Decoy Placement for Field Hunting Canada Geeseby Dave Hochman
Decoy quality and their placement combined with a few other field hunting techniques, can mean the difference between a highly successful day, filling the air with excitement and satisfaction verses a day of frustration and misery.
LET’S TALK DECOYS
Over the years, geese have been fooled by decoys made from simple yet effective ideas such as floaters crafted from plastic one liter bottles and field goose decoys made from tire halves. However, in today’s competitive hunting environment, aided by the advancement of high quality realistic looking goose decoys, it is more important than ever to take advantage of using these decoys. Realistic decoys have greatly increased my success rate in hunting as they have for many other hunters along each of the flyways. Fortunately, with multiple companies producing high quality decoys today, the competition has become greater, leading to higher quality products and price wars. These price wars have made decoys more affordable than ever to the consumer. While birds follow their migratory path they encounter many goose decoy setups along their way. As the season gets later the birds become more and more wise. With this in mind, it becomes clear how important it is to understand proper decoy placement and to utilize the most realistic decoys you can afford.
There are many decoy choices in today’s thriving market. There are multiple manufacturers of silhouettes (skinnys), full bodies and shells. For me the choice is simple. I have found today’s full bodies to be as good-looking as stuffers and yet rugged enough to throw in the back of a truck or a trailer. These goose decoys will fool the wisest of all geese you will encounter. You can see from the following pictorial why the Avery Green Head Gear Full Body Canada Geese are my first choice of decoy. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words; you can see from the following pictures that these decoys look nothing less than real.
So let’s talk decoy placement. It is important to study content feeding geese in their natural environment. You will notice that there is no specific pattern to their positions. They feed facing different directions and distances from each other. They do NOT feed in specific “Line’s” “V’s”, “U’s”, “J’s” or any other letters you can think of or have heard spoken of. These patterns are used simply as reference points when setting goose decoys. They are the basic pattern we start with but then we alter them to make them more natural. An example of this is adding a small family group to any one of these patterns that has landed down wind and positioned as if they are walking into the main group of feeding geese. Geese stand and move about a field looking for food. They will face into the wind, away from the wind and side to the wind. Never face all your decoys in one direction, especially into the wind. This is the posture they will take when they are ready to take off and leave the area. With this in mind we can set our decoys at different positions to the wind and at different distances apart. In some areas of the set they are clumped together as close as 1 foot apart and in other areas they are 8 feet apart. Some may be feeding, some sleeping, others looking and yet others lying down resting. A family group that has just landed down wind of the feeding birds would likely be walking up wind toward the feeding geese or main group of geese. We will get back to this group of birds later.
Prior to setting your decoys you must decide on goose hunting blind placement, decoy pattern and the area of the field that is best suited for both. You must have a mental plan in place prior to setting the decoys. I do this the day before the hunt and by the time that morning comes I have already mentally reviewed all viable options and scenarios that could happen for that particular spot. I base this on weather prediction, wind prediction, number of hunters in the party, what was seen during scouting that day and geographic layout of the field.
Ground blinds are my number one choice. With these you can move with the birds from field to field and hide among your decoys so you can get close and personal with the incoming geese. Goose hunting blinds such as Avery’s Finisher and Migrator collapse for transport yet they are extremely comfortable when set up and you settle in for the day. The blinds will always be up wind of the “X” or landing hole that you have strategically designed in your decoys. The question you will need to answer is how far up wind and where in the decoys will the blind be placed. This will depend on the birds and the layout of your field. If there is a break in the field such as a high grass line, a fence line or simply an area of transition from one crop to another you may want to place the blinds up wind of the decoys on the opposite side of this break. If it is an open field without a break you may want to place the blinds 10 feet inside the decoys on the upwind side and in an area that the field dips to help conceal the blinds. If you are in your decoys you should clump the decoys around the blind for three reasons. First, it will keep the birds from landing on top of you. Second, it will help hide the blinds and finally, to help hide your flag and enhance the elusion that the decoys are flapping their wings. In either case, you will want to be 15 to 25 yards upwind of the “X.” You will need to change things as the season progresses and the birds become more wary and have seen your set and others more than once. I will often rearrange the entire set while hunting if the birds aren’t responding well to it, or they aren’t landing on the “X.” Remember, you must control the birds and how they work the rig using the wind and your calling.
A few things to consider are: Keep your decoys clean and well painted. It can make the difference between finishing a flock and losing them. Always work with the wind. The geese will land into the wind, so set the decoys and the “X” accordingly. When using full bodies, take some of the legs off and rest them on the ground to give them a relaxed or resting look. Mix your feeders, lookers, sleepers, actives and your resting birds to give your set a more natural presentation. Geese find safety in numbers, so the more decoys the better. Geese are very attracted to movement. It is an indication to them that the birds are real and the area is safe. This can be achieved with a flag or motion stakes. Using both in combination is deadly on geese.
Getting back to that family group of birds that has just landed down wind of the decoys and are walking toward the feeding birds or the main group. This is one of my personal favorites. I will often add this to all the following goose decoy patterns and the birds will land right in with them. Set this walking group as the “X.” It works like a charm.
If the geese are not working your rig the way you want them to and landing in the wrong area of the set, re-arrange it. Two flights doing the wrong thing is more than enough reassurance that the next group will also do the wrong thing, so re-arrange the set after the second miss. Some days it comes down to trial and error.
Dogs in the field can be as pleasurable as they can be on water, however, because you are shooting from a sitting position and the birds are often low to the ground when you start them, your dog must be well trained against breaking. With goose hunting blinds like the Finisher and the Migrator, the dog can comfortably lay behind you under your seat. On days that the fields are very muddy and I don’t want my dog inside, I will lay her along side my blind. There are also blinds made specifically for dogs to hide in. We don’t advise putting your dog in the bottom of your blind looking out of the boot zipper by your feet. Shooting over your dog in this manner can and will impair their hearing. When a bird falls outside the rig 100 or 150 yards down wind you will be happy you brought them along. Good dog work always gives added pleasure to any hunt.
We hope the following pictorial of decoy placement will help you become more successful on your future hunts. All of the decoys you are viewing are Avery’s, Green Head Gear Full Bodied Canada Geese. Remember, study the birds in their natural environment, and set your rig accordingly. Remember, the geese you study in their natural environment will be your best teacher.
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