Canada Goose Hunting Basics

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goose decoys
There’s no more thrilling sight in waterfowling than a flock of Canada geese about to pitch into the goose decoys.

Goose Decoys

Canada goose decoys are available in several styles: full-body decoys, shell decoys, floating decoys, rag decoys, silhouettes, magnums and specialty items such as goose flags and motion decoys. Ideally, the goose hunter should use some variety in the goose decoy spread and use goose decoys most suitable for the area being hunted. When goose hunting a river, for example, some floating decoys will be wanted, along with some standing decoys to place along the banks. Hunting a big farm field may work best with lots of rag decoys and/or silhouettes, with some full-bodied dekes mixed in and a flag to draw the birds’ attention. The number of goose decoys used depends largely on the goose hunter’s budget, the type area being hunted and the time of the season when goose hunting takes place. Early in the season, for example, small spreads of 6 to 24 goose decoys may work well. Wary late-season geese may respond best to larger spreads. A spread with four or five family groups of five to seven birds apiece works very well in most situations, but adapt your spread as necessary, remembering these things regardless of the type or number of goose decoys used:

  • Keep goose decoys well away from fence lines, overgrown ditches and other cover where Canadas may percive a predator, or hunter, to be hiding.
  • Set the goose decoys to take advantage of the goose’s tendency to land with the wind in their faces. Walking and swimming geese also prefer to be facing and/or moving into the wind, so goose decoys should be positioned in this manner for realism.
  • Don’t place goose decoys so close together it is difficult for live birds to land among them. Leave an opening in the spread that invites birds to land there, and have that opening within range of your gun.
  • Have all your decoys in place before sun-up so you’ll be ready when the birds arrive.

Where to Goose Hunt

goose decoy hunting
Today’s modern goose decoys are so realistic they can hardly be distinguised from real birds.

Canada geese use a wide variety of habitats, everything from small ponds, big rivers and reservoirs to open agricultural fields and city parks. If you own property where geese come to feed or rest, you can study the birds’ habits, determine what areas they are using when, and be hunting in just days. Otherwise, you’ll need to check with your state wildlife agency for information on public hunting land that offer good shooting, or visit with landowners to ask for hunting permission on private lands where you find geese during preseason scouting. If possible, have several alternative hunting sites you can visit in case birds move or wise up.

Goose Hunting Tips

Elaborate ground blinds are nice but not necessary because the typical goose field probably will produce only one or two good shoots before the birds move elsewhere. Many goose hunters simply lie on their backs in the goose decoys and wear camouflage clothing that blends well with their surroundings. Pit ground blinds, portable ground blinds and makeshift ground blinds made from natural materials on-site also can be used, depending on where you hunt.

The most important thing goose hunters should remember is to remain well hidden and absolutely motionless until birds are well within shooting range. Canada geese are extremely wary, and if they see or hear anything out of place, they’ll avoid it. If approaching birds seem reluctant to land, flare off at the last minute or land consistently outside the goose decoys, chances are the birds are spotting the ground blind, hunter movement or something else that makes them nervous. Don’t hesitate to move a ground blind or goose decoys if necessary to lure birds well within shotgun range.

When everything comes together just right and the moment of truth is at hand, avoid the temptation to shoot when the first birds start dropping into your set-up. Veteran waterfowlers hold off until the lead geese are touching down and geese in the rear of the flock are well within gun range before making their move.

Of course, all these things require knowledge, time and hard work. You need to scout, set up realistic goose decoy spreads in key locations, be well camouflaged, know how to call and be creative. If you’re not up to these tasks, consider hiring a guide. These guys can show you the ins and outs of goose hunting, and after you’ve experienced a hunt first-hand, you’ll know whether you really want to make the required investment in time and equipment to goose hunt on your own. Best of all, guides do all the work. The goose hunter need not spend hours scouting, gaining hunting permission and setting and retrieving goose decoys. For a reasonable fee, reputable guides do all this and clean and pack your birds, too.

No matter how you pursue them—with a guide or without, on a river or in a field, on public hunting land or private—Canada geese provide unexpected thrills at every turn. Hunting them is a great way to enjoy the outdoors this winter. So start preparing now for the season ahead. Hunting these incredible birds will leave your heart pounding and provide memories long treasured.

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