Without a doubt, the night air is feeling cooler and drier and is signaling that fall is in the air. Another sure sign of the transition to fall is the family groups of geese which are now winging their way across the skies looking for their next meal. You can even see that some of the sugar maples leaves are starting to show some color on the tips of their leaves. The change is coming!
What this all means too many is summer is slowly starting to fade away for another year, and another school year is about to begin. To the waterfowl enthusiast, this transition to fall is also the signal that the hunting season is about to begin. And I am ready!
Early goose season is a product of too many geese across the state. Damage to agricultural fields and crops, lounging geese grazing along too many golf courses and public parks, has had wildlife officials trying to keep the Canadian goose population in check. Hence, the early season which really provides some great opportunities for waterfowlers to get out early in the season before the regular waterfowl season opens.
Scouting out locations to set up for early goose is no different than if you are chasing the geese later in the season. The biggest difference you will find is that the preferred food source is going to be something green and growing. Late fall patterns of harvested field corn or soy beans just are non-existent, unless you can find a sweet corn field which has been picked and disked. These fields are nothing short of magnets.
Many of the green opportunities which exist right now are going to be harvested rye and wheat fields, replanted rye and wheat fields, or sod fields. Sod fields are like hunting the golf course back nine. Geese gravitate to these fields early and late in the day and seem to roost in close proximity on the closest body of water. Set up on sod fields can be challenging, so knowing the terrain is extremely important. What is the most probable setup is that sod fields are usually surrounded by ditches. Hunkering down in the long grass of the ditch adjacent to the sod field works extremely well and will provide adequate concealment for a number of hunters. In this type of scenario, make sure to pick up any wads or shell casing which may end up on the sod. Always leave the field the way you found it, or even better.
Harvested rye or wheat fields are another early season hot spot. If the fields are not immediately disked up after harvest, missed, or knocked off grain reseeds itself and new growth rye or wheat will attract geese into the stubble fields like crazy. If the field was harvested leaving high stubble, setting up lay-out blinds is a great way to be concealed. Just make sure you camo up your blinds with natural stubble materials from the field. There is nothing worse than flaring working geese because of a bad set-up. Take the time to do your blind preparation right and your results will show with the extra effort.
Another set-up tactic which works well is if a corn field abuts a rye or wheat stubble field, or even a replanted rye or wheat field. If the wind is right, standing in an unpicked corn field can provide some outstanding concealment for hunters as geese are approaching your decoy setup in an adjoining stubble, or replanted field. The biggest challenge here is to not do damage to the unpicked crop. Also make sure to pick up any leftover casings or other items which may interfere with the farmer’s equipment and the harvest to come.
Early season goose is a great way to get your waterfowling season off to a great start. The weather can sometimes be to warm, but who’s ever going to complain about heading out afield in a camo tee-shirt and maybe even a pair of shorts.