Early resident goose hunting season in Pennsylvania is no chip shot
For the first time in twelve years, I recently found myself out pursuing early season Canada geese. It's not that I don't enjoy waterfowling. Instead, it was the tragic loss of a great friend in 2003 – something that has taken over a decade for me to get past – that has kept me away from the September grain fields.
This year, however, something compelled me to give it another go, and I was fortunate to have some friends who graciously allowed me to tag along.
What I quickly remembered was that hunting resident geese is not as easy as everyone thinks. Fields must be scouted, permission must be secured and equipment must be gathered and made ready.
The 3 a.m. alarm comes quickly on a near sleepless night. Setting decoys in the dark and completely brushing in several layout blinds from scratch are tedious, time-consuming chores – especially in 85-degree weather.
At sunrise, the unpredictable resident birds begin to chatter and take flight, but they have all the reasons in the world to pass us by. Even if they fed last night in the very field in which we now lay, they seem to have their minds made up, giving us a brief look, but opting to go elsewhere.
The scant few birds we lure close circle twice just out of shooting range, then land beyond the decoys at the far end of the field. Later, four others cup and pitch down to our extreme right, but the lack of a safe shooting angle and a misunderstanding and hesitation from our end guy (the only one who could've shot) leaves those birds untouched as well.
We check our blinds for exposed material, constantly move decoys to keep up with changing winds, second guess and triple guess our setup, battle heat, gnats and a frustrating lack of air traffic. Where have we gone wrong?
A few more birds pass in the distance and drop into a private water sanctuary we cannot hunt. We know the birds have every excuse to stay there and loaf in the shade. It's hot, there's food availability everywhere, and they were probably shot at and educated earlier in the week.
These aren't desperate migrating flocks. They are locals and they know their home turf. Sure, some young of the year occasionally make mistakes and commit to enticing looking sets. But the wise old sentinel birds keep most of the flocks in line.
Three hard hunted outings – each at different locations, with different cover, different decoy arrangements, different calling and different birds – left us without killing a single goose. Heck, I didn't even fire a shot.
Maybe it wasn't in the cards for us to be successful. Perhaps I'm just bad luck. More realistically – I think we simply may need to give these local birds more credit. In theory, they should be easy to fool, but my experience has taught me otherwise; resident geese are no chip shot, but hey, that's hunting!
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