Wild goose chase

Was on the road at 4:30 am to a harvested bean field in Russell with Maurice, the younger brother of my hunting buddy Jason, for a Canada goose hunt. Despite a forecast for rain, the sky was clear and a very light southwest wind was blowing. We arrived at the bean field shortly after 5:00 am and selected a site for the hunt. We got to work setting out the decoys, a mix of full-bodied and shell decoys, all of top quality. We had thirty-one decoys in all. We placed them in small groups consisting of feeders, sentries and resting birds. We set up our layout blinds a discrete distance from the decoy spread, making sure to set on decoy at forty yards from the blinds to mark the limit of range of our shotguns. By the time we finished setting out the decoys and camouflaging the layout blinds with chaff from the bean field, it was close to the start of legal shooting time at 6:55 am.

We got into our blinds, loaded our shotguns, watched the sky and waited. Laying on your back in a layout blind in the early morning is quite comfortable and you can easily find yourself dozing. Such is what happened with Maurice. Early on in shooting time a pair of wood ducks winged in and landed at the outer edge of the decoy spread. I kept an eye on them and several minutes later they took to wing, headed to the left side of Maurice, well within range. “There they go, take them” I called out to Maurice. The birds flew past and Maurice seemingly passed up the shot. He was dozing. Just as well, I suppose, as he was shooting #2 steel shot in 3 1/2 cartridges through his Baikal autoloader, just a tad excessive.

We watched and waited as several high flying flocks of Canada geese passed by overhead, showing no interest in our decoy spread. It was just after an hour into shooting time that approaching flocks began decoying. They responded to my calling, using my P.S. Olt flute call, and Maurice’s flagging. The first flock to decoy I downed one bird with my first shot and missed cleanly with the second, using my Browning BPS pump shotgun. I was using 3″ hevishot cartridges with #2 shot. The bird was killed cleanly. Maurice dumped a bird too. The next flock that decoyed, I doubled; Maurice dumped a bird too. The birds were decoying without hesitation and headed straight to the open area on the field we left in the decoy spread, right in front of our blinds. We had a few lively cripples, but every downed bird was retrieved. We did not have a dog with us to retrieve downed birds so we were doing our best to avoid crippling birds. Maurice was using a modified choke in his Baikal, which I found unusual as he was shooting steel shot. He explained he was trying for head shots on the geese, not wanting to damage the breast meat.

We had flocks continue to decoy, though many approached, took a look well out of range, thought the better of it and continued on their way. Canada geese are naturally wary and adept at avoiding hunters. We filled our limit of Canada geese, five birds each, two hours into the hunt at 8:55 am. We were successful in our goose hunt for a number or reasons, but first and foremost because we were set up in a field the geese wanted to be. You can set up in any field and set out hundreds of goose decoys, but if the geese are not interested in the particular field you are set up, you are going to be disappointed. The geese are not going to come to you; you have to go where they want to be. Beyond that we had set up our decoy spread carefully so that it looked to the decoying geese like live birds on the ground. I have some skill at goose calling, even if I say so myself, and we took great are to camouflage our layout blinds. If you want geese to decoy, your blind has to look like it is just part of the field, else the geese will see you and flare. After we concluded the hunt and were shooting a video recapping the experience, a lone Canada goose decoyed while we were standing out in the open.

This was one of those occasions when everything came together nicely. The weather turned out much nicer than was forecast, we were set up in a field the geese wanted to be and northern birds, migrating to their winter range, had moved into the area. These were the birds that decoyed readily. It was a memorable hunt and I had a very nice time hunting with Maurice.

Posted by Geoffrey

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