by M.D. Johnson
It's a fact: Nothing works all the time. There's no better example of this than goose hunting. Early season, mid-season, late season—it doesn't matter. Often, the spread those big honkers just fell into on Monday repels them on Thursday. It's the ultimate in trial and error, the goose gurus will tell you. And they're right.
That being said, there are some goose spreads that certainly fall under the heading of Tried 'n True. These are the ones that produce in the majority – not always, but these rigs are the ones we goose junkies keep coming back to time and time again.
Why? Because they work, that's why.
Early Season: September through early October
The junkyard spread
Scott Threinen, a competitive goose caller from Minnesota and creator of the Bad Grammar instructional calling DVD, used the term junkyard spread in an interview recently. Early season geese, says Threinen, are often uneducated geese. These naïve birds can often be duped with a combination spread of silhouettes, shells, full-bodies or whatever a hunter has in their arsenal. The key says Threinen, is to elevate your spread as the birds themselves progress, or grow wiser. Equally important is not showing your entire hand the first week of the season.
"Don't give the birds their diplomas," says Threinen. "Make 'em earn it."
There's no need to come out of the starting gate with 10 dozen fully flocked full-bodies; keep those in reserve until you really need them.
A family affair
Small family groups of widely-spaced Canada decoys – five here, four there, another four there – are an excellent idea during the early season. Realize, though, that family groups don't necessarily carry on throughout the season. Once the weather turns and food sources go from plenty to a premium, it's every bird for himself; thus, you're either dealing with the Big Black Blob Theory of goose decoy placement – especially true with the smaller subspecies like lessers or cacklers – or individual decoys placed more or less an equal distance apart.