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Banding Together for Waterfowl

The Big Chill

A group of veteran waterfowlers shares advice on hunting Canadas as the season winds down
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Story at a Glance

Tips covered in this feature:

  • Sound like contented geese
  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Find or create open water
  • Keep your spread realistic

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

"Scouting late-season honkers is critical to goose-hunting success," says Sean Hammock of Stillwater, Minnesota. "By January, the birds have been hunted for four or five months and have seen every decoy spread you can imagine. So, being exactly where the geese want to be is very important. Finding a good food source and an area with little pressure from other hunters is crucial. Hunters need to get outside their comfort zone and put some miles on their pickup trucks. Travel to new areas, and get away from all the other hunters. Sometimes it's better to have fewer birds you can hunt with success than thousands of birds you just watch fly over."

Hammock, who grew up in the upper Midwest, is well acquainted with late-season snow common to the region. Experience has taught him to pay heed to the small details.

"I love hunting late-season honkers and mallards in the snow. But, snow can either make you or break you," Hammock says. "Waterfowl hunters need to remember how well the birds can see. When hunting in layout blinds, taking extra time to bury the blinds in the snow or using a spray snow on the material is important.

"Always keep a couple of shovels in your truck or trailer to move snow around and use it to your advantage," Hammock adds. "The real thing is always better than using any kind of spray. If you need to, position layout blinds at the edge of fields or areas where the snow has drifted or is deeper. And always wear a white hat or facemask to blend in with the surroundings."

In the vernacular of the hard-line goose hunter, "running traffic" means intercepting birds as they move from Point A to Point B. Hammock enjoys his role as traffic cop. "Running late-season traffic on Canada geese is another way to increase your success," he says. "We all want to be on the X, but that is not always possible. Picking a good spot to cut geese off can be tough. Always look for a field with the highest elevation around and with little or no stubble. Keep in mind that when snow is on the ground, geese will be able to see your decoy spread from a greater distance because of the color contrast.

"When running traffic, do your best to get directly under the birds' flight path. Visibility is first. You want the geese to see you from a long distance, no matter where they are headed. Using large numbers of decoys and lots of flagging are good ways to get their attention. I do a lot of calling to get the birds coming and then slow it down when they are getting close."

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