By Ben Brettingen
Don’t be the laughing stock of the local Canada goose population.
This whole August goose thing is new to Minnesota, and if you have never took a trip to the neighboring Dakotas for their early goose festivities, here are some tips that will put you in the right direction. I spent my fair share of time trekking around the hills and wheat fields of Eastern North Dakota, hunting these honkers while the mercury lived in the 90s.
If you are a water fowler, then you are hanging on the barrel of your short reed anxiously waiting for a chance to greet your feathered friends. Everything is loaded up in the trailer, decoys freshly prepped, shotgun’s oiled and your four-legged companion is chomping at the bit. You get into the field, everything is set-up perfectly, the wind is right but two hours later you are baffled, scratching your head, wondering how things could have gone so wrong.
Geese don’t alway act the way they should, and here are 5 tricks I have learned the hard way to help bring those geese feet down in your face.
1. Laissez Faire Honkers
This isn’t rocket science, it is the staple of my goose hunting rituals. Scouting! You need to be the goose. Once you find your field, sit and watch the geese. What are they doing? Are they feeding or do they appear to be anxious? Where are they located in the field? Where are they roosting? It is common to set-up in the location the geese were feeding the night prior. I have found the most successful tactic is to find where the geese are roosting, and set up towards the side of the field closest to the roost. Geese this time of year are very lazy, and lack separation anxiety. In other words they will often times land wherever they please! Those singles that will suck in to your spread with a laissez faire attitude in late October, will short you. By setting up closer to the roost, it will eliminate the chances of these geese shorting your spread.
2. The Kitchen Sink
Many hunters are guilty of this mistake, as I have been. 150 full body decoys and 3 short reeds double clucking and moaning with a vengeance. It is a great way to have one stellar hunt, but what happens the following week. You my friend have just thrown the kitchen sink at those birds, and they won’t forget. If you have a large number of decoys, there is an easy answer, remove a quarter to a third of them and use the rest of your impostors when the birds start to become finicky and enlightened to the multitude of decoy spreads. If you don’t have a mega spread, don’t be afraid, there are other ways to keep these birds in the dark. First is calling and flagging, if the birds are coming towards you, stay quiet and keep your flag tucked at the ready. As soon as the geese begin to show signs of losing interest, hit them with a few quick notes on the call and a flutter of your flag. Many people refer to this as calling or flagging on the corners. Be sure not to abuse your calling or flagging privileges, it will only hurt in the long run.
3. Devious Spreads
The sky is the limit for decoy spread configurations. The spreads I use start to look like the alphabet, from X’s, and O’s to U’s and V’s, I have tried some pretty weird stuff. The one decoy configuration I have found to trick these short stopping deviants is as followed. I will set-up my family groups of 4-6 decoys, with each family grouped spaced around 10-15 yards apart as two large pods. In between these two large pods will be the perceived landing zone. From the landing zone, walking with the wind, place a family group of 4-10 decoys, 20-30 yards away. This is where the hunters will be placed. The reason why this can be so effective is often times geese will short the large groups of honkers just outside of gun range. By placing yourself a little further from the large spread, your shots will become closer.
You know those cool straps on the outside your blind? Use them, everyone of them! Concealment is king for waterfowl hunting. I hate to beat a dead horse, but driving around Minnesota and North Dakota during their early goose season, I was dismayed at the poor concealment. It is one of the easiest ways to assure you will have a successful hunt. Make sure every part of the blind is covered in natural stubble from the field you are hunting in! Many fields have different tones of stubble depending on weather conditions, time of harvest, along with a variety of other factors. When your blind is ready to roll, keep your shiny face hidden under it, only peaking through the mesh when needed.
5. Think outside the field!
Many hunters cannot obtain land access, for one reason or another. Fortunately they are in luck. We are the land 10,000 lakes, and the prairie pothole region. Now, I am sure some people are reading this as their blood pressure is rising, and steam rolling out of their ears. No, I am not condoning hunting a roost! After birds go to feed in the fields in the morning they often return to loafing areas for the afternoon until they leave for the fields again. These watering holes are perfect to ambush unsuspecting geese as they return from gorging. Small watering holes, with a mix of full body decoys, shells, and floaters are one of my favorite locations to hunt. After the birds all leave for the field, slip in there and wait for their return.
Keep these five tips in mind to keep those Canada heathens at bay this fall!