How To Hunt Resident Geese – What You Need to Know
Well, here we are on the brink of another hunting season! For many of us, this is the start to what we consider the best time of the year. The hot, humid days of summer are slowly fading and our mornings are showing a hint of that fall weather that is quickly approaching. Some of the early crops are beginning to come out across parts of the country and the resident canada geese are starting to find them. While many hunters are still a month or more away from getting their seasons started, early goose season presents a very unique opportunity. And if you are as eager for hunting season as I am, you just might be taking advantage of the incredible hunting opportunities that are less than two weeks away!
I remember growing up September 1st always marked the beginning of hunting season. Sure there was squirrel season in August, but around my house, dove season really marked the beginning of the migration and the beginning of the hunting season. August was always the longest month as the days just seemed to move slower and slower the closer we got to opening day.
As I grew older, I began to hear more and more about the early goose season opportunities across the country. The liberal bag limits were a big draw for many, as was having the first crack at the young of the year birds. For me, it just presented a new challenge in a new state, as well as provided me with an opportunity to go goose hunting months before the regular goose hunting season opened back home. And after my first morning in the goose spread in mid August, I was hooked. Lets take a look at a few tips I have picked up over the years to help you not only get into the goose spread in August, but also be more successful on your early goose season hunts.
Scouting Pays Off
This holds true for all hunting, regardless of the time of year or the species being pursued. Scouting, more times than not, leads to a more successful hunt. And those who put in the time and miles behind the windshield are often times the more successful hunters. When talking early goose season scouting, there are a few areas to really focus on in order to increase your chances of success. So grab yourself a pair of binoculars and lets get this thing started!
1.) Find the roost. Often times for me, especially in a new area, this means driving around checking every little piece of water that shows up on google satellite on my cell phone. Over time you begin to know what roosts will hold birds year after year, but to start off….just drive.
2.) Find the cut fields. Now that you know where the birds are roosting, finding the grain fields they are feeding in is a must. Often times grain fields will dictate roosts, meaning once the birds have found a field they will be feeding in, they often times roost close. Early season Canada geese do not like to fly very far, in fact, many times they will actually walk from the roost up into the field. If you find a cut grain field within close proximity of your roost, chances are that is where the geese are feeding.
3.) Scout both early and late. One of the nicest things about hunting Canada geese in general is they can become very patterned, making them rather predictable at times. I like to scout early season Canada geese at first light, and then again in the last few hours of the evening. I do this for a few reasons. First, it allows you to line up your timing of the hunt with favorable weather. Second, it allows you to gauge how patterned to the field they really are.
Scouting also gives you an idea if the birds are using a loafing pond in between feeds, how far they are flying, how many flocks and size of the flocks, location in the field that they are feeding, if they are landing with each other or in family bunches, as well as how vocal they are being in the fields. Paying attention to and mimicking all of these variables will only increase your chances of a successful hunt.
Good Concealment Is Important
Having proper concealment when hunting is one of the most important aspects of the hunt. And finding good concealment during early goose season can at times be extremely difficult. Have you ever tried to hide 5 people in a 2″ wheat stubble field? Yea, not easy. But taking some extra time to maximize your hide can make all the difference.
When goose hunting, especially for Canada geese, the most practical method of hiding is usually a ground blind of some sort. When hunting early season geese in short stubble fields, use the lowest profile blind you have access to. We also spread mud on our blinds at least once before the hunt, eliminating any shine the blind may have. And do not forget to match your colors to the field as much as possible. What I mean is, do not take a super dark fabric blind out into a light colored wheat field, you wont stand a chance.
What we have found works best for blind concealment in short stubble fields is we spread our blinds out. In my opinion, this works well because it eliminates one area of focus for the incoming geese. If you clump all of your blinds together, you are going to have one big spot that looks unnatural and is easier to avoid. Always cover your blind with the crop stubble from the same field to ensure the exact match. Aside from scouting, I would consider concealment to be the most important aspect of early goose season success.
Flagging vs. Calling
I’m a firm believer that less is more. This especially proves true for early season Canada geese. The birds are typically still in family groups and are not very social yet. They often times make minimal noise and shy away from large crowds in the fields. Our best success year in and year out comes with simple, subtle clucks and steady flagging when the birds are at a distance. Remember, the birds have been feeding in the field you are laying in, probably for quite some time. They have already made up their mind that they are coming, you just gotta keep from screwing it up. Less is more.
Decoy Placement is Critical
This is a BIG one. And all I can say is, pay attention to what the birds are doing in the field when you are scouting them. Pay attention to where they are landing (Set up exactly where they were when you saw them last). Make sure to watch if each flock is landing away from the other birds in the field or if they are all landing together. During early goose season, the geese are typically still in their family bunches and do not always feed together. Typically as the season progresses and the weather starts getting cooler, the birds will begin to socialize and feed together more often. This makes for better hunting. There is nothing worse than a flock coming in absolutely perfect only to short stop your decoys by 100 yards, but it happens. A tip that is used a lot nowadays, is to use VERY small spreads. We’re talking 10-18 decoys total. I’ve had very little luck with big spreads early on, and everyone uses around 4 dozen in the early season so be prepared to try something different.
Typically, earlier means less and later means more. During the early part of the season we will often times run 18-24 decoys in small family bunches, mimicking anti-social “family oriented” geese. As the season progresses, we will usually add more decoys to the spread as the birds tend to flock together more in the fields. We like to use small bunches of decoys spread out to resemble family flocks. This gives the realistic early season appearance as well as gives the geese plenty of room to land. If you can duplicate exactly what the birds looked like in the field the last time you saw them, you are putting yourself in excellent position.
Early goose season can present a very unique and exciting opportunity, but you have to put in the time and work to make it happen. Scout hard and often, pay attention to what the birds are doing in the fields, and really focus on your concealment. But more than anything, have fun and enjoy the time spent outdoors.
We hope you enjoyed our take on early goose season. As always, we would love to hear any feedback from you. Be sure to check out our Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube Channel for the latest from RYG! Happy hunting and be sure to take lots of pictures and let us know how you are doing!