Also known as specklebellies, white-fronts don't number in the millions like snow geese, although populations increased dramatically over the last 40 years. In the Mississippi Flyway, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service counted only 12,000 specks in aerial surveys in the mid-1950s. Now, they number well over one million.
Hunting specklebellies resembles duck hunting more than snow goose hunting. In fact, many hunters bag limits of ducks and specks from the same blinds. Practically the only difference between the two species is that geese prefer drier ground than ducks. They tend to land more in wet or damp crop fields than in flooded marshes.
"We kill specklebellies out of duck blinds," said Rick Hall of Doug's Hunting Lodge who hunts pit blinds in agricultural fields near Gueydan, La. "I don't like using floating goose decoys because geese don't normally get in deep water unless they're roosting. During the day, they don't swim around."
Unlike snow geese that fly in huge flocks, specklebellies typically cluster in small flocks numbering up to a dozen. Therefore, speck hunters don't require massive blankets of decoys. Sometimes, one or two decoys might work better than a massive spread. At other times, hunters may need half a dozen to a dozen.
Good calling might mean the difference between shots and sighs. Good calling, at the right time, could bring more geese into range. Existing in smaller groups, specks rely upon wariness to survive unlike snow geese, which benefit from safety in numbers. Because they travel in singles, pairs or small flocks, they must remain more alert. However, smaller flocks may respond better to good calling. "If you can get specks talking back and forth to you, they'll usually come in," said Sammie Faulk, a guide for Cameron Wildlife near Sweet Lake, La. "Snow geese usually travel in larger flocks, so there's more calling. With specks, most of the time, one caller is talking to one goose in the flock."
Convince the lead specklebelly to visit, and the entire flock might swing within range. However, sharp-eyed geese can easily spot something unusual. One false move, and the flock disappears at high speed. Therefore, blind material should look as natural as possible. In fact, it shouldn't look like anything at all. For this reason, low pit blinds dominate goose hunting. A blind, sunk four or five feet into the ground doesn't stand out as much as a huge blockhouse on a major lake. Place native vegetation liberally around the pit. Add a roof or place vegetation over the top. Geese can easily see into a blind when flying high overhead. Use only vegetation indigenous to that area. Sometimes, in adequate cover, no blind makes the best blind.
"Specks are more wary, but they can be rather easy to decoy," said David Smith, who guides near Eunice, La. "For targeting specks, stay away from rags and stick to full-body or shell speck decoys and just a few of them. I like to hunt the end of the spread for specks. Watch where birds fly. If they flare 100 yards from the rags, get out there 100 yards and hide."
Blind or no blind, hunters must remain motionless when geese turn into their landing patterns. A false jump or a face sticking out of the grass could quickly flare the entire flight. A camouflaged facemask minimizes face reflection, but cannot entirely replace stealth.
Everyone wants to watch geese decoy and drop into the spread. When they spread their huge wings and drop their feet to land, it's an awesome sight. However, it's even better while aiming down a shotgun barrel. Only the most experienced hunter in the blind should watch the birds from deep cover. Others should hide their faces in the grass and remain motionless until the "blind boss" gives the order to shoot. Whenever possible, shoot for the head to guarantee either a clean miss or a clean kill. The large, densely feathered birds can absorb huge shot loads without allowing much damage to vital organs. Broad wings can absorb tremendous punishment.
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