They foul manicured golf courses with droppings, haunt agricultural and suburban settings, and otherwise become nuisances. They’ve figured the deal out. Hang around and get a handout. Wildlife officials have ways of dealing with this challenge: special hunts. Got resident geese? Chances are you have an early season for them.
These pre-migration birds — and even non-migrating honkers — present a game management challenge. Good news for us waterfowlers is many states often afford opportunities for early season hunts. Haven’t tried it? You might want to after reading this. It’s the first crack many of us have at action.
Tactics follow for how to enjoy this first phase of your goose hunting year, with a focus on decoy spreads to fool them into range after gaining landowner permission.
Chances are you’ll hunt and decoy resident honkers between, near or exactly where they’ve been loafing all summer. Some tips include:
Shoot Legal: As always, double-check hunting laws for legal discharge, landowner permission and hunting safely in an area that may include human development.
Pass Shoot: Some of your action could be pass shooting — taking birds between where they roost and loaf during the day. Farms are good spots to set up, or even near water roosts. Get geese locked into range before they get where they want to be. Decoy them in.
Decoy Small: Some will be adult birds; many others, young of the year (often better on the supper table, some say). Later on these resident birds will be joined by early migrants from the north. Both tend to decoy well in these early days of the season.
Shoot for Real: As fakes go, you should use the best decoys you can afford. Add new options to the old reliable mix.
Decoy with Care: Protect your investment. If you hunt hard as many of us do, take care of your gear to and from your hunting spots. Decoy bags are a must. Some guys even put fakes in individual bags. Clean decoys with a bristle brush and water.
Go Light: Sometimes smaller goose spreads work fine. These family group setups, say 5-7 decoys spaced evenly near your blind (odd numbers for luck, some waterfowlers think!), can work now. You can bring out the 100+ deke spreads later, as the pressured honkers grow tougher into fall and winter. Truth is geese likely can’t count. But they can tell big from little spreads.
Honker action can be hot early on: literally and figuratively. The sights and sounds of early-season geese moving across the late summer and early fall skyline still lifts your heart the same way it did back in winter, even if it feels just a little different now — what with the bug dope in your blind bag and light camouflage clothing.
Your spread should reflect the situation you’re hunting. Full-bodies as real as the ones with feathers. Shell decoys. Silhouettes. Motion stakes for realism. Mix and match, or stick with one style. Ask the landowner about location placement, then have at it.
You’ve one option: shoulder those decoys in a deep and sturdy bag, and haul them in. Better yet, put them on the back of your Yamaha ATV or Side by Side. Easy decision, right? This is a 24/7 lifestyle. No shortcuts. Do what it takes. It’ll put more geese in range and you’ll enjoy the ride doing it.
Let us know what decoy tricks you use for early geese on the Yamaha Outdoors Facebook page.