Goose Hunting Tips
In recent articles I have been talking about all of the different hunting opportunities there are this time of year, and I am trying to write articles to cover all of these different hunts in a manner that is useful to hunters before the time has passed. That’s a lot of writing to do, and I reckon I should focus less on personal things such as I have recently, and keep my writing focused on the hunting. So that is what I am going to do.
We had our first snow here in Colorado today; it wasn’t much, and it’s rather late in the year to get our first snow, but I can feel winter on its way. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t been snowing a lot in the mountains, it has. But down here on the front range we got our first accumulation of snow today, and that got me thinking about hunting Canada geese, which we have a lot of here. The season doesn’t open here until November 23rd, but now is the time to start getting ready.
Tomorrow I will be doing some shooting to make sure my rifle is pin-point accurate for my deer hunt a week from tomorrow, but while I am at the range I will also do some clay pigeon shooting with a few different shotguns to hone my skills for the coming bird seasons. It’s going to be a fun day!
The Canada Goose is a beautiful bird with a black head and neck, with a white marking around the base of their head, and a combination of gray, brown, black, and white plumage throughout their body. Their feathers are excellent for many uses in fly tying, and I always get an extra sense of satisfaction when I catch a fish on a fly that I have tied with the feathers of a bird that I shot, whether that be a goose, duck, or pheasant. These birds are big; a male averages around 7 pounds, with a 6 foot wing span, the females are a couple of pounds smaller. These birds are passing through most of the United States in the winter as they migrate south, providing hunting opportunities in almost every state.
Even beginners can get into hunting these geese by following some simple guidelines to get started. Here are my tips for the beginning Canada Goose hunters, and maybe some things that even the seasoned hunters can learn from. Keep in mind that this article is like Goose Hunting 101, meaning the very basics. There is a lot more to write about each one of the topics below, in fact just writing this article is inspiring me to write a book about it.
- Learn the Birds – Understanding how geese behave at different times of the year, in different weather situations, and in different environments will go a long way towards your success. Spend some time to research how the birds react to weather, to wind, their feeding habits, and how they react to hunting pressure.
- Hone Your Shooting Skills – A goose is a big bird, and you are going to need a powerful shot to get one down. I prefer a 12 gauge 3 1/2″ magnum shell to start with. From there, the options are almost endless these days, but if you are just starting out, I would recommend a BBB or BB load with a velocity of at least 1550 fps. Of course everyone has their opinions; some people prefer #2’s with a 3″ shell, and there is the debate over steel shot versus lead (which sometimes isn’t an option based on regulations), and even the shape of pellets within the shell. This whole topic can become very convoluted, so for beginners who already have a gun, use the most powerful load you can up to BB. As always, practice with your gun and your loads, and know your limitations. Don’t take a shot at a bird any more than 40 yards away.
- Get the Gear – It doesn’t have to be expensive to get started goose hunting, but it can be. You need the proper clothing to withstand the cold and sometimes wet conditions of goose hunting. If you will be hunting in or near water, you will need warm chest waders with rubber soles. You will need warm, camouflage clothing, gloves, and head gear. You will also need decoys and calls, but again, start with the basics. You don’t need 200 decoys and five different types of calls to get started goose hunting. You can get by with two dozen decoys, with feeders, sentinels, and sleepers. And I would start with only a couple of calls, and learn how to use them and what the calls mean to the geese.
- Find the Spot – As with all hunting, finding a place to hunt that will be productive is the most critical step. You can have all the gear, all the skills, be there at 5:00 AM, and be ready, but if you aren’t in the right place, all of that does no good. You will simply spend a freezing morning sitting there holding your shotgun. I always suggest to start with your state’s division of wildlife, natural resources, parks and wildlife, or whatever it is called in your state or the states you want to hunt. There is so much information available on the internet through these state organizations that you can find a place to hunt, just do some research before you go.
- Keep it Simple – Learn what you can about how to hunt the Canada Goose, but don’t get overwhelmed by all that you can read or watch about hunting these birds. Magazine articles and TV shows can make this look really easy, or really difficult. If you want to get into hunting these birds, learn what you can, and just get out and do it. Every article you read or TV show you watch has its own peculiarities that influence the hunt. If you try to emulate everything you read or watch, you will be disappointed. You have to learn the basics, and be agile in how you apply your knowledge.
So those are some basics about hunting the Canada Goose, but there is really so much more to write, and so much more for you to learn if you want to get into hunting these magnificent birds. And as it is with all hunting, the experience of hunting these birds is an adventure all of its own. You will slog through snow or mud with a heavy pack of decoys on your back, spend frigid pre-dawn mornings setting up decoys in a corn field or a river, you will feel dejected when hours pass without a bird, you will be sitting in a cold blind wondering why you ever thought it would be fun. But once the geese come into your decoy spread, or you have successfully called a flock back to you, when the birds come into range of your shot, it is an experience you will never forget.