With duck season ending on Jan. 31, hunters across the Carolinas can turn to resident Canada geese to get their last waterfowl fix of the year, but even those birds who are used to contact with humans can be a little tougher to take.
Michael Parker, a veteran waterfowl hunter, retriever trainer and owner of Back Creek Kennels in Mount Ulla, N.C., said that some scouting and a few minutes paying attention to how geese are gathered in an area can lead to better shoots.
Parker will scout cut grain fields that he has permission to hunt to see how geese are using them, particularly, to determine which areas of the field they’re feeding the most. It’s not enough, he said, to put out a spread of decoys in the southwest corner of a 30-acre cornfield if birds are going to use the northeast corner.
“Where you see geese in a field the night before, that’s exactly where they’re going to be the next morning, and you’d better have your decoys there,” said Parker. “They can be incredibly easy to decoy (early in the season), but later in the season, after all the young and dumb ones have been killed, they can be as hard to decoy as their wild brethren.”
Parker likes to use about four dozen decoys in a spread. He makes a lot of his own silhouette decoys and sprinkles in some shells. But how he arranges the spread is more important than the numbers of fakes.
“If you ride around in the truck and look and see how they’re spread out in a field when they’re feeding, you’ll see them in family groups — maybe six or eight birds here, six or eight there,” he said. “Because family groups have geese from the year before — maybe last year’s birds are still feeding with this year’s family — you can get a large family group with maybe 18 or 20 or 22 geese. It will have yearling birds, adult birds, this year’s hatched birds. So when you set your decoys out in the field, set them in groups and pods.”
Once he’s got his decoys set in a field that Canadas have been using, it’s just a matter of staying hidden and doing just enough calling to get birds interested.
“I get an old, fold-up lounge chair like women lay on at the pool, and I’ll spray paint it in camouflage colors, lay down on it and cover myself in burlap,” he said. “It’s pretty simple and works like a charm. They rarely pick out that there’s something in the middle of the decoys.”
As far as calling, keep it simple, but do it right.
“I call ‘em exactly the way I call wild Canadas,” Parker said. “You don’t have to be an expert caller, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice before you head out. Birds that have been shot at may need the coaxing of a good call to get them to commit. You need a greeting call, something like what I call a ‘lonesome hen’ call, and a laydown call. if you can blow those three halfway decent, you’ll kill geese.”
Hunters in South Carolina can hunt resident Canadas from Feb. 14-29, except for areas of Orangeburg and Clarendon counties that are closed. North Carolina hunters have until Feb. 13 to take Canadas in the area known as the “resident population zone.” The bag limit is five birds per day.