3 Sleeper States for the Traveling Goose Hunter

We picked three prime destinations in the Lower 48 for geese hunting

A hunter hauls a full load of geese.
A hunter hauls a full load of honkers from a cornfield.Lee Thomas Kjos / The Raw Spirit

There’s an upside to the changing migration patterns: Overlooked spots all around the country are seeing more birds than ever. Here are my top three picks for the traveling goose hunter.

1. Northern California

The Upper Butte Basin, a network of low-lying sloughs and oxbows that covers 9,600 acres in Butte and Glenn Counties in northern California, is one of the most important wintering destinations for waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway. Canadas pour in here by the tens of thousands each fall, so this is a prime place to take your limit of birds. There's a lottery system for hunt permits here, but with so much great waterfowl habitat and so many birds passing through the area, this is one of the best waterfowl destinations in the West. The best time to visit is in December, and the bag limit is 10 dark geese.

Yellow Lab retrieving a downed goose.
A yellow Lab brings a heard-earned bird back to the blind.Chip Laughton

2. Southwest Idaho

Idaho is famous for its big-game hunting, but the southwest corner of the state is a prime destination for geese. That’s because the Snake River irrigation plain holds plenty of big water that stays open year-round, and it boasts millions of acres of agricultural fields. It should be no surprise, then, that this area fills up with honkers throughout the fall. Plus, with a wealth of public land and numerous access points, the Snake offers plenty of space to get away from the crowds. Goose season runs October through January, and the daily bag limit is four birds.

3. Finger Lakes Region, New York

More than one million waterfowl pass through Upstate New York each fall, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During peak migration, the goose population in the Finger Lakes region exceeds 50,000. The fields surrounding the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge are the best spots in the region for honkers. And with more geese over­wintering here, hunter success continues to grow. You can expect action from October through January.