Early in the hunting season, it’s easier to predict the patterns of the geese that you want to hunt.
Things start to change later in the season, especially in November and December moving into January, as geese numbers sometimes increase seemingly overnight and the weather takes a dive.
As a goose hunter, you can use this to your advantage, but you need to have the right skills at hands, such as when it comes to your decoys and decoy spreads.
Is hunting late-season geese difficult?
It can be more difficult to hunt geese later in the season, simply because geese have been hunted all season thus far. They’re therefore used to decoys and they’re more cautious around hunters.
This doesn’t mean you have to go home empty-handed, though. Here’s what you should know so that you can enjoy hunting late-season goose with greater ease.
We’ll be looking at the best goose decoy spreads and diagrams that you should be using at this time of the hunting season, as well as featuring other useful tips for hunters.
What’s The Logic Behind Late Season Goose Decoy Spreads?
Setting up late-season goose decoy spreads comes in handy to hunt geese, just like they’re useful when you’re hunting them earlier in the season.
But, the difference is that you have to choose spreads that are smarter and will work more effectively.
This is the time when you have to try something different, bearing in mind that the geese have seen hunters already throw out all the stops to try to catch them!
Best Late Season Goose Decoy Spreads Explained
There are many effective decoy spreads you can make use of late in the hunting season. Here are some of the best ones to try.
Gravel Bar Decoy Spread
Late in the hunting season, it’s cold but waterfowl will usually choose to rest close to the water. You can take advantage of this behavior by setting up gravel bars and sandbars.
How a gravel bar decoy spread works is that you set up a blind at the edge of the water source, then you set up a gravel bar moving away from the blind into the water.
The decoys that you use for this spread should include ones that look like they’re resting and sleeping. Some full-body decoys should be included so that the spread looks as realistic as possible.
For example, some decoys should be geese that are standing up, while others should be sitting on the water or resting. A few differences will help to make the spread more realistic.
The “Lunch Line” Spread
This is where you set up a line of decoys that look like geese that are following groups of feeding geese. This will encourage flying geese to join them.
Set up some full-body decoys with about 12 or so floating shells in clusters, and choose additional ones that are all in feeding positions.
You should then set up some full-body decoys in a line so it looks like they’re walking over to the decoys that are eating. This shows geese that not only there is food on land but some geese have landed to join them, so the area is safe for them.
The Small Circles Spread
While you might want to use the U-shaped or J-shaped decoy spreads, both of which are usually recommended when hunting waterfowl, these are best left on the backburner to be used early in the season.
You want to make use of small circles of decoys so that they will attract more geese, who have seen tons of U- and J-shaped spreads. At this point in the season, geese want to land, rest, and eat, so mimic that behavior as much as possible.
Use The String Method
Another good decoy spread is to have a string of decoys leading downwind from the main area where you’ve set up lots of decoys.
So, for example, if you have a small circle of decoys you’ve set up, place a string of extra decoys downwind moving away from that circle. This is a good way to encourage geese to follow suit and enter the spread.
Other Tips For Using Late-Season Decoy Spreads
- Make sure you take some time to study the area where you’re hunting. This means checking a field at least twice before you hunt there as it will help you to confirm that the birds keep returning to it for food. This is crucial late in the season as food sources are decreasing during this time.
- You should set up your blind downwind if you want to hunt Canada geese, preferably along the side of your spread of decoys. This is because you won’t have much success by having a straight-on approach – these geese always land on the downwind edge of a cluster of geese.
- When the snow has started to form a blanket on the ground, geese can be difficult to spot and track. This is why it’s a good tip to wait for a warm day because it’s the perfect time to rearrange your decoy spreads into groups. This will attract the geese into the spread.
- Keep an eye on the roosts. When water freezes up, birds will find new roosts on the open water. By tracking their roosts and where they go, you’ll find the perfect place where you can use floating decoys on the water.
- Although you might want to put your decoys closely together to mimic a flock, you shouldn’t put them too close – this is a sign of danger to geese! Try to put them a few feet apart. This also encourages the geese to land as there will be enough space for them.
Large Or Small Spread: Which One Is Best?
Earlier in this article, we mentioned the importance of not assuming a larger decoy spread is always better. The most important thing is to gauge how many geese are in the area.
For example, if you can see many geese on the shoreline, you should try to put out more decoys.
Having many decoys at your disposal is useful in a late-season spread when you want to match the larger geese flocks that are around.
If you can see that flocks heading south are increasing, as a result of migration, this happens as a result of how the geese are joining other flocks.
So, keep an eye out for these groups of late-season birds, which tend to appear at the edges of water sources and corn fields.
By comparison, you can use a smaller spread of decoys if you can see small groups of geese gathering together – aim for between six and 12 decoys.
The benefit of using a smaller spread is that by this time of the season geese will have seen many birds around. They will be intrigued if they see just a few birds (your decoys) and this will encourage them to approach – and hopefully land – in the spread.
Best Decoys To Use When Hunting Late-Season Geese
We’ve already touched on some important tips to follow when setting up decoy spreads, but here’s a rundown of some types of decoys that you should reach for when hunting late-season geese.
Moving Or Static Decoys
Moving decoys are regarded as a staple during late-season hunting. This is because of how realistic they look, such as if they’re flapping their wings on the land so that they look like geese landing on the ground.
Since geese in the wild sometimes form ripples on the water that draw the attention of other geese, you can recreate this movement with motion decoys that spin their wings above the water.
But, there’s still a place for static decoys. Full-body decoys are a great type to use in a spread. These decoys usually have great attention to detail paid to their design, from their paintwork and lifelike feathers.
Sleeper shells, which look like sitting geese, can also work well because of how they appear as though the geese are sitting or resting.
In fact, sleeper shells are some of the most effective decoys to use at this time of the season because geese will want to land and rest, as well as feed where they land on the ground.
What About Silhouettes?
Silhouettes are sometimes regarded as a good way to mix up a traditional decoy spread. You can add them to your current spread, but don’t solely rely on them.
While silhouettes provide contrast and can be spotted from further away, they aren’t enough on their own. They simply lack the realism that you can achieve with other types of decoys.
If you have some silhouette decoys, use them for late-season geese hunting by adding them to your current decoy spread so that they create the illusion of movement within your spread.
However, avoid putting them directly upwind. This is because they won’t be very visible to geese that are approaching your spread.
Hunter Position and Camouflage
Let’s take a look at how you can achieve the most effective hunter position and camouflage.
Tips for hunting in the snow
If it’s snowing, you have to be careful that you don’t leave behind any boot prints or tire tracks as these can be visible to the geese that are flying overhead.
Make sure you carry a rake with you so that you can remove any traces of your presence, especially around your decoy spread.
Wear snow camo if you’re in snowy conditions. With less vegetation around at this time of the hunting season, you will battle to conceal yourself properly, so wearing snow camo will help you to better blend into the sparse surroundings.
This type of camo usually has a white background with depictions of bark and twigs that you’ll find in your environment.
And, if you’re setting up a blind in a snowy landscape, use white covers that you can throw over the blind. Even putting some white paper towels into the hooks and loops of the blind can help you to better match your surroundings.
Tips for camouflaging your blinds
When choosing a blind, consider that geese have seen various blinds throughout the season and are probably cautious of them. You have to become a bit sneakier. Cover your layout blind with brush and other natural covers, such as reeds and sticks.
If you’re hunting in wet conditions, such as flooded timber, you should conceal yourself in thick cover. If you’re on a boat, make sure you cover it well with natural elements so that it blends in with the environment.
Avoid setting up a blind, however, camouflaged, in open areas. Geese will see that these square or round bumps are dangerous and don’t fit into the rest of the surroundings. A good tip to bypass this is to place a blind outside your decoy spread.
An even better tip is to set it up on the sunnier area of your spread so that geese that approach will have direct sunlight in their eyes but you will be less visible.
Hunter camouflage tips
When wearing camouflage, it’s essential to cover your hands and face. While you might want to wear camo patterns, a pro tip is to wear black skull caps and black t-shirts over your regular camo clothing.
This is because when you’re moving on the land while geese are flying, they will see black shapes on the land that resemble other geese.
If your blinds are scaring away geese, you should consider hiding among your decoys on the ground in camo clothing that closely resembles your surroundings.
This can be miserable during freezing cold weather, so make sure you’re dressed warmly and consider placing a foam mat underneath you so you’re not lying directly on the cold ground.
What about goose calls?
Making goose calls can help you to be better camouflaged because you’ll sound like geese. But, while you might use calls early on in the hunting season, you really want to be minimal when doing so later on.
This is because geese don’t call each other a lot during this time. You want to use soft moans and clucks with your calls, and only resort to this when geese aren’t facing you otherwise you could blow your cover or make them cautious.
Mimic the sounds they’re making, but don’t go overboard.
If you’re going to be trying those calls, make sure you get them right so that you sound like a goose. Clucking is a series of high and low notes, while moaning involves making ‘ooo’ sounds.
It’s always a good idea to watch videos so that you can get the hang of the sounds to make them as authentic as possible.
Effective hunter position tips
Late in the season, geese tend to appear later in the day. They typically fly out in the morning and noon, after which they will spend time in the field.
A good tip is therefore not to get up too early to hunt but wait for when the geese will be around.
Think about how geese land in the wind. If the wind is blowing to the west, this means they will land in such a way that they’re facing the east.
This is important to bear in mind as it will play a role in where you set up your decoy spreads and position yourself.
Get ready for making long shots. If geese are wary of your decoys, you’ll have to practice shooting targets that are further away from you just as they go around your spread. This will give you a greater advantage over other hunters.
Hunting geese late in the season is notorious for being difficult. The methods you’ve used earlier in the season aren’t always going to cut it. But now that you’ve read this article, you know important hacks and decoy spreads to use when you want to bag some geese to round off the hunting season.
We’ve also featured other useful hunting info to make your adventures more successful, such as how to finetune your camo game and call in nearby geese with the right calls.