Updated: Feb 28
First off, what is a “Light Goose Conservation Hunt”?
During the mid 1990’s, it was brought to the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the large growth in Light Goose population had caused damage to arctic and sub-arctic nesting grounds. The over-abundance of these particular species started to cause destruction to the land in breeding areas across the US and Canada. This destruction has hindered breeding populations of other species. In an effort to combat this destruction, the Light Goose Conservation Order was federally mandated in 1999. The Conservation Order offered an extended season on light geese and outlined a specific set of guidelines to harvest these birds during the extended season – spanning from September to May in most of the country.
Secondly, what the heck is a “Light Goose”?
The Light Goose Conservation order identifies three different species of goose hunters can target during this season. They are:
1. Greater Snow Goose
2. Lesser Snow Goose
3. Ross’ Goose
Canada Geese, and White-Fronted (Speckle-bellied) Geese are not fair game during this season.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are the top 6 reasons to go on a Light Goose Hunt.
#1 Extended Season and No Bag Limit
Don’t put that shotgun away yet. After the normal waterfowl season has come and gone, the Light Goose Conservation season is just getting underway. The season normally lasts from February until the end of May, depending on where you are located. This is a great way for waterfowlers to continue to get after birds. And because the aim of this conservation order is to eliminate a large portion of the populations of these species’, there is no daily bird limit. You heard that right – no bag limit. It’s not uncommon for groups of hunters to shoot 50+ birds in a single day.
#2 You Can Try Out Different Tactics
Per the conservation order, hunters can use tactics that are otherwise illegal during the regular waterfowl season to hunt these light geese. First off, unplug that shotgun. During the conservation order, you can remove the plug limiting the rounds on tour shotgun, and load your gun up with as many rounds as it can hold, and fire away at flocks of light geese descending on your spread.
Another change is that hunters are allowed to use electronic calls. Using speakers with a recording of goose calls is a great tactic to get large numbers of birds locked in on your spread, and it works really, really well. Although you may end up regretting this as you might never get the piercing squawks from continuing to ring in your ears long after you have gone home. Additionally, during the conservation season, shooting hours are extended until 30 minutes after sunset – allowing for hunters to take birds in the dusky hours of the evening.
#3 The Chance to Witness the “White Tornado”
If you are familiar with hunting Snow Geese, then you already know what I’m talking about. Staring out of the blind seeing the morning sunlight creep over the trees and hundreds of light geese appear, flying on the horizon, is second only to seeing a large group commit to your spread. These birds will often approach your spread hundreds of feet up, and slowly circle as they get lower and lower. If you get a big group to commit, this approach resembles a tornado of geese circling your spread. The anticipation and excitement during this time is exhilarating.
#4 Make a Difference
At the end of the day the purpose of this season is to help in the conservation of all North American Waterfowl species. So, by participating in the Light Goose Conservation order, hunters can play their part in the conservation of waterfowl. Long have the lines between hunting and conservation been debated and battled. But by harvesting these snow geese you are undoubtedly assisting the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service achieve their goal of protecting our fragile waterfowl species and their nesting grounds.
#5 Fill the Freezer
This should be of no shock to anyone, but with no bag limit, hunters have a real opportunity to keep that freezer stocked with goose meat, enough for the entire offseason. Although generally not a prized as their Canada cousin, the light geese still make for good table fare. And brines can be used for those who aren’t too keen on the “wilder” taste. And when all else fails – wrap em’ in bacon. MeatEater makes a “Snow Goose Fit for a King”.
#6 Experience Something New
This is the last reason we list here but the #1 reason in my book. Part of the passion and drive for most waterfowl hunters, in my opinion, is putting yourself into a situation of adventure and the unknown. Getting up at the crack of dawn and tossing decoys in the swamp, or field, or river/pond, puts you in a situation to experience something new and spectacular. New experiences are fulfilling and what help us grow and continue to learn as waterfowl hunters and humans.
Our Light Goose Hunting Experience
In February of 2022, the Outdoor Stamps team set off from our home base in Richmond, Virginia to Northern Mississippi, to partake in the Light Goose Conservation Season. Not knowing what we were getting into, and not ready to call the quits on waterfowl season just yet, we booked a last-minute trip with an Outfitter south of Memphis, TN.
All in all, this was an absolute banger of a time. We hunted a half day from a pit blind nestled in a field. The Outfitter, Weaver’s Waterfowl, was top notch and put in the work to make sure we got on birds. The spread these guys put up was over 2,000 decoys – from flying spinners, and windsocks to full body and wing flappers.
Shortly after sunrise we began to see massive flocks of these birds clouding the skies in the distance. Before too long, these flocks were directly on top of us and circling down. By noon, we had bagged 36 birds, and crossed three new waterfowl species off of our checklist – the Greater Snow, Lesser Snow, and Ross’s Geese. And for a cherry on top of an already amazing day, one of the birds was banded. Flying over 3,000 miles from Nuiqsut, Alaska to its final resting place in the farmlands of Mississippi.
So, get out there and get you some of these Light Geese. Whether it’s a new experience or an old passion – these honkers are a blast to get after.
North American Waterfowl Checklist
Weaver’s Waterfowl – Snow Goose Hunting Outfitter
Outdoor Stamps 2022 Light Goose Hunt Highlights
MeatEater Snow Goose Recipe Video
Ducks Unlimited – “Tips to Bag More Snow Geese”
Ducks Unlimited – “Light Goose Conservation Order”