Goose Hunting With J.R. Keller

EDITOR'S NOTE: Master Western hunter J.R. Keller of Delta, Colorado, a member of Hunter's Specialties' Hunt Team, is one of the most-versatile hunters in the U.S.

QUESTION: What type of geese do you mainly take?
ANSWER: We shoot a lot of Canada geese in our area, but we do mostly field hunting. The geese in most regions will hit an area for quite a while. Eventually they'll get wise if you hunt pretty hard, and they'll move to a different field. I'll get out early in the morning, even if I'm not hunting, and just follow the geese. I look for a big body of water where they'll roost at night. During the early morning, they'll get up off that water and go look for food. I'll often get in my truck and follow the geese to see where they land. I usually have to get permission from landowners to hunt these geese because we have to hunt over private land -- mostly farmlands and cornfields. Geese create nuisances for the farmers, so more often than not, they'll give hunters permission to take the geese.

QUESTION: When you get permission, then what do you do?
ANSWER: Once I get permission, I'll go out and study the field and look for a good place to set up. I look for spots that don't have tall cover. The geese don't like to fly over tall cover. Sometimes they'll circle and circle. They just won't come down because an area looks unnatural. If anything looks out of the ordinary, often they won't fly down. Geese don't like to land in tall stubble, so you have to look for fields where there's not a whole lot of cover. You often can hunt out of a pit blind or dig a pit, lie down in it and hunt under a big shell blind.

QUESTION: What type of decoys do you use for geese?
ANSWER: I use a lot of realistic decoys with strong bases. If you get into really windy conditions, you want something that will stand up in the wind and not get knocked over. I've noticed that the decoys that are most likely to get knocked over are the sentry decoys and the leggy geese decoys. The shell decoys don't fall over as much. Even if two or three decoys out of 60 to 80 decoys get blown over, the geese will not fly down to the water. The geese will know something is wrong.

QUESTION: What calls do you use?
ANSWER: We just came out with a brand new Slammer Short Reed goose call. This loud call seems to get the geese's attention. A lot of people use a short-reed goose call instead of flutes. A flute takes a lot more air to blow, and it doesn't give off as much volume. Short-reed calls don't require as much air, and they're much louder, which means you can get those geese's attention from a long distance.

QUESTION: When do you stop calling?
ANSWER: Basically, I call geese to get their attention. Once I have them working, and I know they're interested, I start toning down my calling. I'll build their excitement until I know they've committed. As they start to get close, and I see their cupped wings, I'll tone my calling down and do some low murmuring. You don't want the geese to pinpoint you.

QUESTION: Do you throw your call from side to side?
ANSWER: Yes, I don't call directly at them. I call to wingtips and tail feathers.