If you’re like me, you love getting tips that can make your goose-hunting trips more fun and productive. For example, a friend pointed out that many geese lie down in feeding fields when the weather is cold and snowy. “Utilizing more shell decoys in your spread helps you better replicate these cold-weather flocks,” he said. “If full-bodied decoys are used, simply remove the bases or legs so the decoys lie flat on the ground.”
Another friend provided this useful advice: “Don’t stop calling when geese are close. Feeding and landing geese make a lot of noise. A silent goose flock is either asleep or alarmed.”
Simple pointers like these can be invaluable. You’ll find more to try in this compendium of practical advice for beginning and advanced goose hunters.
Hunt a farm
Many goose hunters look to private agricultural lands for their bounty because that’s where many geese concentrate. Good areas to scout include harvested fields of winter wheat, oats, barley and corn silage — all prime feeding sites. Standing crops are usually ignored because geese prefer to feed where they have a clear field of vision around them.
One good way to pinpoint private-lands hunting areas is to contact the Cooperative Extension office in the county you plan to hunt. Agricultural agents work closely with local landowners and will often share information about farms where crops attractive to geese have been planted. A couple of friendly phone calls using the farm agent as a reference may confirm the presence of geese and secure hunting permission.
Find the best concealment
When selecting a goose-hunting location in a harvested crop field, look for areas that have elevated stubble or more prevalent stubble. Hiding is the most important factor in waterfowl hunting. If you can locate areas that will better conceal the hunters, your chances for killing geese greatly improve.
Mud your blind
If you’ll be hunting from a layout blind or pit, you should make it look as natural as possible so it doesn’t spook geese. One good way is to “mud” the construction material before natural vegetation is applied. Mix up a bucket of dirt and water, and rub the slurry across the blind. Then just let it dry. The mud eliminates unnatural shine and sharpness.
Elongate decoy stakes for better concealment
Hunters can also use any type of decoy — full body, shell or other styles — to help conceal layout blinds where natural cover is scarce and shadows are prevalent. Raise the decoys slightly by lengthening the stakes 6 to 8 inches, then place the decoys around the blind’s perimeter.
Put decoys in the proper place
When preparing your decoy spread, place your most realistic decoys (full bodies, shells and floaters) on the downwind side of your decoy spread near the “landing zone,” where geese will see the decoys as they approach. Place the least realistic decoys (silhouettes, windsocks and rags) farthest from the view of approaching birds.
Place your dekes away from cover
It’s best not to set goose decoys near fence lines, brush piles, high vegetation or ditches that offer natural cover. Geese tend to shy away from cover that can conceal predators. Place your decoys in the middle of the field or water where geese can see all around them.
Watch the weather
Hunters should also pay attention to weather conditions and bird activity when setting up a decoy spread. When it is warm or calm, geese tend to spread out more across fields and water, and will often break into smaller family groups. As the weather gets colder or when the wind picks up, geese tend to huddle into more tightly packed flocks. Set your spread accordingly.
Add crows or herons
Savvy goose hunters often place a few crow or heron decoys along the sides of their field spreads. These “confidence” decoys help lessen the wariness of geese by making the spread appear more lifelike.
Raise the flag
A telescoping or multipiece fiberglass crappie-fishing pole provides an ideal means for raising and working a goose flag or kite, which helps draw the birds’ attention to your decoy spread. You can purchase realistic flags and kites, but when hunting snow geese, a 13-gallon white trash bag tied to a long pole works just as well.
Don’t shoot too far
A common mistake of beginning hunters is shooting at geese flying out of range. This can cripple birds, flare off approaching geese and may cause approaching flocks to fly even higher. A good rule of thumb recommended by goose guides is this: If the end of your gun barrel covers more than half the bird, the goose is beyond 45 yards and is too far away for a clean kill.
Establish the right lead
It also takes practice to find the correct lead for geese. The big birds have slow wing beats that make them appear to be lumbering along. But actually, geese move as fast as mallards. You must lead accordingly.
To establish proper lead when taking cross shots at geese, remember the three B’s: butt, beak, bang! Swing your shotgun from behind the bird, covering its butt and then its beak. As your shotgun’s muzzle comes through the bird’s beak, pull the trigger while still continuing your swing. Using this method will help you bag more birds than you miss.
Look for the ‘X’
Geese always have a specific area where they tend to land. Each day you hunt, be sure to remember the exact spot in the field where the birds pitched in or the spot from which your dog retrieved the most birds. The next day you will be much more successful if you are set up on the “X.”
Eat what you kill
You may hear from some hunters that geese aren’t good to eat, especially snow geese. Hogwash! A goose properly cared for in the field and properly cooked is delicious.
Here’s one scrumptious recipe sure to please. Our family uses it for all types of geese.
Baked Goose Breast Fillets
Boneless breast fillets from three geese
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
2 soup cans milk
Season fillets with salt and pepper, and roll in flour. Put butter or margarine into a skillet, and heat to frying temperature. Brown fillets on both sides. Place the fillets in a casserole dish, cover and bake 1 hour at 325 degrees.
Mix soup and milk, and pour over meat. Reduce heat to 275 degrees and cook 30 to 45 minutes or until breasts are done. Serves 3 to 4.