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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

Find or Create Open Water

While most late-season goose gunning occurs in agricultural fields, setting up on open water can also be productive—that is, if you can find open water, or make your own.

"We run a number of ice eaters for late-season Canada goose hunting. Waterfowl are suckers for open water when things are locked up, and late-season Canadas are no exception," says Tony Vandemore of Kirksville, Missouri. "Even though the geese are pressured by the late season, having the ability to keep water open coupled with relaxed/loafing spreads with lots of sleeping shell decoys can provide some of the most consistent and best hunting of the year."

Retrievers are often part of this exercise. And although most are tough by nature, dogs should be given special consideration when the bottom drops out of the thermometer.

"It is imperative to make sure your dog is keeping its core body temperature up when hunting in cold conditions," Vandemore says. "Late season, I move to a 5 mm neoprene dog vest, regardless of whether I'm hunting in a snowy field or over water.

"When hunting over ice holes or open water, a boater's dog parka with the handle on top is priceless for lifting the dog out of the water or up on the ice," Vandemore adds. "I don't condone hunting a dog in an ice situation where you aren't 100 percent certain of the water depth and know the dog can touch bottom if it falls through. Always be sure to keep an eye out for signs of hypothermia and have a plan of action in place—somewhere you can take the dog if it starts to have problems."

Weather changes can have a huge impact on Canada goose movement. Keep tabs on incoming fronts and on which areas the birds are regularly using. "Scouting not only tells you where the birds are moving, but when. Pay close attention to weather and get a better understanding of why the geese are moving and when they are doing it," Vandemore says. "On extremely cold, clear days, our geese move once a day in late afternoon. There is no sense being out there at daylight and getting cold.

"When it's cloudy, windy, or there is any kind of precipitation, the birds will move earlier in the day," Vandemore adds. "With precipitation coming, they typically move before it hits or right as it starts. If you get a warm-up after an extended cold snap, birds will move earlier regardless of sun, clouds, rain, or snow."

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