July is the only month in North America when there is no geese hunting at all. The rest of the year is open season on geese somewhere in the northern hemisphere. Instantly recognizable by their massive, V-pattern flights, there are three types—Canadas, white-fronted, and snow.
Geese, like ducks, migrate during the cold winter months, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see them throughout the year. Canada Geese are by far the most prevalent, and even in Canada, you can hunt them throughout a good portion of the year.
Canada geese can grow up to 12 pounds, so a successful hunt means a good meal for the entire family. If you’re new to the game and curious about how to hunt geese, it’s very similar to hunting ducks. With that being said, a few extra tips couldn’t hurt.
13 Tips for Hunting Geese
Goose hunting, like most other types of hunting, requires the right gear, good timing, decoys, goose calls, and a solid mindset. If it’s your first time, you’ll gain knowledge and experience quickly, learning the ins and outs as you go.
1. Decoy Placement is Crucial
You’ll spend a lot of time out in the open while goose hunting, but decoy placement should involve a little concealment. That’s not difficult to find near water and farmland. Tall grass, cattails, small bushes, and the remainder of crops are all good places.
Experts will often advise new hunters to utilize satellite GPS to locate some of the best spots to create a little concealment for the decoys and your blind layout.
2. Don’t just carry one type of Goose Call
For the most part, you will get great results from the simplest calls. However, it doesn’t always work out that way, and it’s best to be prepared with several calls. The three main goose calls are short-reed, flute, and resonant chamber.
Goose calls are generally considered to be easy to use, but you’ll definitely need some practice before you head out for the first time. Practice makes perfect.
3. Luring them in
This point plays off of number 2. When geese are in flight, you need to get their attention. Obnoxiously loud goose calls are the key to turning the formation your way. Once you’ve hooked them, it’s time to reel them in by easing off the loud calls and switching to social and feeding calls.
Use goose ‘comeback’ calls once they’re close but still unsure about your decoys. It’s all about playing them through communication. A master of the craft can basically ‘Pied Piper’ a flock of geese.
4. Decoy Placement
Getting a little strategic with your goose decoys is similar to communicating with a call. How you place them communicates a meaningful signal to geese in flight. Geese prefer to land as close as they can to a source of food, so your decoys in a crop field send a signal that food is there.
Sleeper decoys give geese in flight a sense that the geese on the ground (your decoys) are confident and unworried—in other words, everything is safe, and there’s no reason to worry.
5. Get out early
This one depends on the state. Some states offer plenty of goose hunting early, before the standard goose hunting season. Take advantage of it, especially if you gauge your success on the number of geese you bag throughout the entirety of the year.
6. Use resting goose decoys in extremely cold weather
It’s all about matching the typical behavioral patterns of geese. Gain their trust, and they’re more likely to turn your way. One of the ways to gain their trust is to mimic their behavior. A goose will lie down in very cold temperatures (below 20°F), so your decoys should reflect that.
This is especially true when there is snow on the ground. Veteran goose hunters advise newbies to kick up divots in the snowy ground or pull some dead corn stalks. It gives flying geese the impression that your decoy geese are actively feeding down there.
7. Stick with the same decoys
The 80/20 rule is one you will hear often. You don’t want a bunch of different goose decoys doing a bunch of different things. From the sky, it looks like all the geese down there are suffering a mass, psychotic break, and the geese will fly on.
The 80/20 rule means that 80% of your decoys are feeding and the remaining 20% are active. You don’t want to mix a bunch of other decoy types, like resting geese among the active geese. It doesn’t make sense, and it won’t fool geese in flight.
8. Study goose behavior
If you want to learn how to properly lay out your decoys, watch a group of geese as they land and go about their business. Goose behavior is pretty simple in a large flock, and you can pull some good ideas on decoy formations from a morning and afternoon of observing them.
9. Out of sight, out of mind
Geese are suspicious of things that stand out unnaturally, especially later in the season, after some of their buddies are gone. Set your blind up 30’ to 40’ from the landing zone, parallel to the wind.
10. Young and old retrievers
Duck-retrieving dogs are naturally ready to step up to geese. However, don’t throw your shiny, new, super-excited retriever to the wolves by having them retrieve geese for their first outing.
Start them off with ducks, doves, or other, smaller waterfowl. After a season or two of retrieving smaller game, your pup will have the experience necessary to step up to the next level and start retrieving geese.
11. Shooting practice
Honestly, dropping a goose is nowhere near as difficult as dropping a dove in flight. The latter is far quicker and has a faster reaction speed. But, that doesn’t mean that your first goose hunt should be the first time you fire your shotgun in ten years.
First off, you should never hit the ground running with an untested shotgun in the field. Just because you’re shooting a spread pattern doesn’t mean you can just point in the general direction and pull the trigger. Practice in bad weather and in situations where you are getting up and firing quickly, shifting from one stance to another.
12. Hunt the afternoon on cold days
Geese will lie down in the cold, as we mentioned above, but they’re more likely to be active later in the day when it’s had a chance to warm up a little bit. It also helps them to save energy.
If you don’t have the best of luck in the morning, stick it out for an afternoon hunt. If it was an icy cold morning, there’s a good chance your luck will peak in the afternoon.
13. Shot Placement
BBs are best for geese. This is where past practicing with your shotgun determines a few things. You want a 30” spread at your maximum shot range. For geese close to your layout, try to put the majority of that tight spread in the goose’s head.
The idea is to keep as many BBs out of the meat as possible. It’s understandable if you can’t do that at a longer range, but the head of a goose is not small. It presents a surprisingly sizeable target and it’s the cleanest takedown you could ask for.
Hunting geese is a broader sport—in terms of time—than most other waterfowl hunting. If you’re willing to travel a bit, you can hunt geese nearly all year long, except for July.
If it’s your first hunt, you’re in for a treat. Most goose hunting takes place in groups, with a clear leader that sets the firing lanes. However, there’s nothing wrong with being an outlier and shifting your position away from where the majority of the other hunters are concentrating.
If there’s one thing you’ll learn from your first day hunting geese, it’s that you have a lot to learn.
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