For this article, I have compiled a list of things I found I needed goose hunting for beginners, waterfowl hunters, and offer a few tactics to get you started. Like anything you are passionate about, the sky’s the limit (no pun intended) when it comes to gear.
When I was approached a few years ago to take care of some nuisance geese, I was hesitant to take on the job. The main reason: I knew nothing about goose hunting. I scoured the internet to find as much on the topic as I could, then I agreed to take care of them. As a Whitetail guy, I never really was interested in waterfowl hunting since the seasons overlap in my area. Little did I know that day that I would be hooked on the sport after pulling the trigger on the first honker landing on a pond.
First and foremost, let’s start with tags. Unlike deer hunting, where all I need is a license and a tag, I found that waterfowl hunting requires a few more special stamps and even a survey in my area. To hunt geese, I needed to have a federal waterfowl stamp, which I got at my local post office, plus a state waterfowl stamp. I also had to take a migratory game bird survey. All this was necessary before I even could think about shooting a goose. The money raised from these stamps goes to waterfowl and habitat management. This is a great way to keep waterfowl hunting alive.
The next thing I got was a good waterfowl gun. I have a trusty old Mossberg 500 pump shotgun with a waterfowl barrel and a Carlson’s choke tube. The choke tube is an important part of the equation to keep your shot pattern together when shooting birds out of the air. The choke tube I use from Carlson’s is the cremator non-ported in mid- and long-range choke tubes. They hold the pattern best to get the most out of my gun and ammo. Another great waterfowl gun I had the chance to use is the Remington versa max. This is a semi-auto gun designed for waterfowl hunting. Either choice is a great one for getting into waterfowl.
AMMO AND CAMO
While on the topic of firearms, let’s talk about ammo.
You can only use steel shot to hunt waterfowl. This law was put into place in the ‘90s to prevent waterfowl from dying of lead poisoning. There are several different companies that make steel shot. I personally like 3-inch HEVI-Shot or Peters Premium Blue. My gun patterns both well, and the shot is readily available online and in stores.
When it comes to camo, I have found the patterns for waterfowl hunting are a lot different than the ones for Whitetail hunting that I was used to. There are several different ways to hunt waterfowl and that plays into your camo decision. Some guys like to hunt them in the water with waders. Others like to hunt them from land, on the ground, or out of a blind. I once even hunted out of a flat bottom Jon boat floating down a river.
My preferred camo for my style of waterfowl hunting is from TrueTimber. I like the longtail parka and pants in the prairie color. It is 100 percent waterproof and great for hunting over picked fields.
On the topic of blending in, there are several companies that make waterfowl blinds. I have used a few different kinds, but I don’t really have a preference. I personally like a layout blind in the middle of a field, but we will get into that in a little bit. Another great product I have used is the heated TideWe waders. These are perfect for cold mornings hunting in the water. They keep you dry and warm which is key for limiting out!
DECOYS AND CALLS
The last thing to get you going is some decoys and a few good calls. Both are very important, especially once the geese have been shot at a few times.
Let’s start with calls. There are several companies that make quality calls. My favorite is the solution from GK calls. This was the perfect call as an entry-level caller. The company even has a digital download of instructions for calling. The best thing you can do is get a call and just start practicing. You can get on the internet and find many great tutorials. Then, practice, practice, practice.
When it comes to decoys, I have learned there are two different strategies that have produced success for me. The thing about decoys is that you want them to convince the geese it is safe. Early in the season, I like to use small flocks of decoys in a few small groups as an effective method. After being shot at a few times, the geese get leery of small flocks, though. This is when I like to add more. I have found that about 3 dozen decoys seem to be a good number.
Not all goose decoys are created equal, though, and several companies make them. There are full body, silhouette, shells, and floating decoys. They all serve different purposes and you must find what works best for you and your style of hunting. They also come in many different poses. I like to use full-body decoys in several different positions. I have a combination of the sentry, feeder, and resting decoys. This gives the appearance that it is a large flock that is safe. I also have some floating decoys for if I am hunting close to open water. I personally use SX decoys. They are quality decoys at an affordable price.
Now to the hunting. Before you ever set foot in a blind, one of the best things you can do is observe the geese you are trying to hunt. Watch how they fly into a set, the direction they come in and what they do once they land. I like to try to observe them at least twice before I set up for a hunt.
I hunt a lot of ponds and agricultural fields in my area, so the next step is to brush in a blind. The key here is to match your surroundings and not set up in the middle of where the birds are landing. I like to set my blind up just off that location by maybe 30 feet. Something to keep in mind is that it is a lot easier to conceal small groups of guys. If you are hunting in a large group, I suggest that you split up.
I then like to set out my decoys where the geese want to be. You don’t have to have large numbers of decoys to get the geese to come in. They just need to be set up right. The geese need to feel safe when they come in. I like to have a good mix of feeding and resting decoys.
I put them in a few small groups to look just like the geese do when they land. If geese flying overhead see that the decoys are safe, feeding, and resting, that’s what they are looking for, and they will come in.
I don’t call a lot. I call when I am trying to get the attention of flying geese in the distance. There are a few basic calls to learn: the honk, the cluck, the double cluck, and the moan. You can use these to sound like a flock of geese and get the attention of ones that are not committing to your decoy spread.
Another good tactic if you can’t brush in a blind is to hide in some cattails on the pond or in a fence row.
The key is to blend in. If they can’t see you, any kind of structure will work. If you don’t have any decoys, this can be a great way to hunt. Scout the area and find where the geese want to be. Brush yourself in and be ready.
If you are new to waterfowl hunting, hopefully these suggestions will help you to get a better understanding of what is needed and the ways of a few tactics. If you’re a seasoned veteran, hopefully you too enjoyed this article.
Either way, get out there and enjoy the hunt! Like I said earlier, as a Whitetail guy, if I knew how much fun this is, I would have started a lot earlier.
Once you’ve landed your first goose, click here to read a delicious recipe – Confit: A luxurious Treat with Duck or Goose