Goose hunting is Michigan waterfowling at its finest and purest. Try it!
If there is one thing Michigan hunters can look forward to it is early goose season because birds are everywhere. 2014 will go down in the record books as a very wet spring and summer. There has been so much rain geese are not migrating north during the dog days of summer and are staying in Michigan and there will be plenty of local birds for opener. The new born gosling numbers are very impressive this year and you can expect to see a lot of young geese this season.
Stubble wheat…The phrase falls oddly on the ears of a non-goose hunter. It has a vague agrarian ring, like somewhere in the Kansas prairie or northern Manitoba. But if your goal is to score on early season geese stubble wheat fields are the key. When area farmers harvest the wheat grain and straw from local fields it creates an ideal dining room for flocks of hungry geese. The birds love the vast, wide open space found in the low harvested field, they feel safe far from any trees, brush or fence-lines that conceal predators. The real bonus comes in the form of fallen pods of grain that are scattered throughout the field.
Goose hunters are familiar with stubble wheat fields; we know they draw mega numbers of waterfowl and the gunning action can be red hot. Geese, ducks and sandhill crane love to forage in the vast brown wide open spaces. Some flocks leave area roosting waterways at dawn and return after the sun has set and the late evening darkness camouflages their flight patterns. Other flocks rush to local fields to dine at dawn but return to watery liars for a noon nap; only to fly back to the stubble for dinner. The trick to successful early goose season hunts often relies on how will you have scouted birds, identified feeding and resting locations and understand the basics of ambushing geese.
Find a cut wheat field that geese are using and you can count on guns blazing on opener provided you follow some simple tips. Set up before daylight in the exact location where you last saw birds feeding. If birds are accustomed to a particular field you do not need many decoys in the early season. I’ve taken limits over two full body Big Foot decoys I carried into a field. However, usually a couple dozen decoys will get the job done. If you have hunter competition in the area you might want to set out at least five dozen realistic decoys to draw birds at longer distances.
Just about any decoy will work, full body, shell, silhouette and windsocks; provided you set them up to mimic real geese. Early birds are suckers for small family groups with a large hen-looking mama bird leading the group. Rather than setting decoys all together, space them evenly and place them in family-looking groups with plenty of open landing space between. If the wind is blowing the movement of a windsock can draw birds like a magnet. On damp, calm mornings highlighted by low handing fog, full body decoys are best. If fields have regenerating grasses large shell decoys can help your spread to standout. The trick to decoying geese depends on how realistic the decoys appear to incoming flocks. New modern decoys have flocked heads, realistic body silhouettes, feather detail and the brand of realism that will fool even wary old birds.
Most farmers do not care if you drive on the harvested field. This makes it convenient to transport a large spread of magnum goose decoys to the center of a large field, unload, lay out the spread, set up blinds and ditch the vehicle. Don’t make the common mistake of parking your vehicle where wary birds will see it. Park at the barn, farm house, under trees and get the vehicle as far away as possible.
This is the day and age of field layout blinds. Gone are the days when hunters hide behind standup decoys or wear camouflage to match the tan stubble. Modern hunters go first class and take full advantage of the concealment and comfort available from blinds. Most have padded headrest and floor, flag sheath, zippered foot pouch, waterproof bottom, drink holder, adjustable back support, shell pouches and much more. Blinds come in a variety of colors like: snow camo, Realtree MAX-5, Mossy Oak Shadow Grass and more. The advantages of layout blind hunting are many. They are extremely comfortable and I guarantee you will quickly learn how to take power naps when hunting.
They are made of non-glare materials and their profile is so small they are somewhat shadow free. Perhaps the biggest advantage is layout blinds completely hide your human form and geese glide into easy gun range without seeing you. Sure blinds are comfortable and built to last, but the most impressive advantage is you suck birds in kissin’ close and totally surprise them.
Few sights in nature are more impressive than giant Canada geese at extremely close range. When you flip the door open, shoulder your gun and begin blazing it is a hoot to see huge geese turn on the afterburners and try to fly out of gun range. The following anecdote best describes this point.
Tendrils of fog hugged the open field as I drove my van loaded with goose decoys into the vast harvested wheat field. We hustled to set out full body and magnum shell decoys, place layout blinds and conceal them with handfuls of wheat stubble. Soon we parked the vehicle at the barn, made final preparations, loaded guns and relaxed in the layout blind. Suddenly overhead there was the sound of hundreds of wings as a large flock of mallards cupped wings, zoomed out of the heavens and swooped over the decoys. My heart skipped a beat just to hear the swoosh of their wings and the sight of a large flock zipping into easy gun range got my trigger finger itching. I relaxed, laid my head back on the blind; I knew ducks come first with the early morning light and flocks of geese would follow in a few minutes. I double checked my Benelli to make certain it was loaded when the sound of huge raspy wings got my heart pumping. There was no warning honk but out of nowhere a duo of giant Canada geese set wings and lowered landing gear for final approach into our spread. They came in so close to my layout blind that I could feel the air move as they set landing gear and almost dropped on me. Boy, were they fooled by my hide and surprised when I waved them off and opened up with the Benelli.
If you are having difficulty decoying geese my recommendation is to use better camouflage. Successful waterfowl hunting hinges on how well you hide. Camouflage is also important for marsh blinds, flooded timber, pot holes; deadly concealment is the key to easy gunning.
The best shooting often comes as morning flights head to area fields and then again late afternoon as birds catch an evening dinner or head back to roosting sites. Those who hunt water in the evening need to make certain they follow rules regarding end of shooting hours; often late flights come back to roost too late.
Some parts of Michigan have record numbers of young goslings this spring. Mild weather highlighted by periodic rain has grasses green and geese are finding unlimited food sources close to area lakes, ponds, marshes, pot holes and farm ponds. I expect this season to be outstanding because there are fantastic numbers of geese in southern Michigan where I hunt.
Michigan’s goose population is booming this year and I expect fantastic hunting. With duck numbers falling, pheasants almost extinct, grouse numbers down many sportsmen are becoming goose hunters. Don’t think that every bird will be harvested in wheat fields. You can find plenty of action on local waterways, lakes, farm ponds, rivers and marshes. Fact is, geese are scattered throughout Michigan and some of the hottest gunning is available far from public marsh lands. There are plenty of private landowners who will quickly grant hunting permission to shotgun yielding
sportsmen. The trick is to find a goose honey hole by scouting. Follow flocks in the morning and find their preferred feeding locations, identify roosting waterways and determine their daily pattern. Now, you are on the road to setting out decoys and ambushing flocks.
Calling can be important in goose hunting. And you don’t have to be that good at calling to harvest birds in the early season. The best calling strategy is to pay attention to how birds are responding to what you are doing and then modify your calling method accordingly. Usually the best game plan is to give incoming flocks a loud greeting or hail call, and then soften your calls once you get their attention. Stop calling when birds are kissin’ close but resume calling if circling birds are headed away.
Goose hunting is a fantastic social event. For this brand of hunting you can bring friends or family to help with decoy chores and experience goose hunting first hand. Goose hunting is an ideal opportunity to take kids, teach them gun safety, how to hunt around others and how to become a waterfowl hunter. Goose hunting is Michigan waterfowling at its finest and purest. Try it, get large flocks in your face and I guarantee you’ll be back for more.