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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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  • Greater snow goose
    photo by Brian Britton
  • Lesser snow goose
    photo by Mike Khansa
  • Ross's snow goose
    photo by Ryan Askren
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Light Geese

Chris Swift of Tyler, Texas, is one of the best callers of "light geese"—greater and lesser snows and Ross's geese—in North America. A two-time world snow goose calling champion, he has 18 years' experience guiding for these birds in Texas, Alaska, and Saskatchewan. His chosen instrument for calling snow geese is a Sean Mann White-Out polycarbonate call.
"When I'm hunting snow geese, I'll pick one bird and try to have a conversation with him," Swift says. "When he calls, I'll immediately call back. I try to gain his attention and steer him toward my spread. If I can get that one goose committed to coming, others will usually come with him. I try to mimic what that bird does, using exactly the same pitch and volume. I think this is crucial. I believe the biggest mistake most snow goose callers make is they don't hit just the right note."

When the target goose locks onto his decoys, Swift lets the bird come without additional calling. "I don't call him all the way to the ground," he says. "Once he's made up his mind, I let him come. When snow geese start sailing toward a spread, they're usually coming in."

If the geese don't commit, however, Swift shifts to another gear. "In this case I'll start blowing high-lows [two-note calls] and mix in a lot of murmurs. Sometimes you can convince a reluctant snow goose to come in by giving him a little more coaxing."

Another way to add persuasion is to have multiple callers calling simultaneously. "Two callers are better than one, and three are better than two," Swift says. 

Weather conditions can also play a big role in how to call snow geese. If it's foggy or the wind is calm, Swift backs off on his calling. "I may call toward the ground or inside my jacket to muffle the sound," he explains. "I'll also add a lot more murmurs in these conditions. But if the wind is howling, I'll point the call straight at the bird and blow loud, strong notes."

A different calling style comes into play when calling Ross's geese. "These birds make a distinctive high note, called a chirp or peep," Swift says. "You can imitate this sound by using a specklebelly call and squeezing the end of the call to restrict air flow. This makes a high note that sounds like a Ross's goose. Just listen to the live birds and imitate the sounds they make, just like you do with snows."

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