The key to successful Canada goose hunts during the special early season that starts in September is scouting, there's just no way around this fact.
Because these birds are often semi-domesticated they will often roost (spend their nights and mid-day times) on waters that can be as non-wild as a city water supply or park pond as well as semi-remote bodies of water.
The regular routine for these geese is to fly out from their roost sometime early in the morning to feed on harvested farm fields, mowed athletic fields and hay fields that are starting to re-grow. Canada geese love to graze on the new grass but if there's a harvested corn or grain field they will sometimes put their lives in danger to get a chance to feed in those fields.
After a couple hours of feeding they'll usually fly back to their roost ponds where they'll just rest for most of the day, often making another trip out to the fields for a short late afternoon bite to eat.
Knowing this schedule is one of the keys to successful goose hunts.
Our usual routine is first to scout for roost ponds, which as we've said before, often can be right in the middle of a town. With at least two people in a vehicle, it's not just fun but very productive to try to follow the birds as they leave their roost to find out where they are feeding. Unless these geese are shot-up on their roost pond, it is very rare for them to change to a new one. But if you pound 'em-up bad on their feeding fields, they'll field-hop without any problems and often return to this field.
This brings up two rules that we've thought of as key. We never shoot a roost pond unless it is at the very end of our hunt or the special season. And we very seldom hunt the same field more than twice in a row.
There is an exception to that. Sometimes you cannot get permission to hunt a field that the geese are feeding in but there are available places to hunt that are in the bird's pathway to their regular field. We call those flyway fields and if you set up a good enough spread of decoys and are a proficient caller, it's often possible to bring enough birds into range to have a good hunt, even when you're not on the X-spot.
Early season geese can be real suckers for a well-set field of decoys but will also do some very foolish stuff. We had been lazy in out scouting but knew that geese were flying over a field that we had permission to hunt and always was winner. When we got to the field we were shocked to see that the hay had not been cut and that it was up over our knees, but it was too late in the morning to change plans.
Using a dozen super-magnum Canada geese decoys, without making to many visible trails through the long grass, we carefully and very lightly set our dekes up on the tall grass, where they did show up pretty well. It was only minutes later when a flock of geese were coming our way and our calling seemed to catch their attention and they turned towards us. Never circling, they set their wings and started to drop right into our decoy set! To say we were shocked is an understatement. My buddy Brad Conner and I dumped two nice geese each and watched, again in amazement as my lab Blinky chased down a all the birds, the only way we could follow his retrieves was the telltale movement of the tall grass!
Since then we have made that same arrangement work quite a few more times. It gives you a good idea bout the pulling power of a good set of decoys!
Lastly, one of the biggest parts of scouting is gaining permission to hunt, often in fairly settled areas. What has worked for us is mentioning that these are the "golf course" geese that like to mess up the golf courses and lots of athletic fields. More times than not our answer from the landowner is, "Go shoot 'em all!"
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.