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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.

Marvel starts calling to passing geese as soon as he thinks they can hear him.

"As they get closer, start clucking and double-clucking," Marvel says. "For a single cluck, use the word 'hut.' For a double cluck, say 'hut, hut,' into the call. If the geese start to leave, use the comeback call. That's like a cry, a longer, drawn-out 'hut,' but you keep the end note sustained."

Along the West Coast, Dave Smith is fresh off winning the Oregon state goose calling championship. Last fall, he became the first caller from the Northwest (Washington and Oregon) ever to make the cut in a national goose calling contest at the World Championship in Maryland. Smith can generally be found in Oregon's goose-rich Willamette Valley.

"There are five huntable species of geese here," Smith says. "Around 300,000 or so geese go through the valley each year. Twenty years ago, though, the dusky Canada goose (not fair game) was the only one. We've had to learn to hunt geese here. It is not like some areas where people have been doing it their whole lives."

Smith, however, has watched and learned.

"The most important thing a guy can do is to learn to make a super-goosey, super-natural cluck, in varying tones, in both high- and low-pitch versions," Smith says. "What I see a lot of guys doing is picking up a call and trying to make a whole bunch of sounds. You should first try to make a goosey cluck. If that's all you can do, you can still kill geese by only doing that.

"I personally like to have at least two calls with me. One is loud, with a high pitch, to get their attention and get them coming," Smith says, "and the other is lower and quieter, to finish the birds with."

Smith favors the short-reed style call, even though it is still relatively new to his region. Flute calls, he says, have maintained their popularity in Oregon.

"If you can do a good cluck, everything else will come to you," Smith says. "There are a couple of different styles of cluck. The goosiest is saying the word 'ook.' You can drag it out a little longer or shorten it up. If you close your hands down tight, that makes a low cluck. If you open up your hands, it makes a high cluck. It is extremely important to vary those tones. In the animal word, or with geese, if you make the same note over and over again, that's a distress sound.

"The cluck is the most basic sound of the goose. Another sound is the moan, which is much more seductive. If geese are not buying your calling, a moan can be used to draw them in and finish. The basic mechanics of it are that a cluck is high and low notes close together. A moan is a low note only, like 'ooooo.' You drag it out. There's a little more to it than just that, but that's the basics.

"There are quite a few versions to the comeback call, and that would be the next thing you would want to learn. The sound is what's called a bawl. You make it with two tones, a high and a low, on the short-reed call."

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