By Tyler Frantz
Running through the better part of a month, the statewide Resident Goose Season is designed to help manage local populations with a liberal daily limit across most of the state.
For many, the early goose season marks a much-anticipated return to the field in search of winged table fare, exciting action and good company.
Lebanon County’s Mike Witmer has been an avid goose hunter for many years. Fueled by a true passion for hunting, Witmer pursues Canada Geese every chance he gets and offers the following tips for hunting the September resident goose season.
“The key to early season success is scouting and patterning,” Witmer said. “In fact, the biggest mistake hunters make is a lack of scouting. That is 90 percent of the game. Precise scouting efforts will definitely help you put more geese on the ground.”
“Find the roosting ponds and preferred feeding fields first, and then try to get in the middle of the two. Once you figure that out, base your decoy spread on what you are seeing and mimic the birds’ patterns. Resident geese usually don’t exceed more than a few dozen birds and are in family groups on the ground most of the time.”
“Now that your spread is set in a hot field, it is up to you to finish,” Witmer explained. “That’s when concealment comes into play. Make sure your blinds are well blended into the field cover. Whether it’s corn stubble, wheat or a grass pasture, total concealment is always necessary. Resident birds have seen it all. They are smart and extremely sensitive to hunting pressure. Get in, hit them, and get out!”
“Lastly, keep your calling slow and relaxed. Honks, clucks and moans should finish off resident birds well. Again, listen and read the birds when calling; if they are reacting to your sound, keep doing it,” Witmer said.
Despite well-laid plans, early season goose hunting is never an automatic slam-dunk. Even with a perfect setup, the birds don’t always cooperate. In fact, geese often surprise hunters the moment they start second guessing things.
“The hardest thing about goose hunting is to not over-think your setup or game plan. Don’t get frustrated when birds aren’t giving you the time of day and think it’s the decoys or the blinds- or even the calling. When you nitpick and rearrange things, you risk the chance of getting busted out of the blind. A lot of times the birds simply have their mind set on where they are going to feed and there is nothing you can do about it but call it a day,” Witmer said.
Regardless, just getting out there after a long summer away from the field can be a lot of fun and very rewarding for everyone, especially when the geese follow the plan.
“The most satisfying thing about goose hunting would be the thrill of the hunt and the great camaraderie of good friends,” Witmer said. “Some of the best conversations and laughs have become memories while lying in a blind, passing time until someone sees birds approaching in the distance.
“Just like that, you cover up in your blind, get to calling, and those honkers read the script and lock up out in front. Your adrenaline is pumping so badly, anticipating the moment when someone yells, “Take ‘em!” With that, all your preparation, hard work and dedication comes together to make the hunt successful. It’s a special feeling.”
Not everyone has been fortunate to experience the heart-pounding feeling of birds committing to an early season decoy spread. For anyone new to the sport, Witmer offers these parting words of advice.
“Just like all hunting, you must be dedicated, ethical and most of all safe. Remember that what works one day may not work the next, so change up your spread or calling techniques as necessary. Remember to try to look and sound as realistic as possible and blend in with your surroundings. Take these couple tips to the field and you should be on your way to a successful hunt.”
Tyler Frantz, of Natural Pursuit Outdoors, is an award-winning outdoors freelancer from Annville, Pennsylvania. He is a regular columnist for Pennsylvania Game News magazine, among other publications. In addition to teaching full-time, Frantz operates a YouTube Channel, Facebook page, and weekly outdoors blog that thousands of hunters and anglers have enjoyed since 2013. Learn more by visiting www.naturalpursuitoutdoors.com.