Labor Day weekend affirms yearly start for waterfowl hunters
I’m up early every morning, well before sunrise. Usually I do my writing then – when not hunting or fishing of course – sitting in the silence of breaking light, my mind fresh from a night of sleep.
Over the past week the outside conditions are changing. Much cooler nights have meant windows are open, air conditioners are turned off and fresh air circulates through my home. When sunlight does come it slants differently through the windows than from direct mid-summer rays. The length of daylight hours is beginning to shorten also, connecting with the promise of fall not far off.
Another benefit of windows ajar is the ability to hear various flocks of resident Canada geese passing overhead as they fly toward their early morning feeding spots. For waterfowl hunters, of which I am one, this splendid noise rekindles the urge to once again ready myself for a long stretch of wonderful outdoor encounters with waterfowl that begins with September’s arrival.
Resident Canada goose season here in Pennsylvania has been a part of September hunting for a long time now. From that point where the first pair of birds chose to stay within the state and nest here instead of heading north, their population grew quickly, eventually necessitating a hunting season to control their numbers and the problems they were creating for farms and recreational areas they called home.
Consequently, that meant expanded opportunity for waterfowl hunters, which they have enjoyed greatly since the initial season. However, with all these years of being hunted the geese have responded, too, by becoming a much more cautious and educated bird to hunt.
Here are a few tips that may put a few more September geese in your bag:
- Local geese will greatly vary feeding spots in September’s start. Grains fields most likely stand untouched, any harvesting being weeks away. This means grasses are the main source of nutrients birds utilize. Look for freshly mowed alfalfa and hay fields to find birds, because new growth is tasty and welcomed, along with the fact they won’t feed in high growth fields because it limits their view of predators and trouble.
- Scouting always helps, but remember geese in a field one day may move somewhere else the next. Locating a pattern of fight direction from roosting spots toward possible feeding fields, and setting decoys in one of those fields can provide the best chance of intercepting passing birds and luring them toward decoy spreads.
- As for decoys, less is preferred if it works. Big spreads can work too, but birds tend to land outside the edge of spreads, and you may be out of gun range if a spread reaches too far.
- As with any waterfowl hunting, being well hidden is of the utmost importance. Try matching the surrounding colors of your hunting spots, even it requires covering blinds with some of the vegetation that is scattered about. Hiding in fencerows or high growth fields next to decoys is always a good choice, if available.
- Calling is two-sided. If birds are coming to your spread and seem committed, limit the calling. If they’re passing by, increase it until you get their attention and turn them in your direction. If that happens, call just enough with greeting calls and feeding grunts to keep their interest.
- Remember, resident geese are of the subspecies “giant Canada geese” and need a heavy load from a shotgun to bring them down. Three-inch and 3 1/2-inch shells with a minimum of number two shot should be the choice.
- Do not hunt roosting spots, because just one encounter with hunters at a place where they spend the night will move them away for good. And always keep in mind this sort of early fall/late-summer hunting is not an everyday occurrence. The birds are just too wise for that and won’t be fooled a second time where they were fooled once.
Limit your days of pursuit, hunt smartly by utilizing scouting and smart setups, and those days you do hunt can be rewarding and fun filled.