I remember reading it in the regulations each year, “Bows and arrows are legal for waterfowl hunting.” Each year, I dismissed it. Who would try such a thing? Then one day I got to talking to the managers of the golf course across the road from my fields. I had gone to ask them about how many geese were holding up in their ponds at night.
“We’d let you hunt over here to get rid of them, but shotgun blasting isn’t really good for business at a golf course.”
“What if I could do it quietly?” I asked.
“If you could be quiet and take a few out of here, have at it!”
Before I go any further, I want you to know that hunting geese with archery equipment is hard. I mean, it is HARD. I had tried a few years before this to take a turkey with my bow. I’m not sure what possessed me to try this, as I have a hard enough time taking a gobbler with a shotgun, but off I went. It didn’t end well for me, although I think the turkeys really enjoyed it. I swear they sit around and tell stories about me when I’m not around.
So here is the deal with goose hunting via archery gear. Think of it like dove hunting. You’re going to shoot a little and miss a lot. It’s a smaller target. You need them in close, and you can’t be up in a tree. There are some ways to get ready for doing this, however, and there is some definite reward.
Getting ready is like any other sport. It takes practice. I suggest a good, high-contrast target in the right colors to train your eyes. While deer hunters can grab a Glen Del Buck, there isn’t a goose archery target on the market. The next best thing is one of the new Block high definition targets. I use the diamonds and just try to get as tight of a group as possible.
There is another element that isn’t as much fun. You need to be extremely accurate and consistent. The best way to do this is to start with good equipment. Shoot a bow you’re comfortable with and get dialed in. You’re going to need good arrows, and that can be expensive. The price difference in arrows is usually related to how straight they are. I use Gold Tip Extreme Hunters that have a +/- rating of .001-inch. Cheaper arrows have a lesser rating, but similar materials. The difference is that these arrows will be consistent from one to the next and out of a dozen, all will fly very close to the same. That is a key thing when you’ve got to shoot several times at a small target. It is more expensive to buy the top-shelf arrows, but it is worth it in confidence knowing that if I practice, I can make the shot. If I miss, it is because of me and not my equipment. I can live with that. On the plus side, you’re going to be a better shot the more you practice. Look out deer!
Another cool development that is recent and gaining steam is the use of crossbows. Yeah, you can use a crossbow to kill a goose in many states. Check your local regulations first, of course, but here in my home state, they are legal. I don’t see much of an advantage to using a crossbow over a regular bow, but I shoot a lot with both. If you’re not an accomplished archer, there is a definite shorter learning curve with a crossbow. You still need to practice quite a bit, but you can get there more quickly. You’re not retaining your whole body to make the shot. Plus you can get some really good crossbows for a decent price. I picked up a Wicked Ridge recently that is a great-shooting, lightweight bow. It gives me some options for hunting that have come in handy. I use an Ameristep Crossbones crossbow blind and can set up close to good hunting spots. The blind has lots of shooting windows, giving me good access to take birds.
For tactics, I take one call and use it sparingly. I set up in areas where geese will want to be and try to position myself just like I would in a normal hunting scenario. Scouting and knowing where you need to be is key. I take just a few of my most realistic decoys. I have had great success using Final Approach’s full-body lessers. The realism is awesome and they are easy to set up and transport.
I still take aim for the neck/head. You can take the body shot if you choose. I like to keep the breast meat as intact as possible, so I go for the head and neck. Plus, if you bust ’em right in the neck, they aren’t going anywhere. How would you feel if a goose flew off with your arrow sticking out of it?
As this catches on with more hunters, it is going to make for a great management tool. I honestly feel that hunting geese with archery gear will gain us more access to those places where geese need to be controlled, such as golf courses and parks. Practice as much as you can. Make clean, ethical kills and take a low-key approach. The other thing you’ll quickly realize is, this is fun!