Goose hunting season about to begin.

November 24, 2014

vanderhaag_legends_1Outside the Walls, a blog written by Nick VanderWall, is sponsored by VanderHaag Car Sales, 1680 W. U.S. 10-31, Scottville; 231-757-2727;, Mason County’s premier car rental outlet and also Legends Taxidermy of Scottville; 231-757-9589; It appears here on the second and fourth Monday of the month.

It is a cool crisp morning in Michigan and you hear a volley of shots in the distance.  Hunters are probably hunting geese, and here are some tips to get you in the know about the sport.

“Hunting waterfowl has its challenges just like hunting anything,” Eric Buter said. One of the first things to do when hunting geese is to check the seasons and bag limits. There are quite a few of them for water fowl hunting, so it is best to check Michigan Department of Natural Resources website to check when seasons are,” Buter said.

One of the biggest challenges is figuring out the geese pattern, he said.  “Geese hunting is like any other type of hunting, meaning, you want to pattern your game.” In this case it means driving around looking to see when the geese are in the fields.

“When you find a field with geese in it, that you have permission to hunt, you want to come back later on that day or the next morning and set up as close as you can to that spot,” Buter said.  This is called the X factor for X marks the spot.

Another important tip when hunting geese is decoys.  “You want to make sure that they are set up for the right wind direction,” he said.  Geese always fly into the wind to help them slow down, so you want to have the wind to the back of the decoys.

Shape is another thing to remember when setting up your decoys, Buter said. “You want to set your decoys up in a U or V shape either behind or in front of you, so the geese will fly within range to shoot.”

Also you want to have the ends of your U or V to be wide enough to hold the geese that are going to be flying in, he said.  “In the early season there are a lot more family groups meaning five to ten birds, so you don’t have to have the U or V as wide, but  in the later seasons there are sometimes 100 plus flying in.”

Now there are the many different kinds of decoys and different techniques to hunting them.  My suggestion is to hunt with someone that is really into hunting water fowl that uses decoys, so you can get firsthand experience with them.

Goose calls are another thing to think about when hunting geese.  There are many different materials that they are made of, many different, pitches and once you get that figured out you still have the task of talking to the geese.  For all of this, Buter said talk to someone who knows or buy a goose calling video.

“Your gun selection is important as well,” he said.  The most common gun is a 12 gage, and with all types of guns you either can hold a 2- and ¾- inch, a 3 inch or a 3 and 1/2 inch shell in them. Most hunters use a 3 or 3 and 1/2 inch shell, Buter said.

Another very important thing when buying your shells is to make sure they are only steel shot. There are different size shot loads that you use when waterfowl hunting.  There is number two shot, which is the smallest shot size used for water fowl, so it is best to use during early season because the birds aren’t as tough, he said.  The size that most hunters use is BB because it’s a little larger than number 2 shot, and it does the job without sacrificing that much gunpowder.

When you’re hunting geese you want to make sure you’re hidden, so this may be in a fence row or a chopped corn field.  Most hunters use a layout blind.  “This is a blind you lay in that is spring loaded, so when the geese get close enough you just sit up and start shooting,” Buter said.

If you have a layout blind you want to make sure it is camouflaged to look like the area you are hunting.  So if you’re hunting a combined corn field you should add pieces of corn stalk to your blind to make it blend in as much as possible.

“Most of the time you’re hunting in farmers’ fields that you received permission from, so the number one thing to remember is to be respectful,” Buter said.  You want to make sure you pick up your trash, spent and full shells, all your decoys and blinds and make sure you don’t tear up the farmers’ fields with your trucks.

If you’re a new hunter, Buter said to find a seasoned hunter who can take you under their wing and teach you things. New hunters should be willing to chip in and help whereever they need to.  That may mean running down a bird that coasted and died across a field or picking up the decoys, he said.

Goose hunting isn’t all about shooting the birds, but it’s about socializing.  “You can stand around talking until someone here’s a honker, and then we hop in our blinds until we shoot or they pass over the field,” Buter said.

So if you’re out there on a cold crisp morning hearing the geese fly in remember to stay safe and shoot straight, and most important if you’re a new or seasoned hunter have fun.


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