Early season goose hunting tips
The early September season for Canada goose hunting is already here and with the changes in the regular Canada goose season for most of the state, more and more people are taking advantage of the early hunt. The season, which runs from Sept. 1-25 in much of the state, offers plenty of opportunity with less restrictive regulations. The bag limit in most of the areas is 15 birds per person per day. Except for the South Area (which includes Western NY and the Southern Tier), the regular season will only be allowing one bird per person per day with only a 30-day season this year. If you are a goose hunter, September is that much more appealing if you play the numbers game. If you are just starting out, here are some tips that could help with success.
“I can’t stress the importance of scouting and knowing where the birds are,” says John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda, an avid goose hunter who always kicks off his fall hunting seasons with the September nuisance hunt. “Find the fields that the birds are using and then obtain permission from the landowners.”
“There are many benefits to a September goose hunt because the limits are liberal and the regulations are more relaxed,” says Van Hoff. “Plus, the weather is usually nicer. However, these same reasons will often get more people out targeting geese and it can make things more difficult.”
“The best time to do really well is the beginning of the season, when many of the birds are still green, and at the end of the season when the weather is slowly starting to change.”
It is more than just seeing what fields the geese have been gravitating to. “Make a mental note of exactly where those birds are in the field,” insists Randy Tyrrell of North Tonawanda. “There is a reason for it and set your blinds up accordingly. X marks the spot.”
Once you have identified the locations you want to be in, you must develop a plan of attack. Every day is different because it must be based on wind direction and what kind of field you will be hunting.
Once you have permission, you will need to set up your field the way that you think will be the most effective for you. Decoys are a critical component to your strategy and guys like Van Hoff and Tyrrell are serious goose hunters that put in the extra effort. It pays off.
“The more decoys the better when setting up a field,” insists Van Hoff. “There is safety in numbers, and it seems to be more attractive than displaying smaller pods of birds in fields. Also, I will spend the extra money to buy ‘flocked’ decoys. It’s a process that creates a felt-like coating on the outside of the bird, absorbing light and reducing reflection. Shine can be a problem with early morning decoys, and this is eliminated.”
Van Hoff also likes to mix things up a bit with full bodied decoys and shells. It looks more real from the air. And when you are setting up the decoys, may sure you leave an opening in the middle of the decoys for the birds to land into. This is important. Remember to keep your wind at your back when you are setting up your decoys, too. “Force the birds to land in your face,” says Van Hoff. “They always land into the wind.”
Van Hoff also likes hunting ponds. “Put a few full-bodied decoys on the shore and a few dozen in the water,” says Van Hoff. “Birds are more likely to land in the water because of the comfort factor for the birds. However, for bigger areas like the Niagara River, you will need to go with a full floater program.”
Then you have your own personal cover to consider, hiding in plain sight from the geese as they try to land in your set. “I would like to note the importance of concealment,” says Tyrrell. “Try to use natural cover if possible. After opening day, this becomes more critical and can make the difference between getting birds or watching them fly outside your decoys to another field. Grass in your blinds and use a hedge row if available. Do anything that can break up your outline. Basically, try to blend into the surroundings.” And when you grass in your blinds, use what is available locally, for that time of year. If you hunted a different field with different grasses earlier, you could look out of place and the birds will pick up on that.
There are some special regulations in place that you need to be aware of for the September hunt. For example, hunting begins at ½ hour before sunrise, but it extends to ½-hour after sunset. Hunters may use electronic calls during the September season, and they may use shotguns capable of holding more than 3 shells at a time. However, a semi-automatic shotgun capable of holding more than 6 shells in both the chamber and magazine combined may not be used at any time.
Remember that non-toxic shot is required. Van Hoff prefers to use BB sized steel for this goose hunting, with an extended choke to allow for a bit longer shooting capabilities.
Hunters must possess a state hunting license, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number, and a current Federal Migratory Duck Stamp that is signed across the face of the stamp. These tips can also apply for the later seasons as well, but only the South Area – with a 5-bird daily limit and a longer season – seems to make it worth the effort.