The refuge and its establishment in 1958 is one of the often forgotten wildlife success stories. Originally, a vinyl record player was set atop a hill and played the call sounds of geese to lure the migrating birds to the refuge.
The geese responded, and eventually the refuge became famous as the goose hunting destination for hunters inMinnesota.
Back in the day, hunters hid behind telephone poles and almost lined up shoulder-to-shoulder for pass shooting opportunities.
Early management efforts focused on quantity and safety. An “index” or quota was established to prevent the over-harvest of the Eastern Prairie Population of geese using the refuge.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources developed the state blinds that still ring the refuge, and instituted a registration system and daily lotteries to award them to the crowds of hunters that gathered in an old barn before sun up each day of the season.
The hunt remains controlled, but the emphasis today is evolving from being focused on quantity to ‘’quality.’’
The goose migration has changed. In former years, the birds filled the refuge in larger numbers and stayed for longer periods of time. They were almost exclusively EPP geese. Juveniles in the flock encountered their first hunters here.
Today the birds arrive later, don’t stay as long, and the young birds are usually gun wary.
And today, there’s a much greater mix of giant Canada geese.
The smaller EPP geese have spread out their migration, and are no longer as dependent on the refuge, or as vulnerable.
Goose hunters now have great opportunities all over the state. The most successful enjoy the sport for the challenge it is. Calling the birds, luring them with decoy presentations, concealment and the strategy of location are all part of it.
With fewer hunters and less worry about pressure on the EPP flock, opportunities to make room for these aspects of goose hunting at Lac qui Parle are on the mind of Dave Trauba, manager of the wildlife area with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Today, hunters are virtually tethered to their state blind, a small section of corn cribbing or in the best of cases, a pit blind. He is looking at whether hunters could be allowed to use their own layout blinds, and possibly given a little more elbow room as to where to locate themselves in relation to the decoys they set up.
Hunters are welcome to use decoys, but all have to be carried to the site. Can the rules be revised to accommodate those who want to put out more decoys than they can carry?
Too early to say how things might shape up, but there’s no doubt that the future of the hunt will increasingly focus on the quality of the experience.