by Chris Larsen
After six months of living on the Chippewa River, duck season finally arrived. I had scoped out a peninsula point all summer long. It just looked ducky and better yet, was about a half mile upriver from the city park. My hunting partner and I beached the boat and started sorting decoys when we saw headlights approaching. It wasn't a car. This was the boat of a serious duck hunter and a guy who, we would find out later, had hunted this section of river for decades.
I'm sure he was used to having the river to himself during the week and here we were, encroaching on his territory. He was a friendly enough fellow. We invited him to hunt with us, but he graciously declined. He would head further up river to another spot that became one of my all-time favorite duck hunting spots. Before firing up his outboard, he offered a warning. "You see that stake in the ground? That's the marker for the city limits." Wow, we were literally hunting a step from the city limits.
It really was a choice spot. Birds could easily see it from their roosts in the city park. It was on the way to many of their favorite feeding fields. We hunted this spot often and had several birds drop right into the decoys before legal shooting time on cloudless mornings. Later in the day, the mallards collected by my lab would have corn literally falling out of their beaks. They couldn't wait to get to water to wash their meal down.
The real beauty of this spot was what I called the 7:30 shoot. Around this time, folks would be out for their morning jog through the park and they would push all the birds out. Feeling to lazy to fly all the way to their dining hall, these fat mallards and geese would just get up and head to the next spot on the river that looked safe, our decoy spread.
There are a lot of these types of opportunities out there for hunters to take advantage of, especially in areas inundated with large resident goose populations. My new hometown has a city pond that hosts well over two thousand ducks and geese from September until freeze out. Hunting on this pond is a no-no but anyone with a vehicle and general knowledge of rural roads outside of town can follow them to the fields as they head out for an evening meal. Permission is usually a given unless the farmer has already promised it to someone else. These birds are a nuisance and farmers are usually more than willing to get rid of them.
Big flocks of urban geese generally feed like locusts. They will return to the same fields until they eat the field empty, a fresh field is found, or they are pressured off it. Once you find the field they are feeding in, make note of the exact point they are feeding in. If you are a hundred yards off, you may spend the next morning watching geese land close to you, yet out of range. It's a disheartening feeling that I have experienced several times.
Once you've scouted out the field and secured permission to hunt, it's hunting time. I like to use decoys, but you don't need a ton of them. A dozen or two to give birds a reference point is all that's required. Geese will usually begin heading to the fields a half hour after sunrise. Hungry geese that know where they are headed to feed are usually pretty talkative and you will have plenty of time to hunker down if you are paying attention. Coffin blinds are incredibly effective but I've killed my share of birds sitting on a bucket a few rows into standing corn and even just laying down on the ground right in the middle of the decoy spread.
I'm often asked, "how do you call in geese?" My answer, "very little." If your scouting is good and you're truly on the "X", you really don't need to call. If you are sitting where the birds want to go anyway, every time you blow on the call, you risk blowing your cover. If I see birds heading elsewhere, I'll play some goose music for them until they turn my way. At that point, put away the call, cover your face and click the safety off... it's time to start shooting!
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