Gettin’ Goosy in Oregon’s Late Waterfowl Seasons
By Gary Lewis
All was quiet in the last moments of the night. Soon day would push back the dark. Was it my imagination or were the geese moving out on the lake?
We lay in the middle of a group of Canada goose decoys in a cut-over barley field, watching the eastern sky pale through loosely-woven burlap blankets. The barrel of my shotgun just protruded from the corner of the straw-covered camo blanket. Darren Roe lay in the middle of another flock of decoys 35 yards to my right.
We could hear the beat of wings before we saw the birds. There were honkers coming. I could hear them first from the south, circling to land into the north wind. Spreading their wings, they stretched out their webbed feet, now almost on top of Darren.
He waited until they were ten feet off the ground. "Now take 'em," he yelled, throwing off the burlap, his barrel scribing a swift upward arc, his shoulder rocking with the recoil from his semi-auto shotgun.
Because the birds were so close to my partner, I had to pass on the shot. But there would be another opportunity. While his Chesapeake retrieved, Darren talked the remaining birds into another pass.
I put my hand on the warm walnut stock and slid my fingers around the grip, laying my index on the trigger guard, thumb on the safety.
Now they were turning and banking, setting their wings for another try at landing in the decoys. I rose to a sitting position, chose a target, put the barrel on a bird and tightened up on the trigger.
For adrenaline-inspired ecstasy in camouflage, there is no better place than a goose blind and no better time to take to the fields than right now.
Oregon hunters harvest an average of almost 42,000 geese each year. Of these, Canada geese make up 86% of the harvest. Lesser Snow and Ross account for just over 10% of the annual take, and Greater White Fronted average around 3% of the harvest.
The western Canada goose is the only goose that nests in Oregon. However, there are other species of geese that can be found here in the fall and winter. These include the Snow goose, Ross, Greater White Fronted (speckle-bellies) and Black Brant.
There are several seasons that run throughout the state in the fall and winter designed to keep both resident and migratory populations in check.
The Northwest Oregon Permit Season is held in the northwest corner of the state. It is held to help control damage done to agricultural crops by increasing numbers of Canada geese. Most of the hunting is on private lands. There are specific permit hunt areas for this hunt and hunters need to pass a goose identification home study course provided by the ODFW. A daily harvest report form must be maintained and in possession while hunting.
Period 1 of the Northwest Oregon Permit Goose hunt closed on November 6. Period 2 opened November 19 and will run through January 15, excluding Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Period 3 reopens goose hunting on February 5 and closes on February 26.
Hunters should be familiar with the Oregon Game Bird Regulations and the details of this hunt before hunting.
The General Fall Seasons began in October and will run to January 29. There is a Northwest zone and a Southwest zone. The Northwest Oregon General Zone is made up of those portions of Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Linn, Lincoln and Lane counties outside of the Northwest Oregon Permit Zone.
The Southwest General Zone is made up of Coos, Curry, Douglas, Josephine and Jackson counties. Eastern Oregon is divided into two seasons. The season in Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties begins on December 15 and runs through January 29. The season in the remaining eastern Oregon counties runs from November 1 through January 29. See the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for exact details.
GETTING HIP FOR GEESE
Before taking to the marshes for ducks or geese, an Oregon waterfowler needs a state waterfowl stamp, a federal duck stamp and a hunting license validated with HIP (The state's Harvest Information Program).
HOW TO GOOSE A SHORT REED CALL
According to Darren Roe of Roe Outfitters the Short Reed Goose Call provides the most versatile range of tone and pitch of any call on the market. "Years ago, Tim Grounds, a Midwest waterfowl hunter, started it all with what he called the Halfbreed, the original short reed goose call."
Today, many variations on the original call are available, made from ABS, polycarbonate and acrylic. Calls made from ABS range in price from $39 to $80. Polycarbonate calls range in price from $90 to $150. And acrylics will set you back somewhere between $120 and $210.
Darren prefers a call made from an acrylic body. "Acrylics may be the most expensive, but they have the crispest tones," he said. "Each call manufacturer has their own theory on what diameter of bore and degree of flare makes the best call. I prefer one that builds more back-pressure and takes less air to blow so you can blow it softer."
"The grip is critical. To create back pressure, you put your index finger at the base of your thumb to form an 'O' at the very end of the call. Then close your pinky finger and your ring finger against your palm as if in a fist. You use your 'birdie' finger to regulate the air pressure and flow to create all the sounds."
Play the call like you would play an instrument. "Don't blow with your mouth," Darren said. Air pressure should originate in your diaphragm. "Keep the same amount of air flow going."
"Use your middle finger to change tones and your off-hand to direct the sound up and down and left and right." Begin to muffle your call as the birds get closer. The subtle sound will keep them coming.