Canada Geese Habitat
and Behavior


Do you hunt Canada Geese?  I have information on the Canada goose habitat and behavior that will guarantee you'll bag your bird.

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Canada Geese


If you hear honking and look up, it's likely you will see a skein of Canada geese flying in a "v-formation" pattern; also called a wedge.

Did you know that if they have favorable wind conditions, a skein of geese can fly 1500 miles in a 24 hour period? Wow. By the way, a skein is just another word for a group of geese in flight. A gaggle is when they are on the ground.


Canada Geese

There are two reasons why Canada geese fly in a wedge.

The first is that is conserves their energy because each bird is flying slightly above the bird in front of them resulting in wind resistance. The birds take turns flying in front and when they tire they fall back in line, that is why they can fly for a long time before they need rest.

The second reason is that they can keep track of every bird in the gaggle.

In mild climates like California, some of the goose population is non-migratory - here in Wisconsin, they head south for the winter and I don't blame them.

All Canada geese will return to the general area or the exact site of their birth every year, because the instinct to do so is so strong. Migration is not instinct at all but is taught and something the goose will learn.


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Canada geese eat a variety of grasses and grains like corn, soybeans and wheat. Occasionally they may eat insects and fish and when in water will eat the silt and seaweed from the bottom of the lake.

During the second year of their life, Canada geese are ready to find a mate. Once they find their mate around the age of 2 or 3, they are like eagles and remain "couples" for the rest of their life. If one is killed, the other will look for another mate. Each pair will also establish nesting territories and will defend it vigorously.

From mid-March to mid-May the female, starting around the age of 3, will lay an average of 5 eggs; taking five days to lay her clutch (one egg a day). When she is done, she then lays on her clutch during the incubation period of 28 days. The hatched goslings are only in the nest for 1 day and may be brooded (snuggled under the mother's wings) at night.

The Canada goose will now begin to molt (from early June through July), which is a time when they lose their flight feathers and regrow new ones. This usually takes approximately six weeks and during that time they cannot fly. That's why you find them flocked and nesting near the water because it provides security from predators.

The Canada goose offspring will enter the fledgling stage anytime from 6-9 weeks of age and will stay with the adult until after spring migration the following year.

In the fledgling stage, they can walk, feed and swim on their own but will stay and move around in a gaggle which is an excellent defense strategy against predators. The goslings learn how to fly when they are 2-3 months old.


Goose Tracks

The photograph on the left shows you Canada goose foot tracks; if you have never seen them before. If you are itching to go goose hunting, I want to give you some pointers to guarantee a successful hunt.

Most Canada geese hunters prefer to decoy the goose in to get a closer shot, but I am not going to go into detail on the decoys you should purchase because everyone has a different opinion on what to use. They can range anywhere from $80.00 for a dozen to $400 apiece depending on how realistic you want them to look and what you purchase.

The purpose of decoys is to reduce the movement of the hunter. If you are hunting alone, you definitely want to be in the center of the staged decoys with placement around and behind you.

Many of the Canada geese decoys used around here are also floaters and positioned near or on the water which is usually the your best option. The decoys placed on the waters edge should also be in a "resting" position to simulate different positions and ways the geese actually live.


Canada Goose Decoys

The picture above are Canada geese decoys placed on a pond. You may want to purchase a couple of sentinel goose decoys, which is a goose in "alert mode." (While the other geese are feeding or swimming, you will always see one keeping an eye out for danger. This is a sentinel goose)

You would place these sentinel geese on the outer part of the grouping approximately 20 yards from the gaggle because they are the "watch dogs" and are on "look-out." Whatever you choose to use, they are an important part of goose hunting.

How do you set up your Canada goose decoys? That is a personal choice, but I will give you some ideas.

You must pay attention to the wind direction because geese like to land into the wind, which slows their landing. So with that in mind, you may want to position your decoy spreads in groups of four to eight - facing the wind. How many decoys do you need? Geese are more comfortable and feel safer in large groups.

To fool geese, you may conceal yourself in a "hide," which is a spring activated blind or a actual ditch blind. You can also cover yourself with a burlap sack in tall grass, but you must practice to be able to uncover yourself and rise to shoot quickly before the goose spots you.

The most successful is the pit blind and that is a box buried below the ground surface and open on top. Some of them are heated and you can even enjoy a cup of coffee while waiting for some Canada geese to come in. Nice...

If you are hunting in an area that the birds want to be, you really do not need to call in geese because they will be there. If not, purchasing a top of the line goose call is worth every dollar that you spend. The first one that comes to mind is a short reed goose call. Practice, practice and practice.

There are two calls that are a must and that is a cluck and a honk.

A cluck is make when you blow in a short burst of air and say the word "whit" into the call. The honk is along the same line but you lengthen the call from a high note to a low note while making the sound "whooooo-whit" into the call.

Do you sound like a goose? Great. If not, please invest in instructional videos or DVDs and learn the right way. Remember this: "Less is more" when it comes to goose calling.


Goose Nest

The last thing that is works great is "flagging in geese", and it works when they are up to one mile away from you. This is when you wave a black flag in a side-to-side motion to imitate landing geese. When they are coming towards you, get your gun and be ready. You can try to make the black flag at home, or they can be purchased at any waterfowl supply outlet store.

A great strategy is setting up five to six decoys approximately 100-150 yards from your main spread and have someone in the middle of these decoys. You hide out with the main grouping and call in the geese. Nine times out of ten when the geese approach they prefer to land in the small group - and you'll be ready. Now go out and get that goose...



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