It is a sad time for us hunters. The last of the duck season ended Monday. But there is still some of the Canada goose hunting season remaining as you can still hunt them until Feb. 6 in Missouri, …
It is a sad time for us hunters. The last of the duck season ended Monday. But there is still some of the Canada goose hunting season remaining as you can still hunt them until Feb. 6 in Missouri, Feb. 14 in Kansas. The season is over in Arkansas.
BUT, you can hunt snow geese and blue geese, (both the same species with differing color phases, until April 30 in all 3 states, with no limits on them. That is because they are way over populated and doing damage to their northern nesting grounds. If you find fields where they are feeding on their way back to the artic, you can hunt geese successfully, but the best way to do it and very often the only way, is to be flat on your back in the middle of a huge field where they have harvested grain or planted winter wheat. It is a difficult way to hunt if you want to try to put out decoys.
I hunted geese for many years in northern Manitoba in late September and early October. That country is miles and miles of grain fields separated by small tracts of scrubby hardwood bush country where the trees never get very large.
You’d find geese feeding in good numbers in a grain field and there were usually snows and Canadas together — always out in the middle, well out of gun range. Believe me, you couldn’t sneak up on them.
We would drive around and ask permission from farmers to hunt their fields and if they hadn’t promised someone else, we’d almost always get permission to hunt. In the evenings, we’d go out and dig pits big enough for however many hunters there were. It’s smart to dig a small pit for each hunter, and pile the dirt up to each side, making it about eight inches deep, two feet wide and six feet long. The ground is cold and wet so you line it with a plastic or canvas tarp, then add a layer of straw or grass and cover it with camouflage or burlap, matching the grain stubble or ground around you as much as possible.
We’d get there at dawn the next morning, set decoys and get as comfortable as we could. Setting decoys in wet, muddy fields is a job! Usually, we didn’t have to wait long. The geese would leave area marshes and reservoirs about a half hour after sunrise and fly out to feed all morning long. About mid-day it was over, then late in the afternoon they’d fly again. The limit was five Canadas per day and ten snow geese.
Snow geese didn’t decoy well because they were usually in huge flocks and extremely wary. I have seen them funnel down around us in groups of 500 to 1500 birds, at different tiers in the sky above. Sometimes they would circle for most of an hour before beginning to drop in around you. Sometimes they’d change their mind, see something they didn’t like and leave for another field. On the other hand, they weren’t so wary in small groups flying with Canada geese. Then they seemed to take on the behavior of the Canadas and throw caution to the wind.
Canada geese would come in low, sometimes six or eight, sometimes 20 or 30. They’d come in talking to you, circle a time or two perhaps and sail in against the wind, feet down and wings cupped. What a sight that is. The trick of course, was to raise up and get some good shots, trying to keep the straw off your barrel as you aim, because we were usually well covered to keep the geese from suspecting anything.
I always used about eighteen “Bigfoot” goose decoys and 20 or 30 shell decoys out away from the Bigfoots. Bigfoot decoys look so much like Canada geese that even hunters are fooled by them at much of a distance.
Here in the Ozarks I hope to take my big foot decoys out for one more goose hunt, maybe along the Sac River. I will let you know if I actually can have one more good hunt. If you a landowner in Missouri or Kansas and you have a number of snow geese in your fields between now and the end of March, give me a call. I won’t dig much of a pit and I promise to fill it back in. And I’ll bring you some geese for Sunday dinner.
I would love to hunt geese in Manitoba again. Those country folks from Manitoba’s grain country were some of the finest people I have ever met.
More about the Big Piney-Ozark Folks museum I hope to build in next weeks column. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. I nearly have our spring magazines finished. Look for them in March if you are a subscriber.
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