July is a month of fishing for local sportsmen. However, before we know it, the kids will be heading back to school and we’ll be grabbing a few goose decoys and for an early morning goose hunt.
September 1, 2010 marks the beginning of this year’s early resident Canada goose season. For those hunting in the Western zone the fun will continue until September 24, 2010, while the fun ends on September 15, 2010 in the eastern zone. Hunters in either zone may take 8 birds a day.
Early season goose hunting varies from the traditional colder weather hunter most familiar with many waterfowlers.
The first difference is the size of flocks attempting to decoy. By mid-august, the older mature birds, with their young in tow, begin to leave their nesting grounds and congregate with others on the larger local watering holes. Even with this grouping, the average group of birds, especially on the western shore, will be less than 20-30 birds.
Because of the size of the flocks during this time of year, goose hunters will find smaller sets of decoys often work better than several dozens of decoys. I have been known to use as little as 6 decoys in September. As a general rule the size of the local flocks should dictate the size of decoy spread used.
Ask any waterfowl hunting guide and he will tell you the top three important factors leading to a successful hunt is location, location and location. This is even more true in September. It is very difficult during this time of year to pull birds into a field and decoy set where they have not been feeding regularly. These birds grew up in the area and know where they want to go.
Later in the year, with the arrival of non-local birds, they can be persuaded into gunning range in an unfamiliar field. But my experience has been that during September, being in the fly way is not good enough, the decoys need to be in the location the geese have been using.
As an example, one September, I followed two family groups of geese leave their pond roost, fly a mile and drop into a freshly cut corn field every morning for over a week. After asking and getting permission to hunt the field, including a promise to give a few of the geese to the farmer, I set up for a quick Wednesday morning hunt. Just like clock work, I watched from my hide in the last few rows of corn, as they left their nightly roost, fly low across the Carroll County valley and pitched into my six decoys. They did not bother with circling the field; they just turned slightly with the light breeze and dropped in. At 7:30, I was picking up my decoys and heading off to work, just a little late.
That leads to another aspect of September Canada goose hunting. It happens at daylight and shortly after. Rarely do I stay in a field past 8:30 am. There are exceptions, but as a general rule it either happens right off in the morning, or the birds have found somewhere else to be for the day. I have seen days were they do not leave the roost until almost noon, but not with enough regularity to warrant my hanging around in a layout blind in the increasing heat, waiting.
Shooting a roost – not a good idea in my opinion. I have witnessed it first hand and have learned that geese will only take a few times getting shot at while trying to land at their resting water before finding elsewhere for some rest and relaxation. On the last day of the season or the last day you plan to hunt a pond would be about the only time I would suggest shooting geese over the pond. Even then, and with the new regulations allowing hunters to hunt right up to sunset, it seems that the geese arrive after legal shooting time.
One exception if you are so inclined to hunt geese over water is to set up on one of the public hunting accessible waterways. With the low summer flows on the local rivers and creeks the resident geese can often be found lounging daily on these waters. While they definitely have preference on certain spots along the rivers and creeks, they seem more open to investigate a decoy set in an unfamiliar locale.
A note on camouflage. While we like to look at September as the beginning of fall, September is summer here in Maryland and the vegetation is green. The dark colors of many of the camouflage patterns are way too dark to use in freshly cut corn or hay fields. A hunter wearing light natural greens and browns is often better hidden than the hunter in full camo. Faded Carhartt duck cloth blends invisibly in a cut corn field.
To break it down, early season resident Canada goose season tactics are slightly different from the traditional means used later in the season. Large decoy spreads, pitched around a pit blind on a traditional migratory flyway with hunters hanging out for the day drinking gallons of coffee to stay warm while waiting for the next wave of moving geese is not the September goose game. The September goose game starts with scouting and learning what field the 25 or so birds are using, gaining permission to hunt the field (hopefully), setting up 6 to 24 decoys early in the predawn, arranging a quick hide of either standing corn, or layout blinds, and in light colored camouflage sit motionless until the 7:15 AM flight of geese drop in for a meal.
Then it’s off for a quick breakfast before heading to work for the day.