It’s hard to believe that little more than 20 years ago, the Canada goose season faced closure and extreme limits in the Atlantic flyway due to a lack of geese.
That seems particularly preposterous to anyone who has driven by a mall, a golf course or a park in those same 20 years where geese ramble about like gangs of pigeons on steroids, scarfing up grass and pooping all over the place. Today, these “resident” geese as they are referred since they don’t migrate like their brethren Canadas, account for one of the most prolific hunting opportunities available to hunters along the Atlantic coast and even many points to the west.
Whether you are able to score a spot to hunt these birds in the countryside outside of town or can actually work a deal out to hunt with permission adjacent to populated areas, there are several tips that can help you up your odds.
Scout Them Out
Locating huntable spots where geese are hanging out and then determining the daily patterns of those birds will likely be more important than calling and huge decoying efforts. Resident geese are much more about a daily pattern. There is somewhere they generally prefer to go to every single day. You need to locate where they go, what they do, what time they arrive and how they enter an area. Then you build your strategy around getting there before they do and setting up where you know they naturally want to go.
Hunt the Daily Pattern
Resident geese are following a daily routine, so there is little chance you’ll call or decoy them away from where they plan to go. For that reason, you need to setup right where they are heading unless you are forced to sit elsewhere because of the proximity of a house, road or other human activity. Conventional goose-hunting wisdom doesn’t necessarily apply when it comes to resident birds. For instance, geese typically like to land into the wind. But if there is a break in the trees or a landmark the birds use to navigate into a spot, they will always use that spot no matter which way the wind is blowing.
Choose Your Hunting Pressure
Has someone given you permission to hunt geese on their property with the hope that you will eradicate their presence? Or is this a spot you hope to return to again this season? Think about this before you start hunting the spot. When it comes to resident hot spots, you’re only hunting small flocks of geese, not the hundreds migratory flocks might bring. If you’re there at the request of a landowner to rid them off problem geese, do the job you’ve been asked to do to keep in good graces with the landowner (of course, while keeping within legal bag limits). However, if you hope to return to this spot throughout the season, make your shots count and once you’ve knocked a handful of birds from each flock that comes to the spot, get out and give the place time to cool off. The activity will spook the birds away, but they may well return in a few days or weeks, giving you more chances for hunting the location.
Go Light with Decoys
Hunting typically smaller resident flocks doesn’t require the massive decoy spread commonly used in migratory hunting. No matter how many dekes you set out, you’re not likely to pull them away from where they normally go. Your goal, again, is to set up where, from scouting, you know they want to go, and simply establish a sense of confidence that all is as it should be as the geese approach, and to possibly create a targeted landing zone that will bring them closer to the gun. Set a couple dozen decoys in the spot geese normally prefer to set down leaving an obvious uncluttered hole for them to land. Make sure you are sitting within 20 to 30 yards of that hole.
Minimize Shots—The fewer shots, the better when hunting resident geese in spots where people live nearby. Even if the property owner is happy to have you, noise complaints from neighbors can be enough to create a change of mind. Safety is also another reason. Because you will likely have directions you can’t shoot toward, controlling cripples is crucial. Only shoot when birds are close to avoid the problem in the first place. Choose a quality shotshell that will improve your odds for success. This is no time to go cheap. Winchester Blind Side, with its hexahedron, tight-patterning shot, in BB or No. 2 shot; Drylok Super Steel in BB, B or T; and Xtended Range Hi-Density Waterfowl in BB and B are all excellent options for resident geese.