Pennsylvania resident goose hunting is always evolving
A couple days ago I snapped the above photos of at least 100 Canada geese, spread apart and actively feeding in an open field about a half mile from my home. They’ve been regular early morning visitors to this spot over the past week and a half.
When the state’s resident goose hunting season opens Sept. 1, I’d be willing to bet a good sum of money on this particular flock not coming to this field.
There are varied reasons the birds will not be visiting here. One is dove season. Now that dove hunting is a day-long occurrence, and this particular area sees lots of dove hunters, there most likely will be shooting before the geese would possibly arrive, and that will result in the big waterfowl flying to another place.
Also, these birds are feeding next to a country road, a macadam thoroughfare that sees many humans on bicycles and walking, moving past them at close proximity. When this happens the birds move in unison, heads up and wary. They only take so much of this interaction with people, and then they leave, often for good.
But beyond any other factor, years of experience has taught me that resident geese in late August through September just plainly prefer to “bounce around” to different spots.
Perhaps it’s food supply variation, or it may come down to a nearby water resource that is not their normal roosting place, yet provides them water to drink and cool off, and offers a good form of safety after some early morning eating.
But truth be told, the primary reason for this “bounce around” nature is most likely due to their having been hunted in September for many years now, which has equated with an overall drop in their numbers, but has also produced the newest version of resident Canada geese — which is a much smarter bird.
With these birds evolving, hunters must also adjust their hunting practices to have any hope of success. Here are some ideas to ponder:
- Through scouting, locate as many places as possible before the season starts that the geese are flying to, whether it be to feed or rest. Knowing spots that are not likely to be pressured by other goose hunters, or even dove hunters, is a good place to be. Attempt to pattern the birds’ different moves to different spots, and choose a place you’d expect them to be;
- Once hunted, the birds may move to early evening flights. Scouting, again comes into play here. Know when they fly and where they go. And remember, this time of year there is no urgent need to feed for these birds, and they may simply stay in their roost area for days at a time. Be patient. You may only have two or three days in the season that your hunt that will be productive, but in September, that’s plenty. And above all, never hunt their roost;
- The first day — if you have the luck of having birds where you hunt — will require only a dozen or so decoys. Most of the birds will be young of the year, not yet wise to hunting, and will decoy easily. But as the season progresses, birds will begin to really flock together, well aware of safe spots. Plus, they seem to understand that the increase in watching eyes will result in a larger flock spotting danger sooner. Most certainly be willing to increase decoy spreads as the season rolls along. The extra work will pay off;
- Calling is crucial. And while calling is less important in September than with migrant geese later, it still can be effective in getting birds’ attention and bringing them into shooting range. Just make sure the calling is performed by someone good at it. Poor calling just doesn’t work;
- Other basic things to keep in mind. These are big birds, hard to bring down. Use large shot in 12 gauge guns for the best results, and to avoid cripples. Hide effectively, by whatever means is required. Match the surroundings. If they see you, forget it, because you’ve basically wasted your time. And scout all season long if you plan to hunt through the entire season.
I’ve written before about these evolving geese, and I’m sure they’ll be changing, however slight it may be, come next year. So, the resident goose hunter must change also.