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Lessers Can Mean More

Hunting Sophisticated Geese

Breathe Life into a Goose Spread

Filling in Your Decoy Spread

Increasing the Odds For More Geese

 

Lessers Can Mean More

By Jerry Carlson
I am sure there are plenty of Canada goose hunters that are in a similar position to mine. They have the desire to occasionally work with a big spread but just don’t have the carrying capacity to handle a heavy load.
For example, my goose trailer is not really a goose trailer. It is my four-wheeler trailer with sides and a canvas top. It is less than ideal in some ways but certainly fits my storage issues and gets the job done.
There are days when even my makeshift goose trailer is more than I want to haul around. This is especially true if I am hunting by myself or if the fields are so wet that I am afraid of getting stuck.
When this happens, I am forced to use the decoys I can carry in the back of my truck. If I am stuffing full body, feet attached decoys in the back, I won’t be taking many along. However, if I am smart and incorporating lesser Canadas into the spread, it is a whole different story.
My first lesser geese were added to the collection a number of years ago. It was shortly after the fully flocked decoys hit the market and I felt inclined to give them a try. I was also intrigued by the size of the lesser Canada decoys and thought a mix might be nice.
The first half dozen ended up right in front of the blinds in the landing pocket. They worked so well that the next season I was in the market for some more. After shopping around for fully flocked lessers I settled on Dakota Decoys (available from barrelsup.com).
In an effort to learn more about the use of lesser geese mixed in with standard Canadas, I talked with Brain Cahalan from Goose and Duck Smackers Guide Service. Cahalan has been in the guide business for nine years and has a lot more knowledge about the mix of big and little geese than I do.
Although Cahalan utilizes lessers all fall, he really likes them for the early season hunt. During this time, young geese are considerably smaller than the mature adults. By mixing the lessers in with the standard full bodies, he is able to create a situation where the small decoys and big decoys look like normal family groupings.
Cahalan also likes them later in the season. He feels that lessers, EPP birds and larger resident Canadas are all around at the same time. A mix of sizes in the spread duplicates what is happening in the real world.
In addition to the natural look lessers give a set, Cahalan mentioned that they move on motion stakes more easily than larger, heavier decoys. The compact storage feature of lessers was also appreciated by Cahalan. Even guides have space issues to deal with.
Chad Allen, CEO of Barrels Up internet shopping site, also had some interesting thoughts to share about lesser decoys. Allen said in the past year there has been an increase in the number of lesser decoys they have been selling. He felt hunters were learning that lessers not only solved storage issues, they actually enhanced the spread.
Throughout the season, I continue to put the bulk of my fully flocked lessers close to the blinds. These are the decoys that the incoming geese are concentrating on and the ones that will reduce the concern over the unusual appearance of the layout blinds. I want the landing zone to look as inviting as possible.
In short, lesser decoys have proven to add to my goose hunting success. They allow for greater flexibility when fighting storage issues and also create a very realistic appearance in my spread.
In other words, lessers can mean more.

Visit www.jerrycarlsonoutdoors.com

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Hunting Sophisticated Geese

By Jerry Carlson

Jerry
When hunting wary waterfowl, paying attention to the little things can make a big difference.

By the time our hunting group reaches the Dakotas, the geese we like to target have seen it all. They have been harassed by hunters for six weeks and know the ins and outs of decoy spreads and layout blinds.
Because of their level of sophistication and wariness, working these birds becomes a challenge. However, coping with a challenge does not mean success cannot be obtained.
There are several factors that go into our hunting success that need to be noted. These factors may seem small when looked at individually, but when they are all put together, they comprise a system that continually works for us.
First of all, there is the scouting. Picking the right field is critical. The field we pick may not be one geese are using for feeding as they often target a different feeding field every day. However, knowing their fly zones and roost areas is essential.
If we can get our spread in a place that has good visibility and on a traffic route, we feel we can harvest birds. Good visibility is especially important. You can’t attract birds that can’t see you.
When it comes to laying out the spread, we are very fussy. We step off the distances between both sides of the landing pocket as well as the distance from our blinds to the furthest decoys. It is hard to accurately get this done in the dark without pacing it off. We double check with a range finder once it is light.
The decoys themselves have to look exceptional. We touch up or replace anything that looks tacky. We paint the black and white portions of decoys with Bird Vision Paint which duplicates the UV qualities found naturally in feathers (available at www.barrelsup.com).
We put out a few large shells that act as a catch-all for equipment. Coffee, lunch, shell kits and harvested birds all go under a decoy.
We make sure our blinds are extremely well concealed. Much of the concealment is done with Killer Weed before we ever leave home. Final touches are made with field vegetation each morning.
As for our actual decoys, we have a variety. We incorporate full bodies, shells, silhouettes, and windsocks. We utilize family groups to some degree all season long. We make sure every grouping has sentries and feeders.
Some movement is critical. We use motion stakes for our shells and have full bodies that swing in the wind. Our Deadly Decoy windsocks add extra realism not achievable with other motion systems.
We are also very active flaggers. Every hunter in our group has some form of a flag that is available for use.
As for calling, we do enough to keep the birds interested and coming. We have learned the hard way that over calling is often the kiss of death. Geese talk to each other, they don’t shout.
In short, we pay incredible attention to detail. We adjust the spread as needed and will turn it 180 degrees if the wind changes. We will tweak blinds, flagging, calling or whatever we feel it takes to get the job done.
No matter where you hunt, dealing with wary geese is not out of the ordinary. It is the norm. Being able to consistently get close targets is the process of doing many little things right.

Visit www.jerrycarlsonoutdoors.com

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Breathe Life into a Goose Spread


By Jerry Carlson
Hunting Canada geese is a fall passion for many outdoor enthusiasts. For some, this passion involves major decoy spreads, unlimited travel and top shelf equipment. For others, it is a meager spread with just enough visibility to get the job done.
Personally, I would fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Regardless of your level of dedication to goose hunting, adding realism through movement is going to help pull more birds into your spread.
One of the basic concepts in creating the illusion of live birds through movement is flagging. I am a big believer in this concept and have reaped the benefits time and again.
My flag system is simple. I have one flag on a long 12-foot pole and several others on short poles. The long pole allows me to get the flag up in the air where it is easier to see. I can also use this flag to mimic landing geese.
Once the birds are in closer, I will lift the flag, pump it a couple of times and set it down a few feet from where it started. This looks like live birds on the ground and keeps the attention away from the layout blinds.
The short flags are used in a similar fashion but not when the birds are in close. It is important to keep the attention away from the blinds.
Another concept I have come to believe in is motion stakes for shell decoys. Having a shell bobbing and turning in the wind can have great appeal to Canada geese.
This concept can be overdone, however. If it is really windy, these shells may rock and roll to the point they will flare incoming birds. Moderation is the key.
I also make use of motion with full body decoys. There are several companies that market motion systems of this nature, but it is possible to make some adaptations on your own.
On some of my Big Foot™ decoys, I removed the feet, cut a hole in the center of the foot section and drilled a hole in the back of the decoy. After that, I made some long stakes by brazing a washer onto a metal rod. By placing the rod through the hole in the feet and out the back, I created full body decoys that have great movement.
It is important to note that this procedure does not ruin the decoys. When I don’t want to use these Big Foots as motion decoys, I simply put the feet back on and they are good to go.
The last concept we use for adding motion to our decoy spread is one of the most important. We have found that windsocks can be extremely effective for breathing life into a stagnant spread.
The problem with many windsocks is the fact they look terrible if the wind is not blowing. They hang lifelessly on the ground and are a serious detriment to the appeal of the spread.
For this reason, we started using Deadly Decoy windsocks (available at www.BarrelsUp.com). This variety has excellent coloration, comes with flocked heads and has a spine that travels through the sock to keep it looking natural, even if the wind doesn’t blow.
Adding motion to a decoy spread must be done carefully. Even though movement adds realism, it is important to remember that Canada geese won’t tolerate the same amount of movement necessary to attract snow geese. As I mentioned earlier, moderation is the key.
Adding movement to your spread will definitely bring nervous geese in for a closer look. With the right combination of flags, motion stakes and windsocks, Canada geese become less wary.

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Filling in Your Decoy Spread

By Garett Payne
Duck decoys exhibit colors and craftsmanship that range from simple and effective to incredibly detailed and awe inspiring, and can be downright expensive when one qualifies as a collectable. For today’s hunters, however, a duck decoy is a working tool, not a work of art. Decoys have been around since early man fashioned decoys from sticks, reeds, mud, feathers, and grasses in an attempt to fool ducks. Here in the U.S., decoys gained widespread use during the boom in market hunting, a practice that resulted in a serious decline in our duck and goose populations. Market hunting was eventually outlawed in the early 1900s through the efforts of conservational groups, which resulted in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
The decoy is still used today and most avid waterfowlers would consider their personal collection as the most important and prized possessions necessary for a day on the marsh. Unfortunately, a collection is never enough and waterfowl hunters are always trying to find ways to fill out their decoy spreads to make them look even bigger. I have watched, as well as used, many tricks over the years to meet this goal by painting old jugs to resemble diving ducks, to tying old plastic grocery bags on a length of line to create a crude set of windsocks in hopes of fooling snow geese.
A full spread is so important hunters eventually find themselves attempting to carve their own full body decoy to save money. The purpose of this article is to describe how to make a quick, cheap, and practical duck decoy to meet that need.
The first step is to decide what species of decoy you will make; this determines size and color. Next, buy a sheet of blue or pink Styrofoam insulation board, which is available at your local home improvement store. On the sheet layout a grid pattern of 1” square rectangles, this will make the next step easier. The size of each piece you cut out will correlate to the size of the duck body you will shape from the easily worked material. Cut the grid sections out, then stack and glue together to gain the desired body thickness. Clamp to insure a tight bond. Next, draw the outline of a duck head onto a 4”x 4” piece of wood. I prefer basswood because it is easy to work, but using scrap pieces of pine will work fine also. It is easiest to start with a band saw to rough-cut the head shape before using a coarse metal file, straight knife, or exacto-knife to shape the head. If a band saw isn’t available, a jigsaw will work. The tool isn’t important – it’s the result! Once satisfied with the way the head looks, sand it smooth and set aside.
When the glue on the foam block is set draw an oval shape on the top of the block that tapers to a smaller end for the tail end of the duck and cut or rasp the block to the rough shape of a duck’s body. Next, using a filet knife or a disposable box knife, shape and round the body. When satisfied with the shape, sandpaper it smooth leaving a flat section at the front for the head to attach.
Drill a hole in the bottom of the head and glue a four-inch dowel rod two inches into the hole. Drill another hole in the body and glue the head in place. Once the glue has dried, paint the entire decoy with primer and allow it to dry. Once completely dry, it is time to give the decoy its color. Using pictures from books, magazines, or the Internet, determine the colors you’ll need and where they should go. Be careful of the type of paint you use as certain chemicals in some paints will eat away the Styrofoam and your decoy will disappear as you watch. Always test paint and primer on a scrap piece of foam before applying it to the decoy.
When dry, you can add a keel for stability. Using a piece of 1” x 2” board cut to the appropriate length, drill two holes through the 1” side then into the bottom of the decoy. Use two – 3” carriage bolts and glue to attach the keel to the center of the decoy. Drill another hole near the bottom front corner of the keel to attach a decoy anchor line. If you opted for no keel you’ll need a piece of leather about 2” in length folded in half. Use a coarse screw and glue to attach the leather to the bottom of the decoy for a place to tie the decoy line.
You should now have something that resembles a duck decoy. But before hunting, toss it into the water to make sure it floats properly. You might need some added weight to make it ride naturally. Another short carriage bolt screwed into the bottom usually solves the problem.
Do-it-yourself decoys are a quick, cheap, and easy way to add to your spread and only cost a few dollars for material. Compare that to how much it costs to buy a dozen commercial decoys! This is not a time-consuming process and you will find that once you begin, the process moves quickly along.
Patterns are available on the Internet and in decoy making books. You should be able to get six mallard-size decoys from one sheet of foam.
Remember, the decoys do not have to be a work of art when they are used as fillers. These blocks are only meant to fool ducks, not people. Experiment with the manufacturing process to determine what works best for you, and most important - have fun.

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Increasing the Odds For More Geese

Jerry
Raffia grass or killer weed, a zip tie and a clip is all that is necessary to create camouflage bundles for layout blinds. Grass bundles can be clipped to a blind in seconds and removed just as quickly if a color change is needed.

By Jerry Carlson
Fall is definitely my favorite time of the year. I love the cool evenings and fresh mornings. I enjoy the gradual transformation of the world from summer green to colorful fall. I also greatly appreciate the hunting opportunities that coincide with the change of seasons.
Of all the types of hunting I do, Canada goose hunting is my favorite. There is something about working these birds over decoys that never ceases to give me a thrill. Not surprisingly, I am not the only one that enjoys this sport. I find more and more hunters are learning the pleasures of chasing geese.
With the increased pressure on our Canada goose population, birds get wary in a hurry. They quickly learn what decoy spreads are all about which requires extra effort by hunters to continually harvest birds.
If there is one thing I have learned about hunting pressured birds, it is the need for total concealment. Several companies make excellent decoys that look very realistic, but without a system for hiding the hunters, quality decoys go to waste.
For many years I have utilized layout blinds as the basis for concealment. Because of their higher profile, they are not as good as pits but are the only option I have on the land I hunt.
The biggest problem in hunting from layout blinds does not come from the profile but from the inability to blend in with the surroundings a person is hunting. I may be in wheat stubble one day, chisel plowed corn the next and alfalfa after that. Plugging all of the loops with the proper vegetation to match the surroundings is time consuming.
Several years ago I started utilizing a different system for concealing layout blinds. I needed something that was versatile and changeable to fit the various hunting environments I frequented. The materials I started to use are called raffia grass and Killer Weed.
Raffia grass, which is available at most craft stores, comes in a very neutral color that blends well with wheat or corn stubble. It can be dyed or painted to match other surroundings. It can also be rubbed in mud to dull its color. Killer Weed comes in several different coloration patterns that fit most situations.
The process I use for bundling and attaching these tough grasses is simple. First, I cut the grass into lengths of 18-24 inches. After that, I use a zip tie to bundle the clump together. I attach a clip onto the zip tie so I have a simple means of fastening the bundle to the layout blind.
By utilizing this simple system, it is possible to change out the color pattern on the blind to better match the hunting conditions. If I am in alfalfa, I add more green. If I am hunting soybean stubble, I take out the green and add brown.
Even though I start the hunt with a well covered blind, I still try to mix in some of the natural found in the field. However, with the bulk of the camo covering done before I start the hunt, I need less time in the field to put the final touches on the process.
In addition to improving my concealment, I also believe flagging and calling are vital to continued success. I run one flag on a 15 foot telescoping pole and another on a short pole. The long pole is used to garner attention from a long ways off where the short pole works well when the birds are in close.
As for calling and calls, one does not have to be a champion caller to entice birds. However, the vocalizations that are made must be realistic. Utilizing quality calls such as those by Feather Duster (available at www.barrelsup.com) will help the process. Remember, learning to blow a short reed call is like learning to play a musical instrument. Practice, practice, practice.
Canada goose hunting will continue to be a very popular sport well into the future. Having excellent concealment is one of the most critical aspects of success. Flagging and calling also add further realism to your set.

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