Migration pattern will bring thousands of these birds to Finger Lakes area in March

Last spring I was fortunate to witness a spectacle of unbelievable proportions. While sitting in my vehicle at the Deep Run swimming area parking lot on Canandaigua Lake, I was able to observe a flock of snow geese the number of which defied estimation. 

There might have been 10 to 20,000 of these white birds resting on the water. But that estimate could well have been more than 40,000 geese. The overall flock was just too extensive to guesstimate. 

I then drove over to Seneca Lake, stopping my car along the railroad tracks on a hill just west of that lake. And there, below me, was another flock of snow geese the number of which was impossible to even estimate. Suffice it to say that, during my 27-year career as a Federal Game Warden, I have never witnessed any congregation of snow geese that was anywhere near as extensive as either of the flocks I had just observed.

That is why the following notice does not in any way surprise me. The Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that hunters should have a generous and productive snow goose hunting season later this winter and early spring. The season actually began on Oct. 1, 2016, and will continue non-stop until April 15, 2017. That is one long season.

Bag limits are also generous. Each hunter can take 25 snow geese (only) per day, and the possession limit, the number of total birds any person is allowed to possess at any one time, has been suspended entirely. That is literally a legal “throw-back” to the era of the old market gunning years. 

Why is this still happening? There are just too many of these birds for the habitat in which they breed and winter in to sustain. In the 1960’s there was an estimated population of 50,000 snows in the entire Eastern flyway. Today, the flyway population estimates exceed one and a half million “light” or “white” geese, other terms applied to these light-colored geese.

In order to attempt to prevent a catastrophic event of starvation and habitat destruction, something must be done. Sport hunting offers the best available alternative. And greatly increasing the daily bag limits, combined with a relaxation of certain other important regulations, is the best way to encourage hunters to take as many of these birds here in New York as they possibly can.

The original problem observed by biologists was the degradation of the fragile far-northern tundra where these geese breed and rear their young. But now there is extensive documentation of similar habitat destruction on their wintering grounds, the equally fragile salt marshes along the East Coast.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has tried many different approaches to remedy this problem. In the past, all migratory game bird hunting had to end no later than March 10, one of the tenets of an international treaty. But several years ago the regulations were changed to encourage an increased harvest for control purposes. That is why hunters can now hunt these birds well into April.

Most of the white geese along the East Coast migrate through N.Y. on their way north.  The largest majority will pass through between March 1 and April 15.  If the geese stick to established patterns, then the Finger Lakes Region will play host to around 500,000 of these birds for much of that period, which means the hunting potential could not be better for area hunters.

Under N.Y. regulations, any person who is a lawful hunter can hunt these geese. Every person must register with the Harvest Information Program (“HIP”) and get a confirmation number, which is free and done with one phone call. They must also have proof of a valid, signed duck stamp in possession while hunting.  

Now, here is the kicker. Hunters can legally use an electronic game caller and recordings of snow geese while hunting, which virtually guarantees they will have lots of geese coming into their rigs. Adding in a couple of motorized “motion” decoys will almost certainly increase the number of decoying birds. 

And since the “decoys” need be nothing more then lots of squares of white rags, that part is also cheap. Also, shotguns can be unplugged, and can even have magazine extensions, but non-toxic shot must still be used for all goose hunting.

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The urban-minded (liberal) Democrats, who now are in total control of the Assembly and  virtual control of the State Senate in the NY state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, have once again declared war on all law-abiding gun owners.  

They have done so by both the legislation that has been introduced and the people who have been put in charge of the most important committees, liberals one and all.  So if you own any guns or want to purchase one, brace yourself.

One attack, introduced in past sessions and expected to be reintroduced again this year, is aimed at law abiding gun dealers. It is an effort to drive all of them out of business. The bill would require every gun seller to have a form of insurance that is not even sold or available. If it were to somehow become available, the premiums would probably be unaffordable.

The infamous NY SAFE Act has reared its ugly head once again. One of its requirements requires the five-year expiration and renewal of all pistol licenses. Despite the state’s solemn promise that, once a pistol permit was granted, it would remain in force without restriction for the life of the owner, the SAFE Act now requires that every permit holder renew his or her permit every five years, beginning in 2018. And criminals are unaffected by this tripe.

What happens if someone fails to renew his or her permit in a timely fashion (by January, 2018)?  He or she becomes an instant criminal and all of his or her guns (not just handguns) would be subject to immediate seizure and forfeiture to the state without any Constitutional due process.  

And he or she would enter into the criminal justice system for a period of time even though he or she did nothing wrong.

I find it somewhat depressing that we as Americans living in New York have the absolute right to keep and bear arms, and yet our liberal state government is allowed to treat that right as if it were a privilege that can be granted (for a fee, of course) or denied to any law abiding citizen.  

So all I can say is welcome to the Socialist State of New York, Komrades.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoors Columnist. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet.net.