3. Eric Strand's Cackler Spread
Cackling and lesser Canada geese winter en masse in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where they feed on grass and in winter wheat fields. Hunting pressure in this area is heavy, but Avery pro-staffer Eric Strand of Scappoose, Oregon
, has an advantage over the competition. While many hunters use standard Canada goose decoys and tactics, Strand fine-tunes his hunting methods to fit the distinct behavior patterns of these smaller geese.
"Cacklers and lessers fly in big flocks," Strand says, "so it's not unusual for me and my hunting partners to decoy 50 to 500 geese at a time. Still, we routinely decoy large groups of these birds using only three to five dozen decoys. We do this by setting a spread that mimics a flock of geese that has just landed and started feeding."
Strand's spread consists of a combination of Greenhead Gear full-body cackler and lesser Canada goose decoys. This is important, he says, because these smaller geese respond better to decoys that match their own size. Feeders outnumber upright decoys two to one in his spread to complete the scene.
Strand and his buddies usually hunt from layout blinds situated in a fence row or ditch line between two fields. Natural cover is a must. "Being well hidden is a big key to success with these geese," he says. "Cacklers and lessers are very spooky birds, and if they see anything suspicious, they'll flare away quickly."
These hunters set up with the wind at a crossing angle, leaving a 15-yard gap between the blinds and the edge of the decoy spread. The decoys are arranged in two groups—one to the left of the blinds and one to the right. Each group has roughly the same number of decoys. "We leave about a 15-yard gap between these two clusters of decoys," Strand says. "And since cacklers and lessers
feed in tight groups, we space our decoys only eight to 18 inches apart."
Strand scatters another dozen decoys in the opening between the two main groups. He leaves plenty of room between these "straggler" decoys for incoming geese to land. Because cacklers and lessers are aggressive feeders, they will typically land directly in the spread or just on the upwind edge of the decoys.
"We don't call much, and we don't flag at all," Strand adds. "And I can't emphasize how important it is to have a good hide! The more attention you pay to covering up well, the greater success you'll enjoy on these small geese."