By Mark Fike
Once you have located a good spot to get into the early season goose action, it is time to make a plan. Early season birds are a tough lot and can be very stuck in their ways when it comes to feeding and loafing. It takes a whole lot of persuasion to get them off the regular routine.
As stated in last week’s article, you need to scout and have the flocks you are hoping to hunt dialed in and know where they go to feed, loaf and roost and what they are feeding on. Do not think you are going to set up along their flying route and just call them on over to your field. It could happen, but not likely. They know where they want to go before they even flap their wings.
Know what time they normally arrive at the feeding location and where in that feeding location they prefer to land. This means a scouting trip the day or so before if possible. As they eat their way through the grass, grain or food, they change landing zones slightly. No point in walking or waddling a hundred yards when you can land right on top of it.
The same goes for the loafing location which is normally a pond. Geese love to rest on the water or on the pond bank. The great thing about hunting a water hole during the early season is that you usually don’t have to get up at 3 AM to get set up. You may even be able to sleep in a bit or get a good breakfast before you even leave the house!
Get to that spot and set up your spread with at least 45 minutes to spare. Although these birds are on a schedule, they can deviate from it due to cloudy weather, windy conditions, storms or whatever.
I prefer to use less than two dozen decoys in the early season. I have found no point in setting up hundreds of decoys in the heat when the birds are coming to that location anyway! I like to have about a dozen, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Having a few decoys gives the birds confidence and I think it may sometimes make them more direct about landing in the location because they see “interlopers” have horned in on their space.
When setting up your spread and blinds, be sure to use the terrain to your advantage. If you can put your layout up against a fence or hide it in taller grass, do so. If there are stumps or logs or other things to help break up your blind, use it. Shallow depressions? Ditto.
If you are hunting at the water hole, get a few floaters and a few resting geese decoys. Put some on the shoreline too. Pay attention to how the geese act during your scouting trip. Most of the time the geese lighting on the pond will approach the same two ways depending on the wind, and they will fly off the same two ways as well.
Just like you do when hunting during the regular season, have someone in charge of calling the shots and make a point to let as many geese get into the spread as possible to maximize your harvest to help the landowner. Pick your shots and make them cleanly. No one wants to see a crippled bird hobbling around the farm or the nearby subdivision. Enjoy the meat, too. Goose is good despite what you might have heard. Perhaps we will run a recipe in a few weeks to make use of those goose breasts you will be putting in your freezer.