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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Calling All Geese

Five experts share their secrets for calling Canadas, cacklers, whitefronts, light geese and brant 
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  • photo by Bill Houghton
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Big Canada Geese

Kelley Powers of Union City, Tennessee, is a competition goose caller with many national titles to his credit, including World Goose Calling Champion and Champion of Champions. He is also a veteran hunter who knows how to apply his calling talent on wild geese over fields and marshes. Powers's favorite targets are "big" Canada geese, including giant Canadas (mostly nonmigratory) and interior Canadas (mostly migratory). When hunting these birds, he uses a Tim Grounds Triple Crown Canada goose call.

Powers says goose hunters can call these birds effectively by mastering two calls, the honk and the moan. Hunters can then build variations of sounds and sequences from these basic calls. "The cluck is just a short version of the honk, and the murmur is a variation of the moan. So if you learn these two simple Canada goose calls, you can add more complexity to your routine as your calling skills improve," he says.

According to Powers, many hunters make a common mistake when calling big Canadas. "They call too much, too soon," he says. "They throw the kitchen sink at them right up front. Sometimes this will scare geese. And even if it doesn't scare them, what do you have left if they still don't come? You've already used your trump card."

When a flight of big Canadas is approaching, Powers will keep his calling to a minimum, maybe a couple of long-range honks and a few clucks. "Sometimes this is all I need," he says. 

"They'll see my decoys and come. But if I need to use more persuasion, then I have more to give. I can start blowing louder and faster. I haven't risked anything by starting out with minimal calling, and I've avoided the possibility of overcalling from the start."

Powers tailors his calling style to the time of day and the type of setup he's hunting. "In the morning, when geese fly into a grainfield to feed, they're usually excited and vocal," he explains. "They make a lot of short, choppy notes, especially when they see other geese coming. But when they go back to their loafing spots at midday, they're in a lazy mood, and they don't do a lot of calling.

"So if I'm set up in a feeding situation, I'll call more. But if I'm set up on a mudflat, sandbar, or some other resting location, I'll typically call less to sound more natural in that environment."

Each day is different, and many factors—wind, temperature, hunting pressure, and so on—come into play when considering the best approach for calling big Canadas. Weigh all of these factors but don't overcomplicate things. Use common sense and begin with the basics. 

"Start out sounding like one goose, then add in more erratic little side notes to sound like other birds," Powers says. "And try to avoid getting into a rhythm. Real Canada geese on the ground call unevenly and erratically, and that's how I try to call, to sound as natural as possible."

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