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Wildfowling magazine - wildfowling waterfowling duck hunting goose shooting
High Tech Goose Hunting
T R Michels

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As the flying geese approached the feeding field they saw movement, something dark hung in the sky. It seemed to beckon to them, enticing them closer. As the flock got nearer to the field the dark object began to flap it’s wings, and the geese saw the familiar white chevron on the rump of a goose. there was more m movement lower in the air and other geese backpedaled as they looked for landing spots. Below them several more geese stretched their wings.

                The dominant gander of the flying flock swung into the wind, the rest of the flock following. As the big gander flew closer he heard the aggravated honking of feeding geese, the loud calls of families trying to locate each other after they landed, and the louder threat calls as different families squabbled over feeding rights. As he got closer the gander heard the feeding gabble of other geese.

                On the ground were several families of geese feeding, their heads bobbing as the picked through the corn. Off to one side two geese with their heads up watched the flying flock, others waddled through the flock as they looked for corn. Several bunches of corn stalks surrounded by yellow cobs showed there was still plenty to eat.

                As the gander’s flock got closer to the feeding geese other geese landed ahead of them. The gander’s flock heard the “fast cluck” as geese backpedaled over the corn. The sound reassured the gander and he moved up and waited for the other geese to land. After they landed the gander chose his spot, and lowered himself to the ground, the rest of the flock behind him. 

                This scene happens dozens of times every day in the fall as flocks of geese migrate south. Sometimes the geese land safely to feed and the return to their roosting areas of lakes and rivers. Other times there is the pounding of guns carrying heavy loads of steel shot that bring down the big birds. In the above case the flying and landing geese were goose flags; products of Randy “Flag Man” Bartz. The geese in the air were Lander Kites on twenty-foot fishing poles stuck in the ground. The landing geese were T Flags waved by hunters wearing my own Field “Stalker” camouflage which made the hunters look like piles of corn stalks in the field. The invisible hunters had placed wings on the back of some of the decoys, and had used T Flags to simulate resting geese stretching their wings, adding movement and realism to the their imitation goose flock.

                The hunters put out their goose shells in family groups of from 5 to 7, and separated the family groups by a yard or more, carefully leaving an open area, or hole as the called it, in their spread. In the hole they had placed  electric-winged decoys. For added movement they used full body decoys that moved with the wind, which made them appear as if they were walking or feeding. Mixed in with the shells were Northwind windsocks for more movement. At the point of the spread were several dozen Real Geese and Outlaws decoys that added numbers to the spread without adding too much bulk to carry. At the downwind edge of the spread the hunters placed Big Foot decoys, some of them with Flapperz attached to their back; wings that moved in the wind. Two of these decoys had upright “sentry” which made them appear as if they were walking to join the flock. Actually they were strategically place thirty-five yards from the hole, so the hunters would know when the geese were in range. The sounds the feeding flock were skillfully duplicated goose calls made by hunters using Eli and Rod Haydel’s Goose Flute and Variable Tone Honker, Tim Ground’s Calls, and Ron Weineke’s Wood’s Goose Calls. Even the corncobs on the ground weren’t real.

                The increasing number of both Canada and Snow geese in North America has caused a renewed interest in waterfowl hunting, and a virtual explosion of new and improved goose hunting techniques and products. Geese congregate at staging areas on their migration south in the fall. Many of these staging areas have been designated as Wildlife Refuges or Waterfowl Areas. These refuges have served to concentrate the geese near agricultural areas and offer hunters excellent hunting opportunities as they leave the refuge to feed. With numerous hunters eager to pursue the geese many enterprising hunters have turned to leasing choice areas and guiding. With increasing hunting pressure the geese have become more wary and difficult to decoy. Guides and avid hunters in turn have devised new and improved techniques to attract geese to their fields and to their clients.

                For years hunters were convinced that bigger decoys were the best way to attract geese, almost every field had a dozen or more 42 inch goose shells. Guides often put out as many as 200 large shells. The geese soon learned that large numbers of huge lifelike appearing shell decoys often harbored hidden hunters sporting shiny barreled goose guns that were not only loud but dangerous. As the geese grew warier guides and hunters began to use actual goose sized decoys with more detail. Art Ladehoff began carving his wooden Big Foot and mass-producing plastic reproductions.

                Other hunters noticed there was a lot of movement among feeding geese. George Gurgens designed Northwind wind socks that were lightweight, compact and moved in the wind. More recently professional dog trainer and goose guide Randy Bartz refined the flagging technique often used by Bluebill hunters and designed the "T Flag" which resembles the wings of a goose. To make the flag more visible he attached it to a long pole, and finally a 20 foot extendible fishing rod. After hearing one of my seminars (about the relation of the white crescent on a goose's tail to the flocking instinct,  at Chuck and Loral I Delaney's Game Fair in Anoka, Minnesota) Randy added a tail and a white chevron to his T Flag and created the ultimate flag; the Lander Kite. When to or three of these kites are attached to a long pole and waved in the air it looks exactly like a family of geese landing. Flagging has become one of the best methods to attract geese, and Randy's flags are used by professional callers and guides from the East coast to the West coast, and from Canada to Texas.

                Other guides and hunters sought new ways to conceal the hunter and the movement from the geese. Jack Adelman designed the Pop Up blind with a shock corded top and hammock seat specifically for duck and goose hunters. The new Final Approach blind is designed to set up in minutes and provide a low profile while holding two hunters, a dog and a heater. Other hunters designed extra large decoys a hunter could transport to the field and double as a blind with the hunter inside. Because I like to be mobile and prefer to stand or lie down in the field while hunting I designed Field “Stalker” camouflage that resembles cane or corn on a dirt background. It blends in with corn, sorghum, barley, beans or rice. I made sure the pattern was large enough that it can be used to cover hunting blinds, or used on burlap, mosquito netting or die cut fabric as blind material. With the long hunting season in the Midwestern United States, goose hunting seasons extend well into winter, and I realized the need for a white camo as well as a tan and dirt colored version. My new pattern is also available as Snow Field “Stalker” with a white background for late season hunters.

                Firearms and ammuntion manufacturers have also responded to the new interest in goose hunting. Marlin had been producing their "Long Tom" single shot goose gun for years. Ithaca had been producing the 10 gauge Magnum. Remington now produces a similar model. Mossberg offered the 835 Ulti Mag 12 gauge for the new 3 1/2 inch shells. Benelli and Browning followed suit. Remington and Federal began producing 3 1/2 inch 12 gauge shells with different shot loads. After testing several of these loads over the last five years my guides and I have found that #2 shot works well on small geese at most ranges and on large geese under 35 yards. For large geese BB's work well out to 35 yards. For shots from 35-45 yards BBB should be used and for longer shooting T shot.

I found that F's have a tendency to be unpredictable and leave large holes in the pattern. When choosing shot size try several different brands and loads. If you have interchangeable choke tubes, pattern each tube with different shells, to see which work best at different yardage’s. When they're hunting Giant Canada's, most of my guides prefer a full or extra full choke with BBB of T shot. However you do not need a big gun to kill big geese. I still use an old Remington 1148 chambered for 2 3/4 inch shells and bring down my share of geese. I use BBB and T shot, and I knock geese down at 45 yards.

                Much of the shooting at geese is directly overhead from blinds, pits or while the hunter is lying down in the field. Many hunters are unfamiliar with a straight up shot. From a pit or blind the gun is pointed almost straight up from the shoulder and the hunter must tilt his head far back to make the shot. If the shot is made when the hunter is lying in the field the shot can be made while laying flat on the back but most hunters sit up and shoot in front or pointing and looking up. The act of sitting up and shouldering a gun is not natural to most hunters and should be practiced before the season. If a sporting clay course is available with an overhead target pre-season practice will help you with this shot.

                With the population explosion of Canada geese in the Midwest, many states now offer special early and late season hunts in areas where geese are abundant. Metropolitan areas like Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota offer hunts as early as September first to reduce the overpopulation of geese that causes problems on lakes, golf courses and airports. Because these areas are not only used by local geese, but by migrating geese in November and December, there are also late season hunts to reduce overcrowding. Although there are numerous Federal and State Refuges and Resting areas that offer excellent hunting opportunities for geese from public land and blinds hunters should plan early for any goose hunt. Public hunting is often on a first come, first served basis or by a drawing. Hunters who prefer private land on a rental or lease should establish relations with landowners well in advance of the season. With increased interest in goose hunting many of the best properties are available only on a cash basis. Hunters should be prepared to pay for the right to hunt choice hunting properties near refuges.

                The best option for those who hunt only once or twice a season is to book a hunt with one of the several guide services in the area they wish to hunt. Goose outfitters generally have access to the best land, know where the geese are on a daily basis and provide decoys, experienced callers, bird retrieval and food and lodging for extended hunts. To book a hunt, or for a list of guides contact the nearest Chamber of Commerce. Prices generally range from $50 for a half day hunt to $225 for a full day of hunting with food and lodging.

                The Midwest offers many excellent goose hunting areas. Southern Illinois is known as a goose hunting Mecca. Wisconsin has the famed Horicon Marsh, Missouri the Swan Lake Refuge. In Iowa the southwest corner along the Missouri River offers excellent hunting, and the Spirit Lake area in northwest Iowa has seen a growing migratory flock of snows and blues. Devil's Lake and Bottineau in North Dakota have long been a haven for migratory snows, blues and white-fronts that arrive between the second and third week of November if the weather is right. Pierre and Watertown both offer good Canada and snow goose hunting in south Dakota.

                Over 200,000 Canada geese of different subspecies pass through Lac Qui Parle in west central Minnesota each year. The Rochester goose refuge in southeastern Minnesota will host 30,000 migratory Giant Canada Geese in November and December. Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Fergus Falls, Jackson County and recently the city of Hutchinson, MN all have growing populations of local Giant Canada’s and offer excellent hunting opportunities for these largest of North American geese. With a little research, an understanding of goose habits, judicious use of new goose hunting products and techniques, and more time locating and attracting geese Midwest waterfowl hunters have a variety of places and geese to hunt this fall.


T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, and outdoor writer and speaker, who has been researching game animals for several years. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk, Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict's Manuals. His latest products are the 2002 Revised Edition of the Whitetail Addict's Manual, the 2002 Revised Edition of the Elk Addict's Manual; and the 2002 Revised Edition of the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual. For a catalog of books and other hunting products contact: T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors, PO Box 284, Wanamingo, MN 55983, USA. Phone: 507-824-3296. E-mail: trmichels@yahoo.com  


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