Hide-and-seek with Canada geese
Dark undersides to the billowing clouds and a pleasant 65-degree breeze pushed one thought cross my mind: hunting season is here. With the unofficial kickoff to hunting season starting with the early nuisance goose season, we get the sly little grin knowing it is time.
Early goose season can be summed up a few ways. Mosquitoes, few cut fields, fluctuating temperatures and high gas bills from scouting. Depending on the year, farmers might not cut crops until later in the fall. Still, keeping tabs with dairy farmers is a great way to know when they will cut hay fields and some corn early for silage.
If you can find birds, it’s business as usual. Find their pattern, get hidden and wait for action. Staying hidden in the early season might seem easy. Try blending into a freshly mowed hay field. Hiding from birds is a science, a science many of us still struggle with mastering. After years of being busted routinely by Canadas, here are a few tips my partners and I have learned to adapt to the hard way, spooked birds.
Hedgerows: We spend plenty of time covering what is in front of us and not enough time worrying about what’s behind us. Being improperly hidden behind you is a huge cause for spooked birds as they circle the spread one last time. Hedgerows provide fantastic natural background cover and give you a chance to blend in without disturbing the decoy area with the unnatural outline of blinds. The only frustration with a good hedgerow can be the distance between where you want to have the spread and where you want to hide.
Dig in: If it’s okay with the landowner, bring the shovels and dig in your blinds. If hunting a fresh-cut green field or bean field, consider digging a small, even hole for your blind. Dig so your blind flaps are even with the ground, using the dug sod as cover for the blind flaps. Again, be respectful of the landowner’s fields and ask permission to do this before digging up their fields. Although many hunters wouldn’t bother asking, asking can help build the relationship between you and the land owner.
Low-laying blinds: Blinds are a blessing and a curse, it feels like at times. If digging in is not an option in a low-cut field, search for low-profile layout blinds. Some blinds, the Banded Keyhole for example, would be a great option since it is only 28 inches wide and the rear height is only 17 inches. If you cannot get your hands on a specific low-profile blind, not fully setting up the frame bars in a standard layout blind helps lower your profile. Regardless, standard procedure when it comes to blinds is getting it muddy. Use dirt or mud from the field you are hunting in order to match the shade of organic materials the birds are used to in order to achieve maximum concealment.
Get reative: If you can find Magnum goose decoys, the monster shells popular 15-plus years ago but still in production today are some of my favorites for hiding under. Not only do they grab attention well, they give you a chance to lay undetected without disturbing the natural layout of your setup.
Hiding efficiently takes work and attention to detail. Even though geese seem like dumb creatures, they seem much smarter when you’re trying to convince them to land in your spread. While planning your hunt, plan specifically around where you will be able to hide effectively. Setting a spread is a lot of work to have birds flare because you are not hidden.