The loud calls of the huge flock of over 150 Canada geese got my juices flowing as they neared the open field full body decoy spread, cupped wings and began the slow motion elevator ride down to our spread. It was a beautiful sight in the last minutes of shooting hours as the setting sun cast shades of gold on the incoming flocks. We held our fire until the huge birds were within 40 yards.
I could hear the swoosh of massive wings as I brought the Winchester SX4 to my shoulder and sat up from the hide. No birds flared or noticed me because my camouflage was a perfect match with the southern Michigan corn stubble field. Selecting a target was almost confusing with the sky filled with flapping wings and long black necks extended for landing. Geese make plenty of excited chatter when setting up to the dinner table and the loud honking, inter-flock chatter and swoosh of multiple massive wings created a loud atmosphere. I steadied the Tru Glo fiber optic bead slightly ahead of a large bird less than 30 yards away, got a smooth swing and crumpled the huge bird on the first shot. The second shot clipped a wing and another bird toppled down. My last shot with Federal Black Cloud High Velocity BBs dumped a fleeing goose with ease. Wow! In one quick volley I was tagged out on giant southern Michigan Canada geese. Boom, bang, bing as hundreds of large flopping wings still filled the sky in close range. That’s how it goes for late season waterfowlers who take to harvested crop fields with decoys, call and perfect hide. The shooting is simply amazing and fun filled outings are the norm. Here’s why.
Michigan waterfowlers can look forward to another outstanding late fall season goose hunt. Duck and goose opened October 13 in southern Michigan and continues until December 9. In the north and middle zone season for geese lasts much longer. The north zone is open until December 16 and middle zone has a whopping season open until December 21. According to the 2018 Michigan Waterfowl Digest “After September 30 the daily bag limit for dark geese is five in any combination, only three of which can be Canada geese and one of which can be a Brant. See newest Waterfowl Digest for rules, regulations and legal shooting hours.
Guess I find the regulations very confusing and somewhat unfair to the majority of Michigan waterfowl hunters. First, why would the DNR shut down goose season in southern Michigan on December 16 but allow hunting until December 21 in the middle zone? Clearly they must not understand that the majority of late geese are found in southern counties in late season and the vast majority of waterfowlers reside in zone three. As for their bag limits, I don’t understand why they confuse sportsmen by mentioning dark geese such as Brant or White-Fronted geese when they clearly are rare in Michigan. In over 50 years of waterfowling in Michigan I have never seen either or heard of anyone harvesting a Brant or White-Front goose. At any rate, the late season limit for Canada geese is three birds, period, not to be confused with the number five birds in the digest.
Michigan is blessed with outstanding late season waterfowl hunting and southern Michigan populations provide fast paced shooting action for those who understand waterfowl and follow simple rules. Long seasons and liberal bag limits make the harvest fun and give sportsmen ample opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the valuable resource. The last couple years extreme drought conditions have left many marshes and waterways bone dry. Savvy hunters have made the switch to dry land field hunting and success rates have soared. The secret to clobbering late season geese hinges on scouting. Hot spots change yearly depending on crop availability. Corn fields that provide fantastic hunting one year can be soybeans the next and birds are gone. If you want monumental late fall hunting, concentrate on corn fields. Wild birds go bonkers for fields that have been recently harvested and plenty of fresh kernels of corn are on the ground. Stubble corn is best, at least better than chopped corn that leaves little cover and few kernels of corn. Come late October and November, Michigan’s countryside is covered with harvested corn fields. Deciding where to place decoys is dependent upon scouting and determining goose travel routes. The trick to fast paced shooting excitement is setting out decoys in the exact location where birds were feeding the night before. You gotta find where geese are feeding, determine the exact location where they want to land and be set up and waiting in the dining area come dawn.
Some savvy hunters locate roosting sites and follow flocks to nearby fields. Others simply drive country roads in late afternoon and follow flocks to fields they prefer. The idea is to get hunting permission and be set up come dawn in the exact location with recent goose activity. Don’t make the rookie mistake of blasting geese on the roosting pond and chasing them away when you can have multiple exciting field hunts.
The icing on the cake is late fall honkers are often accompanied by flocks of mallards. Most are northern flocks and they like to join geese for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One slick trick is to set to the side of the goose spread several mallard full body decoys and MOJO motion decoys.
I like to use Dakota Field Mallard decoys and at least two MOJO motion decoys that are remote controlled. I switch the fast-spinning decoys on when ducks are coming and have the option to turn them off when geese are approaching. Once mallards spot the spinning wings of MOJO they assume birds are landing in the field to feed. Flocks might circle but most cup wings, dive directly at the motion decoys and provide fantastic shooting action.
I love chasing Giant Canada geese that push the scales over 14 pounds and are the size of a B-52 when huge cupped wings bring them kissin’ close. While most geese fly south with a hint of snow, the giant variety will stay until area ponds and lakes freeze solid. If weather turns brutal, giants head for Michigan’s many large rivers like the Kalamazoo, Grand, Muskegon, St Joseph and others offering open water year round.
Once again, the secret to amazing late fall goose hunting is dependent upon your scouting skills and ability to locate fields of corn that wild geese prefer. I’ve had outstanding success by hunting corn fields that are in the process of being picked and some standing corn is still remaining. That’s when I get out my custom tan spray painted collapsible Muddy Swivel Ease chair. I set it inside the first standing row of corn and place goose and mallard decoys in range. I love sitting in a comfortable chair, rotating for shots in any direction and still be fully concealed by stalks and leaves of standing corn.
For years I used Benelli shotguns for waterfowl and turkeys, but I would customize the stock to reduce barrel rise and replace the front bead with a high profile Hi Viz M300. The new Benelli Black Eagle absolutely shoots too high for this old goose slayer so I made the switch to the new Winchester SX4 and love the speed, accuracy for placing precise shots on gobbler turkeys and excellent pattern for waterfowl. While most goose hunters use a full or extra full choke, I prefer modified because I hunt over decoys that bring geese kissin’ close. The Winchester SX4 is easy to take down, fast to clean; kicks directly into your shoulder and you can drop birds with virtually no barrel rise from shooting magnum steel loads with powerful recoil. I also like the large safety on the SX4 and how the gun fits my shoulder and provides fast, clean kills.
I’m absolute convinced part of the reason I can drop waterfowl with ease is because I outfit shotguns with a Tru Glo illuminated sight. Since I use the same gun for turkey hunting I prefer the model with a bright red dot on the end of the barrel and two bright green dots as sights half way down the ventilated rib.
Keep in mind your success also hinges on the decoys you use and how you place your decoy spread. I recommend Big Foot full body decoys because they can be tossed around like MSU footballs, look realistic, have flocked heads that duplicate feathers, chip resistant soft plastic and have a profile like live geese. It is the true-to-life body posture and profile with realistic bright black flocking and paint schemes that draw geese from the skies. Forget smaller sizes, cheap plastic which shines or decoys that can’t take the beating of cold weather hunts. Motion goose decoys are a big advantage, and don’t overlook Greenhead Gear and Final Approach decoys used on motion stakes. I like White Rock wind sock decoys when air speed exceeds 10 mph because they dance like live moving geese. White Rock have fiberglass stakes ideal for frozen ground and never break, flocked lifelike heads, snap on/off collapsible support system for easy assembly or storage. Wind sock decoys add motion to your spread and bring decoys to life. They also stand higher than full body decoys and are used to conceal layout blinds.
The biggest trick to constantly decoying wild geese is to avoid stand up or sentry decoys. The idea is to make your spread look relaxed, natural, feeding, not alert and uneasy. To achieve this goal, restrict use of upright alert decoys and use decoys with more relaxed profiles in feeding or resting positions. My Big Foot spread consists of only a couple sentry decoys and the majority are feeding or resting.
Placing decoys in a large J or X pattern will bring birds in range but I prefer to make two groups leaving a rather large open hole between groups used as a landing zone. The main group tapers downwind 40 yards from the blind with a stand up decoy on the end. The second group is off to the side and made up of one stand up and the rest feeding decoys. Place the small group in a rather small area imitating a family group. String the larger group to your blind but leave at least 3-5 feet between decoys and try to make several smaller open areas to make the main spread look like it is comprised of several family groups. Face most decoys into the wind and try to place your blind or stand upwind from the decoy spread. This allows incoming flocks to pass over your decoys and get a good peek at your spread and lower altitude into range prior to flying over gunners.
The number of goose decoys you use can vary. If you are hunting a relatively small field with excellent cover and birds have not been hunted you can get by with one dozen. If your field is huge, a larger spread is needed to get the attention of birds that could land at the far end of the field. Try to set up in the middle of fields and in most cases avoid decoy placement near trees or fence lines. In large fields, bring a black flag to mimic the wings of landing geese and get the attention of distant flocks.
I take the back seats out of my Ford van and fill it with decoys come goose season. My average spread consists of one flag, 40 Big Foot full body and one dozen White Rock wind socks. Sometimes I break out my super magnum shell decoys when I want to attract distant flocks.
Most field hunters prefer layout blinds that take five minutes to set up, you are completely concealed and protected from the elements. Since you are hidden by the framed waterproof blind you can call without being seen, use flagging ports and move to position your gun. I’m an old school hunter and prefer to lie on the ground using modern camouflage from head to toe to conceal my human outline. The trouble with layout blinds is you are restricted where you can swing your gun and shoot. I like to shoot in every direction.
When I was a kid growing up in Midland County, my dad would take me to the Shiawassee Federal Refuge on goose hunts. We eventually spent many weekends hunting the St. Charles state waterfowl area and I learned how to decoy, call and shoot ducks and geese. Dad liked using #2 shot in his Browning two-shot automatic using 2 ¾ inch shells. These days I use a 3-inch shell and load with two BB or BBB shot followed by one T shot. The BB or BBB shot give unbelievable knockdown at long distances without peppering the breast with lead. T shot is simply the best for a final shot at geese flying away. There are 68 Ts in each 3-inch shell and I’m sold on Remington green shells that are only moving 1350 fps. When it comes to giant Canada goose medicine I prefer the Federal Premium High Velocity 1635 FPS with 1 1/8 oz. BB or BBB shot.
If you pile ’em up like me you soon wonder how to best use the meat. My suggestion is to breast out birds, mix 50/50 with good beef and grind, season with Miller’s Summer Sausage blend, place in LEM Products casings and cook three hours at 275 degrees, wash and cool. Goose sausage is similar to venison, nature’s perfect healthy protein, no fat, delicious on sandwiches
or with eggs for breakfast.
Here’s the secret to season long wild goose hunting success that is absolutely amazing….use several fields. You see, when you shoot up one field and burn up the resource geese move to another. What happens is the old, mature, smart leaders of flocks avoid areas that are hunted and they take flocks to new feeding locations. The trick to unlimited fast goose shooting fun is to re-scout, find new hunting locations and suddenly every day becomes as good as opener especially when late fall geese flock to Michigan by the zillions.