By Mark Fike
Across the United States goose hunters are already getting in on some hot action with “hot” being the operative word both figuratively and literally. Many states have early goose seasons with liberal limits. Most of these states hold this season to control local or resident goose numbers.
Because the aim of most of the early seasons for geese is control of resident or local populations, hunters often find liberal bag limits when compared to regular goose season regulations. Some states will also permit other liberalized regulations during this special season such as unplugged shotguns or electronic calls. Be SURE to check your local state regulations before going afield. Assume nothing!
Because most of these birds being hunted in the early season are local, they have their daily habits dialed in and vary little from those habits unless they are forced to by weather, hunting pressure or the food source changes.
For this reason early season geese are very easy to pattern. Notice I did not say hunt. If a hunter wants to take the time to scout and learn the daily routine of these big birds, he or she will at least know which farmers’ doors to start knocking on to gain permission to hunt.
When scouting, having a GIS map or an app that shows who owns the land that the geese are flying over is a huge help in securing a place to hunt. Generally geese will be in the same areas year to year but that depends greatly on the crops planted and state of harvest. So, do your scouting to figure out what is in play and what is not.
Another thing to consider that some do not is that geese will light into a hay field if it has been mowed recently. They are not always feeding on corn or soybeans, particularly if the fields are far from harvests which many in various parts of the U.S. will be due to heavy and frequent spring rains. Hay fields are not hard to set up in and many hunters that frequent such fields will purchase a hay blind to set up in. They work well if dressed up.
Another location to seriously consider is farm ponds. Ponds are a magnet for early season geese to cool off, swim, socialize and rest or loaf in. Hunters definitely need to know when the birds are using the pond though. Some flocks come right after feeding in the AM and some show up midday. There is no point in laying in a blind for hours and hours when you can pinpoint or ask the farmer when the birds show up.
Most of the time, landowners with flocks of resident geese on their land or pond will prefer to have the goose numbers thinned out. Geese are good about leaving their excrement everywhere and being big birds they produce a lot of it. Pond banks become stinky, smelly and slippery affairs, making them uninviting for anyone to walk along the pond or go fishing or swimming in the pond.
Some owners get so sick of them that they want all the geese killed. You will never get all the geese, but if you find a landowner wanting them all gone, be sure to plan your hunt so you can effectively take out as many as possible the first time you go hunting. With the landowner’s permission, take some friends and make sure your blind or layouts are hidden well. Telling the landowner you took out a large number of the birds will get you invited back.
Small ponds cannot tolerate a lot of bird waste and the water becomes polluted. I have heard of dogs that have gone swimming in such ponds getting very ill from ingesting the water. Hunting serves a good purpose in decreasing disease due to high numbers or concentrations of animals in a certain location. Look for the next article on tips and tactics for early season geese.