You’ve done just about everything you can do. You scouted the fields and learned where the birds are and want to be. You set up well before sunrise and have your dekes nailed as far as positioning. You’re in your blind and totally concealed. You are cocked, locked and ready to rock. The sun peeks over the horizon and the geese are in the air.
And they aren’t coming your way. Doh!
Ever been that guy? Me too. I had the flocks pegged as far as where they were going, only to have them go to a neighbor’s field or something else happens. Here’s a few common scenarios and a few things you can do to salvage things and maybe find a little redemption.
The geese don’t like your spread and hold off just out of range. They want to be in the field, but go to another instead because of whatever it is that you can’t quite see. This is a situation I often refer to as “biting the bullet.”
Solution: Why I call this biting the bullet is because you’re going to have to do just that and change the whole spread and possibly your location; and you’re going to have to be quick. If you’re calling, call less and switch calls. Swap around the dekes and move a little. The worst thing to do is just sit there and hope it gets better. If I have two to three flocks come and give me the stink eye, I’m hauling butt to change things before the next flock arrives. Don’t be afraid to change, it beats getting skunked. It helps to have decoys that connect to the motion base, like Hard Core’s full body honker decoys. They have an elastic band that loops around a hook on the TruMotion base, making moving them around very easy. They look sweet in the field too, so that helps.
Interception! You’ve set up well but another hunting party has set up between you and the birds and is shooting at the flock that was headed your way. I used to have this happen a lot. There was a guy running a guiding business in our area and he wanted my fields badly. When he couldn’t get them, he started setting up right off the roost ponds and would pass-shoot the snot out of the birds as they jumped up in the morning. He didn’t win a lot of friends doing this and quickly went out of business.
Solution: This is a tough one. You now have shot-at birds that you’re trying to call in. What ended up working the best was to increase the amount of decoys, call softer, and let the first few birds land. It took a lot of restraint to do this, but we noticed that as the birds were coming into our dekes, we could hear shots coming from the other guy, so we knew more birds should be coming. We let the first few birds go and quietly waited for the rest to show. Here is the key. After doing this one or two mornings, we then dramatically reduced the number of decoys in the spread, going for smaller pockets of decoys imitating weary, geese. The way we set the decoys, we went for an open patch of ground that looked open and inviting to geese that were “on the run.” Of course we were waiting there for them. It worked for a while. Of course, it also helped to give them a break and hunt other fields, which we did often. When you only have a few fields, it’s better to have an average hunt than no hunt. When Hard Core says It’s Not Easy, they mean it, and so do I!
The Hail Mary…i is 4th down with seconds to go in the game. Okay enough with the football metaphors. You’ve been hunting hard and had some luck. The birds have all flown and are all feeding now. But you didn’t fill your limit.
Solution: Unless breakfast is calling really loudly, or you have to go to work or something equally dreadful, here is something to try. Switch up your spread again. Give the returning birds something new to look at as they fly back to the roost. I have had great success, and this is a limited great success, by using the sleeper heads for my dekes and using less decoys than earlier that morning.
Good shell decoys work well here like the Hard Core shell decoys with half of them topped with sleeper heads. The Hard Core shells look amazing in the field. I also call less and switch to a mellow sounding call. The aggressive calls of the morning are replaced by soft honks and clucks. I basically try to emulate the calls I hear when the geese are back on the roost and are settled down. I also move my spread out to a higher spot in the field and away from where I was hunting.
Camo and layout blinds are vital as the geese coming over have to be very confident in what they see. You have to be brushed in good. A comfortable blind, like Hard Core’s Man Cave, as well as having good, high-quality clothing helps you stay comfortable. Getting wet and cold and just plain being miserable on days when you’re not seeing a lot of birds and you know you’re not going to see a lot of birds can spoil a hunt and the mood for the hunt pretty quick. This especially true if you’re hunting with new hunters who aren’t used to how hard a season can get some times. Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame, must have been a waterfowler.
Here’s the sticker on the Hail Mary…you’re not going to clean up on them. You’re going to maybe get some passing shots if you’ve done things right. This might result in picking up one or two birds. But then, that might fill out your daily bag. And it sure beats going home and mowing the lawn, raking leaves or just about anything else with the possible exception of more coffee and some breakfast. You could also go home and watch a football game, but who wants to do that? That’s what TiVo is for, right?
Images courtesy Hard Core Decoys