Watch one of the numerous great waterfowling shows airing on the Sportsman Channel and you might get the impression to succeed in the modern game of goose hunting, one needs a big warehouse full of expensive gear.
High-dollar equipment like a couple of hundred full-body decoys with flocked heads, a rig that can literally fill up a big trailer from top to bottom as it is towed behind a ¾-ton diesel pick-up truck with four doors.
And that’s not to mention a pile of specialty camouflage clothing and waders piled into the back seat where a retriever is soundly sleeping. And behind that, many hunters will have a handful of layout blinds mudded up and stubbled before being crammed into the back of a pick-up truck bed.
Finally, don’t forget a few acrylic short-reed goose calls dangling from the call lanyards in the cab of the truck, each call ringing up the cash register to the tune of $125 or more.
Can you hear the melodious Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching! sounding off in the background as visions of big dollar signs fill the imagination?
Well, relax, because believe it or not, it’s still possible to take a limit of big Canada goose honkers these days without breaking the bank account or raiding the kids’ college tuition fund.
Take the goose call for instance. While it never hurts to have a top-notch acrylic short-reed call like the Kelly Powers Triple Crown Goose Call made by Tim Grounds, less expensive polycarbonate calls will often turn a flock of honkers and bring them in close with their flaps down.
And believe it or not, the same idea can apply to a goose decoy rig, even if the spread is comprised of only silhouette decoys.
Over the years, despite having hunted over numerous full-body spreads from Texas to Canada, silo rigs have become one of my favorite ways to hunt geese.
Why is that? Well, they don’t cost as much, they don’t weigh a lot, they are relatively easy to set out and pick up and they don’t require a lot of storage space.
What’s more, they work. But don’t take my word on it, take the word of Kelly Powers, a regular Sportsman Channel television personality on Higdon Outdoors TV, a co-owner of the Final Flight Outfitters hunting supply store in Union City, Tenn., and one of the most accomplished goose-calling contest winners of all-time.
“You don’t always have to have a trailer and a big rig to enjoy a good hunt,” Powers has told me in the past. “In fact, all you need to have is a four-door car where you can put a couple of dozen silhouette decoys in the back seat along with a compact blind. And all of that will certainly fit in the back of a pick-up truck.”
What’s more, in addition to being light and demanding little space, such a rig can also be surprisingly effective given the appearance of motion a 2-D rig can provide to geese flying overhead.
One minute the geese see the silhouette decoys on the ground as they approach. The next minute, the rig seems to disappear as the honkers fly directly overhead. And then there is the decoy spread again as the noisy flock of geese turns the corner and looks again.
Get the picture? Good, because the geese certainly can, even tough-to-decoy birds that have seen plenty of hunting pressure build up over the course of a season.
“On tough geese, the smaller (silhouette) setups will probably be better (at times),” said Powers during our interview a few years back.
“A lot of them get educated (by) this ‘bigger is better mentality.’ It’s kind of like us with ducks (near Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee where he often hunts); sometimes we’ll put out 1,000 decoys. But towards the end of the season, I’d rather hunt over two dozen decoys.”
Powers, who won the goose calling Triple Crown (the World Championship, the Champion of Champions contest and the Avery International contest) and then retired in his early 20s, has learned over the years geese aren’t always bothered by this less-is-more approach to hunting.
In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite.
“It’s easier to imitate 24 to 36 geese than it is 300 or 400,” he said. “If you’ve got that many decoys out and yet all of the calling is coming from one location, it can be a red flag that goes up for the geese that are passing by.”
Now keep in mind Powers isn’t necessarily advising hunters to always forgo bigger numbers and higher-quality decoys. After all, he’s a part of the Higdon Outdoors TV program, a top notch show produced by Higdon Decoys.
And he helps run one of the nation’s top hunting supply stores (the physical store itself, a thriving catalog business and a busy Internet retailer) selling camo clothing, chest waders, duck and goose decoys, layout blinds and plenty of acrylic calls among other things.
But at the end of the day, Powers still wants to be a very successful goose hunter out in the field each fall while helping other hunters do the same.
If there’s a drawback to this less-is-more approach, it might have to do with a hunter’s ability to hide from the wary eyes of honkers passing by overhead.
“The number one drawback for less decoys is finding a place to hide within that few amount of decoys,” he said. “But the way that layout blinds are built, they are so low profile that you can sometimes get away with it.”
Speaking of blinds, is a $250 top-of-the-line camouflaged blind completely necessary? While they never hurt, Powers reminds us that hunters were shooting limits of geese long before such blinds ever came into being.
“No, it isn’t always necessary, it just makes the comfort level a lot more bearable,” he said. “You can hunt geese off of fencerows if you find them using an area without any trees, although it can turn more into pass-shooting than anything else.
“Personally, I don’t like to do that. And today, most everybody wants them to try and land (the geese) right where they (hunters) are hiding.”
If budget demands require a less-is-more approach in terms of goose hunting blinds, Powers says a variety of things ranging from layout blankets to old burlap sacks to simply covering up with field stubble can sometimes do the trick.
Or a hunter can improvise and build a type of portable blind by visiting the local hardware store for some simple supplies. I’ve hunted out of make-shift blind frames that involved some thin PVC pipe which was painted and covered with some camouflage netting. Such blinds are surprisingly effective and we did just fine hiding from the geese we were hunting.
Powers said he’s also seen hunters be successful using even less than that.
“You can take chicken wire, (paint it) and weave stubble through a little piece of it that is about four feet long, two feet wide and it will work to cover up your arms and legs while you’re hunting,” he said.
“Blinds are (really) manufactured for ease of comfort and for easy transport ability, but you can achieve being covered up and having a low profile in a number of other different ways,” he added.
“Now the comfort level of some of these other methods, well, that can be another thing (entirely).”
But a limit of geese will never know the difference later on in the evening hours while a weary goose hunter wears a big smile as down and feathers float their way through the garage air.
A garage housing the hunter’s entire goose hunting decoy rig and blind package over in a corner, all carefully stored away next to the mini-van.
Because sometimes in goose hunting, even in these modern days of big high-dollar spreads, less can still be more.
Just ask Kelly Powers, one of the best goose callers who has ever lived.