Photo By Blake Hodge
Jeff Dennis and Daryl Hodge with a pair of late-season honkers
By Jeff Dennis
Some East Coast states offer a late goose season, representing the last chance waterfowlers will have to hunt until September.
Scouting efforts should reveal which farm ponds and cutover agriculture fields the geese are using.
Late season geese are wary and scouting techniques should be stealthy, and hunters should be careful not to eyeball them too hard.
One can expect to spend more time scouting than actually hunting because it is absolutely essential to have the geese patterned before toting decoys and other gear to the hunt location.
Duck numbers may be down in the Atlantic Flyway but hunters shouldn’t overlook Canada goose populations that can vary from state to state.
The geese use their numbers to keep a watch out at all times, making it a real challenge to hunt them.
Late season geese fly higher, travel in larger groups, and stay tighter than lazy September geese.
Depending on how far they have flown the geese will rest when they land, and if the migration has stalled, then they might sit in one field all day long.
The less they leave, the harder it is to get to them, but being able to execute a hunt on short notice can help hunters bag more geese.
Daryl Hodge is a seasoned waterfowl hunter from S.C. who travels to different states to hunt as a Drake Field Expert.
“We almost always hunt from layout blinds and experience teaches that it’s best if we have some wind during the hunt,” said Hodge. “Facing into the wind to work the birds we know they will get a good look at us, so we use a base layer of camo under the blind and place native vegetation on the top side. We make one single row with our blinds, and space them closely, because multiple rows don’t look low-key.”
The late season for Canada geese in South Carolina runs from Feb. 13 – 28 and carries a daily bag limit of five per hunter.
Utilize a V-formation of decoys with the tip of the V pointing right at the layout blinds. It’s hard to judge when to pull the trigger since Canada geese are large birds, but aiming for 20-yards out is a good rule of thumb.
A hunter with experience needs to be set up in the middle of the spread in order to best judge the geese and to call the shot for everyone.
If someone shoots too soon then the geese flare and everyone else will find out how tough it is to shoot at the tail feathers of a goose.
Once they change their flight direction and accelerate, they won’t stay in range of non-toxic shot for long.
If the geese circle twice and don’t come into the decoy spread, then the chances are they see something they don’t like.
Making minor adjustments to the full-body decoys in your spread can make all the difference when it comes to success.
You have to really watch the geese and read their body language before calling or flagging to attract them.
If the flock is quiet, then the hunter should call sparingly. If there is lots of loud honking, then you’ll need to get in the game in order to be heard.
When the geese are far off extend your whole arm when flagging, but tone that down as they close in giving a shorter flap lower down that simulates a goose landing.
It is legal to shoot geese until sunset, and late season goose hunts that involve a roost pond are almost always at odds with this.
Geese fly well after sunset, especially on bluebird days, so think about planning the hunt when rain or fog are present.
These factors shorten the daylight on any given day, giving hunters a sporting chance that the geese will arrive before the cutoff time.
Sometimes the geese don’t come at all, but rarely do late season goose hunters complain because they know time spent in the field is a good investment towards future hunting success.