It's all things goose. You can't turn around without spying something goose related. From park benches with concrete geese on each end to concrete goose chairs to an outside bathroom sporting Canada goose artwork, you know you are in Minnesota's goose capital at Middle River in the beautiful northwestern part of the state. Even the weekly newspaper is affectionately named The Honker.
The moose population was once as high as 400 animals on the refuge and surrounding area, but the population crashed in the mid 1990s. The lowest numbers occurred during the winter of 2007 2008.
Of course, goose hunting is a huge part of the three day festival, and I was able to tag along for a hunt during this year's events, held Sept. 28 30. Our guide, Jordon Holm, was pitching dirt around a layout blind placed in a shallow pit in a worked wheat field when we arrived at the hunting field at o dark thirty. Sporadic rain drops bounced off decoys as we worked to properly place them around the pits. Following a spectacular lightning show, rain started in earnest as we reclined in our blinds. The rain eventually slowed and stopped as dawn broke over the field and goose honks echoed over the prairie.
Sandhill cranes also populate the area and stage at Agassiz during migration. Hoping to take advantage of a crane flyover during goose hunting, we also had crane decoys set up. Cranes skirted the edges of our setup but came no closer.
Northwest Minnesota is well known for its famous migration of Canada geese and wide variety of duck species. The area is also home to moose, bear, deer and elk.
Canada geese flew in to inspect the decoys, and some met their demise. There was never a dull moment as hundreds of geese were constantly flying. The area truly is the goose capital of the North.
Blasting through a manmade channel in the refuge's interior on an airboat offered the chance to see habitat in a unique way. Speeding through the rushes and sliding over mud flats allowed us to view thousands of the refuge's feathered inhabitants.
Agassiz is home to over 294 species of birds, including sandhill cranes. A breeding population lives there, and in late summer cranes congregate there from around northwest Minnesota.
Founded in 1905, Middle River is a little city with a population of 319. Known as the Capital of the North, Middle River holds an annual Goose Fest, sponsored by the Community Club, that draws over 3,000 people to celebrate the community's early and ongoing hunting heritage.
During the festival, area shooters often take advantage of the nearby Thief River Trap Club, which is located in an extremely beautiful setting. The club's of the Goose Sporting Clays Challenge Shoot humbled shooters before another fun adventure, an airboat ride through the interior of the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge.
3,000 cranes are here in the fall and are mostly gone by late October, said Knutsen. many hunters took advantage of the season when it opened four years ago and we have a core group of people who hunt them, we have seen a decline of crane license sales. Cranes are wary, tough to hunt and most are shot during goose hunting. Gray wolves call the refuge home, too. According to Discount Baby Canada Goose Snow Bunting Blue Topaz New Zealand information gathered by biologists, two packs of gray wolves cohabitate the refuge, with seven wolves in each pack.
Oh yes, there are thousands of geese in area fields, too.
The Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, located near the community, has over 54,000 acres available for public use, and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, consisting of 61,000 acres, is also nearby.
Headquartering in neighboring Thief River Falls, there is a lot to see and do in the area, all wildlife related. The local Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts an annual media tour to familiarize folks with all the area has to offer.
the winter, we do track and scat surveys and obtain an estimated minimum pack size, Knutsen said.
All things goose at the 39th Annual Goose Fest
use our airboat to access areas for work on the refuge, monitor water quality work or to survey, said Gregg Knutsen, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge biologist. only other time we use the airboat is for Goose Festival folks. Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge is located in Minnesota's northwestern aspen parkland transitional zone between the coniferous forest, tallgrass prairie and the prairie pothole region of the United States. The landscape was formed by a glacier that encompassed an area larger than the size of the present day five Great Lakes. Meltwaters from the receding glacier created Lake Agassiz over 10,000 years ago, resulting in a very flat terrain that only varies in elevation by 1 to 2 feet per mile.