Returning from a morning deer hunt, movement in a distant barley field caught my eye. Something looked out of place, and I grabbed my binoculars and glassed the distant ridge. Canada geese! It’s not that I haven’t seen geese in a field before, but these were stacked close together and lying flat on the ground. It was -10°F and winter had already grasped the landscape, with snow blanketing the landscape. There was enough snow on the ground to fill the stubble in the field, and the geese were lounging and feeding.
I planned a special hunt outing with my wife, Stefanie. We set up the next morning before the sun broke the horizon, and instead of hauling my entire decoy trailer out, I only grabbed five dozen Avian-X full-body lessers and two layout blinds. It would be an easy set. The field was still full of large round bales, so we could set up tight to the bales to break the wind and our outline.
As if on cue, the geese arrived with the rising sun. I worked my Zink goose call, and the incoming geese focused right on us. The big birds had been using the field for days and were confident in their approach. The first flock set their wings and drifted lower in elevation as they neared our spread. It was magical to watch the monster honkers close the gap, floating closer. They didn’t talk much and looked gigantic with their six-foot wingspans. As they dropped their big black feet for a landing, they backpaddled their wings, lifting their heads above their bodies. You could see each bird scanning the ground below them looking for a place to land. We interrupted their breakfast plans when I called the shot.
Stef and I sat up, and the birds had a look of disbelief in their eyes. They quickly worked their wings, and I could hear the feathers grinding the air, as they tried to escape. Shots rang out, dropping three of the big Canadas. We didn’t even have time to pick them up before the next flight appeared above the trees on the edge of the field. I started calling, turning the geese in our direction. The wind shifted slightly, forcing the birds to circle once to get into a better landing position. On the second approach, they were just 12 yards off our gun barrels, passing left to right. Another volley of shots put more geese into our daily bag.
The next group tried to center on the decoys but the wind and blowing snow pushed them off course, and they drifted behind the bale we were against. We couldn’t see the birds, but seconds later they came in from the side at bale height. The closest bird was just two yards from the end of Stef’s blind, and you could hear the large wing feathers manipulating the air to get them on the ground. We added more birds to the bag and commented that if nothing else came in, we already had an immensely successful outing.
The wind was howling, and the snow blew across the field in a horizontal sheet of white. The geese struggled to fly into the wind and wavered back and forth, bumping wing tips, as they jockeyed for position to get onto solid ground. A flock was lined up perfectly on Stef, and when they were right in front of her, she shot a big honker breaking to the left.
The next flock appeared through the snow and came right over Stef’s blind. There was no mistaking the crumpling headshot on the honker she focused on. It was a special moment for her that left us two birds short of a full limit. We had only been in the field for an hour and experienced one of the best goose hunts of the year. A group of six geese flew by the end of our field, and I immediately got on the call, getting the birds turned in our direction.
Our Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades bibs and jackets melded us into our blinds, and the bale we sat against. The wind and snow were a definite advantage, and the geese made a beeline directly for us. With no hesitation and no circling, they cupped their wings and soared straight in. They lost elevation quickly and within seconds were hovering over our decoys. We both picked a bird and filled our limits, with a total of 16 big honkers. Hugs and high-fives were in order.
Cold-weather Hunting Tips
- Set decoys tight together, as birds huddle to break the wind and fight the elements.
- Prepare to hunt all day, as birds will head to the field and often stay there till dark.
- Use sentry and feeder decoys, but try some sleepers grouped to imitate natural goose activity when in the cold.
- Don’t overcall. Late-season honkers can be shy, so use the call to get their attention but don’t talk more than the incoming birds.