Ringing in the New Year – Basic Techniques for Geese

Just when I thought our hunting trips were over for the 2020-2021 season, the winter gods smiled upon us and we got the chance to go after late season geese a few times -- and also managed to squeeze in a turkey hunt.

  first banded goose

                        Soloed on his first banded bird 

I don’t know about anyone else, but we made a New Year’s resolution to eke out as many hunts as possible before the end of the season as our way of ringing in the New Year. Like everyone else around the globe, Covid impacted our plans in ways that were unforeseen just a year ago. But we got creative with our schedules and decided to head out of state for a few hunts before the end of the waterfowl season. Luckily for us, driving to Wyoming and Colorado is an option since those states aren’t too far away and offer additional waterfowl opportunities.

 double duck retrieve  decoy setup on frozen pond

Dropped two greenheads on ice, made double retrieve                  Decoy setup on frozen pond worked

Not surprisingly, the difficulty for us on these goose hunting adventures was finding fields with geese and then successfully obtaining permission to hunt said properties. While there was a lot of competition from fellow hunters who already held leases to hunt many pieces of private property, we did manage to obtain permission to hunt a few distinct fields. And that permission most definitely dictated how we planned to hunt.

 hooded merganser  limit of mallard ducks

              Another first...Drake Hooded Merganser                            Decent number of mallards hit our decoy spread

Our setups varied wildly. At times we had no other option than to set up in the middle of a plain dirt field or next to a pivot or in a snow covered pasture or on the shore of a frozen pond. Each situation presented unique challenges, but with minor difficulty we adapted and came away with birds!

 goose hunting next to pivot  dusky goose, dusky canada goose

     Hid layout blinds in brush at base of pivot, limited on geese             Looks like a Dusky Goose among the bunch

I’d like to believe that we learned some valuable techniques from each particular situation encountered, but I cannot say that I have any earth shattering tips to reveal. In fact, we had an instance were we found roughly two thousand geese sitting on a field, luckily got permission, set up on the ‘X’, but maybe 50 birds total came back to that field. Those types of days are humbling to say the least -- just when you think you’ve figured out the magic, the birds behave unexpectedly.

 goose hunting the X  various species of Canada geese

                Made the most of the birds that did visit the X                     Clearly shooting various species of Canada geese

The constants for our success came down to the basics: finding geese, concealment, call volume adjustments, timely flagging and decoy rearrangement for those times when the pesky birds didn’t want to finish.

 hunting geese in dirt field  hunting geese in dirt field

              Not much of a hide in dirt field, brushing-in blinds worked                        Success in another dirt field setup

  goose hunting winter wheat, canada geese and drake greenhead mallards

                   Hunting winter wheat produced lots of geese and greenheads 

Last but not least, the boys and I did get the opportunity to go after some late season turkeys. We had done a fair amount of scouting and found a few areas where the turkeys liked to feed in the late afternoon. Unlike the spring hunts where ‘love is in the air’, these turkeys were less interested in our calling and more intent upon being where they wanted to be. While the flock was very vocal at times, they certainly didn’t appear to come toward us because of our calling and/or decoys but instead methodically fed toward us.

 white wild turkey, white turkey  hunting turkeys in snow

        Lousy pic doesn’t do the almost-white turkey justice                Hunkered down while awaiting feeding turkeys

Interestingly we spotted three almost-white turkeys among the flock of 68, something I’d never seen in the wild before. All three of the white birds remained packed tight within the main flock as they approached. And since we weren’t about to miss an opportunity by being finicky, we picked off the vanguard once they were within range. While we didn’t get a shot at the white ones, I did manage to get a low quality picture of one of them from about 150 yards away.

 winter turkey hunting  turkey hunting in snow

        Spent several cold hours going after these ones                   Done without much time left in the day

In the end we filled all three of our tags, due in large part to our productive scouting trips. Next up for us will be the spring turkey hunts. Yes hunts, we will be heading out of state in order to maximize our opportunity to be out there amongst those thunderous gobblers!