The early Canada goose season, for many hunters, is the first chance to get out hunting each fall. This season targets locally nesting geese and occurs prior to the major waterfowl migration.
Scout For Hunting Success
Scouting is the absolute key to success during the early season. Long before opening day, you’ll need to secure permission to hunt fields that geese are working. This is a tricky proposition, because geese may use one field for several days, only to move on. Your scouting must be constant. Line up permission to hunt as many properties as you can in the vicinity of goose roosting areas so you have your bases covered when flight patterns shift.
With any luck, your scouting pays off with a great opening morning shoot. But things change quickly after opening day. Those birds you shot at are either dead or educated. If you limited out quickly and vacated the field, you may still be able to dupe some late arrivals the following day, but often your opening day field is a one-and-done proposition.
After your opening morning hunt, find out where the birds relocated. You’ll need to keep scouting all season to stay in sync with them. If different flocks are using different fields, you may be able to continue hunting fresh birds, but realize that other hunters may have their eyes on these birds as well, unless you have exclusive access to the fields they’re using.
Blinds and Decoys Must Look Natural
Once birds have been shot at, they will become wary. On subsequent hunts, you’ll have to make sure that your blinds blend in perfectly with their natural surroundings and that your decoys not only look good, but look natural. Don’t set them too close together because that’s how nervous geese look. Keep them spread out in small family groups.
Newly Harvested Fields Attract Geese
The early season is a transition time from summer to fall. Early crops will start to come off the field. Drive around to see which fields are being harvested, or if you’re tight with the landowners, simply ask when they play to harvest which fields. Alfalfa is a staple of early season goose hunters, but you’ll also see early cuttings of oats, sweet corn and maybe some early field corn as well. Keep your eyes peeled for freshly harvested fields. The birds are sure to find them quickly.
Soon into the season you may start to see an influx of molt migrants – juvenile, non-breeding birds making their way south (giant Canada geese don’t mate until they’re 3 or 4 years old). Fresh birds are always welcome because they don’t know which areas are safe and which areas are hunted. Keep an eye out for these birds. While local birds will fly out early in the morning, and at relatively low altitudes, molt migrants will show up often at midday, as they are coming from some distance away, making 50- to 100-mile hops. They will also be flying higher.
Midday Can Be Productive
Don’t be afraid to hunt at midday to take advantage of these molt migrants. Not only will no one else be hunting at midday, but also, these birds will have seen little hunting pressure. Call louder and more aggressively to get their attention, and set up on high spots away from trees or other obstructions so they can see you from a distance and have time to come down from high altitudes.
Early season goose hunting requires constant scouting and adaptation. But with young, uneducated birds, coupled with generous bag limits, the early season can provide some of the best hunting opportunities of the season.