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"In the Outdoors" with Jerry Carlson - Dec2014

Calling & Flagging Geese

When it comes to Canada goose hunting, there are many different components that have to come together for a successful outing. Two of the most important ones are calling and flagging.


Learning to call geese is a lifelong endeavor that I am not sure is ever totally mastered. Hunters that expect to pick up a call and effectively “talk” to geese without hours of practice are fooling themselves. There is a serious commitment to practice associated with calling geese.


There is no substitute for a quality short reed call. It is the only kind of call that is going to make the variety of sounds that are needed to work shy birds. Many hunters avoid the decision to purchase a quality short reed call because of the price and difficulty in blowing them.


I have purchased, tuned and learned to use a half dozen quality calls over the years Through this experience, I have found that the easiest to blow, best tuned call I have ever used is from Barrels Up (www.barrlesup.com). It is also under $50 which makes it an incredible value. All of the people I hunt with have switched to this call.


Earlier in this article I made reference to “talking” to geese. That is what a good caller does. This talking concept is especially important when the geese are in close. The best way I know of to scare finishing geese it to go through a calling contest routine of aggressive sounds.


Clucks, double clucks, moans and the feeding grovel are the real basics of finishing birds. Subtle is the key. The closer they get, the more you need to focus on quiet, single clucks and the feeding grovel and the less you need to shout at them.  


If you pull some birds out of a flock, don’t be too quick to get up and collect your downed geese. Instead, reload and work at calling and flagging to bring the birds back for a second round. Getting a second crack at them is very common, especially if it is a family group.


Flagging is another simple component that is extremely important in the process of attracting and finishing geese. Like calling, you need to know when to be aggressive and when to lay off.


Geese have incredible eyesight, far superior to ours. If you can see them, they can most certainly see you as they are looking at you through magnified vision.


Flagging to geese in the distance is extremely effective. They pick up on this movement and become interested in your spread. I believe the movement concept has a lot to do with why geese always show up when someone is out of the blind walking around.


In order to make my flags more visible, I put them on long, telescoping poles. This way I can get the flag high into the air to make it even more visible to distant geese.


The long pole is also helpful when the geese are in close. I can pick up the flag, give it a couple of flaps and set it down without attracting too much attention to my blind. The movement is ten to 12 feet away.


I don’t flag that much when geese are in close. If they hesitate about coming in, I will work them as they turn a corner for a second look but never when they are bearing down on the spread.


The movement added by flagging is a critical part of the hunting process. Just remember to keep the movements subtle when they are in close or you will flare them. If they are locked and coming, keep the flag still.


Calling and flagging are two critical parts of goose hunting success. Being aggressive when the birds are at a distance is fine, but when in close, talk to the geese with quiet, reassuring sounds and coax them in with subtle flagging.