A choice of shotgun for waterfowling is a matter of personal choice. There are a few factors, though, that I think a goose hunter should keep in mind while picking a weapon. Personally, I love pretty guns. They complement a day in the field after upland birds. Sadly, for waterfowl, and especially geese, they are a pain in the rear and if a serious goose hunter uses one for any length of time, they won’t stay pretty.
Double Banded Canada Goose
Photo by: USFWS
A goose gun, which is going to spend most of the hunting day laying in the dirt and mud, should have a synthetic stock and forearm and be parkerized or camouflaged. It should be equipped with a sling so that the weapon can be slung over a hunter’s shoulder on the trip out to the blind, leaving hands free for decoy bags. At the end of the hunt, on the trip back from the blind, those same hands are also going to need extra room to carry a few dead geese. Lastly, the gun should be the most powerful gauge and shoot the most powerful loads a shooter can handle accurately. A 12-gauge will suffice, a l0-gauge is better. Take your shots no further than you are capable of killing cleanly.
Like shotguns, the type of retriever a waterfowler uses depends on several factors, with personal preference being the most influential. For the dog to hold up when a hunter concentrates on goose hunting, he is going to have to be stout. Springers and setters can pick up the occasional small goose, but it takes a waterfowl dog to do it day in and day out at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wet coat. The big three- Labs, Chessies, and Goldens-should be on the short list. Just for shear cussedness, I personally would pick the Chessie, although a Lab or a field-bred Golden will also be up to the job.
A word about killing geese on water. The one place that a goose figures he’s safe is in the middle of an unbroken piece of water. This is why geese roost at night on large reservoirs and loaf there during midday. The old time waterfowlers knew how to kill birds, their livelihood depended on it. To kill open water birds, you must go back to the knowledge they had, which we have sadly mostly lost in these modern times.
The same methods that apply for open water diving ducks will work just as well on geese. Even more so, in some instances, because they just don’t expect it. The two tools of choice are layout boats and scull boats.
The exciting development in Kansas’ goose hunting is the liberalization of snow goose hunting regulations. The continental snow goose population has been estimated at 6 million birds, which is double the number their nesting areas can sustain.
The central flyway snow goose numbers are censused at 3 million. The current central flyway population objective is 1.5 million, which is half of where the numbers stand now. The central flyway produces an estimated average annual harvest of 220,000 snows and blues; 5,000 of those birds are taken in Kansas. Canadian and U.S. gunners produce a continent-wide annual kill of 500,000, but the experts feel that the bird take would have to double or even triple in order to reduce the population substantially. Meanwhile, the fragile far northern nesting areas are being stripped and destroyed at an alarming rate, and the damage is beginning to impact other nesting bird species.
To aid in reducing total snow goose numbers, snow goose bag limits were increased a few years ago to allow a take of 10 birds a day and 40 birds in possession.
In addition, along with the liberalization of hunting methods, the season was extended to run from late January to early March and allows hunters to take birds on their return trip north. None of this has reduced the overall numbers, and a whole host of additional liberalizations are being proposed. The list of possibilities the Central Flyway Council recommended to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for consideration under the provisions of the special conservation hunt includes:
- No bag and possession limit.
- Legalized electronic callers.
- Legalized partial baiting (along the lines of what is currently legal for mourning dove; by way of explanation, this means that you can do whatever you want with the crop as long as the crop never leaves the field)
- Legalize live decoys.
- Eliminate tagging requirements.
- Extend shooting hours until one half-hour after sunset.
In addition, there has been a proposal to issue a flyway-wide license to hunt snows and blues, and another to eliminate magazine plug requirements. Any of this got you goose hunters out there daydreaming? It could sure be fun to turn the calendar back a hundred years. The difficulty is that snows travel in such large flocks that they are just plain hard to kill. Their movements are random and hard to pattern.
Certainly, mitigating factors occasionally kick in, and birds lose their advantage and end up hitting the ground. Weather plays an important part in giving hunters the occasional edge. In a recently completed study where electronic call success was being monitored, the hunter success ratio was 6 to 1: 6 birds killed with electronics as opposed to 1 killed with conventional calling. Successful hunters claim it takes 700 or 800 decoys to pull the big flocks. I wonder what effect live decoys would have in fooling these wary birds?