Drought In Canada Mean Fewer Geese And Ducks In Wyoming

There are fewer geese and ducks in Wyoming because of drought in northern waterfowl breeding grounds in Canada.

Mark Heinz

August 28, 20234 min read

Even though Wyoming as a whole isn’t really known for bird hunting, Goshen County has some exceptional goose hunting and hosts the annual 2Shot Goose Hunt.
Even though Wyoming as a whole isn’t really known for bird hunting, Goshen County has some exceptional goose hunting and hosts the annual 2Shot Goose Hunt. (Photo Courtesy 2Shot Goose Hunt)

Widespread outbreaks of bird flu didn’t dampen the fun during Torrington’s 2Shot Goose Hunt last year, and this year’s decline in goose population driven by drought in Canada won’t spoil it either, said an event promoter.

“We’ve had a ton of applications. I think that after COVID, people are more interested in doing outdoors sorts of things,” one of the hunt’s organizers, Wheaton Kremke of Torrington, told Cowboy State Daily.

“I had a guy from Virginia email me this week to make sure his application for the hunt had made it in,” Kremke added.

The application period closes this week for the event, scheduled for Dec. 8-9 in Torrington. It’s expected to be fully booked, he said.

Droughts Cause Bird Population Loss

Nationwide, there has been some concern that this year’s waterfowl season could be lackluster. While areas of the United States, including Wyoming, have been exceptionally wet this year, parts of Canada have been languishing in drought.

Flatlands in Canada, dotted with potholes and small ponds, are a major breeding ground for ducks and geese. American hunters catch those birds as they migrate south for the winter.

Many of those breeding grounds dried up this spring and summer, causing goose and duck numbers to plummet, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In some places, the Canada goose population is down by as much as 42%, according to the report. In the Rocky Mountain region, it had dipped by about 25%.

More Concerned About The Weather

Goshen County is a hot spot for goose hunting, mostly for Canada geese or “honkers,” as hunters like to call them.

Some snow geese also come through, usually in the late winter or spring, but hunting opportunities for them are limited, Kremke said.

The 2Shot hunt is all about honkers.

Goshen County has some resident ducks and geese that spend the summer there and might stick around for early hunting seasons, he said.

But the county’s waterfowl hunting lifeblood comes from gaggles of migrating birds passing through. And those huge flocks won’t get moving south until the weather and Canada forces them to, Kremke said.

“We worry about the weather more than anything. We need it to start pushing the birds down,” he said. “There’s been years that the geese didn’t really start coming through until almost the end of the season.”

Why Two Shots?

On the whole, Wyoming isn’t really known for its bird hunting. The Cowboy State is widely regarded as a big game hunter’s paradise, while the Dakotas and Nebraska are the big names in bird hunting.

Even so, Goshen County is “sort of a hidden gem” because of its location along a major migratory flyway, as well as just the type of prime agricultural ground to tempt in hungry flocks of traveling geese, Kremke said.

The 2Shot hunt started in 1987 and has consistently drawn hunters from all over.

“Last year, we had 10 states and one Canadian province represented among the hunting teams,” Kremke said.

When the event first began, the daily bag limit was two geese per hunter.

“The idea was that each hunter should be able to fill his bag limit with two shots,” Kremke said.

 And even though the bag limit of geese has since been raised to five, the two shots for two geese tradition has held.

Luck Of The Draw

During the first season, 20 teams of two hunters each participated. That’s since grown to roughly 50 teams for the 2Shot hunt.

During a banquet the evening before the hunt, participants draw for the location of the blinds they’ll shoot from.

“It really is luck of the draw for the blinds. You could in up in the best blind pit in the county, or one of the worst pits,” he said.

Proceeds from the event go to promote travel and tourism in Goshen County.

“It’s a great way to get people to Goshen County and highlight this area,” Kremke said.

Some of the money has also gone toward cooperative projects with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to help build blinds that people can use on public land in Gosen County.

And even people who come from states that are better known for waterfowl hunting are pleasantly surprised by the quality of goose hunting there, he said.

“I almost hate to say it out loud how good the goose hunting is here, because I don’t want too many people coming here, he said.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter