Success in the field is a feeling that cannot be explained. Whether it’s harvesting the buck you’ve been after, catching a trophy fish, or retrieving your first goose after working so hard to call it into range, the exhilaration is real. I started off as a die-hard whitetail deer hunter and still am. However, as the years have passed, I have found myself unexpectedly captivated by another type of hunting… goose hunting.
For The Love Of Geese…
The effort, the precision and the skill that I realized it took to be successful in harvesting geese is what pulled me in. Even though it is not easy to kill a deer, turkey or any other type of animal, goose hunting seemed to require so much more to go right.
That desire for perfection took over. The more I hunted, the more impassioned I became about it. My hunting partners saw how obsessed I was over goose hunting success, that they wanted to try it as well. It was then that I realized how important it was to pass along my newfound knowledge of goose hunting to others.
As outdoor enthusiasts we find ourselves in a very unique industry. Unlike other sports, we do not battle the competition. We instead look to pass along our skill and knowledge to make those who are beside us and those who will come after us better at the sport we’ve grown so passionate over.
So, whether it was people I had already hunted with for years, or someone new who expressed the desire to get into the activity, I wanted to help and better them as hunters, as well as continuing to better myself.
Everyone has their own opinions and preferences on how to be successful in goose hunting. And, no one person is more right than the other. We all have different experiences and techniques that have worked for us. So, here are some of what I have learned during my ongoing journey of being a successful goose hunter.
Goose Hunting Tips And Tricks of the Trade
When it comes to hunting geese, the absolute most important thing I have learned is to pay attention to your surroundings. When putting out decoys, calling geese, and setting up blinds, the best thing you can do is watch what the geese are doing in real life.
Setting Up Decoys
Geese are very wary animals and it doesn’t take much to deter them from coming into your spread. Knowing that, you want your layout to look as natural as possible. I find myself driving around during the weeks leading up to the season and scouting to see the activities of the birds in the area. Just like you would scout for whitetail deer, find a field or pond full of geese, park your vehicle and just watch how they act.
Know Thy Geese
Pay attention to how they are grouped in the fields, as well as how close or far away they are from one another. Also pay attention to how they are talking and calling when on the ground. You want to mimic the actions of the birds you are hunting to make them as comfortable as possible. The more comfortable you make the birds, the better the chances are of convincing them to commit to your spread and giving yourself an opportunity at success.
We typically like to set decoys 6 to 8 feet apart from one another. This will give the birds a more relaxed look, as opposed to when they group up when getting nervous and closer to taking off.
Multiple styles can be used when setting up decoys around where you yourself will be positioned. Some like laying the decoys out in an “X” pattern. We personally use the “Nike Swoosh” pattern more often. Either will give geese the pocket needed to land in your spread. It often just comes down to personal preference. Over time, you may learn and try different methods, but these are two commonly used styles that are simple to do. They have proven to work well over the years for the Buck Stoppers crew. Whichever pattern you use, it is important to keep your decoys clean. The birds will often pick up when there is mud or dirt on decoys.
The X Pattern
For the “X” pattern, you will be setup in the center of the X of decoys and have the wind to your back, as the birds will want to land into the wind to help slow them down.
The Swoosh Pattern
The swoosh setup has one longer leg of decoys spread out and a shorter run of them to the opposing side, in hopes that the birds land in the pocket created in the center for a desired shot for the hunters.
The part of goose hunting that proves to trouble most people is calling. Mastering a goose call can take quite a bit of time and patience. There are generally two types of calls that are used – a short reed and a flute call. Each person will adapt to calls differently.
Short Reed And Flute Calls
Flute calls prove to me much easier to learn on, as the blowing technique is simpler. Short reed calls allow more advanced calling styles, notes and tones, yet require a much more advanced technique.
For those who have never blown a goose call before, mastering a flute will give you the basics needed, but still provide the sounds you need to talk birds into your spread. Some people love the sounds produced by a flute and never feel the need to move onto a short reed style call.
Start by going to an outdoor store or trade show that has a variety of calls and test them out. Each call will be different for every person, so the more you are able to try the better chance you have at finding a call that fits your ability.
Focus on first mastering your honks and clucks. These calls will be the primary ones used in the field. Other sounds produced by geese, such as “come back calls”, moans, and murmurs are ones that you can later pick up as your experience grows and you learn how to control the air and flow techniques.
If you are reading this and find yourself asking, “how do I even begin with mimicking honks and clucks,”rest assured that the internet will prove to be your best friend. YouTube has countless videos on calling basics that will help you begins to produce proper sounds.
Patience Is Key
Most importantly, be patient when learning to call geese. Everyone is going to learn at a different pace. Too often we see learners get flustered over not being able to produce the sounds they want. If you find yourself unable to produce the noise you’re wanting, find another technique and see if that works for you.
A lot of the calls used in the field can be produced using words and phrases. Saying certain words gives you the similar air flow needed to mimic a goose sound. For example, saying “do-it” into the call is how we always help new comers learn to honk. As you get better and better at calling though, your muscle memory will know the air flow and technique needed and you’ll no longer have to say the words. But trying this method is a great way to start.
Don’t Talk Too Much
When it comes to calling in the field, some people think more is better. This is surely not always the case. Just as I stated earlier, pay attention to your surroundings. As birds begin to fly within distance of your spread, listen to the sounds they are producing. If the geese are not calling much, we prefer to stay quieter and stick to basic honks and clucks.
Over the years we have seen that if the live birds are not super talkative, over-calling to them provides no benefit to bringing them in. If the geese are more talkative, we call more back to them. Always remember, the goal is to mimic live birds. The only time we will aggressively call to birds is if they seem to be flying away from our spread. In this instance, we use what is known as “come back calls,” in combination with the honks and clucks we primarily use the rest of the time.
The last bit of basic knowledge needed to get into the field and harvest geese is blind types. Every property is going to be different as far as how you are able to hide yourselves when hunting. Most commonly you’ll see pits, layout blinds and above ground blinds.
Pits will be dug into the ground and are the least noticeable by geese. However, not everyone is able to dig up the property where they are goose hunting as needed to build a pit.
Layout blinds are the primary method we use, as they are easily transportable and can be adapted to many different surroundings. They are brushed in and hidden using the foliage or crop in which you are hunting.
Above ground blinds, such as an A-Frame style, are often built with fencing or framed out with camouflage. They can be camouflaged with corn stalks or marsh grasses to help them blend into the surroundings. Each style will have its benefits, but the most important thing is to spend the time making them blend into their surroundings as naturally as possible.
If you, your family, or friends are on the fence about getting into the sport of goose hunting… don’t look back! Like anything else, the more time and effort you put into mastering this sport, the higher your probability of success.
Hopefully after reading this goose hunting tips article, your basic knowledge of what is needed to get into the field has grown. And, hopefully, you are that much more confident in your ability to learn and adapt to a new style of hunting, of which will surely be rewarding after your first successful harvest. We wish you the best of luck. And, as always, happy and safe hunting!
I absolutely love the white-tailed deer. In fact, my 365-day-a-year obsession over whitetails is almost haunting. I am so happy and grateful to be able to do what I love and to also share my knowledge and love of big whitetail bucks with my clients.
You may be wondering how YOU can grow bigger bucks on your property or leased land. So, let’s get started...
When I meet with clients at their hunting properties (whether owned or leased land), I focus on the three basic necessities of deer: food, water and cover.
These three important components are critical for whitetails (and any other animal that calls your property home) to be able to thrive. I also focus on attracting and holding those big trophy bucks on your hunting land as long as possible during daylight hours.
To properly address these three basic necessities, there some questions that must be answered about the deer habitat on your property. So, let’s now break down the five steps to improving your property or lease for bigger whitetails.
#1: How are you entering and exiting stand locations?
Access is the first thing I always want to address when taking on a new property. How are you accessing your property and stand locations? What are the prevailing wind directions? Although not always practical, access from the outside perimeter of the property is always best.
In a perfect world, every property should be set up with outside perimeter access. However, it’s understandable that there are situations where this may not be possible. For example, you might have a property where you have a cabin smack dab in the middle. Or, there may also be other natural barriers that prevent perimeter access. These are all part of the land access component that I address with clients.
Accessing From The Middle
Although accessing stand locations from the middle of the property is always risky business, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. You must then pay very close attention to wind direction, and how you can access and exit a stand location without bumping out deer.
Screening plays a very important role in accessing a hunting property. Screening can be achieved by planting vegetation, such as Egyptian Wheat, Sorghum, Sudan grass, or Miscanthus.
I do not recommend corn for screening. I don’t want deer feeding in a corn screen leading to a stand or blind locations. Hinge cutting trees and planting rows of pine, such as Norway spruce are other forms of screening.
Going forward, I will discuss the advantages and reasons for screening in future blogs.
#2: What Food Sources For Deer Can Be Found On Your Property?
Are you implementing food plots currently? What kind of natural browse can be found on the property? If in Ag country, what are in those farm fields?
It is essential that you try your very best to provide as much food as possible, with food plots and natural browse for total year-round food sources.
Try not to give deer any reason to leave your property so that you can increase the chances of finding those shed antlers in the spring from the bucks observed during the previous season.
You should also determine if food plots are already implemented on the property. What kinds of natural browse, hard mast and soft mast exist, if any. If your property is in farm country, determine what the farmers are planting, and the number of acres planted.
Will there be food plots from scratch? By that I mean, if food plots are going to be planted within the woods, will trees be cleared? If so, be sure to find the best tree in the area and develop the plot layout around it in association to access and exit strategy. The same applies for a ground blind setup.
By creating a plot from scratch, you can control how deer move through the plot.
Deer can be forced past a stand or ground blind by creating soft edges and pinch points that block a deer’s line of sight and peak curiosity, especially during the three phases of the rut.
Whitetail Food Plots Options
In my own experience, clover and alfalfa provide for the best year-round food source. But, I only recommend clovers and alfalfa being only 10-15% of the total amount of food available. Corn and soybeans are great sources during late season and are good winter-long foods.
Brassica, turnips, tillage (dicon) radishes, sunflowers and canola are a few other popular food sources for food plots. In large plots that exceed one acre or more, I like to design the plots to have a wide diversity of food sources for season long variety.
When you have one or two varieties of food in one plot and another variety of food in another plot 100 yards or more away, you inadvertently create stress on the resident deer. So the more variety and diverse a food plot, the better. Just because seed blends are sometimes packaged individually, it doesn’t mean they can’t be blended with others.
My favorite plot food is a mixture of Antler Kings Honey Hole, Slam Dunk and Lights Out seed blends. The forage oats in Lights Out provides for fast green up and early season food, while the brassica, turnips, radishes canola and buckwheat provide great mid and late season food.
When this mixture is seeded on the perimeter of a corn and or soybean field or plot, you’ve just created a smorgasbord for a slam dunk kill plot!
#3: Is there a water source?
One of the key things to determine about your hunting land or lease is whether or not there is a water source. If so, what type? A deer’s water preference isn’t always what you might think.
Water is a very important element to any deer, and all wild life, that lives on your property. On our own “proving grounds,” water is the #1 limiting factor on our property, and the element we have 100% control over.
You can create very simple, and inexpensive, watering holes. Simply use a 50-gallon barrel cut in half and bury to the top edge of the half barrel. Be sure to keep them full of water, especially during periods of dry weather conditions. To do this, I recommend a minimum of 150 gallons per water tank.
Ideally, pond development is the best form of water you can incorporate if it doesn’t already exist. For more information on wildlife pond creation, I recommend Zach Haas of Wisconsin Lake and Pond Resources, LLC. His services include:
Consulting, planning and Design.
Permitting where applicable
Pond liner and fabric installation
Beneficial aquatic planting design and installation
What type of cover are the deer bedding in? Is there enough browse in that bedding area? Cover is very important when it comes to holding deer on your property. You want to determine where the deer are bedding, (or where you want them to bed), and in what type of cover they are bedding.
Cover varies dramatically in fall/winter bedding to summer bedding locations. During the mid-late fall and through winter, deer prefer thick stem count, yet low, open canopies to allow for maximum sunlight for thermal cover.
In the summer, deer prefer open, high canopy, maximum shade and air flow, especially bucks with velvety antlers. If in hill country, like here in West Central Wisconsin, north-facing, high-canopy benches are preferred. In the fall and winter the opposite is true.
Where applicable, hinge cutting to provide side cover and allowing sunlight to penetrate the canopy, is a great way to enhance that fall/winter thermal bedding cover.
Remember, deer prefer side cover over canopy, and the biggest misconception of hinge cutting is that deer want to lay in open exposure to sunlight, and not under a hinged tree. Actually, deer want side cover!
Hinge cutting can be used in a wide variety of applications. Look for future written blogs and video on my Facebook and YouTube pages.
#5: Can You Use Mineral Supplementation?
The first thing you need to know when it comes to mineral supplementation is whether or not it is legal to supplement in your particular area? You also need to know where your mineral stations are in accordance to food and water.
To me, the use of a deer-specific, high-quality, mineral supplementation strategy is widely overlooked by even top-industry deer nutrition experts. My background is dairy farming and livestock production. With any great nutrition program, mineral supplementation plays a key role in genetic maximization and forage utilization. I do not understand why some industry “experts” feel mineral supplementation isn’t necessary.
Even with top quality forage, that alone cannot provide adequate micro nutrients that deer need to maximize genetic potential. What holds true for maximum milk production in dairy cattle, is true when it comes to maximizing a deer’s genetic potential for antler development, fetal development, and milk production in does for fawn consumption and strong, healthy fawns. Mineral supplementation is critical to each.
Again, pay attention to state and local regulations when it comes to mineral supplementation.
These are the five areas I emphasize the most when I visit a client’s property. I also emphasize them on my own “proving grounds” in my home state of Wisconsin (the Coulee Region of West Central Wisconsin, to be exact).
As with any habitat plan or consultation I perform, I break things down into much further detail, and discuss other topics as well. I find these five points to be the most common topics when it comes to managing any ground for mature whitetails. Hopefully this information is helpful in your quest to manage and harvest bigger whitetails.
When it comes to any management plan, it doesn’t have to break the bank. And, we want to keep the plan implementation fun.
For more detailed information on the topics discussed in this blog, and other topics, find me on Facebook and YouTube at EpicWhitetailHabitat, LLC and on Instagram @EpicWhitetailHabitat, or contact me directly at:
Ryan Nordahl Epic whitetail Habitat LLC W11124 Neperud Rd Osseo, WI 54758 715-299-0134 Epicwhitetailhabitat@gmail.com
So, what does price say about quality when it comes to arrows? Is a household name brand better than a lesser known one? Does a higher price tag equate to better arrow flight and more successful archery hunts? For that matter, does the name brand matter in any outdoor activity?
Well, in an attempt to answer that question, I’ll use a few examples. First, I’ll start with fishing (yes, fishing… just wait for it.)
My Pops had an old sun-dried yellow, aluminum boat with a 25 hp Evinrude motor that we putted around in. We would spend a week up there, doing nothing but fishing and filling the stringer.
When I was 9 years old, a guy saw us back up our old Suburban and that ole yellow boat into the water. He yelled, “Damn, that is an expensive rig ya got there!” Of course, he was being extremely rude with his comment, laughing as he backed his expensive speed boat into the water.
My dad just said, “some people…”
We fished for about four hours or so that day and filled up the stringer with 22″ rainbows and life was good.
When we went back to load the boat, my dad yelled across the water to the guy with the expensive boat, “You catch any?”
The man answered, “No, the bite has been slow.” My father replied, “I hope that boat was worth it” and then pulled out our stringer. The look on that man’s face was priceless!
We laughed and went to camp and enjoyed the rest of the evening cooking up the fish we caught (in our “expensive rig”) on the camp fire.
Your Ford Could Be A Chevy
Perhaps you’ve seen the test drive commercials where a truck’s identity is kept secret from the driver. The test driver takes it for a spin and says “it has to be a Ford.” But, then to the driver’s surprise… it’s a Chevy!
It’s the same with many of the products in the outdoors industry. There are many awesome products out there. Some are affordable and some not so much. And, of course, the more expensive item is always better quality. Or is it?
Higher Price = Better Quality… Sometimes
Many believe that better quality and performance live where the higher price tag is. In the gun industry, this argument holds up to some degree. But, at the end of the day, all guns travel the same whether you buy a $250 12-gauge pump shotgun by Browning, or a $900 12 gauge shotgun from Winchester. Both have the same pump action, same gauge, and same function. Both will serve the same purpose of taking wild game.
One Saturday morning in November, I went out waterfowl hunting on a dyke beyond the city I lived in. When I got there, only one other guy had shown up. I thought to myself, “Hey, this may be a good morning!”
As soon as it was shooting light, a group of 20 guys (probably all from the same football team) showed up and parked right next to me. Most of the crew had 12 gauge semi-automatic Beretta shotguns and were ready to take some game. At the time, I had a model 1300 Winchester 12-gauge pump.
It didn’t help matters that none of them would get in the reeds to hide (and it didn’t matter cause there was so many of them!)
For example, some bow hunters are willing to spend $185 for a set of six arrows, when there are arrows on the market for only $55 for a set of six. And, if compared to each other, just like in that Ford and Chevy test, you might not even be able to tell the difference.
Some bow hunters won’t shoot past 70 yards while practicing, while some ethical hunters will shoot further, just in case that dream buck walks out and you may not have another chance of getting any closer.