dove season is actually delayed until noon by tradition.