No, not your neighbors!
There’s been a dramatic shift in the populations of greater Canada geese. Many of them no longer migrate as they have in previous decades. Because there are literally hundreds to thousands of sanctuaries out there made up of golf courses, subdivisions, and industrial area retention ponds—all with a great deal of food and water in one location—resident Giant Canada geese have become quite a problem.
One was even blamed for bringing down flight 1549, the famous “Hudson River Landing” of a jet in New York City. These residents behave different than traditional, migratory geese, and require an entirely different method of pursuit in many cases. They know their “neighborhood” and, conversely, know when something has gone awry or out of place. The season tends to be warm. They tend to feed in the same places year to year, but a change in crop patterns can really put a wrinkle in your plans.
The following 5 tips will help you to do your part in protecting your local golf courses and airports, all while hunting in your t-shirt.
1. Hunt Where the Birds are
This may seem self evident, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve see people putting out decoys in areas where birds have not flown in weeks, if not months. Scouting is your friend for the nuisance season, and you should know where the birds roost and feed before you go after them. You will also quickly realize that there are prime time’s to shoot your geese. One at first light when they fly out to feed, and again several hours later as they return to roost on water. Because of the warm weather, the birds do not need to feed as often, so there is a great deal less action after 10:00 AM than during later times of the season, so the good news is you will know right away whether you have chosen your location correctly. If you have or can get permission to hunt on the “X”, you are much more likely to get into some heavy shooting. …But not always!
2. Hunt the Flight Path
Let’s face it, not everyone will allow you to hunt. Also, there are places where hunting is not feasible, as in an area where the field the birds are feeding in is adjacent to a subdivision and you cannot hunt the required or legal “safe distance” away. The next best thing to being on the “X” is being between the birds’ roost and where they want to be. This is especially true if you can obtain permission to hunt a freshly mowed field such as wheat or alfalfa. You have an excellent chance of calling birds off of their path and bringing them down to a new “buffet.”
Having grown up hunting resident geese in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area, I learned early on that fewer, more realistic decoys are better than a large spread. Local resident geese become more educated each year as some birds make it through two or three successive seasons. I have always experienced better success with a decoy spread of a dozen or less realistic full-body decoys hunted out of well-camouflaged blinds.
During this time of year, the majority of the birds’ feeding is being done in fields that can be mowed quite low. They can even be as short as your front lawn. Hunting these types of conditions makes it difficult to hide close enough to position yourself for a shot. I am a big fan of layout blinds, and with the right positioning in camouflage they can be your best bet for “hiding in plain sight.” Choose the lowest profile blinds that you can, make sure they are adequately muddied, and completely camouflaged with natural surrounding vegetation. Wheat stubble or grass clippings work very well this time of year. Place the blinds off to the side of your decoy spread so that when birds are landing, they are looking away from where your blinds are positioned. My favorite is to position the blinds so that the birds’ approach allows for a right-to-left swinging shot.
5. Shoot the Roost
This is one time of year where I don’t mind shooting a roost, especially as this shortened season winds down. Many times the increased pressure on the birds in adjacent fields forces them out of their customary flight paths and patterns. If the birds start choosing feeding areas that are inaccessible, I’ll often go in and hunt over water. The key here is to find a “late roost” area where the birds settle down that may be closer to their feeding area, or two wait until the birds leave and set up while they are gone. This can quickly burn out an area, as the geese will not tolerate a lot of pressure on their roost, so we reserve these shoots for the last several days of the nuisance season.
If you have practiced your shooting in the off-season, these tips should help you harvest more limits this year. With some seasons already underway and many others coming up in the next several weeks, I hope you are already looking for where the birds are. [ace]