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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Decoy Spreads for Canada Geese

A variety of decoy strategies for honkers
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  • photo by Avery Outdoors
  • photo by Avery Outdoors
Image of
Story at a Glance

Canada goose decoy strategies:

  • Large Field Spreads
  • Designs for Field Spreads
  • Beyond the Basics
  • Motion in Goose Spreads
  • Downsizing a Spread
  • Hunting Over Water
  • The Final Word

by Wade Bourne

A decoy spread for hunting waterfowl is like a fine recipe. First, you must select the right ingredients. Then, you must mix them in the proper proportions and with the skill of a chemist. And finally, you must serve up your concoction in a setting that enhances success. A gourmet meal served in a pigpen won't draw many diners.

This is all especially true when it comes to setting spreads for Canada geese. These birds can be choosy about keeping company. Wild geese are born wary, and their suspicion multiplies as they add on years. Try to work a flock led by an old bird to a shoddy decoy spread and see what happens. The geese might angle in for a look, but then the leader's discerning eye and precautionary instincts tell him "No, something's not right here," and he leads the flock away. This is why a Canada goose spread must have both the right look and location.

The location part is a given. Goose hunters must set up where these birds have been working or where they will work. There's no substitute for good scouting and positioning a spread where the birds want to go to start with.

Then, setting out a realistic decoy spread is the next requirement. Take this to the bank: A finely tuned decoy spread will always be more effective on Canadas than one that's haphazard and inanimate.

To learn more about Canada goose spreads, Ducks Unlimited magazine contacted three of the best honker hunters in the country: Sean Mann of Trappe, Maryland; Randy Bartz of Oronoco, Minnesota; and Brad Cochran of Lebanon, Oregon.

Mann is a guide, a world-champion goose caller and owner of Sean Mann Game Calls. He specializes in Canada geese, mainly in Alberta and on Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore. Bartz is known as the Flagman for his pioneering work in developing wing-simulating flags and flagging methods to attract geese. His Flagman™ Products company markets flags and dog-training devices to waterfowl hunters throughout North America. Cochran is a partner in Dave Smith Decoys, makers of ultra-realistic goose decoys. He has been an avid waterfowler for 20 years, the last 12 of which he has focused on Canada geese that winter in Oregon's famed Willamette Valley.

How do these experts deploy their goose spreads? What do they believe is important in making a spread look realistic, and what common mistakes do hunters make with goose decoys? Many of their ideas and opinions were different; others were amazingly similar. No question, goose hunters around the country can pick and choose from these hunters' decoy strategies, incorporate their ideas into their own spreads, and profit from them when honkers fly south.

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