The distinctive honk and the silhouetted Vs are as much a sign of fall as the turning leaves.

Maine is the home to both resident and migratory populations of Canada geese, allowing hunters to take part in what can truly be a spectacular hunt. Geese respond extremely well to calling and decoys, and there are few hunts in Maine that can match the thrill of a flock of geese angling in toward your decoys.

Maine has an abundant Canada goose population. It’s hard to believe that in the early 1900s, Canada goose populations in North America were on the brink because of unrestricted harvesting of eggs, market hunting, and the draining of wetland habitat.

Stricter conservation regulations, wildlife habitat restoration and preservation, and large-scale crop farming created the right environment for an astounding recovery.

Some might argue the recovery has been too successful. While there are large populations of migrating Canada geese, the bulk of the nuisance geese complaints can be traced to resident populations of Canada geese.

These geese do not migrate far. Banding studies have shown that one resident goose population migrates from the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge near Calais to the Portland area, while a true migratory goose population migrates from Labrador and Newfoundland down to Maine.

With both resident and migratory populations on the rise, Maine hunters have lots of opportunities to hunt geese. Maine has an early season that focuses on the resident Canada goose population that runs from Sept. 1-25, with a daily bag limit of six geese in the north zone and 10 in the south and coastal zone.

The migratory Canada goose season begins Oct. 1 and continues to Dec. 21 in the northern zone, and there’s a split season from Oct. 1-29, and Nov. 14 to Jan. 5 in the southern and coastal zone, with a daily bag limit of three geese. To hunt geese in Maine, you need a hunting license and both a state and federal migratory waterfowl permit.

Like any hunt, your best chance for success will come if you scout and get landowner permission.

“I would patrol agricultural fields that were recently cut, particularly those along rivers such as the Androscoggin and the Kennebec. Check the fields close to the river in the morning and the evening,” says Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife game bird biologist Kelsey Sullivan. “Geese typically roost in a big river or pond overnight.”

When they come off the roost, they like to feed in the morning, and once they feed, they go back to their roosting area and will return late in the afternoon or early evening to feed again.

“Usually you will find them feeding in the same field, so if you see them there in the morning you can set up midday for an afternoon hunt,” says Sullivan. It also helps for scouting, as geese will generally be in the same field in the morning as they were the last evening. “They are very predictable until they get pressured, then they will change their patterns.”

Once you have your secured an area to hunt, orient yourself and where you will be hunting. Set your blinds up on the east side where the sun rises. That way your back will be to the sun, and your field of vision won’t be impaired by the sun as the geese come in toward the decoys.

Decoy selection and setup is also important. Experienced hunters will use a variety of decoys, including large magnum goose shells, life-size decoys and silhouette photo decoys.

Once the sun starts to rise, if you have selected the right spot, the fun is about to start. Usually you can hear geese in the distance as they prepare to set off to their feeding grounds. Once a flock is in the air, calling properly is important and if this is one of your first times, hunting with a guide or an experienced goose hunter can help.

If you are successful calling, you will see that familiar V formation circling toward you. If you are fortunate or skilled enough to get them to gracefully descend into your decoys, you will know why goose hunting is so spectacular.

Mark Latti is a Registered Maine Guide and the outreach coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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