John's Journal...

Hometown Geese and Nuisance Geese

Tactics for Hunting Resident Geese

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: In the fall every year and well into the winter in some areas, many states hold resident-goose seasons to rid the regions of too-many geese. Chris Kirby, the president of Quaker Boy Calls in Orchard Park, New York, says of these nuisance geese, “These birds have few natural predators, and their numbers can build-up quickly.” Like other avid nuisance-goose hunters, Kirby hopes to help control the goose population by harvesting resident geese in September before other birds come down the flyway.

No matter where you hunt resident geese, you'll find scouting the key to successfully taking them. Beforethe season, Kirby and Duffy had studied the geese in and around Franklinville. They learned where the geese roosted and in which fields they fed. In early September, local farmers began to cut their corn fields. Many of the farmers already had winter wheat planted and growing. Creatures of habit, the resident geese consistently roosted on the same bodies of water and fed in certain fields for several days before they left that field and moved to another one. Even when hunted, the birds would continue to return to their preferred fields. As farmers cut new fields, the geese would move into them to eat the grain scattered on the ground by the corn picker. OncClick to enlargee hunters located a field where the geese fed, they had to obtain permission from the landowner to hunt that field. “Dick and I spent a lot of time with binoculars, driving up and down the back roads, looking for geese and watching where they went, fed and roosted,” Kirby said. “Once we earned the flight patterns of the geese, we began to talk to farmers to get their permission to hunt.”

You must have several fields to hunt if you plan to hunt the entire resident-goose season. When you hunt flights of resident geese, you won't see nearly as many birds in a day as when you hunt the flight geese.  Most mornings you won't have more than two or three flocks that come into a field to feed. Unless you have twoor three different fields to hunt, you can put so much pressure on the geese that they'll abandon a field.  “Although resident geese are not nearly as wary as flight geese, they're still wild birds,” Kirby emphasized. “If you shoot a flock two or three days in a row, the birds will refuse to come into the field where you hunt. By having three or four fields to hunt, you can rotate your shooting and keep geese coming into them all season long. You don't want to thin just one flock of geese. I take three or four birds out of one flock, move to another field and then take birds from another flock.”

Decoying:     Click to enlarge
Usually the way you set up your decoy spread dictates the type of shooting you'll have. “If you want pass shooting, set your decoys up in a V formation and take a stand off to one side of the V,” Kirby explained. “As the geese come toward the V, you can get some really fine pass shooting. If you prefer to shoot as they come in to light with their wings cupped and their feet outstretched, set the decoys up in a U shape with enough opening in the middle of the U for the birds to light. Take a shooting position at the head of the U. By putting plenty of decoys at the head of the U, you'll get the geese to come straight at you and try and land right in front of you.”     To produce that picture-perfect shot we all dream of, have your decoys facing into the wind and the U or the V pointing into the wind. Although the geese will circle when they come in, they prefer to come in to the wind to light. Kirby primarily uses shell-type decoys, but also likes full-bodied decoys. In recent years, he's become very excited about the super-magnum-sized Carry Lite decoys.

“Often we hunt low-cut fields,” Kirby said. “We don't have blinds built or pits dug because we only hunt a day or two during the season. We've had a problem before hiding from the geese. But when we bought some of the super-magnum-sized Carry Lite decoys, we discovered we could put the 42-inch decoys on our chests. We let the beaks of the feeding decoys rest on the bills of our caps, leaving only our knees and feet, which were camouflaged, exposed. We also like the big decoys because a flight of geese can spot them at a much greater distance than they can normal-size decoys. Then we've learned you can lift the backs of the decoys up and use them to flag geese. Also, they camouflage the hunter and hisClick to enlarge gun. When the geese come in, they may see your knees and feet but not see enough of your torso to spook them. By putting the bill of your cap on the beak of the decoy, you can hide your face. Because the neck and body of the decoy are so large, I can change calls while the geese are in the air without their ever seeing me.”     Kirby keeps one hand on his gun under the decoy and his other hand out from under the decoy on his chest where his calls lie. When the geese come in, Kirby begins to call.

“I like to start off with a Quaker Boy Pro-Magnum call when the geese are way off in the distance and I really need to get their attention and cause them to look at the decoys,” Kirby explained. “Once I've got the geese looking at the decoys and coming our way, I'll change calls and use Quaker Boy's Goose Honking Tube, which is more of a finesse call. When you first see the geese, you want to scream at them. But as they come in, you want to decrease the volume of your calling and begin to coax them to the ground with the Goose Honking Tube. You can talk to the geese on a more personal level. I usually talk the geese all the way down.” Although a master goose caller, Kirby considers the proper positioning of the decoys much more critical than the calling to his success when hunting hometown geese.

“I think there's a fine line between calling too much and calling just enough to get the geese to come in,” Kirby said. A couple of years ago, Kirby and Duffy goose hunted early in the morning. After a flight of geese had come in and the sun warmed the area, both men, lying under the decoys, fell asleep. As Kirby recalls, “We were awakened by the sound of honking geese and beating wings. The birds were cupped right in front of us. Because of what happened, I began to rethink about how much calling was required to bring the geese in to where we were. “I call because I like to call. I enjoy seeing the reaction my calling invokes in the geese. But actually very-little calling is required after you get the geese's attention, and they start coming to you.”

Using the Best Tactics and Equipment:   
You'll find lying on the cold ground for extended periods of time no fun. But when you hunt resident geese flocks, oftentimes you may have to wait for an hour or more before a new flight arrives. Because of the mountainous terrain where we hunted, the geese would appear suddenly. If you didn't stay under your decoy, you'd spook the birds you tried to take. Kirby, a seasoned veteran at this sport, had learned some secrets that made lying in the field under a huge goose decoy not only tolerable, but also comfortable. “Before I lie down, I put down a foam seat,” Kirby explained. “This warm comfortable seat lies flat on the ground and provides a barrier between the cold, hard ground and myself. I know that most of the time you need your head up to see the geese and determine when to take the shot. But if you keep raising and lowering your head, the geese will spot you. To solve this problem, try to locate a rock about half the size of a pumpkin. When I lie flat on the foam seat, I can lean my head up against a rock, see the decoys in the sky, keep the bill of my cap propped against the beak of the decoy and be comfortable all morning long.”

I never realized before how comfortable a rock could be. After the flight of geese had come in, while I waited quietly and patiently under the decoy, I heard a small rock hit the decoy sitting on my chest. Then Kirby's voice told me to, “Wake up, John. I don't mind your sleeping or being comfortable. But as loud as you're snoring, you'll spook the geese as they come in to us. If you're going to sleep, you can't snore. That's the No. 1 rule when you're hunting geese.”

Tomorrow: Redemption

Check back each day this week for more about "Hometown Geese and Nuisance Geese"

Day 1: A Local Goose Season Means No Nuisance Geese
Day 2: Tactics for Hunting Resident Geese
Day 3: Redemption
Day 4: Why a Nuisance Goose Season
Day 5: How to Remove Nuisance Geese


Entry 474, Day 2