John's Journal...

Louisiana’s Rice Fields for Hunting Ducks and Geese

Day 3: Louisiana’s Specklebelly Geese

Editor’s Note: One of the toughest places in America to hunt early-season waterfowl is Louisiana. The first time I hunted there one November, my guide brought out two cans of industrial strength Yard Guard to keep the mosquitoes out of our blind. Bill Daniels of Hayes, Louisiana, has been hunting the Bayou State for 33 years. He wears Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades because he says, “This camo blends in well with the places we hunt.” This week he’ll tell us how to hunt ducks at the end of the flyway.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewThe reason I believe my Riceland ( speck goose calls are some of the best on the market is because most specklebelly calls are hard to blow. But ours are easy to blow. I also think they have the most-realistic sound of any specklebelly call on the market.

Specklebelly geese come to calls much like mallard ducks do. They like to circle the blind several times before they decide to come in and cup their wings in front of the blind. I call to specklebellies by trying to get one goose to pull away from the flock. Then, I do some clucks and yodels, and I listen to hear how that goose is answering back to me. Once he answers my call, I call to him with the same calls and rhythm that he calls back to me. Usually, one goose in a flock will do most of the calling, and I focus my calling on this goose. I’ll let the specklebelly tell me how to call to him. Then, I study how he changes his wing beats and his flight pattern. If the wings are flapping fast, and the geese are heading away from us, then I’ll call to them more aggressively to try to get their attention. If I can get one of those geese to turn and start coming back to me, I’ll change up my calling pattern from loud and aggressive to soft clucking. Often, that one goose will pull the flock down to us.

In Louisiana, we usually don’t get the big flocks of specklebellies like they do in Arkansas. In southwest Louisiana where I hunt, the flocks usually will be made up of 10 or fewer specklebellies. We generally do better calling in pairs or singles than we do calling in larger flocks. The more geese you have in a flock, the more eyes you have looking at your decoys and your blinds. Also, you have many more geese listening for mistakes you may make in your calling, and those flocks seem to spook easier than singles or pairs.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewSo far this season, we've taken several specklebellies that have been wearing leg bands. We've learned that most of our specklebellies have been banded in Alaska, so those geese have made long trips to get to warmer weather. Hunters in southwest Texas and the Panhandle of Texas also take a lot of specklebellies. Although we have numbers of ducks here in Louisiana, and we get far more ducks than geese, specklebellies are my favorite waterfowl. I like the specklebellies because they work well and respond well to calling. Before they come in to our decoys, these geese circle over the blind quite a bit and get us really excited. When we first started our hunting club, our members weren’t very excited about taking specklebellies. They would take them when they flew over the blind, but now, many of our members had rather go specklebelly hunting than duck hunting.

On a morning hunt, we’ll usually get two waves of specklebellies. The first group often will come in with the ducks at first light, but they really start flying after the sun comes up around 7:00 or 7:15 am. The specklebellies usually work the best on bright days with sunshine and a little bit of wind. On a good day, we’ll see 30 or 40 flocks of specklebellies, but I feel fortunate if my blind gets six or eight opportunities to take specklebellies in a morning. If we have five people in the blind, and they take 10 speckled bellies, I feel like we've had a good morning.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Hunting Tough Snow Geese

Check back each day this week for more about Louisiana’s Rice Fields for Hunting Ducks and Geese

Day 1: 2015 Louisiana Duck Hunting Means Wearing Lightweight Clothing
Day 2: Numbers of Ducks and Specklebelly Geese in Louisiana
Day 3: Louisiana’s Specklebelly Geese
Day 4: Hunting Tough Snow Geese
Day 5: Calling the Shots for Waterfowl

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Entry 855, Day 3