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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Talking Goose Talk

Learn the basic calls before trying to master the entire language
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Story at a Glance
  • Talking goose takes practice, which takes time, which takes discipline.
  • Because of the incredible amount of noise that these birds make as a group, calling can sometimes be a futile exercise.
  • Scouting is a major key to success.
  • If you can do a good "cluck" call, everything else will come to you.
  • Learn the basics and keep it simple in the beginning.

"Even today, after winning some contests, I still practice those clucks. Real sharp clucks. Then I practice the moan. Those two calls, I think, will kill more geese than anything. I would advise people to perfect those two calls before they did anything else with a goose call."

McKnight says his calling style is slightly different from many callers with whom he is familiar. While some guides use the words "hut," or "hoot," or "hutta" while blowing into their calls, McKnight goes with a "to-wit" while calling geese. He is not alone there, but the point is, finding a word or words that work best for you might take some experimentation. Where you are set up also figures to be a factor.

"I call more aggressively when I'm hunting migrating birds," McKnight says. "They want to hear a lot of noise. They are usually flying high and, to get them down, you have to give them a lot of racket. Another time to be more aggressive is when the geese are about to light outside your decoys. You really get after it then, and sometimes you can lift them right up and pull them right to you.

"The way that I call aggressively is by double-clucking," McKnight says. "I am saying the words 'hit it,' 'hit it,' 'hit it.' You have to have a lot of back pressure and that makes the tongue go a little faster. You go as fast as you can."

There are, however, times when less is definitely much more.

"I do not call loudly in the fog because the sound carries so well. I want to be kind of quiet on a foggy day because geese are nervous when it's foggy. And on days when there is no wind, I hardly call at them at all," McKnight says.

"You can definitely overcall geese. You have to learn to watch and listen. If I hear geese in the air talking a lot back and forth, I will call at them because their calling is telling me that they are excited. But if they are flying on a calm day and not making much noise, you have to be careful because if you blow too loud or too hard you will blow them right out of the field."

After a lengthy hiatus due to a precipitous drop in the Atlantic Flyway goose population, Canada goose hunting returned to the East Coast last fall. Tom Marvel, who has guided in the Chestertown, Maryland, area for 22 seasons, was ready and waiting. But his game plan has been altered.

"We specialize in snow geese now," Marvel says. "That corresponded with the shutdown on Canadas in 1996, but we had started fooling with them four or five years before.

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