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Waterfowl Articles

Decoying Geese

by T.R. Michels


When you are hunting geese decoys provide the visual stimulus needed to attract birds to a particular location. The more visible the decoys are, the more effective they are at attracting geese. There are five different ways to make a decoy spread highly visible; size, numbers, color, movement and location.

Size
Big decoys work because the eyes of the geese are located on the sides of their head, which gives them a wide range of vision. However, because of these widely spaced eyes geese have poor binocular vision and depth perception, they see very little in front with both eyes at the same time. It would be the same if you held a hand over one eye. You, and the geese, then have difficulty judging distance and size. Bigger decoys are seen farther away, and because geese have poor depth perception, they can't tell that the decoys are larger than life.

Numbers
According to goose researcher Dr. Jim Cooper the size of the decoys is not as important as the number of decoys. He says that the more geese (or decoys) there are on the ground the more willing High Tech Goose the geese are to land. If you put out only a few decoys use the larger sizes, but, if you can put out more decoys do so. When you are after canada geese that are lightly hunted one to four dozen decoys may be sufficient. If the birds come off a refuge and are heavily hunted, and where several other hunters have decoys nearby, you may have to use a hundred decoys or more to convince the geese to land in your field. Because snow and white-fronted geese generally migrate and roost in large flocks you may have to use two to three hundred shells or goose rags. I have put out as many as a thousand shells and rags when hunting snow geese in the Dakota's.

Color
A large number of decoys is easily seen because they present a large mass of shape and color at a distance. However, dark colored decoys don't show up well in a plowed field, or in stubble. This is when color contrast must be taken into account. The contrast of a couple dozen snow goose decoys placed to one side of the canada goose decoys in a plowed field helps draw attention to your spread.
You can also create a contrast in color on your canada goose decoys by enlarging the white patch on the rump. The contrast between the black body and white rump makes the canada goose decoys more visible when they are placed in dark surroundings. You can do the same thing with snow goose decoys by painting black tips on th wings.

Movement
There have been a number of advances in goose decoys in the past few years. Manufacturers now offer flags, kites, flying decoys, electric decoys and wind activated decoys. These products all employ movement to attract geese because a moving object is more visible at a distance than a non-moving object is.
Once I realized how visible movement was I began to work on ways to create a lifelike moving decoy. After several designs I finally settled on a weather vane style that would allow the decoy to face into the wind while moving with the slightest breeze. However, I found that most decoys were too heavy to move in the wind. What I needed was a light weight decoy. I had been using Feather Flex turkey decoys for several years and realized that a hollow goose decoy using the same foam plastic was just what was needed.

I called Dave Berkley at Feather Flex, shared my idea, and told him to put the stake at the front of the decoy, so it would face into the wind. The result was the Upwind Goose Decoy which weighs about six ounces and moves with the slightest breeze. It is also flexible enough to collapse, so that you can easily carry a hundred decoys. One or two of these moving decoys in each family unit adds realism to any decoys spread. Northwind windsock decoys are even more lightweight and compact, and can be mixed in with shell or full body decoys to fill out a spread.

The several varities of moveable flying decoys help attract birds because they create the impression of landing geese. However, there are problems when using some of these decoys. The goose kites and flying wind socks need wind to keep them aloft, and therefore should only be used in windy conditions. When there is no wind the flying/landing decoys from Herter's, Flambeau and Carrylite work well.

Flagging
To help attract geese and postion them for shooting I use the Lander Kite from Flag Man. This kite can be attached to an extendable fishing pole to get it up well into the air. The Lander has an advantage over other flags because it has a white crescent on the tail. Although I had seen this white crescent on canada geese I hadn't really thought about it until I noticed how visible it was while videoing one of our goose hunts.
Being curious I called Dr. Cooper and asked him if it was a visual signal. He told me that the white crescent on the tail of a dark geese, and the black tips on the wings of white geese, serves the same purpose as the speculum on a ducks wing, it causes an involuntary nervous system response to flock. Not voluntary, involuntary. When flying geese see the white crescent or black wingtips they want to join the geese (or kite) below them. After Randy "Flag Man" Bartz heard me mention this in a seminar he added the white crescent to his canada goose and white wingtips to his snow goose Lander Kites.

The Revolution
The information I had gotten from Dr. Cooper revolutionized goose hunting. The combination of the white crescent or black wing tips on a goose flag or flying decoy, and the fast cluck landing call, is both a visual and auditory signal that other geese are landing, which makes approaching geese feel secure while wanting to join the flock below them. The sight, and sound, of landing geese has become one of the most effective goose hunting techniques ever.
The Lander Kite can also be used on a short pole, or two or more kites can be attached to the fishing pole to simulate a small flock. It can also be attached to a gun barrel. When used in this manner the hunter can flag with the gun while remaining concealed by the flag. Any movment the hunter makes will go unnoticed because the flag is in front of the hunter. When the hunter is ready to shoot he simply shoulders the gun and fires.

Location
There are three things to consider when placing your decoys. The first consideration is a location that the geese want to use. On land this means a field of grass, hay, corn, barley, beans or other forage. Secondly, the field must offer some sort of security. It should be large enough so the geese don't have to land near fences, ditches, rockpiles, or brush.

T.R.'s Tip
Do not set your decoys near available cover. Geese don't usually land near any cover that is large enough to conceal a predator, especially a hunter. I have seen geese walk near brush, tall grass and trees but only after they have landed. Security to a goose on the ground is a clear field of vision.

The third consideration is visibility. If you can place your decoys on a hill it makes them more visible than if they were in a lowlying area, especially if the downwind side of the hill is the same side the geese are coming from. If the geese come from the upwind side of the hill place some of the decoys on top of the hill, or on the side from which the geese approach, so the decoys can be easily seen by flying geese.

When you are setting up your decoys keep in mind that geese land into the wind, most of your decoys should face into the wind and the point of the should be into the wind, with an open area, or hole, on the down wind side of the decoys where the gese can land.

On cold, windy days geese prefer to stay out of the wind, and they often land below the crest of a hill. When you are hunting on cold or windy days place some of your decoys near the top of the hill and the rest a third of the way down the hill, where there is less wind. Make sure the decoys are well away from any natural cover.

Decoy Layout

I use an inverted V or crescent design when laying out the decoys with the point of the V pointing into the wind. I then position the hunters along the side of the V within shooting range of the landing zone. I have never seen a flock of geese positioned this way, but if the geese see an open area where they can land they often use it. The main reason for the hole is to position the geese for a good shooting opportunity.

I use a variety of decoys in my spread. On the upwind side of the decoy spread I use silhouettes. Canada Geese often come in low and are accustomed to seeing the side profile of a goose as they apporach. Silhouettes like Outlaws aand Real Geese provide this side profile, take up little space and are easily transported and set up. However, silhouettes don't work well on high flying Snow Geese because they are accustomed to seeing the top of the goose. Goose rags and top view silhouettes work best when you are hunting Snow and White-fronted Geese.

In the main body of my spread I use shells and windsocks because they require very little space, and they allow me to put out dozens, or hundreds, of decoys easily. I place the decoys in family units of from five to nine, and separate each family unit by a yard or more from the next family. The decoys in each family are placed one to two feet apart. I mix one or two windsocks in with each family unit or attach Flapperz goose wings to some of the decoys to create movement and add realism to the spread.

I like to keep the less realistic decoys away from the prying eyes of wary geese, and I don't like to mix different size decoys. So, I place the largest of my shells upwind, near the silhouettes, then use progressively smaller shells, with the smallest at the bottom or sides of the V. On windy days, when geese often swing short and land downwind of the decoys, I place the fortytwo inch shell decoys well downwind from the rest of the decoys and sit among them. Then, when the geese swing short of the decoys I have a close overhead shot.

When it's not windy I place my Big Foot or other full bodied decoys downwind of the shell decoys, near the area where I expect the geese to land. As the geese approach they will be looking right at the landing area, and the decoys they see should look like live geese. I leave a large open area downwind of the main body of decoys and place two or three Feather Flex Wingers or other flying decoys in the open area to show the geese it is safe to land.



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