How to Work Early Season Geese
October 13, 2014
With a quarter-century of goose hunting experience, my typical set for early-season greaters is simple.
First, I never put out more decoys than the number of birds that have been using the field. When scouting, if you see there are around 40 birds using the field, do not go in there and throw 10-dozen decoys. My rule is use half the number of decoys as the number of birds using the field, in family groups of six to 10 with large spaces in between. The big birds need real estate to land. Open up your spread, keeping it loose and comfortable.
If you're lucky enough to venture where lesser geese roam, remember, little geese don't need the room their bigger cousins do. They are social birds attracted to numbers. In the early season, big spreads are good. I usually punch a hole in the middle of the decoys and most of the time the birds will drop down vertically right in the middle of the hole.
From the Pros
Rob Reynolds of Ranchland Outfitters in Alberta also notices that in the early season, big geese are in family groups. He watches the fields the night before and tries to recreate the look. He also says he will use a lot less decoys versus the peak of the migration.
JD Hernandez of Last Pass Outfitters hunts the Colorado plains, country that mimics the Midwest — flat and full of grain crops. For big geese, JD sets his decoys fairly loose and in family groups for early season, putting the majority of his decoys within easy gunning range directly front and center of his blind or pit.
"The birds will tell me how to set my spread and how many decoys to use." When little geese arrive first, he likes to use big spreads set tight, 12 to 18 inches apart, with a kill hole directly in front of the blind. "Throw out the big rig, hammer on 'em with the call, be patient as they work," he says.
Mark Hoke is an outstanding goose hunter from the Eastern Shore who takes wounded veterans hunting. There aren't many lessers east of the Big Muddy, so I asked him what his early-season big goose spreads look like.
"Resident birds have a daily routine that they normally will keep to if they are not over-pressured. Pay close attention to the number of geese using the area and the direction they approach the area from. Over-sizing your spread can flare geese this time of year. Most resident birds approach an area low and with confidence as they have been there before, and an open spread gives them easy access. Finesse calling seems to work the best if any calling is needed at all," said Hoke.
Sum Up the Spread
It's pretty obvious, after questioning these proven hunters, that there are specific patterns for both types of geese that are common no matter where you hunt in North America. For early big geese go small and loose, for early small geese, go big and tight.