You’ve done just about everything you can do. You scouted the fields and learned where the birds are and want to be. You set up well before sunrise and have your dekes nailed as far as positioning. You’re in your blind and totally concealed. You are cocked, locked and ready to rock. The sun peeks over the horizon, and the geese are in the air.
And they aren’t coming your way.
Ever been that guy? Me too. I had the flocks pegged as far as where they were going, only to have them go to a neighbor’s field. Here are a few common scenarios and a few things you can do to salvage things and maybe find a little redemption.
Scenario #1: The geese don’t like your spread and hold off just out of range. They want to be in the field, but go to another instead because of whatever it is that you can’t quite see. This is a situation I often refer to as “biting the bullet.”
Solution: Why I call this biting the bullet is because you’re going to have to do just that and change the whole spread and possibly your location, and you’re going to have to be quick. If you’re calling, call less and switch calls. Swap around the dekes and move a little. The worst thing to do is just sit there and hope it gets better. If I have two or three flocks come and give me the stink eye, I’m hauling butt to change things before the next flock arrives. Don’t be afraid to change — it beats getting skunked.
Scenario #2: Interception! You’ve set up well, but another hunting party has set up between you and the birds and is shooting at the flock that was headed your way. I used to have this happen a lot. There was a guy running a guiding business in our area and he wanted my fields badly. When he couldn’t get them, he started setting up right off the roost ponds and would pass-shoot the snot out of the birds as they jumped up in the morning. He didn’t win a lot of friends doing this and quickly went out of business.
Solution: This is a tough one. You now have shot-at birds that you’re trying to call in. What ended up working the best for me was to increase the amount of decoys, call softly and let the first few birds land. It took a lot of restraint to do this, but we noticed that as the birds were coming into our dekes, we could hear shots coming from the other guy, so we knew more birds should be coming. We let the first few birds go and quietly waited for the rest to show. Here is the key. After doing this for a morning or two, we then dramatically reduced the number of decoys and repositioned in the field. The attempt was to try not to educate every goose in the area, yet still get in a few good hunts.
Scenario #3: The Hail Mary… You’ve been hunting hard and had some luck. The birds have all flown and are all feeding now, but you didn’t fill your limit.
Solution: Unless breakfast is calling really loudly, or you have to go to work or something equally dreadful, here is something to try. Switch up your spread again. Give the returning birds something new to look at as they fly back to the roost. I have had great success, and this is a limited great success, by using the sleeper heads for my dekes and using fewer decoys than earlier that morning.
Good shell decoys work well here. Try the Final Approach Last Pass Field Honkers goose decoys with half of them topped with sleeper heads. The FA Brand shells have flocked heads and tails and look amazing in the field. I also call less and switch to a mellow sounding call. The aggressive calls of the morning are replaced by soft honks and clucks. I basically try to emulate the calls I hear when the geese are back on the roost and are settled down. I also move my spread out to a higher spot in the field and away from where I was hunting. Camo and layout blinds are vital, as the geese coming over have to be very confident in what they see.
Here’s the sticker on the Hail Mary — you’re not going to clean up on them. You’re going to maybe get some passing shots if you’ve done things right. This might result in picking up one or two birds. But then, that might fill out your daily bag. And it sure beats going home and mowing the lawn, raking leaves or just about anything else.