Time to warm up those duck and goose calls


On Sept. 11, the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum is sponsoring the Susquehanna Flats Classic duck and goose calling championship. The event takes place at the Decoy Museum Grounds and begins with a free calling seminar that takes off at 9 a.m.

Contestants can begin signing up at 9 a.m., and the first competition will be the Junior Contest, beginning at 9:45 a.m. There's no entry fee for the junior division (youngsters age 15 or under) and each caller will be given 30 seconds to demonstrate his technique. Winning participants will awarded medals and prizes.

Novice Division duck and goose callers, individuals of any age who have not placed first, second or third in any competitive calling event, pay a $10 entry fee to participate in Stuttgart Style calling. This particular division is expected to draw an enormous number of local waterfowl hunters.

Senior Division duck and goose callers, also using Stuttgart Style, must pay a $10 entry fee and are permitted up to 90 seconds to demonstrate their calling routine. Both plaques and cash prizes will be awarded to winners.

There are two team-calling divisions with $20 and $30 entry fees for their respective 2-man and 3-man teams. Again, participants will be permitted up to 90 seconds to demonstrate their expertise and team plaques will be awarded to the winners of each division.

When you consider the fact that the regular goose season is several months away, the topic of waterfowl calling may seem somewhat premature.

However, Maryland is one of many East Coast states now plagued with huge numbers of giant, non-migratory geese, birds that rarely migrate more than five miles from where they were born.

This particular species of Canada goose was first introduced to Maryland sometime during the mid 1930s, an era when the skies over Harford and Cecil County turned black with millions of migrating waterfowl. The mid-west imports were not brought to the Maryland to supplement the state's goose population, but zTC instead, used as live decoys to lure wary, adult, migratory geese within shotgun range.

In some areas, especially locations that didn't hold large populations of migratory birds, the giants were taken to newly harvested corn fields where they were tethered to stakes close to blind sites. This was done at least an hour before sunrise. At first light, the hunters would hunker down in their blinds and begin calling. In the 1930s, a hunter would usually bag his limit of geese and be back at the hunting lodge eating breakfast by 9 a.m..

When the season ended, the non-migratory geese were usually released to fend for themselves. The practice of using live decoys, however, was outlawed sometime in the 1950s, thus several hundred birds were liberated during the 20 year period they were used as decoys.

Most of these geese were eventually killed by both hunters and )) natural predators, but a small number took refuge at locations where hunting is not permitted.

Small flocks nested at golf course ponds, community ponds, city owned reservoirs and in city parks. The only natural predators were house cats, which were hardly a match for a mother goose protecting her offspring.

A significant number of these 13- to 15-pound geese can be seen daily at Bynum Run, a small park located within the town limits of Bel Air. They've become somewhat tame, begging for handouts from people who take their lunch breaks at picnic benches next to the park's pond. You'll also see geese leading their young across the fairways of the county's two golf courses, feeding on the succulent grasses as they make their way toward the ponds for a morning dip.

Greens keepers and golfers alike consider them nothing more than a nuisance, especially when a flock spends the night on a green, depositing enormous quantities of goose droppings prior to their morning flight. Sunrise golfers encounter a great deal of difficulty when putting or just walking on a green previously used by a flock of geese. As one avid golfer put it "It's just like walking through a mine field."

According to Josh Sandt, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, there are approximately /^ 20,000 non-migratory geese currently inhabiting the state's western shore and nearly half that amount on the Eastern Shore. However, this is only an estimate based on surveys conducted at several hunting sites. Sandt says because these birds inhabit areas not normally open to hunting, and natural predators are relatively scarce, their population is virtually exploding.

The proposed non-migratory goose hunting season will likely open Sept. 6 and close Sept. 15. However, the official dates have not yet been published. During the period, the DNR hopes hunters will bag at least 500 geese. Hunters will be permitted a three-bird daily bag limit, with a six-bird possession limit.

In addition to their normal hunting license, and state and federal waterfowl stamps, hunters must also obtain a Hunter Information Program (HIP) permit. The permit is required for persons hunting all species of migratory birds, including: dove, woodcock, rail, snipe, duck, goose and coot. The permits will be available at all DNR regional service centers and license vendors throughout the state.

For additional information on the Susquehanna Flats Classic duck and goose calling championship, call Dave Hagen at (410) 692-2860. For information on the new HIP permit, call Ron Helinski, DNR's director of Hunter Publicity, at (410) 974-3195.

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