by Gary Koehler
While growing up, and continuing to this day, there was always something reassuring about the clarion cries of migrating Canada geese. They seldom arrived by calendar, but most often appeared when the air first became crisp and the trees began flashing the rich golds and reds of autumn. No matter the project at hand, there was always time to stop and listen.
Geese are the chatterboxes of the waterfowl world. Researchers have determined that Canada goose language includes more than 20 distinct sounds. Perhaps no one can be sure of the exact topic of each conversation, but goose hunters who harbor hopes of outstretched wings over their decoys would do well to master at least a small portion of this colorful dialect.
Talking goose takes practice, which takes time, which takes discipline. The dividends of this labor, however, can make the difference between an endless string of frustrating birdless days and success in the goose fields on a regular basis.
Mechanical calls used to lure geese have changed during the past five years. Flutes, first introduced during the mid-1950s, dominated the market for decades. These days, however, short-reed goose calls are most often the chosen tools.
"The key to short-reeds," says professional guide Shawn Eldredge of Des Moines, Iowa, " is their versatility. I can do 23 different calls in goose language on a short reed, opposed to 12 calls on a flute. I don't use all those different calling sounds, but sometimes I have to pull one of the odd ones out to make things work."
Eldredge, who has been tagged with the nickname of "Goose Guru," for the past 12 years has concentrated his efforts in the Midwest, regularly hunting in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. He is typically in the field up to 128 days a year, beginning with the resident goose seasons and wrapping up during the spring snow goose season.