Resident Honkers: nuisance or challenge?
September and October kick off resident honker season for many states around the country. We have all been to parks or zoos and seen Canada Geese or honkers, as I refer to them, taking over the grass. I love it as a way to hear ducks and geese during the offseason but many others tire from their poop and constant loud clucking. This affords us as hunters the great chance to harvest geese earlier than regular season and a way to tune up our skills.
If you got to the park with a loaf of bread chances are you will be over ran with geese in a matter of a few minutes. You might be fooled by this thinking these geese are dumb and easy to trick. This is quite the opposite in reality. These geese frequent the same few locations every day of their lives, they feed in the same locations, sleep in a few different roosts. They know the lay of the land and how every water source looks they land on. Unlike migrators these birds have probably been hunted by your group in the past so they may even know your tricks. This makes hunting them a great amount of fun with equal part of frustration.
Scouting. Scouting can be your most important tool. These birds are creatures of habit and tend to get set in their ways, so spending some time tracking their movements is key. I know my local birds will loaf in these spots during these times of the summer and move to a different spot during season time because I have years of watching them to back that up. Understanding this will help you know where to focus your efforts. Another part of scouting is looking for easy food sources in your areas. If birds are flying and not being lazy grass eaters around their roosts, finding cut corn in your area could be a gold mine. As soon as the area is identified and cut it becomes a frequent location for me to check. If they find it during early season or regular season you want to have the rights to hunt it. Early honkers will also land in alfalfa which can be a great location to hunt or run traffic as well.
Calling. Honkers are sometimes pretty finicky. They are smart and build habits during certain times. Sometimes they want everyone calling and getting their attention, sometimes they will barely make a sound and calling will turn them towards a different location. Key is spending time in the field and learning through the season. Sometimes a missed opportunity on a group of birds in early season will help you with them during regular season a month later. Take each failure as a learning experience and build off it.
Decoys. Early season honkers still tend to be in smaller family groups. If you scout them you may notice this pattern among a larger group of geese with 6 here and 4 here and a dozen broke off here. This can make it tough to decoy birds right in the kill hole but mimicking real birds can absolutely help you. Another debate you hear is how many decoys to run and what type. Some swear by a this number and brand of decoys and in my opinion it is non sense. Every situation and location determines the amount of decoys to use. Sometimes 3 floaters and a dozen full bodies is enough to bring them in. Sometimes you may need to use more even if its to help break up layout blind shapes. Each situation is different and that determines how to approach it. As far as brands go, you can argue about paint schemes and flocking until you are blue in the face but I have been a part of and seen 6-7 man limits killed over nothing but silhouettes. Decoy placement and scouting how geese land will get you way farther than worrying about what brand you are running.
The most important thing to remember is that resident geese are smart and know their terrain better than you. You can spend all the time you can scouting and preparing. You can set the ideal spread, have your hide immaculate and for some reason we will never understand geese will land the next field over. A field you have never seen them land at in a spot that makes no sense. This is just part of the frustration and challenge of hunting local birds.