New Season Brings Fresh Ideas, Techniques

It’s no big secret that things are changing in today’s world. There are some of us that fight change at every turn while some folks are jumping on any new bandwagon that comes along.

Back in the early ’80s, there was this new movement in the whitetail world — talking to deer. Being rather green in the calling game, I absorbed everything I could get my hand in regard to whitetail vocabulary. Between articles, VCR tapes — remember them — and seminars, I attempted to become a student of how deer communicate with one another.

At that time there was a few studies done on whitetail communication but generally the most accurate accounts — or so we thought — were hunter’s firsthand experiences. Those of us that attempted to decipher the truth regarding this new movement had a difficult time. It didn’t take long to understand what we were listening for and implement our new knowledge into our hunting game plan.

With all of this new knowledge, there was a time that I thought no matter what the day was like all I had to do was whip out my deer call and the deer would come running. Well, it didn’t take long to figure out that was not the case.

What I discovered was the fancy new deer call I wouldn’t leave home without was just one piece of the puzzle. A deer call is not the “magic bullet” so to speak, it is a tool, nothing more just a tool. Like any tool, when used correctly at the proper time, it can make your hunt more enjoyable and hence more successful.

In the waterfowl world, many things have changed but there are still many things that haven’t.

An old-time goose hunter told me years ago that it takes nothing to call in a pea-brained goose. Of course this particular old timer didn’t know a single piece of camo. It was just over 30 years ago that I first set up over a goose decoy in a cut corn field.

Back in the day this particular hunt consisted of an old pickup truck (with a homemade cab for sleeping), homemade goose decoys, old-style camo, a 36-inch barrel 12-gauge and rain — lots of rain. I can remember each minute, every flock and the sounds our guide made.

While the goose hunting trip was a great adventure, and one that hunting buddies and I had planned for weeks, we had planned as if though we were traveling to some distant country in search of big game. Looking back on the trip it was the first of many that I would make over the years, but there is something about the first road trip to go hunting.

Well, times are changing. Today’s geese aren’t your grandfathers’ geese. Today’s geese are hearing calls from hunters from Canada to Alabama. These birds are educated.

While decoys are an important part of goose hunting, good calling will finish the birds off.

I have known Sean Kern for several years. We first bumped into each other in a goose field. It seems that Sean had gotten crossed up and was supposed to meet some buddies in a field on some back road in the middle of nowhere, as Sean would put it. From the other side of the state, Sean had no idea where he was going or — at the time — where he was. While we were running empty decoys bags back to the trucks, Sean pulled up and asked for directions. Well, he was several miles from where he supposed to be and the sun was starting to peak up over the horizon, so I asked him to join in on our hunt.

It wasn’t long before I realized that this guy knew his stuff and over the next few hours a friendship was born that lives on today.

“There are many different sounds geese make, but I prefer to use the six they use 99 percent of the time,” said Kern, an Oakridge Game Calls pro-staff member. “The key to call geese like turkey, deer and ducks is not to overcall. Listening to which calls the birds are using and mimicking those calls will help fill your limit.”

Sean breaks down goose calls into categories: the cluck, the murmur, the hail, the lay down, the moan and the greeting call.

The cluck is the foundation of all sounds produced by a geese. All geese sounds are in one form or another based on the cluck, so it’s important that we all master the cluck. By lengthening, shortening or using the different notes, you can make every note in a goose’s vocabulary.

A cluck can be broken down into two parts or notes, consisting of a low first note (grrrr) and a higher-pitched second note (ittt) By lengthening or shortening either of the two parts you’ll produce different clucking sounds or honks.

The murmur is just one portion of the cluck and will — if reproduced properly — produce a feeding murmur. The first part of the cluck, used in succession, will produce the murmur or the feeding call. Try using words like grrr, grrr, grrr in succession and you’ll begin to produce a murmur or feeding call.

Slightly changing the second portion of the cluck will reproduce the moan call a goose makes. In a moan you need to drop the first portion of the cluck and highlight the second note so the sound doesn’t break over, but drags out the call. Instead of saying (it) on second portion of the cluck say (ihhhhh), (awwww) or my favorite (whooo).

From what I see/hear the hail call is the most overused goose call I hear hunters make every season. The hail is used to get the attention of the geese when they are off in a distance. The hail call is a cluck that has a short front end and drawn-out second note (her awwwwwwwwnk) with the emphasis on making the call snap or break over.

It’s been said the first call any serious goose hunter must use and master is the greeting call. The greeting call is to be used once you get the attention of the geese and they start heading in your direction. Once the birds get closer call faster and more excited. With the greeting call you can mix in a few clucks, double and some longer greeting-style clucks.

The lay down call is used to close the deal and create confidence and make the geese feel like your decoy spread is safe place to be. This call is used to get the birds into those last few yards. This is where the short/soft clucks, moan and murmurs are important. Mixing these three calls up in soft and short calls will finish up the most suspicious of geese.

Learning how to call geese and when to use these call will make your time in the field and on the water more enjoyable. Keeping your calling basic will help you not only impress your hunting buddies but the geese as well.

Remember in New York all you need to waterfowl hunting is a current small game license, a Federal Waterfowl Stamp — which has been raised this season — and knowledge of the different species of waterfowl you choose to chase. It always helps to have an experienced waterfowl hunter with you.