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Waterfowl Articles

Preparing for Early Season Goose Hunting

by T.R. Michels


When you are hunting early season geese you should scout to determine which areas the birds like to rest in, and which areas have the proper food sources in them before the season begins, especially if you are leasing land. If you are hunting on water check to see which of the nearby wet areas have water in them, and which wet areas the birds are using as resting areas. If you are hunting on land check nearby fields to determine what crops are growing in them. Farmers often rotate their crops; what may have been corn one year may be beans, wheat, rice, barley or alfalfa the next year. It pays to know well in advance which fields have the right crops in them.


One of the best waterfowl hunting techniques my Dad taught me was to scout several areas before I hunted. He used to take me out the week before the opener to watch one of our favorite areas. We would sit on a hill about a quarter mile from the water, where we could watch the entire area with a pair of 7x35 binoculars. In the evening we could see the geese moving from the water to the feeding fields, and then we would follow them to determine exactly which field they were feeding in. It usually got me so pumped up I couldn't wait until the opener.

Dad would also take the family on "Sunday Drives" after church on Sunday mornings. The drives were supposedly for "quality family time", and we always had fun driving around the country, following any dirt road that we came across. But, I realize now that a lot of that driving was so that Dad could check out every pot hole, pond, slough, lake and field in the area. He wanted to know which areas had produced geese that year, which areas still had water in them, and where the geese were feeding, so he knew where to hunt when the season opened up.

Flight Patterns
Geese (and ducks) often have preferred corridors they like to fly in as they move back and forth to feeding and resting areas. When you are scouting you should try to locate these corridors, so you can set up in or near them during the hunting season. Geese often fly out into the wind and keep going until they find a field to eat in. Local geese establish patterns, and often fly out the same way each day and feed in the field until the food is gone. Then they find the nearest available field and feed in it. This pattern continues until the food sources are exhausted, or until a major wind shift causes the birds to fly out in a different direction. Migrating geese (that are new to the area) often follow local flocks to feeding fields, but they may go off on their own.

The best way to determine where ducks and geese are feeding is by scouting the night before you plan to hunt. Follow a flock as they leave the roost and note the field where they land. If they are not hunted that night, and if the food is not gone and there is no major weather change, the birds often return to the same field or near it the following day.

Hunting Sites
When you are hunting geese you often want to hunt in agricultural areas the geese are using as feeding areas. Once you locate the feeding areas you need to ask permission to hunt from the landowner. If the feeding area is leased, someone else got there first, or the owner doesn't allow hunting, try to get the nearest available field. When I hunt ducks and geese on land, and I can't get access to the field the birds ae using, I try to get a field that is closer to the resting area, and shortstop the geese before they get to the area I can't hunt.

When you are choosing a feeding area, take into account what I call the "angle of dispersal." Even though the ducks and geese all come from the same resting area they tend to fan out as they leave, spreading the flocks out. The farther they get from the resting area or refuge, the greater the angle of dispersal, the less birds you see and the less birds you have a chance to decoy.

Try to stay close to the resting area/refuge if the birds are willing to come in. In areas with a shooting line around a refuge the birds often fly high to avoid the hunters. In this case they may not want to come down until they are well away from the roost or refuge line. It may be better to get farther away, in an area where the birds are willing to come down.

Hunting Rights
With duck and goose hunting becoming more popular, it's getting harder to find places to hunt, especially for geese. If you know of a traditional goose feeding area, or a duck resting area, try to secure hunting rights to it well in advance of the season. By offering to help the owner with some work around the place you may get exclusive rights to it, or at least permission to hunt it. Dropping off a few birds every time you leave is a nice gesture.

Sometimes the only way to get access is to lease the land. If the price is high you may want to get a group of friends and secure a lease with an option for the following year. With more hunters every year a long-term lease may be the best option. If you don't secure hunting rights well in advance, someone may outbid you and you may lose the property. I've found that a combination of a written lease, the present of a few birds, or a gift certificate for dinner for the landowner and his wife, and the offer to help out with some of the work goes a long way.

Be sure to find out if you can post "No Hunting" signs, dig pits if you agree to fill them in; which fields to stay out of; if you can drive on the fields; and where the buildings and livestock are. Be considerate. Driving on wet or muddy fields and crops can ruin them, and relations with the landowner. Be sure to close all gates, pick up all trash and shotgun shells, and don't leave decoys or blinds in the field where they may get wrecked by farm equipment, or wreck farm equipment, after the season.



About the Author:

T. R. Michels is nationally recognized for his action-packed, informative seminars based on his experience as a wildlife researcher and professional guide.

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Website: www.TRMichels.com