OK, you’ve found these geese that you’re gonna hunt, and you’ve gotten permission for or checked on the legality of hunting the spot that you’ve chosen. Hopefully you are on the X. Now it’s time to talk about tactics. First and foremost, these are not the geese from up north that come down in the winter. These are local birds, and they know the in’s and out’s of the area. The one thing we have in our favor is that a large number of them are young and dumb and have no idea what a hunter is. And for the rest of them, they’ve had over 6 months to get lazy and let their guard down. But don’t let that fool you, opening day may be easy, but it’ll get tough quick. Canada Geese have been documented to live for over 30 years, and I’ve killed numerous banded birds in the 10 year range around here. A turkey may live to be 5 to 7 if he’s miraculously lucky. A deer may make it to 7 or 8 if he’s living somewhere that they have an antler size restriction, and he’s really lucky. But there are lots of geese flying in that flock that you’re gonna hunt that are older than any deer or turkey. They’ve seen decoys, dogs, blinds, and hunters; they’ve watched their broodmates fall to the gun. When that first gun goes off, they’ll remember it all very quick. That said, it’s still easier now than it will be later in the season.
Hide!!! I’ve had some gimme hunts that didn’t turn out at all because guys in the party assumed the birds to be so dumb that they didn’t take the time to really cover up and blend in to the terrain. I’m sorry, but if you spend the time to scout the birds well, then spend the time to go set the decoys, it’s worth that last little bit of time to truly brush your blinds and blend in. Birds that have been in the same spot every day will notice something out of place. If you walked into your living room and there was a new rug on the floor and someone laying under it, you would probably notice that. It works the same way for them- you’re in their living room. In a permanent blind, no worries, the geese are used to it; in a layout blind or something temporary that you set up for that hunt, take the time to brush it heavily with the same vegetation that the blind is sitting in. Make your hide as invisible as possible. And try to keep it from sticking up above the surrounding cover.
Don’t put too many decoys out. How many birds are in the spot you want to hunt everyday? Put out one third to half that many- no more! These birds know each other. They know who was there yesterday, and who will be there today. Smaller flocks may come in if you have out more decoys, but the larger flocks will wonder who the new guys in their spot are, and they may spook without coming in. You want it to appear that the first few birds have arrived, and that’s all.
Since these birds know where they’re going, they don’t need to do a lot of talking amongst themselves about it. You won’t find our resident birds making as much noise as the migrant flocks later in the year. The birds on the ground in particular, which are the ones you’re imitating, won’t do a lot of calling to incoming flocks. They’re already there, they’re content, and they expect those incoming birds to come right on in. They’re fairly quiet about it, and you should be too. Call just enough to let the incoming flocks know you’re there, and to warn them not to land too close. That’s it. A few honks as they approach, and a little mildly aggressive clucking as they close those last 100 yards.
The one time that you want more decoys, more calling, more flagging, more everyting, is when you are not on the X. If you’re not on the X then you have to RUN TRAFFIC. Running Traffic means that you have to overcome their desire to go where they’re headed, and that’s only gonna be by convincing them that they’ll miss one heck of a party if they don’t stop by to see you and your decoys. Put out a lot of decoys, make a lot of movement in the dekes with flagging or motion decoys, and call your butt off until you break them from their flight pattern and they start coming your way. Then keep doing it because if you stop now, the older birds are likely to turn the flock back to where it had been headed originally.