Goose Angst: Three Honkers You Love to Hate

By author of The Duck Blog

When these Canadas crash your setup, frustration often ensues

Some honkers seem to have a sense of humor when humiliating your best hunting efforts. Photo © Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

Canada geese can tick you off, especially if these wary, adaptable birds have experienced hunting pressure. Still, finding a hot field or turning a flock with realistic calling usually lets you turn the tables on many honkers.

But a few geese consistently thwart your best efforts and leave you rolling your eyes after your short-reed is done smoking. And let’s face it, if you name a goose — much like when you name a turkey — it’s a bad hombre.

I encountered each of these birds this past season, and you might have, too. Here’s how to beat them at their game this fall.

The Picky Loafer

I love setting up midmorning ambushes at daytime loafing spots — small ponds, sloughs or other waters where geese lounge between daylight and evening feeding flights. But here’s the inconvenient truth: Geese only use those spots because they are absolutely convinced they’re safe. And if anything seems out of place, the Picky Loafer will spot it on approach, veer away and take the rest of the flock with him — perhaps forever.

I mean anything, too. Set up field blinds on a sandbar? You might as well wear blaze orange. Throw out a big spread at a tiny stock pond? Birds will flare like you sounded an air horn.

The best way to hunt loafing areas is to place a few resting full-bodies or floaters in relaxed positions, find maximum concealment and resist the urge to hit that call. Otherwise, ol’ P.L. will find another spot to spend the day.

The Candy Goose

You know this guy: A large flock circles your spread and prepares to come around again. Meanwhile, one bird loses altitude like a flaming zeppelin and lands 5 feet from you.

OK, why would you hate a goose that finishes so well? Because he makes you decide between killing him or trying to work in the entire flock. And if you’re like me — that is, greedy and naively optimistic — you often choose the latter and fail.

You can’t avoid the Candy Goose. Instead, you must accept him and focus on the behavior of his buddies. If they seem receptive and act as if they want your spread, keep at them, and leave Mr. Candy alone. However, if groups consistently swing wide or land out of range, you’re probably better off taking the next few candy geese that offer a shot. Usually, one or two flocks will tell the tale, and you can make an informed choice about killing eager singles or waiting to sucker in a gaggle.

The Old Local Hag

Those aforementioned big flocks often frustrate you because of this goose: a giant Canada that has nested in the area for years and can probably identify your decoys and calling 500 yards distant. It’s not so much that you want to kill this tough old bird, but it might be nice to have her commit so you can pick off other geese in the flock.

You’ll only beat this biddy (or gander) by going back to Goose 101. Scout like crazy to find irresistible feeds. Conceal yourself to the point that your buddy doesn’t know you’re there until you talk. And use your head when you call, interpreting what geese — especially O.L.H. — want to hear that day; excited chatter, contented moans or some combination thereof.

This gal won’t come easy, but even fooling her for a few extra yards will put more of her flockmates on your strap.

Haters Gonna Honk?

You probably hate some other geese, too — smart veterans that fly straight up from refuges and straight down into them at night, or pesky big-water birds that tease you for a few hundred yards and then land tantalizingly short.

Like I said, they get under your skin. Which tough honker bugs you the most?

Click here for more Realtree waterfowl hunting content. And check us out on Facebook.