The 2019 snow goose season can be described in many ways – awful, lousy, poor, and rough all come to mind. My favorite description and the one I feel is the most accurate is rare. It’s rare that we have a season this bad. In nineteen years of guiding hunters, we have only had two that were this tough. The first was in 2010. We have coined that “the forgotten year”. I guess we will have to add an “s” to the word year now.
The 2019 light goose season saw an exceptionally poor hatch combined with a polar vortex. Arkansas has had two 100-year floods in the last two seasons. Iowa had an extremely cold and snowy March. These conditions are a one-two punch to snow goose hunters. There were occasionally some good days. Unfortunately, none of them for us. However, I did have some friends that had an exceptional day here and there. Most of the time, these big days involved weather like a thick fog, heavy lightning, and blizzards. These conditions reduce the bird’s ability to see and make them more susceptible.
Our total harvest this year was 931 snow geese. This is a HUGE drop from 2018 when we harvested 6,425 snow geese. Of the birds that our hunters shot 3 had bands on their legs. They wore them 17, 9, & 3 years. All were adults when banded so their true age is unknown. A part of our reduced harvest was that we hunted 80% fewer days in Iowa verses 2018. If we hunt that many fewer days, we will understandably harvest fewer birds. While that is one aspect, by far the biggest factor was 2018 had one of the best hatches ever with good weather and 2019 had one of the worst hatches ever with bad weather. There are slow days, weeks, and years in this snow goose game, but there are more average and good years than there are bad.
On to 2020 – it will undoubtedly be a better year. Arkansas is changing the dates of their duck season which in turn changes our snow goose season start date. The season is proposed to open Feb 1. In the past, duck season could only legally last until the last Sunday in January. President Trump signed a new bill that allowed that to extend to the last day of January. Arkansas hunters like their ducks, so they are taking advantage of those later dates. This new bill also allows the youth duck hunt to run later. In 2020 they are proposing that to be Feb 8 instead of the normal first Saturday in February.
Iowa now has a 5-day non-resident hunting license. This is good news because most of our hunters are non-residents and they hunt for 3 or 4 days. It will save these hunters $50 on license fees combined with our $50 discounted Iowa hunt price, your all-in price to hunt Iowa with us is approximately $610 for 3 or 4 days of hunting. This includes the hunt cost, license fees, and sales tax making them very affordable and competitively priced with outfitters running hunts in Missouri and South Dakota during the same timeframe.
I want to thank all of you that hunted with us in 2019. We look forward to seeing you in 2020 under some much better conditions. Have a great summer and fall.