Hunting the early goose season is not as complicated as brain surgery but it is definitely tougher than some hunters make it sound. There are a lot of young birds in the sky for the first time with hunters around, but they are flanked by wise old geese who have survived many seasons.
The devil is always in the details and early goose hunting is no different. Here are a few often overlooked details to consider when the season opens statewide on Saturday, September 6. Most of them might not make or break your early season, but they’ll definitely enhance it or help fix a persistent problem.
Prevent short-stopping: It can happen anytime but it seems like early season geese are notorious for landing well ahead of your decoys making for a difficult shooting scenario.
“Most hunters, myself included, use smaller spreads in the early season, but I think the biggest mistake hunters make is not spreading those decoys around enough for a good landing zone,” said Dave Tuttle, an avid early season waterfowler.
Tuttle likes to use a U-shape for his decoy spread and nothing but his best looking full bodies. Not one to use more than 18 decoys during the early season, Tuttle said he’ll put one family group right by where he’s sitting but the rest go far away.
Use realistic flyers: Flagging is a tried and true tactic, but as the birds close in you need to stop and invariably give yourself up to the geese. The “Goose
Tree” is a product that lets you have three flying decoys in the air that look like landing geese. Not only does it bring more visibility to your spread from the air, it also works so well that geese will land right behind the tree.
“From the birds-eye perspective of a goose it’s a realistic looking set-up that draws them in tight so you can take up-close shots,” said Goose Tree creator Larry Juhl.
Smart scouting: This wouldn’t be a goose article without talking about scouting but the key here is smart scouting. “Don’t just find the fields those birds are landing in, watch how they approach, see how they move once they land there, watch for other groups to join them,” Tuttle said.
If you can mimic what’s naturally taking place each day you can vastly improve your success in that field.
Watch the weather: Pay attention to the forecast regarding wind direction and intensity so you set up your spread properly and are aware of forecasted changing conditions.
On a more personal note, pay attention to the forecasted temperature. Early season goose hunting can involve frost, but more often than not it involves sunburn and sweat. Dress accordingly, pack sunscreen and bug spray and keep yourself (and your dogs) hydrated.
Put the sun at your back: Use it to help conceal yourself. Always play the wind, but position yourself so that you can utilize the sun to your advantage rather than the other way around.
Look for water: Bryan “Beef” Sathre of Fathead Guide Service said he loves a field with water nearby for the geese to use as a loafing pond. “I’m not talking about the roost. I mean an honest to goodness pond or flooded portion of the field that the geese will feel comfortable utilizing. It’s amazing how much more productive fields are with some water,” he said.
Be sure to take along a few floating decoys and place them in the water for added confidence. Even if you aren’t hunting the edge of the pond, a few “loafing” birds will give incoming geese a total sense of security.
Pack a cooler: Keep water in it for the hunt but then be ready to put your field-dressed birds inside later on. Much like you use a cooler for transporting fish in the summer, consider a cooler for your goose meat.
“So often guys are used to putting their daily bag in the back of the truck and driving home. If you have a long drive, your meat will lose its freshness and possibly even spoil,” Sathre said.
Concealment is critical: Some hunters dress casually in the early season but Tuttle always holds true to his finest warm weather camouflage clothing.
This is true of your hunting blind as well. That new blind looks pretty but its an eyesore from the sky. Be sure to properly mud it to get rid of the glare. Be sure to also use as much surrounding natural vegetation as possible to hide that blind.
Practice makes perfect: This means: getting your calling skills back to true form ahead of time; making sure your gun is clean; putting several boxes of shells through it before your hunt; and, review your checklist.
It’s probably been at least several months since you last hunted so take the time to make sure everything is ready to go. In a lot of cases, it’s better to stay home that opening weekend than hit the field and becoming frustrated.
Hold the roost sacred: Shooting the roost ruins your hunt, not to mention the hunt of many others in your area.
Check the checklist: If you don’t have a checklist then its time to make one. A truly effective checklist takes time to create and perfect so plan on starting this season. Include such things as visiting the sporting clays range, cleaning your gun and practicing your calling besides just gear essentials.
Get a notebook: Keep detailed records of your hunt and its very interesting the trends you’ll notice over the years. Details like date, location, hunters, weather conditions, the birds you saw, the birds you shot, how they came in, and a sketch of the spread you use—having all that information will let you analyze your hunts and become a better waterfowler.
Game Fair is an amazing family event with a plethora of activities and attractions for the entire family to enjoy in the outdoors. The variety of attractions is what keeps many going back year after year and there’s always a healthy mix of the usual favorites with the newest and latest.
Now in its 33rd year, all of them at the Armstrong Ranch Kennels in Ramsey, Game Fair is a six-day event over two weekends in August beginning August 8, 9, 10 and continuing August 15, 16 and 17. Details on the event can be found at www.GameFair.com along with printable discount coupons, dog registration forms, event schedule, and a preview video so you can take a sneak-peak before venturing forth.
Fall hunting seasons are coming soon and Game Fair is the best place to see and try the latest gear while learning from the nation’s leading experts. While it is billed as a pre-hunting event, non-hunters have plenty to see and experience. Those who are interested in becoming a hunter will enjoy the opportunities to learn from seminar speakers and exhibitors alike. The atmosphere at Game Fair is a friendly one.
The hosts of Game Fair for all 33 years are Chuck and Loral I Delaney. After a visit to England’s Game Fair in 1980, the Delaney’s decided this type of event might be a hit among the outdoorsmen and women of the Midwest. Game Fair has been the launching point for many new products, talents, and experts—it’s truly the place to be for outdoors lovers of all ages.
Some people visit Game Fair each of the six days of the event, most visit just once a year, but many make at least two trips. For one thing, there’s more than a day’s worth of action and activities to partake in. For another, many outdoors enthusiasts take advantage of the amazing deals offered by exhibitors on sporting goods and opt for a “price-scouting-visit” followed by a “purchasing-visit.”
Game Fair is a full participation event and visitors are encouraged to bring their shotgun (cased), their bow (cased), and their dog (leashed). Many visitors just prefer to watch others in action with a twice daily shooting exhibition, dog events, archery, birds of prey, and dozens of daily seminars from national outdoors experts.
Game Fair is home to over 250 exhibitors including top dog trainers, hunting guides and retailers from across North America. With dozens of Dog Clubs and Sportsman’s Clubs, Game Fair is the nation’s largest gathering of outdoor organizations.
Because it is election season, there are also a host of candidates for Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative and some local offices. The Outdoor News and Sportsmen for Change are also lining up a debate for the 2014 gubernatorial candidates to be held the second weekend of the event. Keep an eye out for more details on the date and time of the debate.
Game Fair is the only place where you can do it all. Some of the highlights of 2014 include:
Visit with Ron Schara, talk waterfowl with champion callers, hear dog training advice from nationally renowned trainers, watch the fabulous birds of prey with Frank Taylor, or just walk along the lake taking in the sights throughout the picturesque grounds.
Quench your thirst or curb your hunger at the many concession stands. Be sure to try your luck at numerous raffles and drawings for big prizes throughout the Game Fair.
The spacious woods and water of Game Fair are open rain or shine from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. August 8, 9, 10 and August 15, 16, and 17 (closing is 5 p.m. on Sundays). Game Fair is located in Ramsey at the Armstrong Ranch Kennels.
For the latest news and updates, as well as ticket giveaways, check out Game Fair on Facebook.com/GameFairUSA and on Twitter @GameFairUSA.
One of the best times to be out on the water, is that time period after most boats have gone in for the evening. Nighttime is a great time to be on the water, especially if you were stuck in the office rather than the boat on that sacred fishing opener weekend.
Fishing at night in May and early June is an under-fished time period that can reap large benefits for anglers who try it. Night fishing is a ton of fun and best of all you don’t have to compete for the best locations..
With all the crowds on the lake during the walleye opener and Memorial Day weekend, walleye can be pressured from their traditional haunts during the day. Move into those places near dark and most of the boats are gone.
A note of caution: night fishing is not recommended for the ill-prepared. Anglers who fumble around during the daytime are likely to have a disaster at night. Also, be sure that your lake is open for night time fishing. Mille Lacs has a night fishing ban right now and a few metro lakes have some special regulations regarding fishing at night.
Night fishing requires a boat without too much clutter, lighting that is hands-free, and a life jacket should be worn at all times. If you’ve never fished the lake before, be sure to have a good map and don’t just rely on your GPS. Mapping software is another great tool, but there are hidden rocks even on lakes with detailed mapping technology.
Some anglers like to tape a flashlight to their landing net but most prefer to wear a headlamp. A good headlamp runs around $20 and must be easily turned on and off.
Getting on the water before the sun sets is best if you can do it because you can get set up while there’s still daylight. Not only that, but the night bite begins before the sun sets so consider it getting out there early.
Walleye like to move from the depths up to the shallows at night, especially during this time of the year. A large flat with emerging weeds is a great location, especially if it’s adjacent to an area with current such as a channel or narrows. Try trolling the seven to 12 foot depth range with a shallow-running Rapala just ticking the tips of those fresh-growing weeds.
Inside turns of underwater structure can be especially good in depths ranging from a few inches deep on down to 12 feet of water. If you arrive before dusk, start at the deeper locations but once night settles in go shallow.
Livebait rigs with or without spinners are great for fishing the lowlight period as the sun is setting. A leech, minnow or crawler will each work but it’s always best to have each along with so you can key in on the most productive lure. Nortland Fireball jigs tipped with livebait are also quite effective.
A jig tipped with a Northland Impulse artificial bait is also very effective and can be easier at night when checking the condition of your bait is not as easy. The scent given off by the Impulse baits attract walleye that more drawn to scent during low-light periods.
Crankbaits are not to be overlooked, especially once the sun has set. A shallow-running or countdown Rapala minnow is effective when long-cast over shallow flats at night. Clackin’ minnows, raps and X-Raps are also great options. Longlining these same lures while using the electric trolling motor or a controlled drift with a driftsock are also quite effective.
Another great thing about nighttime fishing in the spring is that you don’t need a boat to get to the walleye, you just walk out there and they’ll come to you. Many anglers in boats find themselves in depths of two to three feet of water, which anybody with waders will tell you is an accessible range of water.
It’s a lot of fun to be out there in your waders and I’d say it’s a more rugged experience than fishing from the boat. I’ve gone wading numerous times and had tremendous success. I still prefer to be in my boat but wading out to a shallow flat at night is a surreal experience. You have the stringer tied to your waders and your minnow bucket is tied to you as well—if you get a good bite then back up and get ready for a real in-the-water battle.
My favorite method is to pitch a Fireball jig tipped with a shiner up into a shallow point or flat that is adjacent to deeper water. Some of my favorite locations on Lake Bemidji are Diamond Point and the fishing pier by Lake Irvine. On Cass, I like the area around the channel that flows into Pike Bay.
Safety is extremely important with this scenario, however. I always wears a lifejacket while night fishing with waders and take along a powerful flashlight. You will have boats out there with you and if somebody wants to cruise over the shallows at a higher speed you need to be able to signal to them that you are out there just as you would if you were in a canoe or kayak.
In the open division: first place went to Kevin Croteau of Ramsey; second place was Curtis Goettsch of Cresco, Iowa; and Connor Wall of Clearwater came in third. In the amateur division, Wall took first place and Croteau came in second, while Thayne Jensen of Otsego came in third.
Contest emcee Kara Wattunen, an avid turkey hunter, was especially happy with the fact that in the youth division, the top three winners were all girls: Adrianna Rice of Minneapolis won the event; Clara Wall of Clearwater came in second; and, Kelby Moore of Rice finished third in the standings.
Check out the photographs from each of the three divisions as well as the emcee and judges making their final announcements at the end of the contest. Sponsors of the contest included: Game Fair, Hunter's Specialties, Hook's Custom Calls, Federal Premium Cartridge, Weaver, and CallingAllTurkeys.com
The Game Fair Archery World $1,000, 100-yard Archery Challenge is also going on throughout the second weekend.
Visitors to this year’s Game Fair will be treated to a fine show of shotgun shooting skills put on by Steve and Aaron Gould of Alexandria, Minnesota. They did one show at last year’s event, located at the Armstrong Ranch Kennels in Ramsey, MN, but this year they are shooting two times a day for all six days of the fair.
The Armstrong Ranch Kennels in Ramsey are set for the 32nd annual Game Fair, with tons of events, activities and attractions for the entire family . The six-day event takes place over two weekends in August beginning August 9, 10 and 11 and continuing August 16, 17 and 18. Fall hunting seasons are coming soon and Game Fair is the best place to see and try the latest gear while learning from the nation’s leading experts.
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