Goose hunters hear a lot of opinions on every aspect of goose hunting. Many of us believe these opinions because we have no reason not to. You will never know much about goose hunting until you've hunted thousands of hours. We cannot get answers to our questions from geese. Everything is speculation, but the more you hunt the better you become at speculating.
What follows are a few misconceptions I've encountered in 40 years of goose hunting.
Geese learn to recognize man-made tracks. Should we cover our wheel and boot tracks in the field? I did this in my early days until I realized that geese don't have the ability to think or reason. When they leave their roost they're looking for a place to eat. They don't know what tire or boot tracks are, but when they see your decoy spread they'll know if it's realistic and if the field appears safe. So leave the rake at home.
Geese send out scouts. This theory says that flocks of geese send small groups forward to scout. Supposedly these birds look over a given situation and then report back to the remaining flock on its safety.
Consider that North America has upwards of 7 million snow geese divided among some 100,000 flocks at an average size of 70 birds per flock. They migrate twice a year. The number of birds in each flock changes in the spring and fall as geese are born and geese die. A flock starts its migration and flies a few hundred miles towards its destination, stopping to rest, drink and eat. Some geese join the flock and others leave.
So when a few geese show up in an area before a larger flock arrives I believe it's pure coincidence. The early birds just got their first. So the "scout" theory is just another myth.
Geese can't be hunted during a full moon. Some goose hunters schedule their hunts to avoid the full moon. During a full moon geese will feed later into the evening. It stands to reason that if they feed until 11 p.m. they won't be hungry at first light. But all geese aren't on the same schedule. Some don't feed late into the night and therefore will be up and looking for food at first light. You still can bag birds during a full moon, but perhaps not as many.
Geese avoid areas where vehicles are parked. For years I parked my truck two to three miles from where I hunted. Some goose hunters still do this. They cover their vehicles with foliage so geese can't see them.
But again, geese cannot think or reason. Yes, they have strong memory and great instincts, but why would a vehicle that isn't moving be a threat? Every day geese see farm implements, automobiles, school buses, trains, etc. They adjust the altitude of their flight to avoid these vehicles, but that's all. Too many hunters have worn out too many boots walking great distances from their vehicles.
I hunt alone much of the time and have done some experimenting over the years. Five years ago I started parking my truck and trailer in the same field as my decoys. Geese didn't flare from the truck when it wasn't moving. But they didn't land next to it, either. So I've learned to identify just where in a field a flock of geese is most likely to land and place my blind downwind from my decoy spread. I've saved myself a lot of walking by parking near the field where I hunt.
You need huge decoy spreads to draw geese. When I hunted in North Dakota most decoy spreads numbered 500 or more. Some had as many as 2,000 decoys. I did the same, once putting out 2,500 decoys. Today I believe I could have harvested the same number of birds using 100 decoys or less.
In many instances, fewer decoys is better. My records show that 50 of my most productive hunts have come while using 48 decoys or fewer. I've had some great hunts using just five feeders and one sentry. I've had some sensational hunts not using any decoys.
When geese use the same field three or four days in a row you can bet there's plenty of food there. Why bother with decoys if the birds haven't seen hunters in the field on previous trips?
Mark where the geese are feeding before they leave the field to return to their roost. Then set your blind accordingly. I like to have my back into the wind and my blind about 30 yards downwind of where the birds hopefully will land. When the geese approach the field they fly against the wind and over my head. Most times they never know my location even as my gun begins booming.
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