Backyard Safari- In Search of the Elusive Goose
In an attempt to control the exploding goose population in California the Dept. of Fish and Game opened a late season goose hunt specifically targeting White fronted geese (Specks) and Snow geese. For the boys and I it was a great excuse to throw the blind on the boat and take a spin around the block(river). Equipped with shotguns, decoys, and my trusty Nikon D90 we took a short boat ride to one of the flooded islands in the area, set up our decoys, popped up the blind, poured a cup of coffee and waited in anticipation.
As hunting for dinner went it was a slow day, as the sun rose in the sky our visions of a roast goose dinner diminished, there was not a Speck or Snow goose to be seen.. Despite the lack of table fare opportunities all was not lost, the sunrise and photo opportunities of the ducks, Canadian geese (Honkers) and various shorebirds that inhabit the area were abundant and well worth the trip. In addition to marveling at the beauty of nature and the abundant wildlife that inhabits the area we got to hone our waterfowl calling skills on both honkers and mallards.
Whether hunting with a gun or hunting with a camera, calling ducks and geese to decoy for me is always an exciting experience. Wild ducks and geese are extremely wary and to get them within range of shot or camera can be difficult at best. To be successful on a consistent basis requires certain measures to be taken. First and foremost you must be concealed, camouflage and face paint are at times the uniform of the day. Location is also a key factor, if you want to shoot waterfowl then you have to understand what they do and why they do it, a good rule of thumb is find an area with water and a great food source, grain, corn etc. near by.
In my case I live on the Delta which basically water surrounded by farms, it is in effect a duck factory. Having a boat with a blind on it helps me to set up and conceal myself in areas that the ducks and geese frequent but for those of us that don’t have a boat or ready access to a river as I do, Federal Wildlife Refuges offer some great shooting opportunities. Most Refuges have areas set aside for hunting during the waterfowl season as well as areas set aside for viewing and photographing waterfowl in their natural habitat; these areas are usually open year round.
In California you can find a list of public access refuges at dfg.ca.gov/. Access to these Refuges for use other that waterfowl hunting is usually free and well worth the trip for photographers, hikers and nature enthusiasts. Odds are there is a refuge located right in your own backyard, so do yourself a favor, get out, get healthy, and check out the world that most people drive by without a thought on their way to work and remember and I cannot stress this enough, when photographing waterfowl your best photo ops are going come if you can remain concealed and quiet, so go ahead and bring your phone but turn it off for an hour or so.