Decoys: Think Small
When it comes to decoy spreads, many goose hunters are convinced that bigger is better. Spreads of more than 10 dozen full-body decoys are now common on the goose hunting landscape, and many hunters use custom decoy trailers to transport their prodigious spreads to and from the field. But veteran outfitter Darrell Wise contends that huge rigs of decoys are often unnecessary to successfully hunt geese in many areas. "The number of decoys you use depends on whether you are hunting next to a refuge or hunting geese that are feeding in a field," says Wise, who has hunted Canada geese for more than four decades in the western United States and Canada. "Next to a refuge, you need to use a lot of decoys to confuse the birds as to which side of the fence you are on. Consequently, hunting in these areas is not recommended for beginners or those looking for an easy hunt. But if you find a field where geese are actively feeding, then the number of decoys you use isn't important at all. Because geese have already made up their minds that they are going there to feed anyway, all you are doing is marking the spot. That's why when I hunt geese on my own for fun, all I use is maybe 18 silhouette decoys."
Michigan outfitter George Lynch has also had good success for years hunting over small decoy spreads. "If you hunt by yourself or with only one or two other people, you don't have to use that many decoys," says Lynch, who is also owner of Lynch Mob Goose Calls and a member of the Avery pro staff. "A dozen or 18 full-bodies with motion stakes make a good starter rig. If you're on a tight budget, you can either buy them yourself four or six at a time or split the cost of a dozen with a buddy. I also like to mix in a half-dozen shells that I place on the ground to look like resting or sleeping birds. Then your rig includes decoys that are moving like actively feeding birds, as well as decoys that look like birds that are resting and content. It says to the geese that this is a place with both food and safety—everything the birds are looking for.
"Another huge advantage of hunting with a small spread is it enables you to pick up your decoys and get out of a field quickly after you bag your birds," Lynch continues. "This will allow you to hunt a particular field for more than just one day and bag more birds in the long run than guys who go in with a trailer and spend all morning in the field."