Hit the Water for Your Best Goose Hunt of the Season

Put the water back in waterfowling

Canada Goose Waterfowl
Water Birds: Hunting Canadas over ponds and rivers can provide action all season.Donald M. Jones

Many of today’s goose hunters never get their feet wet, and that’s a shame. Focusing solely on dry fields means you miss out on some of the best hunting. Geese often buy into a water spread much more readily than they commit to field decoys. A water spread doesn’t take a whole trailer load of decoys, either—and as a bonus, goose floaters also make great duck decoys.

Early in the season, before cold weather forces geese into reliable patterns centered on high-energy foods like cut corn, geese change fields often or eat after sunset. Some mornings they skip breakfast entirely, flying from the roost to a loafing pond first thing. There, they’ll pick on green vegetation and generally live the easy life. Rather than stay in the fields and grow frustrated, it’s time for you to follow the action and set up over water. Here’s the short course for doing just that.

  • Avoid hunting roost ponds where geese spend the night, so you don't chase them out of the area. Follow them in the morning to find the ponds they use for loafing. They may feed in a field first, or they may go straight from the roost to water.

  • Once you find a pond, hide in natural vegetation or set up layout blinds along the shore. If the shore is bare, set up some shells or full-bodies and throw out six to 12 floaters.

  • You'll shoot most of your geese at midmorning after they eat breakfast. But it pays to get to the water early in case the birds forgo that first meal.

  • Plan to stay out all day if the weather looks right for a migration, and bring more decoys. On flight days, geese that are new to an area will usually drop into a pond first, and then look for someplace close by to feed before roosting.

  • Rivers are the exception to the don't-shoot-the-roost rule. Geese will move elsewhere on a river if you hunt it. Set some sleeper shells on a sandbar, a few full-​­bodies at the water's edge, and a dozen floaters in the current. Dig shallow depressions in the sand to better hide layout blinds.

Tip: If you have a blind you can dedicate to sandbar hunting, camouflage it with textured tan Rustoleum.

  • You can have a good goose hunt with as few as four or five floaters, especially on smaller waters. On rivers and bigger marshes, set up 12 to 18. If you put out lots of decoys, set them in a U or J pattern that leaves a landing zone open in front of the blinds.

  • Call sparingly to pull geese into a water spread, and bring a goose flag. That motion can get the attention of a distant bunch that may be persuaded to alter their flight plan.