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Late Season Goose Hunting - By: C.C. McCotter - Feb. 2004

Duck season may be over but it's still waterfowl season. This is a great time to concentrate on Canadian and snow geese. With large bag limits in most
areas, you can make a full day of hunting. In most areas the bag limits are five a day west of I-95 for Canadians and fifteen a day for snow geese state
wide.

Even though both are members of the geese family, each has a different
habitat, and because of these differences, you cannot set up your decoys
the same way with Canadians as with snows.

Canadians have three sub-species in our area. First is called the Golf-
Course goose. This goose is larger and lazier than the rest and will only move
when pushed and pushed hard. One of these birds can weigh in at twelve to
fifteen pounds and make a great mount. Golf-Course geese will not fly south
for the winter no matter how frigid the conditions are.

The next is the Semi-migratory goose These geese may know their way
around the state but not much more. They go from soybeans to cut com
fields to lakes and river in their area. As long as there is food and open
water, these bird are easy to call in and decoy.

The third sub-species is the Lesser Canadian. It is called Canadian instead
of goose because this bird actually comes from Canada. Lessers work for a
living moving from the tundra of Canada to North and South Carolina looking
for food and open water. They are mostly found by the coastal line and may
only weigh six to eight pounds.

I have killed many in central and western Virginia in late season so it is not
unheard of to find them west of I-95. Lesser Canadians are extremely savvy
due to their experience of being shot at in every state. When you can decoy
and call one of these experienced travellers, you know your set up is right.
Canadians travel in flocks of two to two hundred and can be decoyed to the
gun easily with a little practice. Field hunting geese works well if the birds
have visited in the past two to three days or they are working in the area.
The geese are looking for water so set up your decoys close to a source of
water.

I like to set my decoy spread in a quarter moon shape on land and/or water with small family groups around the spread. I get covered up to match the surroundings. Most geese are smart. You may fool them once but you will have to move the next day unless the birds are migrating. Because of their size you should use a larger load or in my case a larger gun. I personally like a 10-gauge. Shot size for geese should be BB, BBB, T's and F's. The F shot is about the size of a buck shot and has the tendency to
cripple birds by breaking their wings. This can mean a long chase.
Geese can be deceivingly fast for their size. When shooting at a flying
goose, I will lead them about three to four feet in front of their beak. Aiming
for the head is the only way to take this big bird. Calling a flock to the spread is key to success. If they like what you are saying, keep it going until they set their feet. Silence to a goose approaching decoys signals danger to them.

Snow geese are a different breed of goose. Unlike the somewhat
predictable Canadian, snows are harder to decoy. To hunt snows you need to
start with at least two to three hundred decoys The group I hunt with sets
out at least one thousand decoys. For the average waterfowl hunter this is
not practical and expensive. You can get a good guided snow goose hunt in
Maryland or Virginia's Eastern Shore for approximately $150 dollars a day.
If you want to hunt snow geese remember you have to go to them because
they are not going to come to you. The night before your hunt you will need
to find out which field the birds are feeding. The birds will return to the
exact same spot the next morning unless they have been spooked by gun fire
or something as simple as a plane going over the field. Overnight they can be
found rafting on the big water.

Snows are noisy birds so the more people calling the better. Unlike
Canadians where one or two will break from the flock, snows seldom do this.
It is not unusual to see one to two thousand snows coming to your spread.
This means one to two thousand eyes looking at you, so this is not the time
to sneeze, cough or move until the shot is called. Don't be surprised to see
snows landing at your feet while the main flock is still coming.
This is the most exciting hunt out there. I highly recommend this
experience to any waterfowler at least once. To my wife's dismay, duck
season is over but there is still plenty of good hunting days.
So look out geese, you now have my undivided attention.


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