Not Too Soon To Think About Duck Hunting

The temperatures this week have been plenty warm, but many of us are beginning to think of cool morning and camo waders.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released the results earlier this year of a two-year scientific study to determine optimal duck hunting seasons for the coming years. DEC selected the duck season dates by implementing a process that maximizes duck hunter inclusion. It is rooted in scientific data, and balances factors in duck abundance and specific zones of the state.

These waterfowl hunting seasons are the results of a two-year study between DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife and Cornell University. DEC asked a group of waterfowl hunters, known as the Waterfowl Task Force, to identify options for optimal duck season dates in each waterfowl zone. DEC and Cornell University’s Center for Conservation Social Sciences then surveyed approximately one-third of the duck hunters in New York State (roughly 6,000 hunters). Finally, biologists incorporated the most recent zone-specific duck abundance and migration data.

In all waterfowl zones, hunters felt the most important consideration was the opportunity to pursue mallards and black ducks, followed closely by the opportunity to pursue any duck or a diversity of species. Duck hunters like to see a variety of duck species when they hunt. DEC paired this information with new, zone-specific data on duck abundance and migration. Through this process, DEC identified season dates that best fit the values of duck hunters in each zone.

Barring changes to season length, duck seasons in New York will be open for the following dates in 2019-2020 in the Western Zone. Beginning the third Saturday in October, running 23 days, ending on a Sunday; and a second split beginning on the last Saturday in November, running 37 days, and ending on a Sunday. For example, this season dates will be Oct. 19, 2019 to Nov. 10, 2019 and Nov. 30, 2019 to Jan. 5, 2020.

These are major reductions in days afield and limits. Official limits will be announced soon, but are proposed as follows:

The mallard limit will be reduced from four birds (two hens) per day to two birds (one hen). The goose limits proposed will remain the same but changes will be made to later season dates. The September season will, however, remain Sept. 1-25. As I mentioned, nothing is official but it will announced soon. These changes are deemed necessary to help the waterfowl population after several years of downturn nesting studies.

It’s been a little more than three months since hunters have been able to chase winged critters. On Sept. 1, hunters will be taking to the field to chase Canada geese. The 2019 early season for Chautauqua County hunters runs until Sept. 25 and offers a liberal 15 birds-per-day limit.

The geese that we hunt here in Chautauqua County are used to hearing calls from hunters, from Canada to Alabama, which means our birds are well educated, not withstanding the local population or resident birds we chase during the early season. This is not to say that they are dumb, like many believe, but the elders in the family groups we hunt do migrate.

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

There many different calls a goose makes, but I prefer to use the six they use 99 percent of the time. The key to calling geese — like calling turkey, deer and ducks — is not to over call. Listening to which calls the birds are using, and mimicking those calls, will fill out our limit.

A cluck is the foundation of all sounds produced on 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 is 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 feed 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.”

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 the distance. The hail call is a cluck that has a short front end and a drawn-out second note (her awwwwwwwwnk) with the emphasis on making the call snap or break over.

A must-use call, and one to mastered, 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, because closer the distance they get, the more excited they get. When throwing in a greeting call, mix in a few clucks, a double and some longer greeting style clucks.

The laydown 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 those last few yards. This is where the short/soft clucks, moan and murmurs are important. Mixing up these three calls in soft and short calls will finish up most suspicious of geese.

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

The type of call –whether a short or long reed, acrylic or poly — delivers a different tone and offers a caller the confidence he needs.

Like all things in the wild, listening will help you improve your bag limit. Listen to what the geese are saying and when they are saying it, and mimic the same sounds. Keep listening and keep working on the same.

September is great fun and it is a good time to spend time with other hunters. Hunting geese can be a very social hunting experience. If you haven’t had an opportunity to do it, it is really exciting and lots of fun.