Hunting is a very diverse sport, with many enthusiasts focusing in on just one form of prey. Like quail, Geese remain some of the most popular targets for sport hunters, as well as those who hunt for food. These big, attractive birds have beautiful plumage and a large amount of fatty meat, making them a great source of energy in cold winter months.
It’s important to realize that for many people, goose meat is an acquired taste. Because of their wild diet and high overall fat content, geese can be quite greasy with a strong taste when traditionally prepared. Some people report more approval of goose meat when it is marinated, barbecued, or even deep fried.
Of course, not everyone who hunts geese wants to eat them. Some people simply hunt for the sport of it, while others enjoy turning their prize birds into taxidermy works of art. Regardless of what you plan to do with the geese, the following ten geese hunting tips can improve your chances of success in the field.
1. Choose the Right Gun
As with any job, having the right tools for goose hunting makes all the difference. Unlike firearms used for predator hunting, home defense, or trophy hunting (like deer or elk), goose hunting guns often face severe, inclement weather. They could end up in mud, soaked in rain, or caked in falling snow. You’re going to need a heavy-duty shotgun manufactured to withstand intense weather conditions.
The ideal gun will work well despite water, dirt, and debris. They will handle a number of tasks well and can take accurate shots when you’re hunting fowl and when you’re shooting on the range. Carefully consider your plans for hunting, including season and location, when you pick the gun you plan to use for hunting geese. While smaller caliber rifles can “work” – shotguns are typically your best bet.
2. Use the Right Choke
Many shotgun hunters buy specialized, aftermarket chokes for their guns. These specialized accessories can allow you to use the same shotgun for several different purposes. Different chokes can provide different features that can impact your ability to quickly and successfully take down a goose in flight.
Some chokes can help improve your overall hunting game. The best extended chokes will help offer improve patterns. They do this by creating unique internal surfaces that stabilize your bullets and cartridges or by improving the separation of each shot from the shotcup.
3. Train Your Dog for Hunting Success
The right dog can do a lot for your success rate in the field (or on the edge of a body of water, in this case). A well-trained bird dog can serve multiple purposes. First of all, your dog can help frighten nesting or hidden geese nearby, flushing them out of cover. Their fear response to your dog allows you to take clean shots of the birds as they take to the air over the water.
Your dog can also improve your overall experience by retrieving your birds after you shoot them. This skill, in particular, requires training. Any dog can romp through the vegetation near the edge of a body of water, which is all it takes to scare up birds to shoot. Bringing those birds back to an owner requires more skill, thought, and patience on the part of your dog.
A well-trained dog will know to carefully retrieve and carry the bird. Biting too hard can disfigure the bird or even separate the head from the neck. Similarly, your dog should know to avoid thick weeds when carrying a bird back to you. Treating the bird with respect and taking care about where to drop it are both skills that not every dog can master without in-depth training.
4. Target One Kind of Goose
There are many kinds of potential geese you can hunt in North America. When learning how to hunt geese, you should probably focus on general goose hunting at first. After all, certain things remain true of all species of geese. They will be drawn to large bodies of water, as well as ponds and even swamps. They will nest in certain areas and seasons and may return to the same nesting site every year.
Beyond that, however, the approach you take and when/where you’re hunting could depend on the species of goose you’re hunting. Canadian geese, which are some of the most common geese in North America, are also the largest. The snow goose, however, has beautiful white plumage and is quite prized as an eating goose by those who enjoy roast goose.
Ross’s Goose, the Cackling Goose, and the Brant Goose round out the five most common and popular geese. For a long time, the four subspecies of Cackling Goose were all considered Canadian Geese, but they are actually a whole category of goose unto themselves. The places that you hunt and the season you’re out could vary depending on the kind of goose you’re hunting.
5. Select Your Hunting Site
Generally speaking, goose hunting means coming to the edge of a body of water. Depending on the area and the species of goose you’re hunting, you could hunt in just about any season. Some people will hunt for geese in the dead of winter, while others camp out in the fall. Regardless of when you’re heading out, choosing the right location will have a significant impact on your overall success rate.
If you know a place that draws geese every year, that may be a good spot to start. However, make sure that you have the legal right to hunt in the area. If it’s private property, you may need written permission from the owner. When on public hunting lands, you may have to obtain permits or pay special fees to legally hunt geese. Some places will outright ban waterfowl hunting as well, so make sure you can legally be there.
Permission to hunt is only half of the concern with location, however. The terrain and the number of birds are also important considerations. Large amounts of vegetation can make an area very attractive to waterfowl, but those same plants can make navigating the area and retrieving birds you take down a very difficult prospect.
Finally, ambient noise is a consideration as well. If the location is close to a highway or other source of traffic, you could find the noises either result in incredibly skittish birds that take off without much warning or time to plan or birds that don’t startle. In either case, louder ambient noise levels can certainly make it harder to hunt geese.
6. Learn About Goose Calls
One of the most important secrets of how to hunt geese involves the proper use of goose calls. Goose calls operate on the opposite premise that a hunting dog does. A hunting dog will help flush birds out of vegetation and nests, allowing you to take a clean shot as they seek the refuge of the open sky. A goose call, on the other hand, will help lure geese closer to your location by making sounds like their own.
Goose calls typically have an opening for you to blow into and a reed that turns that air movement into a goose-like noise. Believe it or not, there have actually been major advances in the technology used in these old-school devices in recent years. You can find goose calls for all kinds of birds, all seasons, and all stages of bird life.
Many people who regularly hunt geese will carry several different calls. Successful calling requires that you observe how geese respond to your calls and make decisions on the fly about adjusting the rate or tone you’re using. It will take some practice, but there are books, as well as apps and online instructional videos, that can help you master the art of replicating goose sounds on calls.
Goose calls are usually more effective early in the season when you will find more juveniles and hatchlings in the population. After all, like most animals, geese are protective of their young. You can harness that instinct to your benefit when hunting wild geese.
7. Weather Guides Your Choices
From the gun that you use to the call that you choose, the local weather and the season will have an impact on what will work best for your hunting season. Certain firearms (and firearm accessories, like scopes and even chokes) work better in certain temperatures and weather conditions than others. You should try to purchase supplies and accessories that work with the general season that you plan to hunt.
However, having backup options (such as water-resistant or freeze-proof) variations on hand or in your vehicle may be a good choice as well. The more likely the weather is to vary, the more planning you may need to do to improve your odds of bagging some beautiful birds.
8. Get the Right Permit
Depending on where and when you plan to hunt, as well as the breed of goose, you may require a state hunting permit to legally bag any birds you find. Check with your state Department of Natural Resources to see what permits they require for hunting geese. Some states allow hunting year-round on your own property, while others limit the season to specific months.
Proper research about permits is always a good decision. While some people choose to take their chances and hunt without a permit or outside of season, they risk penalties ranging from fines and fees to criminal charges related to poaching. No matter how passionate you are about hunting waterfowl, the risks certainly outweigh the benefits when it comes to hunting without a permit.
9. Have the Right Hunting Supplies
De-feathering a wild goose is a difficult manual task. It could take you hours, leaving your hands and back sore. Why waste all of that time and energy on a task you may have to complete dozens of times each season? If you hunt geese every year, it may be worth investing in a plucker, which will take the manual work out of preparing a wild goose (and other poultry) for the dinner table.
There are several sizes of plucker available, and you will need to look at their technical specifications closely to ensure they are large enough for geese. Many are only sized for domestic chickens and small ducks. If you don’t want to spend the money on a plucker, consider reaching out to nearby farmers who raise geese or professional processing facilities. They may rent pluckers or pluck birds for a fee.
You’ll also want to make sure you have the right equipment for hunting. You’ll want to ensure that you can see your prey effectively, but high tech gear like game cameras usually aren’t needed. Just having the basics is usually enough.
10. Select Your Prey Carefully
While just taking out a large number of birds can feel like a solid hunting session, there’s more art and nuance to real success as a goose hunter. As the saying goes, you should focus on quality over quantity. If you’re looking for meat birds, you want healthy, fat geese as your targets. If you’re looking to taxidermy a few geese, you may be comfortable taking more liberties with appearance when hunting.
Like many hobbies and sporting pursuits, you will get out of goose hunting what you put into it. Just reading about how to hunt geese is only the first step. You may need to take firearm safety classes or even work with a local, experienced goose hunter to really understand the nuances involved in successful waterfowl hunting.
Familiarizing yourself with the best local and nearby goose hunting options will increase your odds of bringing home a bird. From educating yourself about local breeds to popular nesting grounds, everything you can glean from other waterfowl hunters and local news outlets can help you plan for your first season of goose hunting.
Getting acclimated to your firearms and other supplies is also important. Hit the range and shoot skeet or targets until you feel like you can operate your shotgun in your sleep. Practice with your dog until he obeys every command without hesitation. Investigate every local watering hole and explore new territory to find the perfect hunting site. Each step of the process is just part of the fun of goose hunting.