Duck and geese hunting near home, without the need to brave the near freezing temps or handle hundreds of oversized decoys? Yes, you can – with one of the early Canada goose or teal and wood duck seasons!
Everybody knows the story how the Federal migratory bird protection measures, financed by the hunters’ dollars through the so-called “duck stamp”, in cooperation with private organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, brought waterfowl numbers in North America to historic highs. The birds are so numerous that their numbers need to be controlled, and local populations of Canada geese are no exception.
Canada geese early seasons that target local populations are open in most states and provinces, and for a good reason. Canadas are overpopulated, and are attracted by human habitation. They irritate people with their screams, ruin lawns and flower beds, and in the nesting season may become aggressive, especially to little children who innocently want to pet cute little ugly ducklings. In short, a Canada goose hunter may experience a higher chances of their hunting being cheered, not booed, by the general public.
Early season hunting is as challenging as regular season hunts, but require less amount and sophistication of gear. With the warm weather, there’s no need for multi-layered clothing that will dissipate the steam from hard work of setting the decoys and at the same time keep your worm during the long period of immobility in the blind. You’ll need to think about mosquito repellents, however.
Local birds, quite naturally, know the terrain better than migratory flocks, and are a bit harder to fool. Migratory geese often don’t know how things stand in the locality, and rely on other birds to see what field is good and what is not – thus the need for large spreads and calling. Local birds know precisely where they want to go, and so scouting is more important than decoying and calling. The upside is that the flocks are there for the whole summer to learn their movements.
If where you live birds feed on large grain fields where waterholes are few and far between, chances are they will feed a short flight away from the nearest stream or puddle. They will get thirsty feeding, and would make a short trip to the drinking hole rather than return to the large body of water where they rest. Focusing on this waterhole may be your best choice.
Local birds feed in small family groups, so you don’t really need as many decoys as for hunting migratory flocks that might number in thousands. The best tip, as usual, is scout and imitate what you see. Most experienced guides recommend placing decoys in a number of tight little groups that mimic the pattern of feeding Canada goose family groups.
As a matter of fact, there may be no need for decoys at all, as pass shooting works best for early season, especially for hunters who might not have the time to build blinds and work with decoys. Scouting is even more important here than for decoying, as you’re going to need to know not just where the birds feed, but where they spend the day, too – even though experienced waterfowlers can often identify the flyways the birds use for their daily commute simply from the lay of the land. Look for hard-to-access terrain for places where the birds may spend the night, and for fields with appropriate seasonal crops for their fast food joints. Then find a bottleneck on the way from one to the other.
To identify these bottlenecks, bear in mind that waterfowl is usually shy of forests, where they expect predators to hide, and so will lay their course over the more open terrain if they can. On large rivers and lakes think sharp tangs of reed or busy peninsulas that cut in deep into the open water. Birds that travel along the shoreline are usually reluctant to make a detour to keep a safe distance between themselves and such tongues, so they pass right over a hunter that waits in ambush.
Scouting is a little hunt in itself. A few evenings with binoculars watching birds is a great opportunity to get out while the season is closed. It is also a perfect chance to introduce children and other family to the outdoors without the solemn issue of weapons and killing in the background (yet). It can be an exciting family adventure – walking through hill and dale, looking at birds, noticing animal tracks, flowers and plants… and marking down the duck and geese flyways as you go.
The shelter where the birds stay when they’re not feeding should not be disturbed until the last day of the season. Shoot at the birds when they feed, and they’ll move to the next field; shoot them where they rest, and they’ll leave the area altogether. But on the day before the season closes, if you know where the geese spend nights, and can sneak in while they’re out feeding, you can have a hunt of your lifetime as they return.
Now is the time to start scouting and otherwise learning about your options to hunt resident waterfowl. In most states, early Canada goose seasons start on September 1, and may run until the end of the month. Check the seasons for the specific wildlife management area you intend to hunt, because rules vary greatly. In New York State, for instance, hunters aren’t limited to three shells during the early resident Canada goose season.
In addition, in mid-September many states have an early resident seasons on teal (and wood duck). Teal are the opposite of Canada geese – little, swift, and elusive. They are the favorite birds of many die-hard waterfowlers, and many call them the tastiest ducks ever. But they are not easy to harvest. A teal combines speed of a fighter jet with maneuverability of a helicopter; they can whizz by before you can remember where the safety is, and swerve out of the pattern’s way just as you pull the trigger. Early season teal are even less of company guys than Canadas, so jump-shooting and pass-shooting usually work better than hunting from a blind with decoys.
Early season goose and duck hunts are no easy deal, and a hunter who doesn’t have enough previous experience in waterfowl hunting may have a hard road of trial and error before returning home with a limit of birds. That’s where we come in. The best and quickest way to get the knack of the thing is a hunt with a good guide. Whether you prefer the giant Canada goose or the swift and tasty little teal, early season hunts, hunting in the peak of migration, or special conservation season, you can always find the best offers directly from trusted outfitters on BookYourHunt.com.
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