Planning Your Late Season Pennsylvania Goose Hunting Attack
Frozen ponds and lakes spell nothing but trouble for the average waterfowl hunter. However, those that know how to attack late season Pennsylvania goose hunting are in for some of the best days of the season.
Canadian goose hunting culminates with the arrival of winter in the Commonwealth. The September goose season gave way to deer season and the second goose season picks back up right where deer season left off. Putting together the right strategy for the second season will set you up for some of the hottest wing shooting action of the entire year.
Late Season Pennsylvania Goose Hunting Season
Amble opportunities present themselves throughout the year for goose hunting in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania goose season 2018-19 begins in September with roughly a month-long stint open to harvesting. Then it breaks and comes back in late October or November depending on which population zone you are hunting in.
Pennsylvania goose hunting is regulated by three main population zones; the Atlantic, Resident, and Southern James Bay. Each has their own goose hunting season dates and daily and possession limits for Canadian geese.
(from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunting and Trapping Digest)
Detailed descriptions of the boundaries of each population zone as well as complete regulations and exceptions for Canadian goose hunting in the state can be found in the Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunting and Trapping Digest.
Scouting Flocks for Late Season Goose Hunting
Scouting becomes much more important during the second goose hunting season. You have to deal with frozen waterways, harvested and unharvested crop fields, and increased hunter pressure. Geese will be focusing in on any open water they can find. Flocks will also be concentrating on harvested agricultural fields such as corn and beans for foraging. Scouting these areas frequently is critical to planning your attack.
There is no real secret formula to scouting geese flocks in winter. The main consideration is time. You need to be able to put the time driving around searching for flocks. Document where flocks are feeding, particularly how they are coming and going from a field. The same strategies for finding ducks also can be applied to goose hunting season. Drive around, follow flocks and ask for permission for hotspots if you don’t already have it.
Decoy Strategy for Fooling Second Season Geese
Geese decoy choices include silhouettes, shells, and full-bodied. Commonly, silhouettes are used because they are light and portable and you can carry a lot of them to and from the field. The other end of the spectrum are full-bodied decoys. These are the most realistic but are hard to transport and setup when you start talking dozens or hundreds of decoys.
The most consistent Canadian geese decoy setup is a mix of silhouettes and full-bodied geese decoys. Silhouettes provide movement even on windless days while the full-body decoys give the spread a sense of realism to overhead flocks. Both characteristics balance the setup well and offer your best chances to call in a reluctant late season flock.
Rule of thumb, you can never put out too many geese decoys! Put out as many as you can afford and reasonably transport to where you are hunting. Factor in the amount of time, however, it will take setting up and tearing down each spread when considering how many decoys to use.
One of the most important goose hunting tips for a decoy spread is to position them so you are hunting with the wind at your back. Geese will approach and land into the wind so you want them coming in facing you for a good shot. Also, don’t simply deploy your spread in a random pattern across a huge field either. Use shapes like an X, U or J as a loose pattern for typical ways to set up your decoys. Doing so allows you to direct an interested flock right into your position rather than having them land randomly all over the field.
How to Call Geese into Decoys When It Gets Tough
Calling when Pennsylvania goose hunting is a very much reactive process. Let the geese define how to plan your calling approach. Here are three scenarios and the calling approach you should use for each.
- Flock flying into decoys – Cluck as fast and loud as you can. If you are hunting with others, make sure they are clucking as well. Transition to a long, low-pitched sound called a moan as they lock up to seal the deal.
- Circling or flying away flocks – Use a come-back call if a flock is unwilling to come in on the first try or if they decide to bypass you altogether. You want to use a long honker flute to produce a low to high long note to basically beg the flock to reconsider. If they turn towards you, go back to clucking.
- Moody flocks – How to get geese to land in your field often comes down to matching the mood of each individual flock. Let the flock tell you what they want to hear. If a flock is mostly silent then you should only cluck a few times and let them come in on their own. Other flocks may be very vocal and need to be called in until they hit the field.
4 Alternative Strategies for Cornfield Goose Hunting
One thing you can count on during the second Pennsylvania goose hunting season is that geese can be found on corn fields. Both resident and migratory flocks have adapted to recognize and depend on leftover grains, especially corn. The later it gets in the season the more important agricultural fields become to geese.
The best days goose hunting in Pennsylvania are when the weather turns nasty. Cold, snowy days get birds more active and interested in joining another flock in a cornfield feeding. Hunting pressure can make it tough, however, because other hunters will be focused on good corn fields. Shy flocks, however, can be bagged by changing to different strategies when cornfield goose hunting.
1. Side ambush setup – Logic says to hunt upwind from your decoy spread. Instead, position your layout waterfowl blind in the middle and off to one side of your decoys. Flocks have seen blind after blind and been shot at all season from traditional blind setup locations. Moving to the side of a cornfield can be just what it takes to fool a flock.
3. Remove warning signs – Geese quickly become educated to the warning signs of danger. Parking to close to a cornfield you are hunting, driving through the field you are hunting, or not covering up blood in the kill zone are all red flags for approaching flocks. Minimize and maintain your field by raking over tracks and covering blood to prevent a flock from flying right over your spread.
4. Vary your decoy setup – Many field goose hunting decoy spreads look the same from field to field and day to day. Flocks will learn quickly that those geese in an “X” or “U” shape means danger. Each day and even during the course of a day change your decoy pattern to stay one step ahead of late season flocks.
The second Pennsylvania goose hunting season provides an extended period of time in most population zones to put more geese in the freezer. The days will be long and cold in the late season but rewarding and fun. Attacking flocks with the right strategy and mixing up your approach, especially when geese move off water and into fields, will make for a productive second season of goose hunting in Pennsylvania.