Keys to a Successful Early Season Goose Hunt: Tips from a Pro
By: Garrett Russell OhioOutdoorJournal Waterfowl Field Writer
September 1st. It is a magical day here in Ohio that every goose hunter looks forward to, but the days prior to opening day are some of the most important to ensure a successful hunt. In every goose hunter’s head there is a mental checklist…Decoys ready? Check. Blinds ready? Check. Scouting done? Check… and so on. We have waited over 200 long days for this moment, so we definitely want to get it right.
I recently had the opportunity to interview and pick the brain of Jimmy Wren, East Coast Sales Specialist and Lead Call-Tuner for Zink calls based in Port Clinton, Ohio. We discussed the fundamentals of early season goose hunting as well as a few tips that will hopefully make this season the one to remember.
Jimmy Wren grew up in the eastern shore of Maryland. He has over 25 years of goose hunting experience between Ohio and Maryland and many places all around the U.S. and Canada. He explained that early season goose hunting focuses on three core areas, “the roost, the ‘x’, and the afternoon loafing areas. To have success, shooting the ‘x’ the first day is not opportune”. The ”x” by definition is the place where the majority of the birds are heading to directly off the roost. “A lot of guys will go hunt the ‘x’ opening day, kill them, and they (geese) won’t be back.” says Jimmy. “I try to find a field between the roost and the ‘x’.” If this can be done, the chance of extending your hunting through more than just the first day is significantly higher. If you can set a spread between these two important locations and “run traffic” so to speak, pressure will not be applied as early in the game to the primary feeding area.
Another must is making sure you are “putting the birds to sleep”. This is watching the geese in the field and knowing exactly where in the field the geese leave off eating for the night. Early season geese are predictable in the sense that they primarily always go back to the same area in the field they were eating the night before. Jimmy suggests “Mark it! Mark it with a driveway reflector or something like that. Things can look totally different in the dark than the day before.” Using the marking technique will help you to better remember where to set your spread in the morning.
The next step is to know where the geese are going to primarily be feeding. This is relatively easy for early season. Jimmy went on to say that “During ninety percent of your early season goose hunting, the corn is still up, the beans are still up, and guys are hunting wheat fields. When at all possible, take advantage of these standing crops with the farmer’s permission. Standing corn acts as one of the best natural cover blinds. Generally speaking, it will not flare the geese”.
The way you set your decoys is very important to your success when hunting from standing corn as well. You want to hunt the corn in such a way that allows the wind to either be in your face or a cross breeze. If the wind is in your face, the geese should land from directly over your head. The proper placement of the spread is out from the corn 40 to 50 yards. Geese will always land shy of the decoys during early season. Use this to your advantage by placing the decoys far enough from the corn that the geese want to land within 20 to 30 yards of you. This will present you with a completely ethical opportunity. If there is a crosswind, you will want to set your spread 20 to 30 yard from the corn and remembering these geese will land shy of the decoys, 20 to 30 yards upwind of you. This will put the geese all but in your lap. Keep these hints in the back of your mind for opening day.
The last step is to know the proper calling techniques and decoy spread type for early season. When asked about the preferred method of calling for early season, Jimmy replied simply with “I don’t call, I flag.” Flagging adds realistic movement to your spread. It tends to look like either a goose landing or simply flapping its wings. All you want is to get their attention enough to turn their flight path. “The more flags the better. It creates natural movement, which is imperative to a realistic spread.”
Now, when it comes to setting the decoys, your best bet is to attempt to replicate the way the geese were spread out the previous evening. If this is not possible for some reason, I have found through experience that early season geese tend to still be hanging in their family groups. You can apply this to your spread by simply separating your decoys into three different groups with two small groups on the ends, and one slightly larger group in the middle behind. This will still show the U or V formation with the open pocket used for directing the geese where to land. Putting these hints together should help to ensure success for this coming season.
Please feel free to leave a comment or email me at: [email protected] “Remember to always pass on your love for waterfowling!”