With a few days left in the early Canada goose season, which is open through Sept. 20, many of the birds that you will encounter now likely have already been educated. Don’t worry though; by changing your hunting style a bit, you can still expect to take some wary geese.
If you have the opportunity to observe the birds you plan to hunt, try to pinpoint how they approach the field or body of water you will be hunting and where they are landing in it. This will enable you to set up precisely where the birds are coming in and make it more likely that they will be close.
By knowing how they approach the hunting area, it will allow you to set your blind up facing the right direction for approaching birds. Otherwise you may end up with birds coming in behind you. If you can’t be there to watch them fly in, if you can at least observe where they are sitting in the field a day or two before you will be hunting them, you will be in the ball park.
Your decoy spread can make the difference between eating fresh goose or simply watching them flare out of range. Whether you are hunting grain fields or over water, if you are in a spot the birds have been frequenting consistently and want to be in, consider only throwing out a handful of decoys. Six to 12 well-placed decoys is usually plenty now, as compared to the several dozen you may typically use in the late season. A mix of shells and full body decoys works well, but all of one or the other should also work fine.
Waving a flag (preferably an all-black or black and white one) will help to attract far off birds to your set-up. Be sure to only use the flag on birds that are far away. The flag is meant only for catching the eye of distant birds in the hopes of getting them to notice your spread. If you don’t have a flag, waving your hat in the air will work just fine.
When birds are approaching, be sure to sit still. I have seen birds flare because someone in our hunting party simply moved their feet – and this was while being completely concealed in a layout blind. Once geese have been shot at or get educated as the season progresses, it doesn’t take much to spook them. It is also important to conceal yourself well. If you aren’t using a layout blind – which you lay in and has flaps that completely cover you body, or sitting in a box or boat blind – then using a camouflage face mask and gloves are important.
I prefer using a full choke on birds that are educated. Sure a modified choke tube in your gun will work fine and is likely the choice of most hunters, but a full choke tightens up your shot pattern, affording you the ability to reach out a little further on birds that don’t want to come up close and personal. Keep in mind, however, that when using a full choke, your chances of missing birds that do come in close go up. In this situation, you have to really bear down on them.
Shot size also can make a difference in how many geese you end up with at the end of the day. Number-two shot will work fine, and shot shells in BB- and T-sizes are especially good for taking birds at longer yardages.
Keep in mind when hunting geese (or any waterfowl or migratory bird for that matter) that you must have a plug in your shotgun that makes it impossible to hold more than three shells in the gun total - one in the chamber and two in the magazine. In addition to a regular hunting license, you will also need both a state and federal migratory waterfowl stamp. A Harvest Information Program (HIP) number is also required. It is free and can be obtained by calling toll free at 1-800-WETLANDS.