A goose hunter is a special breed, columnist writes
Sneaking up to ambush a few geese is not what this column is about. It’s all about that special group of waterfowl hunters who spend countless hours and money on techniques and equipment and the joys and pitfalls involved in searching for migratory waterfowl.
The majority of the larger species of geese – mainly the Canada and snow – nest in their summer range in the northern provinces of Canada or in the tundra habitat they prefer … but not all of them do.
Over the past 50 years the larger of these two species, the Canada, has chosen to remain locally through the winter – as long as there is adequate food and open water to support them. It is this remaining group with Susquehanna River Basin connections that we avid waterfowlers like to pursue.
Although my gunning for waterfowl began at an early age of 10 in the beautiful farm country of Perry County, I somehow found a way to spend many seasons decoying waterfowl in Saskatchewan, Canada; the Chesapeake Bay; Montana; and the Susquehanna Basin. Those many years taught me to love and respect the greatest bird that I gun over – the closely related goose family.
It also has given me the opportunity to share long, cold days in duck and goose blinds with many great people who hunt waterfowl. Imagine driving from your camp before daybreak for a morning shoot decoying canvasbacks, pintails and mallards in a small, 9-mile lake in southern Saskatchewan, only to see the wheat fields already stacked with Canada honkers in flocks numbering more than 5,000.
If you looked carefully as you traveled to your lake destination, silhouettes of hunters could be seen in deep auger pits bored the night before. Others sit inside round, hollow bales of hay waiting for sunup and the legal hour to shoot their daily limit of 30 geese a day.
These hunters had learned their lessons well – decoy when the birds arrive from their resting areas, probably water. In the bay, it’s around 10 o’clock and in some areas at daybreak, but the morning probably is the best time for field shooting.
After feeding, geese like to rest and often are seen bunched up in rivers or lakes and you may prefer to decoy there. You need a good, stable boat to set your spread in the resting area because it may be a long wait, and I like to be comfortable.
Although tin boats are popular for fishing, they are noisy, cold in the winter months and hot in the summer. I like fiberglass boats for their comfort.
Set the rules before getting in the boat. Don’t load your gun until you are set up in the boat and the decoys are in place. You need a nice block of decoys (2 dozen or more) because geese like company. No more than two in the boat is my rule, and leave room for your Labrador retriever, if the water is not too cold.