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Waterfowl Articles

Goose Hunting 101

by T.R. Michels


An hour and a half before sunrise I turned the truck onto the road that lead to the hayfield where we hunted geese. As the truck neared the center of the hayfield I slowed down, and I heard my son Dallas say, "I hear geese." I'd heard the geese honking too and said, "Yeah, they roosted on the lake last night. If the wind keeps blowing from the northwest they should fly right toward us when they leave." About an hour later a flock of seven Canada geese came off the lake, heard our calling and saw our decoys, circled the decoys twice, and came in to land. Just before the geese touched down we shouldered our guns and fired, and four geese plummeted from the sky; we had our limit. A half hour later, after picking up our geese and our decoys, we were on our way home.


It's very rare that a goose hunt goes that well, and ends that fast. Sometimes it takes all day to get your limit. Sometimes you go home with only part of your limit. Sometimes you hunt all day without getting a shot. And sometimes you hunt all day without even seeing a goose. But, once in a while, if you do everything right, you might go home with a limit of geese. The key to hunting any animal is to understand it's basic habits; when and where it moves most often, when and where it prefers to rest and eat, what it likes to eat, it's family structure, and how it communicates.

Goose Habits
Geese normally rest on lakes, river and ponds during the night, and feed on grass, clover and grain twice a day; shortly after sunrise, and shortly before sunset. The best way to find out where geese are feeding is find out where they are resting at night, and then follow them as they go out to fed in the morning. You can hunt the geese in the afternoon, but most hunters wait until the next morning to hunt. If you do hunt in the afternoon, the geese may not come back the next morning.

Geese prefer to land and take off into the wind, and they prefer to feed out of the wind. The also like to feed in open areas where one or more of the family members can see all around them. When you put out your decoys place them in the middle of an open field, on a hillside or low-lying area out of the wind if you can. Most of the decoys should face into the wind and not more than twenty percent of them should have their heads in the upright or "sentry" position. A goose with it's head up is either looking for danger, or has already spotted danger. A lot of geese, or decoys, with their heads sticking up is a sign that there may be something dangerous nearby.

Family Structure and Decoys
Geese are very family oriented. Depending on which species of goose they are the male (gander) and female (goose) mate when they are 2-4 years old. The young geese (goslings) usually stay with their parents for the first year. They migrate with their parents during their first fall, spend the winter with their parents and migrate with their parents back to the area where they were raised the next spring. The young females will continue to return to the general are where they were born every year. When the young males mate they follow their female partner back to where she was raised. Many of the goose flocks you see in the fall are made up of related females and their families. When you setup your decoys, place them in family groups, with 5-12 decoys in each family. Separate the decoys in each family group by a foot or more, and separate the family groups from each other by a yard or more.

In order for geese to respond to your decoys they have to see them. Five or six stationary black and brown decoys in a dirt colored field are not easily seen by high flying geese. You can make your decoys easier for the geese to see by using bigger decoys, using more decoys, placing dark decoys in light brown fields or snow and light decoys in light brown fields or dirt, and by using decoys that move. One of the best ways to attract geese is by "flagging." You can flag geese by nailing a 12 inch square of black cloth to a broom handle, and then wave the flag back and forth in the air. When geese see the flag they will often fly closer to investigate. Then when they see your decoys and hear your calling they may try to land near your decoys.

Randy "Flag Man" Bartz decided he wanted a more realistic looking goose flag, so he created the Lander Kite, a triangular piece of dark cloth with a tail, with a white crescent just above the tail. When the Lander Kite is attached to a 20 foot fishing pole and waved in the air, it looks just like a flying goose. By lightly shaking the pole up and down while you lower the flag toward the ground you can make the flag look liea goose landing. Randy suggests you keep flagging until the geese are within shooting range. If you stop flagging they may stop coming, or stay.out of range. By using the fast cluck of the honk of the clucking landing

Communication and Calling
Geese use variations of several different calls, but the calls you should use when you are hunting include the social contact call, the landing call, the threat call and the feeding call. Most of these calls are honking sounds, but depending on how loud and how fast the calls are, they mean different things. When geese are worried or excited they call louder than normal. The landing, threat and the lost calls are louder than the social contact or feeding calls. The faster the geese are moving, the faster they call. When geese are flying or running they call faster than when they are walking. While they are flying geese normally call at the same time that they flap their wings; the faster their wings beat, the faster they call. When geese flap their wings fast in order to slow down before landing their call is short and fast; when they glide in to land, and don't move their wings, their call is long and slow.

The social contact call is used to keep the family together, whether they are in the air or on the ground. Most of the slow honking that you hear when you see a flock of geese flying, or while they are feeding, is the social contact call; its usually a two note call that sounds like herr-onk. Use this call when the geese are far off and you are trying to get them to come closer. The farther away the geese are the louder you may have to blow the call, so the geese can hear it. The landing call is a louder, shorter and faster version of the social contact call, that geese use when they are flapping their wings as they land; it is usually a series of fast, short, one note honks; honk, honk, honk, honk. Hunters often refer to this call as fast clucking. Use this call when the geese are close and you want them to come closer and land.

The threat call is used by geese to tell other geese to stay away, that they are getting too close. It is usually a loud, short, fast double honk; honk-onk. Hunters often refer to this call as the hut-hut call. This is the call you hear geese on the ground make as a flying flock of geese gets close to them. You can use this call in combination with the landing call to get geese to land, because flying flocks almost always hear the threat call as they prepare to land near another flock of geese. The feeding call is used as combination social contact and threat call. It helps keep the family together while spacing the families out while they are feeding with their heads down and they can't see. It is a series of deep sounding gravely honks; onk, onk, onk onk. Use this call when geese get close, to convince them that your decoys are actually feeding geese.



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