In the 1960s, Canada Geese were a special encounter, and it was the talk of the town if anyone was lucky enough to catch one. Today, Canada Geese are ubiquitous, found in every state except Hawaii, and can be hunted from August through March. But some states are so much better than others, especially for the independent goose hunter, so I spoke to two of the best goose hunters I know about their favorite states for DIY goose hunting trips.
It’s hard to deny how great North Dakota is for goose hunting. The resident goose driving season begins in August, the regular season runs through the end of December, and the state has geese from start to finish.
Max Barta, a North Dakota native, explained what makes North Dakota a good goose state.
“From the beginning of the season to the last day, you can be on the birds,” Max said. “The opportunity is always there, most of the time you’re not waiting for the migration to pick up speed, and there are a lot of resident geese. Early in the season, there are geese in cattle ponds across the state. At the end of the season, when everything else freezes over, the geese show up on the Missouri River.”
But it’s not just that there are a lot of geese. It is also that they are accessible.
“Another advantage of North Dakota goose hunting is the unpublished rule. If the land isn’t posted, it’s fair game to hunt,” Max said. “It’s still good practice to talk to the farmer, but it makes it a lot easier to get into the goose fields.”
Scott Threinen, owner of Molt Gear and world champion goose caller, has decades of experience traveling to hunt goose. Wisconsin is near the top of his list.
“Wisconsin is a sleeper state,” Threinen said. “It has a lot of resident geese, but it also has a mix. It has inland geese that molt in October, then large geese that arrive later in the year.”
In addition to having geese all season long, they are scattered and available throughout the Badger State.
“Another great thing about Wisconsin is that there are tons of dairy farmers still cutting September corn silage, which is getting harder and harder to find,” Threinen said. “From the Mississippi River to Madison to Green Bay, you can find geese everywhere here, and permission is relatively easy to obtain. People are usually receptive to hunting here.”
Personally, I have spent a lot of time in Kansas. Some of the best waterfowl hunts I’ve been on were here, and I’ve filmed “tornadoes” of thousands of lesser Canada Geese here that don’t look natural. Goose hunting here is very good.
Threinen agrees that Kansas is a good goose hunting state.
“I refer to Kansas as the smorgasbord of waterfowl hunting,” Threinen said. “You have two funnels that feed this state. There are a lot of Mississippi Flyway geese that go here, and a lot of Central Flyway geese. From the wide plains of the west with little geese, to big cities like Kansas City and Topeka with big Canada giants, you can find it all here. From Halloween through February, there are geese in a variety of options, from farm ponds to rivers, wheat, corn, rye and sorghum.”
However, one of the reasons Kansas slides down the list for both Scott and me is the multitude of vendors that have land tied up with leases. The going rate for access to land in the most hunted areas can range from $25 to $100 per gun per day, which is quite a steep rate if you don’t have customers. In addition to waterfowl providers, you must also compete with whitetail providers. Many landowners have leased all of their hunting rights to deer assemblages, and geese find unhuntable fields fairly quickly.
However, if you’re really willing to rack up miles and stay away from providers, you can still knock on doors and get licensed in Kansas. It’s going to be a lot more work than it used to be.
Keeping pace with what makes Kansas good, Oklahoma is one of Scott Threinen’s top states for goose hunting.
“Oklahoma is kind of an extension of Kansas,” Threinen said. “People don’t look at it as much for goose hunting as for duck hunting, but there are geese from the peninsula to the cities in the eastern part of the state. Small reservoirs, lakes, farm ponds across the state are home to geese.”
And while the number of Oklahoma outfitters is also growing, it’s not a goose hunting destination state in the same way that Kansas is, so knocking on doors is much more feasible here.
Last on the list is Montana. Montana doesn’t have the same early season goose hunting as the Midwest, is more prone to drought and weather, and lacks the expansive fields of corn and beans that are a staple of other good goose hunting areas.
What Montana does have are fast-flowing rivers, warm springs, and warm valleys with irrigated wheat that are ideal for goose hunting in late fall and early winter. These geese are the hardiest, mostly giant, and will wait until the bitter snowy end to migrate south. If you catch the migration just as they’re hitting these wheat fields en masse, this may be one of the best goose hunts to be found in the country.
Right now, the middle part of the country continues to see large chicken numbers, liberal limits, and widespread opportunities for the independent hunter to fill the freezer. All it takes is knocking on doors and racking up miles.