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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.

So how does Smith, who may have five different subspecies of Canada geese circling his field at any time, handle the diversity in birds?

"There are lots of variables because of the number of subspecies of geese. Generally, the smaller the subspecies, the more I call, and I think that applies anywhere. So, with cacklers and Taverners, I am usually pouring it on like crazy, but with Canadas I am much more subtle, making more of a growling sound," Smith says.

Learn the basics. Keep it simple in the beginning. And remember, no professional guide or contest caller ever  mastered all of the nuances of blowing a goose call in a single sitting.

In case you were wondering...

(1) Shawn Eldredge of Prairies Edge Goose Club can be reached by phoning 515-243-1441.
(2) Tom Marvel of Chesapeake Guide Service can be reached by phoning 410-648-5229.
(3) Dave Smith of Cochran and Smith Guide Service, can be reached by phoning 503-647-2045.
(4) Richie McKnight, who conducts guided goose hunts in Southern Illinois, can be reached by phoning 270-797-5058.

Decoy deployment also an important consideration

Opinions on goose spread designs may vary from field to field, or club to club, or state to state. If there is a consensus of opinion, it is the almost-universal belief that more decoys are much more effective than fewer decoys. There are exceptions.

"Too many people, because they think they need large numbers of decoys, go out and buy the cheapest ones they can find," champion goose caller Richie McKnight says. "I don't believe in that. If you are going to buy decoys, save your money and buy good ones. I would rather have fewer really good decoys than a pile of bad ones. People should buy the best decoys that they can afford."

Decoy placement often is another point of contention.

"I am adamant about not doing a standard spread," says professional guide Dave Smith. "When I watch geese, they are never in a specific pattern like an 'X' or an 'I,' like some people use. I put my decoys out randomly and make sure there's a clear hole for the birds to land in. As part of the randomness, I put some decoys shoulder to shoulder, and spread others apart. I don't think all decoys should be the same distance apart."

Goose Guru Shawn Eldredge hunts from pits, haybale blinds, and layout blinds.

"In the spring, when we are hunting snow geese, I put my clients in haybale blinds along fencelines, because I don't think snows are used to that," Eldredge says. "In a lot of these fields, the hilltops are fed out. The green is on the sides of the fields. That's where the food is, and the geese know that.

"I'm one of the few people I know about who uses Bigfoot snow goose decoys. If set up along a fenceline, hunting spring snows in particular, I'll set my decoys in what I call a 'sleeping P.'

"If the wind is to the right, I will start 15 yards away from the fenceline and run to the left (downwind) a thin line of Bigfoots. They'll go past the haybale blind and the 'P' will go straight out in front of you. Family groups are set up to the right of the 'P,' and magnet flyers are put at the top of the 'P,' like they are trying to jump ahead of the whole flock. The geese will always try to come along the thin stem into the 'P,' which is right in front of the clients."

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