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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.

"The thing about snows," Marvel adds, "is that they are much smarter than Canadas. It is harder to use a call for snow geese. The best call for snow geese, as far as I am concerned, is good decoys."

Marvel often employs mounted snow geese, or "stuffers," as decoys. There is a reason for his setting out and picking up a rig of 200 stuffers on a daily basis.

"The snow geese here get more pressure than any other snow geese in the country," Marvel says. "The days of the Texas rags are over. They won't come to them any more in Maryland. You have to use the best decoys you can afford, and have some motion in your decoys.

"In the spring, when things are really tough, we have to use stuffers. We'll use 200 opposed to 700 or 800 shells. That time of year, the birds won't come to plastic anymore. But they will come to feathers."

Snow geese often move in huge flocks. Because of the incredible amount of noise that these birds make as a group, calling can be a futile exercise.

"The way they fly around here, particularly when there are smaller bunches, or trading birds, I think the best thing to do is call to the goose that is calling to you. You have to try and talk to that one goose, mimic its same sounds. Later on, when the snows are in flocks of 500 to 3,000, they are not going to hear your call anyway," Marvel says.

"I have noticed that snow geese are much more susceptible to being killed over water," Marvel continues. "They are more apt to decoy to water decoys than field decoys. I guess they just feel safer.

"The most important thing, though, is scouting. We scout every day, as soon as the hunting party is done. We want to know where the geese are going when they leave. When we find them, we set up the next day right where they left."

Though somewhat restrictive, the revival of the Maryland Canada goose season is a return to the region's waterfowling roots. Local guides, including Marvel, have dusted off their Canada calls in anticipation of the honkers.

"People who hunt Canada geese, the most important thing for them is to find a goose call that they are comfortable with. There are so many different ones now . . . flutes and short reeds. They are blown by totally different techniques. To me, a short reed sounds more like a goose than any other type of call. And it's more like blowing a duck call."

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