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Thursday, October 31, 2019
Modoc mule deer herd numbers of concern
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Guides’ thoughts for hunting winter hogs

White geese arriving on time
While the snow and Ross’ (white geese) species hunting season does not open until Nov. 7 for Imperial Valley, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any of these geese being hunted. This past week saw the comp count from the San Jacinto Wildlife Area report that there were 7 snow geese and a single Ross’ goose shot last Wednesday.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Tom Anderson, Wildlife Biologist for the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge down at the Salton Sea, who filed the following report.

HAPPY SNOW GOOSE HUNTER — Good snow goose hunting can produce lots of happy waterfowlers, as witnessed with Hank Osterkamp of San Clemente. This photo was taken when the white goose limit was still at 6 birds, now it’s up to 20 birds a day. The hunt took place on the south end of the Salton Sea. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

“We are starting to see an earlier-than-traditional arrival of white geese at this wildlife refuge. Our first survey indicated over 1,500 white geese here with more arriving daily. The staff was out this past week and today there are over 5,000 white geese on the refuge, with other geese kind of scattered around the southern end of the Salton Sea,” said Anderson.

WON then asked Anderson about the migration pattern.

“This year’s migration of white geese into Imperial Valley (in big numbers) is a tad earlier than normal, but they are coming into the valley in pulses now. Biologically, I don’t know if this untimely arrival is due to good food conditions to the north or the lack of significant freezing temps. All our ponds are flooded and ready for the arrival of both species of white geese but we were a tad late on planting, which probably won’t affect the number of birds this refuge will handle through the winter. Based on information and the big numbers of white geese that used this refuge last year, we are looking at perhaps 35,000 or more white geese showing up again,” stated Anderson.

Anderson went on to add the following, “When we as wildlife biologists talk about pulses, we refer to small flocks of perhaps 50 geese in a group arriving at the same time. There are not huge waves of thousands of birds all arriving at the same time, but there could be three or more small flocks winging into the refuge about the same time. I would think that by the time the full moon phase comes around Nov. 12, most of the white geese will have arrived at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge. (Interesting to note: It was way back in the early ‘70s that this hunter started hunting snow geese around Niland. The limit was three white geese back then and my hunting buddies all enjoyed good success at Wister, the Union Tract and River Ranch. Also often hunted was the Elmore Ranch and that little corner between the national wildlife refuges guided by Danny Moss. When the limit on white geese went to six birds, hunting success seemed to slow and now that the daily limit of snow and Ross’ geese is up to 20 birds a day, I have only heard of one super shoot down in the Imperial Valley this past season. The national wildlife refuge is doing its job in keeping geese happy, watered and well fed and thus, less hunting opportunities are occurring.)

Moving up a little to the north, WON checked in with Scott Sewell, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor II for the Wister Wildlife Area, where most of the goose hunting takes place by unattached hunters. Wister also manages hunting on the Union Tract, which is part of the national refuge on adjoining properties.

“We are seeing more white geese arriving daily. We estimate that there are perhaps some 500 mixed white geese on the refuge with likely more to arrive on next month’s full moon phase. The Y14 field has been planted and irrigated and we expect there to be enough feed in that non-shooting site to hold geese on the refuge for a period of time. Right now, there are fields ready to hunt snow geese come opening day for Imperial Valley on Nov. 7,” said Sewell.

Surprisingly, hunters at the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge in south eastern Riverside County have been shooting a few white geese along with pretty good comp counts of puddle ducks and divers.

The south end of the Salton Sea is not the only wildlife area that offers up snow goose hunting. Moving to the east, the Cibola National Wildlife Area has been attracting more and more white geese every winter. This past season, there were perhaps a couple of thousand white geese that used the national refuge, but offered up very little hunting opportunities for those hunting the Farm Unit, Island Unit or Hart Marsh Mine part of the refuge.

The latest update on new geese showing up in Cibola Valley comes by way of Rick Francis, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor I based out of Blythe.

“Finally, this past week about 150 snow geese show up in Cibola Valley along with a handful of honkers. That cold front that moved down from Canada this past week will surely change the migration of geese into this valley. As for Canada geese, it might be a while before they start hitting Farm Unit 2 that has just been planted and it is expected to be irrigated soon,” said Francis.

This hunting editor has spent time in the pit blinds of the Cibola Sportsman’s Club’s South Ranch over the years. Every morning you could see flocks of hundreds of snow geese moving high over the valley floor as they headed for food on the national refuge. Most of those flights of white geese were flying much higher than Canada geese, offering up little in the way of even a pass shot these geese. When strong winds come in from the southwest or a winter storm makes it down into Cibola Valley — mixed with the arrival of new geese in the valley — is when small flocks can often be decoyed into hunting fields on the South Ranch.

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