September 1 is the official start of the 2022-23 hunting season. Both the geese and the squirrel open this coming Thursday. That is where the similarity of the two species ends. Squirrels are basically a woodland creature and geese move around a lot during their lives. Geese can be found in water, fields, yards, and even on golf courses. Virtually anywhere there are geese one can find them near or on the water.
I’m crazy about goose hunting. There’s something about how receptive these birds are to my goose calls. Plus, hanging out with friends and family in a freshly cut field (actually hunting and exploring new ground) makes chasing geese a great way to spend September.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love spring turkey, deer, and duck hunting as much as anyone else, but goose hunting has been at the top of the list for some time.
Canada Geese have a bad reputation among many waterfowl hunters, either “they are not good for eating” either “These are big, dumb park birds that anyone can successfully hunt.” I feel like I’ve heard them all.
Anyone can throw a robot duck into a swamp and shoot the ducks, or so they say. Heck, even without the slightest bit of skill in a duck call, you don’t even need a duck call. There’s nothing like watching a flock of large Canada goose bank sharply toward your lure when it catches your eye with a goose flag. Or when you hit them the perfect note on your goose call and watch them drop their webbed feet on your decoy roll.
I can’t stress this enough: scouting really is key to success during goose season. During the early season, the geese are nowhere near the numbers they are later in the season when roosts are filled by migratory birds.
Find your birds in their roosts. Birds during the early season hardly ever jump as they will later in the season.
Once you find the chicken coop, locate a food source in the vicinity. Not only will limited grain be harvested during the early season, Canada geese won’t fly far to feed either. Save the cornfields for later in the season.
Get permission and do exactly what the birds in the fields do. Stand on fresh droppings, in the same place where you last saw them. Let them leave the field naturally and return to the water to rest before settling down. You can often drive the ducks out of a spot and make them come back, but the geese rarely will.
While calling the geese during the latter part of the season can be very critical, this is not the case during the early season. You must remember that many of these birds have never seen a decoy or heard a goose call before. Less is often more, during the beginning of the season.
Use small groups of decoys to mimic family groups. This also seems to help prevent birds from landing too soon. Early in the season Canada Geese are still in their family groups and often do not mingle with other flocks of birds until the weather begins to cool off.
The regular/post season can be a very difficult and frustrating time of year for many. Here are some things we’ve learned over time that might help you “limit outside”.
Cool becomes cold, which soon becomes icy. Lakes, ponds and marshes are frozen and Canada Geese keep small pockets of water open and use rivers and moving water to perch.
The fields are often covered in snow, and the birds have had months to figure out the areas to avoid and become safe areas. The foolish young birds have become wise or have been removed from their flocks.
This is when we feel like it’s really fun and every decision you make really matters.
Just like at the beginning of the season, scouting is as important as ever. At this point in the season, hunting on private land will drastically increase your chances. Most likely, any public land that was being used by the geese has already been hunted and burned.
During the late season, birds have had weeks or months to find safe areas and fields. This can make it difficult to obtain a permit, as most of the time there is a reason why the birds are safe in the fields they are in.
Don’t be discouraged, keep exploring and you’ll have that honey hole for goose hunting by the end of the season.
We use a variety of lures for full body lures at the end of the season. Usually we go very big or very small. Most people run around the same number of lures: 50-75. The key is to mix up your spread, keep the birds guessing. This can be done by designing your layout and the number of lures you place.
As the season has progressed, we have had good luck mixing some Mallard decoys into our range. Making sure to keep them in your group, but not far from the goose decoys. This works well just as the local water begins to freeze.
The end of the season is also my favorite time to hunt geese on the water. Usually, once Canada Geese start migrating south, they become pretty predictable. Migrating geese love a good water spot to rest, which makes the action intense and heavy if it lasts.
Lures (style, brand, position, and finish) are a completely different part of goose hunting. I try to keep it simple, so much so that while exploring I look at the birds I am hunting and try to mimic them with the same goose or duck decoy look.
Keeping it simple doesn’t necessarily mean cheap when buying lures. In recent years we have mainly moved to full flock lures. While they are more expensive, we have found that when transported correctly and stored in the right environment, they can last a long time. Of course, when it comes to birds that drop their landing gear, there’s nothing better than an extended flock decoy to finish them off. Take care guys, enjoy your season.
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