Photograph by Bill Buckley

Done correctly, flagging can be a very valuable tool in the goose hunter’s repertoire. It’s a great way to get birds’ attention at a distance, and it can add realism to a spread. How you use a flag, however, can be the difference between a good day afield and a bad one.

The Do’s
Be Aggressive: Whether hunting the X or running traffic, I always wave my flag vigorously when I first spot geese, usually when they’re mere dots in the sky. (And, yes, I’ve waved at a few planes over the years.)

Hit Them on the Turn: Hitting birds with a call as they bank toward or away from you is almost always a good idea, and this holds true for flagging. Rarely will geese cup all the way into a spread from a mile out, so if they circle my spread more than once, I’ll hit the flag just as they are veering toward or away from the blinds. I want to be seen in their peripheral vision—adding a touch of realism to the decoys when the birds aren’t focused on the spread.

Mix it up: I use Rig ’Em Right flags to get the birds’ attention when they’re way off. As they get near, I switch to Molt Gear’s Magic Mike Flag System, which is like a jerk rig for field hunting—it’s perfect for instilling that last bit of confidence as the birds draw in close, and working it requires minimal movement on your part.

The Don’t
Be Dumb: Common sense is your friend. A goose’s eyesight is keen, and a flock of many geese means lots of wary eyes are trained on everything you do. Shaking your hand outside your blind as birds get within 100 yards is playing with fire.

The Conclusion
There are days when calling works better than flagging and vice versa. Other days, you must combine the two. Figuring out which type of day it is usually requires multiple flocks. I always pick up the call first and fill in with the flag as necessary. Using them both gives me a better understanding of what the birds want to see and hear, and prevents me from spending all day scratching my head.