Labor Day sneaks up on us every year. The back-to-school madness puts us in blinders and we forget that there is one last shot at a beautiful summer. The boaters all think they’ve had a brain flash nobody else has had and they run to their boats for one last weekend only to find the marina looks like the supermarket right before a hurricane. State parks teem with picnickers and even the bike trails need to install a passing lane on days like this.
But for a few of us, we have kept the party close to home on Saturday, and bedtime came early, if in fact we got any sleep at all. Long before dawn there are pick-ups quietly rolling into corn fields on foggy roadsides while camouflaged figures with LED lights on their hat brims guide hurried efforts to set a decoy spread at the edges of the cover. These guys have been dreaming about this day for months, and it can’t come soon enough. They crawl into their lay-out blinds beside their heavy shotguns with calls on banded lanyards around their necks. As dawns first rays cross the blue and golden streaked horizon their gaze turns skyward, fixed and focused awaiting the arrival of distant honks. Yep, it’s early goose season and as everybody knows, there’s no shortage of Canada geese in Northern Ohio.
Truth be known, I’ve always been a hack as a goose hunter. My success has usually hinged on my ability to set up an ambush in an advantageous spot rather than coax them in by skillful calling and a masterfully laid pattern of decoys. My tactic has always been to scout them out, be where the geese are going to be, keep still, and when they do come in close extending their wings to brake like Valkyries in a corn field, I am there with a three inch twelve gauge to dust their unsuspecting feathers.
So, maybe I’m not the best guy to be giving pointers on goose hunting. Fortunately, we’re sitting right on top of the world’s top producer of waterfowl calls and decoys; Zink Calls of Port Clinton (zinkcalls.com). Our friend Brandon Baker of Avon is a Zink/Avian X Pro-staffer and he was kind enough to toss us a couple pearls of water-fowling wisdom for this September goose season:
1. Concealment - Make sure that you take that extra time to conceal your blinds if you are using layout blinds or full frame blinds. In the early season, I like to use natural cover to my advantage. Standing corn, piles of rubble in the fields, standing beans, or any structure that you can use to conceal yourself. Use the sun to your advantage; meaning, if you can put the sun to your back, the birds will have a harder time seeing you as they are locked up and coming it. These are just a few tricks to help conceal yourself this early season.
2. Decoys - All off season everyone has been building their spreads with the latest and newest decoys on the market. When hunting the early season, I like to use what we call the "Junk Yard Spread". Meaning, I dig out the old dull black silhouettes, my shells from the late 1990's and a few full body's that have been in the spread since 1996. The reason being is that I don't like to throw out my whole bag of tricks opening day. A lot of these geese, will be the same geese that you are shooting in the regular season. If you can get away with shooting geese over the older "Junk Yard Spread" for the first 15 days of the early season, it will help you out later on in the year when you can pull the newer decoys out and really blow their minds.
3. Calling - In the early season, I like to do minimal calling as possible. I like to rely on my flag and decoys to pull the geese in 90 % of the time. If you need to call, I recommend doing light clucks, and low tone honks. This will symbolize feeding family groups on the ground that are comfortable. When I say rely on your decoys, I mean know how to use their body postures to your advantage. Use more feeding decoys than walkers and high lookers. This will make the spread look less threatening. By using shells, this symbolizes geese laying down resting, and that are comfortable. Good luck!