Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Early-Bird Honkers

Resident honkers often haven’t seen much pressure. Sometimes smaller spreads work fine. These family group setups, say 4-6 decoys spaced evenly near your blind, can work early on. (Courtesy photo, Travis Mueller, Avery Outdoors, Inc.)

By Steve Hickoff

Honker action can be hot early on: literally and figuratively. The sight of early-season geese moving across the late-summer skyline still lifts your heart the same way it did back in winter, even if it feels just a little different now. 

More geese can be a good thing — for us waterfowlers, and a challenge for landowners as population surges can foul lawns and wreck habitats. As a result, these seasons are staged around the country in late summer; many begin in early September (check your current regulations). 

Assuming you’re armed with a reliable shotgun, loads, and proven calls, here are some other basics.

Due to availability, resident geese are much more likely to munch green grass (in addition to certain planted crops) than agricultural leavings; at least early on.

As a result, you’re often better off finding their roost (where geese loaf at night, often on water), and where they like to hang out by day, be it a corner pasture that hasn’t been planted (check with your landowner first), or any other available spot, including where you might call them out of the sky on their way from point A (the roost) and point B (where they feed and/or linger during the daytime).

As fakes go, you should use the best you can afford. Add new options to the old reliable mix. If you hunt hard as many of us do, take care of your gear to and from your hunting spots. Decoy bags are a must. Some guys even put full-bodied fakes in individual bags. Clean decoys with a bristle brush and water. 

This is a 24/7 lifestyle. No shortcuts. Do what it takes. It’ll put more geese in range.

Early-season geese usually haven’t been subjected to as much hunter pressure. Sometimes smaller spreads work fine. These family group setups, say 4-6 decoys spaced evenly near your blind, can work now. You can bring out the 100+ deke spreads later, using your four Yamaha wheels to haul them, as the pressured honkers grow tougher into fall and winter. Your spread (the arrangement of your goose dekes) should reflect the situation you’re hunting. Full bodies. Shells. Silhouettes. Motion stakes for realism. Mix and match, or stick with one style.

If you’re like me you favor natural vegetation for early-season blinds if possible. Standing corn. Land forms. Shadow and sunlight for concealment. Blinds, layouts or otherwise, need to blend in with the natural landscape. It goes without saying that once you’ve set up, you hide inside that (ahem) “invisible” structure until honkers wing into range.

Early-season hunts for “resident geese” (and early migrators) are often liberal. Highly edible, dining on wild game extends the memories. Can’t eat everything you take? Don’t hesitate to pass along the bounty to the landowner as a gesture of good will. 

Want to spread the love? Throw a game dinner. 

Ask any hardcore goose hunter when he starts scouting and he’ll likely say: “I never stop.”  Find the birds now. Watch them. When do they leave an area? Where do they go? Soon enough, just a few days or weeks depending on where you live, you can get on these early honkers. Hop on your four wheels and ride.