Friday, September 28, 2012
Pymatuning Controlled Goose Hunt Semicentennial
HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Game Commission is celebrating the semicentennial of its "Controlled Hunt" for Canada geese at the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area in Crawford County this fall. To mark this half-century of "invitation-only" goose hunting, the agency will award a commemorative Canada goose leg band to every person - and his or her guests - selected in the drawing recently held to select participants.
Each drawn hunter may select up to three guests to join him or her in a blind in the Controlled Hunting Area at Pymatuning. Being selected is considered by many a wonderful opportunity to take part in an historic hunt, one that draws hunters from hundreds of miles away annually.
"When these hunts started 50 years ago in Crawford County, there were very few places Pennsylvanians could hunt Canada geese," noted Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "The Chesapeake was still a great place to hunt Canadas, but it also was expensive for most Pennsylvanians to hunt there. So when the Pymatuning controlled hunt started, there was immediate and widespread interest from our hunters statewide.
"Back then, it presented an opportunity similar to what our elk hunt offers today: a chance for a dream hunt without leaving Pennsylvania. Hunter interest was fantastic, because it represented a chance to hunt in a blind at Pymatuning, which is one of the Commonwealth's great waterfowl destinations. But it also quickly became an honor just being selected in the drawing."
That Canadas took to the Pymatuning Reservoir, which was built in the early 1930s, was no accident. The Game Commission leased wetland areas to manage a refuge for waterfowl. In 1936, the agency obtained, pinioned (wing-clipped) and released into the refuge 30 Canada geese. The birds seemed to take to the place, based upon observations. The agency added to Pymatuning's resident Canada goose population in the early 1950s, and in 1960, it created the "Pymatuning Goose Management Area." This effort dovetailed with the ongoing efforts to bolster Pymatuning's goose population.
The Pymatuning Goose Management Area included a 625-acre propagation area, including a "captive flock pond" and plenty of safe feeding and loafing areas for geese. It also had more than 1,000 acres of cropland to provide waterfowl food. In 1962, the Game Commission began controlled goose hunting at Pymatuning.
In the late 1940s, it was estimated the peak Canada goose population at Pymatuning was about 5,000 geese and hunters took between 500 and 1,000 annually. By the early 1960s, the peak population was 11,000 to 12,000 and hunters were taking 2,000 to 2,500. In 1962, the first year a controlled hunt was held at Pymatuning, 1,296 geese were taken. Through the 1970s, the annual hunter take in the controlled hunt was 3,000 to 4,000 geese. Through the 1980s and '90s, the average annual harvest was 1,500 to 2,500. Hunters have taken an average of 1,000 annually since 2000.
"The appeal of participating in a Pymatuning controlled Canada goose hunt is still considerable 50 years later," noted Keith Harbaugh, Game Commission Northwest Region director. "It really is a big deal for those selected, especially if they've been entering for years and years. The folks who come to hunt geese are genuinely excited, even if there's a snowstorm heading this way, which happens sometimes way more than we'd like!
"The commemorative bands we're giving to hunters this fall are just the Game Commission's way of saying thanks for helping us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pymatuning's controlled goose hunt. The hunt itself is a product of progressive wildlife management and rewards Pennsylvania's most giving conservationists, hunters. We truly hope they have great hunts this fall and enjoy their commemorative leg bands."
The commemorative bands are made of heavy gauge aluminum - 0.55-inch by 2.5-inch, rolled into a leg band and stamped with the following script, "PA GAME COMMISSION, PYMATUNING WMA, 50 YEARS."
These commemorative leg-bands will not be sold by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. They will be given only to those drawn for the controlled goose hunts at Pymatuning, and their guests. An individual who shows up for a chance at a no-show blind vacated by a drawn hunter also would receive a band. Drawn hunters who fail to attend the waterfowl briefing/or participate the controlled hunt will not receive the commemorative leg band.
"Congratulations, if you've been drawn by the Game Commission for a blind at Pymatuning this fall," Harbaugh said. "If you're going to be a guest of someone who was drawn, that's great, too. If neither of those situations apply to you, there's always a no-show possibility, but please understand that doing so comes with no guarantee."