Thinking that early-season resident Canadas are pushovers is the ticket to a long, action-free siesta in your layout blind. Avoiding a wild goose chase this summer starts with understanding the birds at this time of year and scouting smart to really get the jump on them. Here’s how to do it.
Understand early-season goose routines. At night, they’ll roost on water of a fairly good size, like a marsh, lake, river backwater, oxbow slough, farm pond, or golf course water. Soon after dawn, the birds fly out to feeding fields. Those are the places to hunt. By late morning, geese return to water (though often not to the roost) and rest. There’s usually an afternoon feed too, which is another good time to hunt. Then it’s back to roosting water for the night.
Find the Food
Geese are grain and salad eaters now. Their primary focus is small grain, followed by grass and greens. Wheat and barley stubble are great, and harvested oat fields can be even better. Within any harvested small-grain field, weeds and other greens pop up, making it a goose smorgasbord. Alfalfa, pea, and clover fields serve geese too, as do close-cropped pastures.
To find out exactly where they’re feeding, first establish where the geese are roosting. Get there before dawn in your vehicle, watch their flight pattern, and follow them as best as you can. It might take a few mornings to discover where they’re going.
Alternatively, drive back roads early in morning and look for geese descending on fields. Use binoculars to watch geese and know in which area of a field they feel safe. With permission secured, walk the field and precisely identify the “X” by droppings and feathers left behind. This is where you’ll set up.
It might take a few days to find the right spot, so start scouting a week before the season opens. Be prepared with backup fields in case the geese shift patterns or you shoot them off a field.
Permission is key, and landowners can be quite agreeable since many of them don’t care much for geese. Treat the land well and you’ll be welcome again. If you gain permission on a new farm, a small gift of thanks never hurts and can often open more gates on the neighbors’ land. It’s also always a good idea to volunteer to do some chores in the off-season (if it’s geographically feasible) and share some of your bounty. If the landowner doesn’t care to eat goose, substitute a frozen turkey. If he enjoys Canadas, be sure to properly dress and breast the bird(s). Flopping a bloodied mess of feathers on his front porch after a hunt will only make more work for someone who likely doesn’t need anymore, and it won’t endear you to him or anyone else in his family.
Photo: Donald M Jones