Three Affordable Decoy Spreads

These three decoy spreads will bring down Canada geese from September to January. Even better, they'll set you back less than $300

Money stands as the biggest obstacle to most hunters' desires of putting together an effective Canada goose spread. Not anymore.

Given a budget of $300, we went bargain-hunting online and bought a collection of decoys that individually or as a whole will work all season. But when you have so few dekes--here, anywhere from 12 to 31--you need to scout and think hard about how you set these small, deadly rigs.

DECOYS TOTAL COST: $297

1. GREENHEAD GEAR PRO-GRADE LESSER FULL BODY (mackspw.com) Full-bodies are the most realistic and offer the most natural movement. Don't let the size of these lesser Canadas worry you. Big geese love them.

2. CARRY-LITE ECONOMY CANADA GOOSE SHELL (cabelas.com) Shells add numbers to a spread, and they look fantastic on snow or ice during the late season. These are stackable, light, and easy to carry.

3.SILLOSOCK CANADA GOOSE WINDSOCK (cabelas.com) These hybrid silhouette-windsock decoys provide wind-driven natural motion. They're lightweight and easy to transport and store.

4.Flagman Canada Goose T-Flag (cabelas.com) Randy Bartz's T-Flag helps put goose eyes on your spread. The key to flagging is to flick it quickly as a long-distance attention getter.

SETUP #1 EARLY SEASON

> THE SITUATION: In most states, early goose season means September. This translates into high temperatures and birds living the good life, with low caloric requirements and little reason to budge after daybreak. Concentrate your efforts on midmorning loafing ponds, cut silage, or winter wheat.

> THE SPREAD: You're dealing with young geese that probably haven't been hunted, so there's no need to pull out the full-bodies just yet. Save those for later when the birds wise up. Early geese are often lazy and belly down on the cool grass. That makes shells very effective, particularly those in feeder and semi-active poses. Base your spread size on the flocks you're scouting. A dozen blocks is usually plenty. Divide them into families of three to five decoys, 15 to 20 yards apart from one another and about 20 yards from the blind.
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THE HUNT PLAN**: Hunting early geese is all about scouting to determine decoy numbers and spread design. Try to duplicate in the field what you're seeing, and don't use all your decoys yet. Your goal is to upgrade your spread in both size and realism as the season progresses. Clucks and moans are the hot calls now. There's no need to get fancy, but pleading come-back calls can convince survivors to circle around.

SETUP #2 MIDSEASON

> THE SITUATION: As the weather cools and the migration picks up speed, goose numbers--and hunting pressure--are on the rise. Crops are coming out in earnest, meaning the geese often have their choice of fields. Scouting becomes even more crucial. Birds in Canada and the northern United States know the program by now; they're no longer pushovers.

> THE SPREAD: Size matters. Full-bodies, shells, and SilloSocks all come into play during the midseason, but don't simply arrange them at random. You can't compromise a natural spread simply to achieve numerical superiority. Spotlight your best dekes--the full- bodies--15 yards in front of the blind. You may have only six, but those moving lessers will really get noticed. Divide the shells in two groups and set them about 15 to 20 yards from the corners of the blind. The ones with upright heads should face toward the expected flight path of incoming birds. Bunch the SilloSocks in groups of four close to the blind--2 to 3 yards--for added concealment.

> THE HUNT PLAN: Scout the birds, as well as your human competition, then do something different. Your smaller spread will help you stand out. Now, get that T-Flag out and grab the birds' attention. Some days, you'll be flagging until it's time to shoot. Let the geese dictate your calling style, volume, and intensity. Give thought to trading that short-reed call for an old-school flute. These days, that's definitely different.

SETUP #3 LATE SEASON

> THE SITUATION: These are the wariest birds you'll hunt all year. The fields are frozen and possibly covered with snow. Cold weather causes frequent and extended bouts of feeding, and bitter temperatures often have Canadas eating in the morning and evening.

> THE SPREAD: Downsize with an emphasis on realism. Keep in mind that big flocks often start small, so the full-bodies aren't out of place. Ball them up tight 15 yards in front of the blind. This set practically screams to incoming geese, The food is right here! On snow, put the shells--minus the motion stakes--directly on the ground 5 to 8 yards from the corners of the blind, six per side. No snow? Then attach the stakes. If the birds ignore you, pull the shells and try just the full-bodies.

> THE HUNT PLAN: Concealment is crucial in the late season. Use a white bedsheet on snow or, even better, use your layout blind and stubble it well. Don't hesitate to move your blind around the small spread once you can gauge how the birds are responding. Continue to use the T-Flag, and your calling style should be aggressive, as if you're saying, Stay away from my food! And even though it's cold, plan on hunting through lunch. These birds are hungry and in survival mode, so once they find food they'll sometimes feed all afternoon.