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The early goose season is a nice change from how the Canada Season ends most years. The late season sees waterfowlers attempting to fool geese that have been hunted all along the migration route. It’s either that or resident geese who know enough about us that they could go Christmas shopping for us if they cared to. The early season means young uneducated geese that routinely fly the same route every morning and evening. That routine is easy to pattern if you do your homework and find out where they are feeding. To be successful on those early resident geese the two most important things are to scout hard and find a way to hide yourself.
The biggest problem with the daily route is that the geese have become very accustomed to it. So when you set up you need to be right on that route or where they feed or where they loaf on a pond or lake, or for that matter the Mississippi River. It’s probably just the fact that I am not a super goose caller, but I have a real tough time pulling them off their route. Oh they answer me, but never break stride because they know exactly where they are going. It’s a lot like you driving to work every day. Normally, you want to get to work and get home a quickly as possible and only stop if you need to. Also be aware that the field that you scouted earlier in the week may be replaced by one that got harvested the day before and is closer to the roost.
Personally, I have had better luck hunting small farm ponds where the birds may retire to loaf during the day. The action may come later in the day but a loafing pond may be more cut in stone as where they feed can change after time. I like to place a dozen or so floating decoys out in the water along the shore from the direction the wind is blowing. Just to sell it a little more, I’ll put a couple feeding and sentry decoys up on the bank. This is exactly what I saw this very morning when I was returning home from the early teal season. There are a wide variety of Canada goose decoys out there. This includes shell decoys, full body decoys, floating decoys and even rag decoys like the ones used for snow geese in the spring. I do not know what works best as each hunter has their favorites, but I like to mix things up. This is how most of us see real geese, so that’s what I’m trying to imitate. I also attempt to make the decoy spread in the field look like several different family groups. There may be pockets of five to seven decoys in as many clumps as that’s how real geese come in. I keep plenty of room between those family groups where approaching geese have plenty of room to land. Finally, I keep all my decoys within shooting distance of my blind, whether it’s the permanent blind or my layout blind. Geese landing outside your decoy spread is of no benefit, not only are you not able to take a shot but the next bunch of geese always seems to land with the real geese.
Aside from time spent scouting, another good place to spend a great deal of time is in concealment. I mentioned hunting around ponds. Most small farm ponds are kept pretty clean so it may be hard to find a spot to hide. A layout blind will serve you very good in hiding, but make sure you cover it with what is around the pond. It may be grass or even some dried horse weeds, but do whatever it takes. When you think you are covered enough spend another 15 minutes. Doing so in a harvested cornfield is probably the easiest with all those cornstalks lying around.
Calling may not be as critical when hunting these resident geese early in the season as your decoys are only confirming that this is where we are feeding or this is where we loaf and get something to drink. When geese are landing there tends to be a great deal of excited cackling. If a mistake is made and I make it myself, it is when geese are coming in and perhaps 70 plus yards out and hunters tend to drop their call so they can grab their shotgun. That silence can often be a little out of the norm and geese that you thought you had in the bag suddenly veer off or pull up. So stay on the call until you have them dead to rights.
I was very fortunate that two years ago I bought two cases of steel waterfowl rounds. As late as just a couple weeks ago it was very hard to find any steel shot unless you wanted to buy OO buck for home defense. So I’m about to say that you should hunt with whatever you find as long as it’s legal, but things have loosened up a little. Most waterfowlers think of some magnum load in a 3 1/2 inch that kill on one end and bruise and loosen fillings on the other end. When hunting that early season, the geese will not be as heavily feathered as those late season migrators that seem to take two or three shots to finally weigh them down. So I do not feel under gunned when I save my 3 1/2 inch ammo and instead take my 3 inch stuff out to the field. I have had excellent results with Winchester Blind Side ammo. The shot is hex shaped and is stacked within the wad. It’s touted as getting more pellets on target and providing more trauma, which results in faster and cleaner kills, something all waterfowlers should strive for regardless of ammo used.
Taking a Canada goose is a very nice bonus on any waterfowl hunt. In most states, including Missouri, there is an early Canada goose season that allows you to hunt resident geese. Our first Canada goose season is October 2nd through October 10th with a limit of three Canada geese. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. However, check the hunter digest or online to confirm these dates and limits. Personally, Canada geese will always have a certain mystic about them. They were so rare around home when I was a kid that we would travel to Swan Lake or Fountain Grove to hunt them. We would apply well before season with our hunting date in the season and then get to the office very early in the morning to draw for a pit blind. But whether it’s 70 degrees and I’m moving too much trying to keep mosquitoes off me or seven degrees and I’m stomping my feet to keep my toes from freezing, Canada geese are special.