Resident Canada Geese
Over the past couple of years, resident Canada geese populations have exploded throughout the U.S. The numbers have grown so quickly there is a night and day difference from just 10 years ago. This increase in geese guarantees an increase in hunters this September. All of this means you must be ready to work to increase your odds of success this fall.
Just like any kind of waterfowl hunting, early season goose success is determined by sufficient scouting time. You could lay out your decoys in virtually any field and have a have a chance of at least a few curious birds. However, setting up on the right spot takes more than just luck or chance. For me, early august kicks off my scouting routine, when grain field harvesting begins. At this point, I am simply prospecting for the best food sources. All I am trying to do is determine where the geese are roosting, locating the best crops, and searching for any flooded areas. Since crop harvesting is just beginning, it makes locating these local birds a lot easier.
At this time of year, geese do a lot of strange things. They may feed out in one direction at night, just to leave out in the complete opposite direction the following morning. This is one reason I start scouting in early August. As season nears, I learn which fields and flyways are the most frequented, and I keep a close watch for wet areas. These areas can offer greater incentives. For example, harvesting crops, like barley or wheat, when the ground is wet will allow for grow-over, and the newly sprouted green shoots are like candy to a baby for the geese.
To maximize your scouting efforts, invest in high quality optics and put some miles on your vehicle to locate the best spots. The more ground you cover and roosts you locate, the greater your odds of success when season arrives. It is a good idea to rotate your hunting areas to prevent over-pressuring the birds, in a given area. If you load the roosting areas into your scouting maps, you will be able to relocate in the blink of an eye. Detailed scouting records will pay big dividends as season progresses.
If you prefer to hunt Canada’s on the water, look for daytime loafing ponds. As long as geese feel secure and safe, they will roost on any water types. For mid-day loafing, you will see geese on ponds with little to no surrounding vegetation. This lack of vegetation reduces the chances of a surprise attack from a predator. Early in the season on some ponds, you will find hundreds of Canada’s grouped together. On other ponds, the geese separate into family groups using their own areas. The latter lets you target various family groups, rather than an all-or-nothing approach with one large group. Many hunters prefer to focus solely on field hunting so the roosts go undisturbed. When the roosts are left alone, they can hold geese throughout the season, and this makes scouting an easier task. If the roosts get heavily pressured, Canada’s will leave the area and usually will not return. If you must hunt them over water, focus on the shallow loafing areas used only during the day. These areas can be hunted just like fields, and the roosts still remain undisturbed.
During this early season, any style of goose decoy will work. However, the continued effectiveness of full-bodied decoys makes them a top choice. You do not have to use every trick in the book during this time. It is often more effective to start off simple and become more creative as needed. Since you are hunting the same geese throughout this season, you do need to change up your decoy spread to maintain realism. With the smaller, early season groups of geese, large decoy spreads can look out of place. During this time, smaller decoy spreads of 2-4 dozen blocks are usually more effective. As the season progresses and family groups begin merging together, larger decoy spreads of 4 dozen or more blocks become more realistic. Your decoy layout still needs to represent the various family groups though. This is accomplished by setting out your decoys in groups of 4-8 decoys no less than 15 feet away from each group. As the season advances, you can start reducing this gap.
When you are scouting fields, look for any available natural cover before choosing set-up locations. Layout blinds are great, but they cannot compete with a natural weed patch, small slough, or overgrown fence row. With all waterfowl set-ups, wind should play a major role in your set-up. By placing your spread slightly upwind of your location, you will have a better chance of putting the birds in your face. Expect the geese to land just short of your decoys. By creating a crescent or U-shaped decoy spread, you can force the birds into your landing zone. Since the weather can sometimes be a little unpredictable, always be ready to move. At this time of year, the wind can quickly shift, and you need to be able to shift with it.
Canada geese respond well to calling in September. However, less calling often has better results with these local birds. Not to mention, a couple of bad notes is all it takes to cause the birds to abort their approach. This time of year, a deeper-toned call can be more effective, and deeper moans can be the best sounds to give them. It tells the other geese that everything is great, and there is plenty of food and security. Combine this with a few simple clucks, and you are in for some hot action.
Since September temperatures are typically on the hot side, drink plenty of liquids, dress in lighter-weight clothing, and do not forget to use plenty of bug spray and Thermocell. This can be easily overlooked, but with the increase in West Nile cases, Lime’s Disease, and now the possibility of Zika virus, this should be enough incentive to take the necessary precautions.