Good Goose Calls: More than a Honk!

Do more than honk if you love goose hunting.

TO TALK CANADA geese into your spread consistently, you need to do more than honk. But as long as you can make that simple call, you have the building blocks for all the others you'll need, says Richie McKnight of Illinois's North Fork Outfitters (618-339-1598). • According to this U.S. Open, World Open, International, and Grand American goose calling champion, Canada geese make three basic sounds. There's the honk, a ringing, two-note herr-onk; the moan, which is the guttural herr at the front end of the honk; and the cluck, or high-pitched onk at the back end. • Learn to string these sounds together, says McKnight, and you can master the four calls needed to bring Canadas into gun range, time and again. They are at right.

CALL 1: THE GREETING CALL
When a distant flock of honkers turns your way and closes to within 400 yards or so, initiate a long series of piercing, clear honks:

Herr-onk, herr-onk, herr-onk…

"You want to call as fast and loud as you can," McKnight explains. "The geese are only hearing pieces of your calling. So be aggressive."

CALL 2: THE APPROACH CALL
Once the birds are about 100 yards off, switch to a fast series of sharp clucks punctuated by an occasional moan:

Onk-onk-onk-err-onk-onk-onk…

"Mimic the birds," stresses McKnight. "If they're loud and worked up, put some excitement into your calls. For quiet and cautious geese, tone your calling down."

CALL 3: THE LAYDOWN CALL
Soon the leaders will lock up and start sailing into your spread. This is the time to begin a soft HERR, then start mouthing DA-DA-DA-DA into your call:

Herr-da-da-da-da…

It produces a growling sound that is the goose equivalent of a mallard's feeding chuckle. "As long as the weather is calm enough for birds to hear it, this quiet call really puts them on the ground."

CALL 4: THE COME-BACK CALL
If geese veer away after eyeing your spread, give them a series of loud, pleading calls by dragging out the second syllable of the basic honk and adding some sharp, repetitive clucks:

Herr-OOONK, herr-OOONK, herr-OOONK, onk-onk-onk…

"I stay right on it," McKnight says, "until the birds either fly out of hearing range or turn and give me a second chance."

GOOD CALL
A quality goose call should be easy to blow, loud, versatile, and durable. The Pit Boss--a call that Richie McKnight developed with Knight & Hale Game Calls ($28; 479-782-8971; knightandhale.com)-- is all that, and affordable, too. Heck, the instructional DVD alone is worth the price.

--L.P.