LITTLE ROCK – The dove season opener may be the highlight of Labor Day Weekend, but it’s also the first shot of the year for waterfowl hunters to break out the decoys and calls. The statewide early Canada goose season in Arkansas runs from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.
It may be hard to believe, but the subspecies of Canada goose that makes a year-round home in Arkansas was thought extinct in the 1950s. Through re-establishment efforts, an estimated 1.5 million temperate-breeding Canada geese now live throughout the Mississippi Flyway. The reintroduction was so successful that the large birds can sometimes make a nuisance of themselves, particularly in places not open to hunting. Parks, golf courses and fields for sporting events full of lush green grass can attract the birds to areas where they can cause a mess or hinder events. To prevent the population from growing any larger, Arkansas and many other states open an early waterfowl hunting opportunity.
According to Luke Naylor, early Canada goose season may not be pursued by many waterfowl hunters, but does have a fairly decent following.
“Resident Canada geese learn very quickly where they’re safe and will stay put as long as they have food and resting areas available,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator. “Throughout the year, they will venture out to new areas. Just like hunting ducks at the beginning of duck season, the first few days are going to be good, and then the birds will get wise and become much more difficult to hunt. ”
Naylor says the Arkansas River Valley from Fort Smith all the way to the Mississippi River can have good numbers of Canada geese. Hunters interested in pursuing them should spend some time scouting sandbars outside of any city limits to look for the birds. Agricultural fields and sod farms along the river also may be worth looking at, if you can talk to the landowner and ask permission to hunt.
“More geese seem to be hanging out in ponds and lakes across the state,” Naylor said. “These areas and nearby fields may be some of the most predictable places to attempt a hunt.”
The early Canada goose bag limit is five per day, much more than the regular season limit of two per day. Usual waterfowl hunting rules apply to this special hunt. Only nontoxic shot can be used. Shotguns must be plugged so a firearm can hold no more than three rounds. A current Arkansas hunting license is needed. Federal and state waterfowl hunting stamps must be carried by the hunter, and Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration is required. Electronic callers cannot be used.