Limits are curious things for humans

Limits have a curious relationship with the human condition, even to catching fish or hunting geese.

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How much does the success of a goose hunting trip depend on a hunter returning to the pit with a downed bird three times? File photo of a goose hunter retrieving the first bird of a hunt.

Dale Bowman

Say it’s winter, you’re catching perch at a South Side slip or Navy Pier and you have 13 keepers in a couple of hours. I’ll bet you’re like me and will keep plugging to catch those final two for a limit.

Limits are curious things for humans.

Capt. Bob Poteshman of Confusion Charters has given me fishing reports for 20 years. He despises the term ‘‘limit catches.’’ His point is an angler who had a good day — say, caught a big laker, a steelhead and a pair of eater coho — might think less of it because he didn’t boat that fifth fish for a limit.

Illinois goose hunters will be testing limits this regular season, when the daily bag goes from two geese to three. Canada goose season opened last Saturday in the north zone and opens Saturday in the central zone.

I am very curious to see what it does to overall harvest. My guess is very little, but we have limited data to go on. The last time Illinois had a three-goose limit during the regular season was in 2000-01.

‘‘The first goose in the bag made up 50.6 percent of the harvest, the second goose 32 percent and the third goose 17.4 percent,’’ emailed Randy Smith, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ wetland-wildlife program manager.

Wisconsin went to a three-goose daily bag last season, so officials there already have limited data available. Wisconsin and Illinois were the last two states in the Mississippi Flyway not to have a three-goose limit.

‘‘Historically, Wisconsin and Illinois have been more restrictive on our Canada goose bag limits and harvest because we shot high percentages of Interior Nesting Canada Geese (formerly MVP),’’ emailed Taylor Finger, a migratory game-bird ecologist for the Wisconsin DNR.

Times change. Finger emailed that, in 1996, 80 percent of Wisconsin’s harvest was on the Interior Nesting Canada Geese and only 20 percent on local Giants. By 2006, that had shifted to 60 percent/40 percent. In 2017, local Giants (55 percent) topped the harvest for the first time.

Wisconsin looked at historic early-season data (five-goose limit) and found that only one in five shot three geese compared with those bagging two. So they anticipated about a 20 percent increase in harvest.

Instead, there was a drop in harvest from 135,776 in 2017 (two-goose limit) to 128,553 in 2018 (three-goose limit). Finger said that likely was because of poor nesting conditions in Wisconsin in 2018.

There are limits on limits.


In the end, for the success of the day, how much does it matter if it is 14 perch or the full limit of 15? (And how many will count the perch in my sink?)

Dale Bowman

Illinois hunting

Bowhunters continue to harvest deer at a pace ahead of the 2018-19 season. Archery harvest was 13,948 through Sunday, compared with 11,351 at the same period in 2018.

• On opening weekend, waterfowlers at William Powers State Recreation Area bagged seven geese and 10 ducks. At Heidecke Lake, 24 boats reported 29 ducks.

Stray cast

A suggestion for the Bears after their next loss: Better to be grunting like an about-to-be-released channel catfish than to be silent as one filleted.

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