Situational Goose Calling
Steve Bierle of Canton, South Dakota, has hunted geese in various areas of Canada and the northwestern United States his entire life. He’s won several state championships and has competed in and judged many regional and national goose calling championships.
The situation often dictates which calls will be the most efficient. For instance, if I’m hunting over decoys out in a field, and I see returning birds that have been feeding in this field the night before, usually I won’t even make a sound. The geese have been to this place before, they’ve liked feeding here, and they’re planning on feeding here again. So, there’s nothing I can say on a goose call that’s more persuasive to get those birds to come in than the good experience they’ve had the previous night. This situation is one when the no-call call is often more effective than even the best competition or woods call you can give.
If the geese start to talk to my decoys and me, then I’ll talk back to them. But if the geese are coming in low and quiet, many times all I‘ll do is give those geese a subtle cluck or a moan, just to let them know that the decoys they’re seeing on the ground are alive and well. As the geese get within about 70 or 80 yards, the range at which they have to decide whether or not they’ll light into the decoys, I’ll often pick up the pitch and the cadence of my calling to sound like I’m glad to see them. I let them know I’m anticipating that they’ll light in the spread and feed with me. If you’ve watched geese on the ground, you’ll notice that when a flight of geese approaches the birds on the ground, generally the geese on the ground will begin to start talking as if to say, “Hey, I found this food. You guys stay away from it.” Oftentimes stepping up the pitch and the cadence to your calling when you have geese coming in will cause the geese to become even more committed to your decoys. Then the birds will lock up and fly right into your gun sights. But you have absolutely nothing to lose by throwing everything at the geese but the kitchen sink at that time. Something that may work is what I call a pleading cluck. Only let one caller give this call. Sometimes you’ll get one of the birds in the flock to feel sorry for you and start to turn to come back. Many times if that goose turns to come back, he’ll bring the flock with him.
Beginning goose hunters may slow down their calling and start reaching for their guns when the geese are about 70 yards out on their final approach to the decoys, which is a big mistake. If you’ve been talking to someone on the telephone and having a great conversation and suddenly they quit talking to you for apparently no reason, then just like the geese, you’ll wonder what’s happened. A goose may get spooked, flare and go somewhere else.
Once I start talking to geese, and the geese talk to me, I continue the conversation with high-pitched fast clucking until I’m ready to pull the trigger. If the geese over-fly the decoys or flare up to the side and start to go away from me, I’ll pick up the pitch and the frequency of the calling, just like I will if I’m attempting to call back a flock of mallards leaving my decoy spread. Besides making fast, high-pitched double clucks that sound like cluckee, cluckee, cluckee, I’ll add in some screaming notes to try to get the goose’s attention and cause it to turn its head around and look back at the decoys to see what’s happening. Once you get the geese to turn their heads and to come back toward your decoy spread, tone-down your calling. Speak to them with a softer voice and less frantic calling. Remember, always talk to geese like they talk to you.
Learn to Play a Goose Call:
A goose call to me is a musical instrument. Just like learning to play any musical instrument, the more you practice, the better you’ll learn how to master that instrument. Today there are many good resources you can use to get better at calling, including instructional videos, DVDs, and audiotapes on both duck and goose calling. On a video or a DVD, you can see the geese coming in just like if you’re on a hunt. You can watch the caller to learn when he’s calling, how he’s calling, and how the geese are reacting to his calls. You also can see which calls he chooses to use under different hunting scenarios and watch him call the shot.
To become a good goose caller, buy a quality goose call from a reputable manufacturer, stick with that goose call until you master it, make sure you have a good instructional tape, or get good instructions when you first start learning to call and then practice. Another tip that can really help you learn to call quickly is to go to a golf course, a residential pond, a park, a zoo or a wildlife refuge and listen to live geese. Listen to the birds’ cadences and the sounds they make. Then reproduce those sounds on your goose call. If you listen to live birds, your calling will be much more realistic than if you listen to hunters call. Calling geese doesn’t have to be difficult. As I mentioned earlier, become a hunter first and a caller second. Learn to make a cluck and a moan and then start adding to your arsenal of calls. Learn to read the geese. Too many people have tried to make goose calling too difficult. Learn how to call any flock of geese by listening to the flock talk, say what they say, and continue a conversation with them until you squeeze the trigger.