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Specklebelly Goose Hunting
Most goose hunters focus their attention on snow geese and Canada geese. In some areas, however, wingshooters also have discovered the challenge and excitement of white fronted goose hunting.
Goose hunters know the white-front as “specklebelly,” a reference to the broken black barring on the breast of mature birds. The name “white-front” notes the white patch or “front” immediately behind the bill of adult birds. White fronted geese are medium-sized geese, most weighing 4-6 pounds, and all slender and agile on the wing. While Canada geese glide to a landing like huge bombers, white-fronts careen out of the sky, sideslipping or butterflying down in a near vertical descent. Their voice is distinctive: high-pitched and melodious, like laughter.
As geese go, white fronted geese are wary birds—more difficult to approach closely, less tolerant of human intrusions. They somehow seem wilder than other geese, and are thus among the most highly prized members of their clan.
Geese hunting of any sort is a lot of trouble. And because they are less common and more wary than Canada geese or snow geese, white fronted geese present a special challenge. If you hunt them right, with a large spread of goose decoys set out before first light in an area you’ve scouted, a specklebelly goose hunt represents a considerable investment of time.
Begin preparing well before the goose hunting season. Secure permission to hunt on farms you believe geese will use during the coming winter. Many farmers lease their fields for goose hunting or goose hunt the land themselves. But geese sometimes damage winter wheat crops, and there are plenty of landowners who allow respectable sportsmen to goose hunt if plans are laid well before the season.
It’s best to obtain permission to hunt several fields if possible, because there’s no way to know where geese will be from day to day during the hunting season. Fortunately, specklebellies are fairly predictable, wintering in the same general area year after year. If it’s not shot out, a flock in a particular area last winter will usually be in the same vicinity this year and next year, too, if habitat conditions remain the same. If you located flocks of white fronted geese last winter, try to obtain permission to goose hunt some of the fields where you found them.
When the season opens, it’s time to figure out where the geese are. If you’re lucky, a flock or two will be feeding in areas where you already have permission to hunt. If not, get back to work. Find out who owns land the birds are using, and see if they’ll grant permission for a goose hunt. Then return well before daybreak to set up.
Study the movement patterns of the geese throughout the season, identifying feeding places, loafing areas, roosting sites and flyways between each. Specklebellies select feeding fields at random, but when they start using a field, they generally continue coming back until the food supply is exhausted. If you had no luck hunting them on one area, you may get a better chance when they move to a new feeding site. Or, if they fly over or near your hunting sites when traveling between roosting and feeding areas, you may be able to lure them to your hunting area using decoys and calling.