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Geese overpopulation targeted

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outdoors Mitchell, 57301

Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

South Dakota goose hunters might have some of the loosest rules in a long time for the special August hunt this year.

Hunters would be allowed to use unplugged shotguns -- meaning no limit on the numbers of shells in their guns -- and the daily bag limit would increase to 15, nearly double the current eight birds.

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Shooting hours also would be expanded to one-half hour after sunset and a new area -- that part of Pennington County west of the Cheyenne River -- would be added to the list of 20 eastern counties for the season.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission proposed the changes at its meeting last week in Custer State Park and will hold a public hearing June 3 in Pierre at the next meeting.

The purpose is to provide more relief to farmers and landowners from the rapidly increasing numbers of resident Canada geese in parts of South Dakota.

The 2013 breeding population survey hasn't been conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the 2012 spring population was estimated at 270,000 of the big birds.

The management goal by the state Wildlife Division is 80,000 to 90,000, but the population has been increasing each year.

In addition to crop losses, the geese are exhausting some people's patience in urban centers such as Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

Expanding the bag limit is part of the effort to have hunters kill more of the geese. There were 3,581 licensed hunters for the 2012 season and they reported harvesting 36,757 geese. That was more than 6,000 above the 2011 and 2010 harvests.

A federal waterfowl stamp isn't required for the August hunt, but a state migratory bird certificate is, as is a state small-game or combination license.

The eastern counties where the hunt was open last season will remain open this August under the GF&P proposal.

They include Brookings, Brown, Clark, Codington, Day, Deuel, Hamlin, Hanson, Grant, Kingsbury, Lake, Lincoln, Marshall, McCook, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Roberts, Spink and Union counties.

The proposed season would open Aug. 3 and run through Aug. 31. After Aug. 31, shotgun plugs and federal waterfowl stamps will again be required.

The special spring take ended April 30 and didn't produce great results because of the weather, according to state biologists. They said the total harvest isn't known yet but processors reported about 800 geese had been turned in as part of the donation program for needy families.

Most of the spring geese were taken in southeastern South Dakota because of the difficult conditions in the northeast.

In other action last week, the commission agreed to repeal the $2 discount for winter camping. The effect is expected to be minimal. GF&P reported 665 camping nights from Nov. 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013. Overall there were 270,386 camping nights in 2012.

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