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As I get older I tend to repeat my favorite stories concerning past hunts. This past Saturday while hunting with Mark Arnold on opening day of teal season I got around to telling one of my favorite Canada goose stories in which Mark had played a key role. Here’s the story as it went down. We had enjoyed a good morning in the duck blind and were beginning to think about packing things up and heading home. Guns were still uncased and loaded, but we were in the process of wrapping things up for the day. We had been burned several times over the years by ducks who buzzed our decoys after we had cased our shotguns. So the last thing we do now is to unload and put our shotguns up. So our guns were still loaded, but I had already taken my call lanyard off and placed it in front of me on a drop panel on the blind that we have up when hunting and we drop it when we are ready to shoot. I cannot remember for sure how many were in the blind that morning, but I think it was four. I do, however, distinctly remember that Mark Arnold was sitting on the far west end of the blind and could see back to the east better than those of us in the east end of the blind. What I do remember is that he calmly said, “If you want to wait and try our luck on some geese, we have some Canadians coming over the far end of the lake.” We quickly went back into hunting mode and pulled the drop panels back up to help conceal us. Peering through a gap in the brush covering the blind, I saw the geese coming down the center of the lake still a long ways off. Before I started calling to them, those in the blind that had 3 1/2 ammo, unloaded their shotguns of the 3 inch duck loads and quickly loaded them back up with the heavier loads. It happened pretty fast with ammo rolling around on the floor, but there wasn’t time to deal with that and we hunkered down to hide from the wary eyes of approaching geese.
I can close my eyes and see the geese flying pretty much down the middle of lake and it seemed to everyone that if they stayed on that course, they would be too far out to even consider taking a shot. I began calling to them with just basic drawn out honks. I can call to geese and sound like a goose. I would suppose my calls were sort of a “Welcoming” call. This call is similar to a shout out if you saw an old friend across a crowded gym back when we crowded in gyms. Miraculously, they responded to my calls and a small flock of five or six of them broke off from the main body and began angling their way toward our blind. That little band of geese must have contained the leaders as the rest of the group turned, as well.
When this little group made the decision to head our way they were in front of the main body. This also meant that they would be the first to get in range. On rare occasions we might give ducks the opportunity for a couple ducks to come into our decoy spread and shoot if there were a larger group behind them. But, as I said that rarely happens because way too often those lead ducks have flown by and left, and we were left with an empty sack when the large flock changed their mind and didn’t come in. However, these five or six geese that were heading into our decoy spread were more than ample in providing shooting opportunities for everyone in the blind. They swung over the outside of our decoy spread with no intention of landing, only to give us a close look. They over committed and that closer look brought them too close. When the “Take ‘Em” was given geese began folding. I suppose they may have been thirty-five to forty yards. I do not think we took all six, but we had at least four Canadas laying on the water when everyone’s shotguns were empty.
Taking a Canada goose is a very nice bonus on any waterfowl hunt. In most states, including Missouri, there is an early Canada goose season. Here in Missouri, our first Canada goose season is October 3 through October 11 with a limit of three Canada geese. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. However, check the hunter digest or online to confirm these dates and limits. Personally, Canada geese will always have a certain mystic quality about them. They were so rare around home when I was a kid that we would travel to Swan Lake or Fountain Grove to hunt them. We would apply well before season with our hunting date in the season and then get to the office very early in the morning to draw for a pit blind.
For that early goose season, I’ll bring my goose decoys out of my garage and load my boat down. I like to put my decoys to one side of the blind so that they have to fly past the blind in order to get to them. For example, if I have a west wind then I’ll put my main body to the west with just a few single in front of my blind. At least that’s my plans, although geese rarely follow my game plans. If pre-season scouting reveals that they are using a certain field, which we have already discovered to be true, our layout blinds will be mixed in the decoys on the up wind edge of that main body where we can hide among the decoys and the geese will be landing into the wind right in front of where we will hide.
There are a wide variety of Canada goose decoys out there. This includes shell decoys, full body decoys, floating decoys and even rag decoys like the ones used for snow geese in the spring. I do not know what works best, as each hunter has their favorites. But I like to mix things up as far poses, especially when hunting along the shore. I’ll have a few floaters in the water, some full bodies standing on the shore, as well as a couple resters with their heads tucked down. This is how most of us see real geese, so that’s what I’m trying to imitate. I also attempt to make the decoy spread in the field look like several different family groups. There may be pockets of five to seven decoys in as many clumps, as that’s how real geese come in. I keep plenty of room between those family groups where approaching geese have plenty of room to land. Finally, I keep all my decoys within shooting distance of my blind, whether it’s the permanent blind or my layout blind. Geese landing outside your decoy spread is of no benefit, not only are you not able to take a shot, but the next bunch of geese always seem to land with the real geese!