The Canada Goose is one of the most widespread species of waterfowl in North America. These birds are found from the most northern regions of Canada to the southern edges of Louisiana, offering hunters a wide range of hunting opportunities. Canada Geese are huge birds, typically weighing between eight and fourteen pounds, with some specimens in excess of 20 pounds. They are a highly migratory species, often traveling hundreds of miles every year. Most migrating geese breed in northern Canada, migrate south through Canada, and end up in the United States during the winter months. They often take advantage of the large agricultural regions spread throughout this migration, feeding on the variety of grains and grasses that occupy these fields. They are also known to eat aquatic vegetation, as well as some insects and smaller fish.
Canada goose hunting is largely broken up into the four flyways. In the Atlantic Flyway, the best hunting is found in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York, with more geese harvested in Pennsylvania than any other state in the country. In the Mississippi Flyway, Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan are at the top of the list due to their large number of agricultural fields and water sources. Most of the states in the Central Flyway also have great goose hunting, with Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas providing great action. However, North and South Dakota typically hold the most birds. The Pacific Flyway does very well as well, with the state of Oregon averaging nearly 70,000 harvested geese per season.
Geese are typically hunted in two ways, depending on the terrain. Most often, geese are hunted in fields when they come to feed on the various grains. Here, hunters utilize massive decoy spreads that are sometimes made up of hundreds of individual decoys. These huge spreads are used to mimic the large groups of geese that will set up on these fields to feed during the migration. Decoys are usually set up in a cupped or “J” shape into the wind, with hunters positioned on the bottom part of the J. Groups of birds will work into the wind and land at this bottom section, giving hunters the closest shots at incoming birds. If hunting over water, techniques are similar, except that floating decoys are used, and spreads are often smaller. The effectiveness of these spreads is greatly influenced by the hunter’s ability to call, as well as the number of callers in each group. Large groups of geese are rarely quiet, so a variety of clucks and growls are used to add to the realism of the decoy spread and convince geese that they should join the group.
Canada Geese are big, tough birds that are not easy to knock down. Because of this, 12-gauge shotguns are needed. Many hunters prefer 3 ½ inch shells shooting heavy BB shot when hunting geese, but today’s high quality shells make smaller 3-inch shells plenty powerful. Like all waterfowl, US Fish and Wildlife requires non-toxic shot like steel or tungsten when hunting Canadas.
Due to the fact that Canada Geese are extremely plentiful, regulations are often fairly relaxed. Most states have extremely long seasons, often beginning in September and continuing through January or February. However, they are migratory birds, which makes them managed at both the state and federal level. Because of this, hunters must purchase a duck stamp in addition to a local license and waterfowl permit.
There are very few hunts that offer the opportunity to see thousands of your target species in a single outing. Canada Goose hunting, when at its best, does just this. Groups are often large, loud, and committing, making the hunt extremely visual and exciting. On top of this, licenses and permits for Canada Geese are often fairly inexpensive, offering an affordable option for a fast-paced hunting experience.