(No) Duck, (No) Duck, Goose

The first waterfowl, the author’s golden retriever, Willa, ever fetched were a pair of Canada geese shot on a small pond. It tested the 55-pound puppy’s strength and determination, but was she ever proud of the accomplishment!

  • Abundant Honkers Offer Nice Compromise
  • How to Find a Goose Pond
  •   Tasting the Bounty, a Great Recipe
The first waterfowl, the author’s golden retriever, Willa, ever fetched were a pair of Canada geese shot on a small pond.  It tested the 55-pound puppy’s strength and determination, but was she ever proud of the accomplishment!
The first waterfowl, the author’s golden retriever, Willa, ever fetched were a pair of Canada geese shot on a small pond. It tested the 55-pound puppy’s strength and determination, but was she ever proud of the accomplishment!

By Jim Low

I admire perseverance as much as the next guy, but at some point in a dismal duck season, a sensible person cuts his losses and finds something else to do.  If the alternative advances state wildlife management goals, all the better.  That’s why I have shifted my hunting efforts to Canada geese.

This close to Christmas, it can be hard to devote much time to hunting, which makes hunting Canadian honkers even more attractive.  There’s not a county in the state that doesn’t have at least as many of the big birds as it needs.  Consequently, you don’t have to go far to find them.  Geese are nuisances around golf courses, city parks and subdivisions, where the combination of ponds and large expanses of mowed areas act like goose magnets.

Goose Abundance

When people can’t cross their own driveways or take a walk in the park without stepping in goose poop, they frequently ask the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to do something to reduce goose numbers or at least move them away from people.  MDC encourages people to take the initiative in controlling goose numbers.  It even gives hunters and early hunting season in addition to the regular season, which runs through Feb. 6 this year, with generous daily and possession limits of three and nine respectively.

The key to cashing in on the abundance of Canada geese is finding landowners who are fed up with goose poop on their sidewalks and lawns, and convincing them that a polite, safety-conscious hunter like you is the answer to their problem.  When you spot a pond with a bunch of geese around it, put on nice clothes, shave and knock on their door with a carefully planned sales pitch.  Something like, “I noticed that you have a lot of geese around your pond and wondered if you have problems with them pooping on your driveway or tearing up your lawn?”

Request Permission – Here’s How

If they say no, that they like having geese around, thank them for their time and move on to the next place.  But if they admit that the geese sometimes are too much of a good thing, tell them that you might be able to help them with the problem.  Tell them that geese are gregarious, and if one group is using their lake, others will soon follow.  But geese also are smart, and they quickly abandon places where they don’t feel safe.  A few visits by a hunter during the three-month hunting season will discourage some of the flocks, keeping the number that visit their property to a manageable level.  Don’t overpromise.  Your chances of permanently scaring all the geese off a particular pond are practically zero.  Anyway, most landowners want fewer geese, rather than none at all.

Be sure to mention important details, such as your willingness to call before each visit to their pond. Ask them what times of day and which parts of their property they feel comfortable with you hunting. And be sure to emphasize that you will always be careful to shoot only in safe directions, taking livestock, buildings, neighbors and nearby roads into account.  You also can offer to share the bounty, should you succeed in bagging geese.  A plucked and dressed – maybe even roasted – Christmas goose is a great way to say thank you for the privilege of hunting.

Be Ready, Go Prepared

My favorite goose pond is just two miles down the blacktop from my house.  The owner is a widow who would be just as happy if she never saw another goose.  She is so motivated that she calls me when she looks out her window and sees a bunch of geese.  She long ago told me not to bother calling before opening fire.  I can help myself any time.  I try to cruise by her house whenever leaving the house or coming home to increase my chances of surprising a bunch of honkers.  I keep my 12-gauge autoloader and a box of BB steel shot shells in the truck throughout the goose season, along with a pair of muck boots and coveralls.  That way I can suit up and go to “work” on a moment’s notice.

I have occasionally hunted from a ground blind, but I usually jump shoot geese.  The pond dam provides cover at the deep end, and a wooded draw at the other end offers cover for sneaking up on birds at the shallow end.  If the geese are near the house, I park on the road and pop up over a little rise in the yard within 20 yards if the unsuspecting birds.  Last year I bagged nine geese this way.  My neighbor was grateful, and my retriever got some work she wouldn’t have had otherwise.  I removed the breast meat from most of the birds and used to make one of my extended family’s favorite Thanksgiving appetizers – goose rumaki.

Favorite Recipe

This is a variation on the traditional recipe that uses goose liver wrapped in bacon.  Instead of liver, I substitute half-inch cubes of goose breast meat marinated in teriyaki sauce. I wrap these in bacon with a slice of either water chestnut or jalapeno pepper.  I also add fresh ginger and minced garlic to the marinade for extra flavor.  Even my daughter, who ordinarily isn’t fond of red meat, thinks these are extraordinary.

Farm ponds in rural areas also are great places for this kind of hunting, though you might have to spend some time identifying the owner.  Plat maps (land owner property/lot map) at the county assessor’s office are an excellent resource for this.  I prefer knocking on doors and asking for information.  It increases your opportunities to talk with landowners who might welcome a hunter thinning local goose numbers.  Keep this in mind next time you pass a pond crowded with geese.  It’s a great way to extend the fun of waterfowl season past the point when the ducks depart for Arkansas.