Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Tough Goose Tricks

Yamaha Outdoors contributor and Maine-based waterfowler Steve Hickoff took this daily double during the October goose season. Other honker opportunities are available around the country, and also reopen in southern Maine on Nov. 9, 2009. Steve Hickoff self-timer photo

By Steve Hickoff

If honkers seem wary of staked out shells during out of range flyovers, you may need to make a seasonal adjustment. This can also aid your setup time, and add realism. Stop staking fakes, and simply use natural materials (dirt, grass, cornstalks) to elevate each one slightly with a natural look. 

This past September goose season, I hunted a grassy pasture field in southern Maine. A spread of inexpensive and highly portable (stakeless) goose shell dekes arranged as if looking, loafing and feeding did the trick. Don’t just toss your fakes out there and hope they plant themselves. Design the spread based on your waterfowling know-how. You can also invest in full body dekes. 

If your geese wing into the area, but drop into other spots, you have to ask yourself: Are you missing the “X” when birds dump in out of range? Small, tight spreads can help you, with a twist.

A honker-hunting buddy of mine takes a different offbeat approach. He walks in on groups of geese, flushing them. Then he puts out a small quickie spread of a dozen dekes. Well hidden in nearby natural cover, he waits. Earlier this season, he and a friend doubled-down on two goose limits using this flash-hunt tactic.

We all get caught up in certain waterfowling styles. Maybe you favor a particular decoy spread, and birds have started to ignore it. Mix it up. Like some of you, I lie awake making multiple spread configurations: J, X, G, I, and so on. It’s part of the fun. Clearly some spreads don’t interest particular birds. Others do. When I get in a funk, I vary my spread. Sometimes it pays to do the opposite. 

If field geese detect your hide after making this adjustment, maybe you need to add another dose of trickery. Sure, layout blinds work. Natural cover is even better. Swampy areas in the middle of pastures, ignored by farmers due to maneuvering difficulties, make prime setup spots. Slip in, dekes at the appropriate distances, and you’re in business. Scout to find these spots in high-travel goose areas, and you might chance at intercepting birds looking for a new spot to land.

You can also increase spread size. This October, I hunted solo at times, only packing in what goose decoys I could haul in on my back. Hauling 100+ fakes in on your Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side is your best option. This particular walk-in farm on the Atlantic Flyway was best hunted during the weekday, but when all my other buds are busy (they have decoys too). I needed more eye appeal. I needed a Plan B. Doubling that number did it (with the help of my daughter’s plastic snowsled), as more portable goose shell dekes increased spread size, and GHG lifelike resters clinched the deal. 

The next time out, my formerly lightweight spread looked solid. When distant wary honkers appeared, and seemed tentative, my pleading calls matched the visual and they turned, sailed right in. That Canada goose double (not “Canadian” you knuckleheads), and day’s limit satisfied.