The most important factor other than location that can help you have a good goose hunt is weather, and wind plays a big part of it. Hunting geese in high winds is not for the faint hearted, however. It usually means hunting after cold fronts in harsh conditions with gusts over 30 mph.
Waterfowl hunters are no stranger to bad weather. While some may relish it, being prepared for high wind situations and knowing which tactics works best can help you be more productive in the field. And whether it’s a blue norther coming through in North Dakota or a strong southeast wind on the Texas prairies, using the wind to your advantage can pay off big time.
These are the top 7 tips for hunting geese in high wind conditions that will help you bag more geese.
1) Place your spread between the roost and where the birds are feeding
Half the battle with hunting geese is getting them to come down within shooting range. Some of the best goose hunts I’ve ever had involved setting the spread between the roost and where the birds were headed to feed. I’ve always heard, and it seems to ring true that geese tend to leave the roost against the wind. I’m not sure why this is but use it to your advantage and pay attention to where the geese are feeding.
If it just so happens that geese are feeding north of the roost on a calm day and you’re expecting a front to blow through in the next couple days, then expect them to come off the roost first thing that morning into the wind toward the field they are comfortably feeding in. If you’ve done your homework and set your spread in the flight path, you’ll have thousands of birds crossing over you and hopefully committing to your decoys.
A stiff wind helps level the playing field as soon as the birds leave the roost in the morning and you don’t have to be on the X to have a good hunt.
Pro Tip: If you’re under the flight line of the roost, let a couple flocks pass from time to time to build the trust of those behind them.
For decoy strategies in high winds, read more here.
2) Put windsock decoys as low to the ground as possible
Windsock spreads are a great way to put a ton of goose decoys out quickly, but high winds lead to what some describe as the “death wobble”. The death wobble is where a typical 24-inch staked windsock, whether it’s a Sillosock, Northwind, or White Rock, shakes in the wind uncontrollably. This condition usually occurs during the peak of high wind gusts that exceed 30 mph.
Not only does this look unnatural, windsocks can also create a lot of noise and popping sounds from being violently thrashed by the wind. In order to cut down on the unnatural movement and noise issues that could flare decoying geese, the solution is to press the decoy stake as far down into the soil as possible. If winds are high enough, this may even require pressing the decoy stake entirely down into the ground.
Pro Tip: When setting out or picking up decoys where stakes are being driven further down into the ground, always grasp the stake itself and not the decoy, otherwise the pressure applied could cause the decoy to separate from the stake.
3) Position blinds or layouts at the front of the spread
Hunting geese in high winds usually means they won’t be approaching from high up and don’t need a lot of space to work before being in range. One tactic that takes advantage of this is to set blinds and layouts at the front edge of the spread.
This is especially critical for hunting snow geese since they love to skirt off the spread at 50 yards after hanging up in the wind with ample time to pick apart your spread. Moving the blinds to the front edge means more shots on birds in range.
Pro Tip: Pile decoys up around your blinds and on top of them to help them blend in.
4) Ditch the steel shot, switch to Hevishot
Hunting geese in high winds can be difficult due to how fast the birds can vacate the area once the first shots have been fired. Once they flare up they catch the wind and are immediately out of range, making follow up shots impossible. Shooting the best ammo for geese is one way to be effective in windy conditions.
Steel shot only compounds the problem since it’s susceptible to wind drift and lacks the energy to stay on target for longer follow up shots. The key to being more productive in high wind situations is to switch to heavier than lead shot, like Hevishot.
Investing in Hevishot for windy conditions means less lead time, better pass throughs, and less cripples that ride the wind never to be seen again.
Pro Tip: Look for Hevishot on sale in the offseason as retailers get rid of their inventory. It’s the best time to stock up on what could otherwise be a rather costly purchase.
5) Modify your calling techniques
If you’ve ever hunted in high winds you know that it’s difficult to hear just about everything. Distant geese that you could hear clearly on a calm day are not audible until they are within a few hundred yards. And if you can’t hear them, they most likely can’t hear you either.
Modifying your calling tactics can help geese hear you from far off, but it must be done just right. The first step is to use long notes and high barks. Long notes travel further and combined with high pitched barks and yelps can get the attention of distant geese on windy days.
Once you get their attention, you can then dial it back to coax them in close for the shot.
Pro Tip: Feed chuckles and gabbling calls are useless on windy days. Stick to the rich tone high barks and yelps and keep the notes longer than usual so it can travel further.
6) Use flyer decoys to simulate birds landing
Flyer decoys and goose flagging systems can be a touchy subject with goose hunters, do they work or are they just a gimmick? I’ve personally seen them work, and more often than not on years with a good hatch and lots of juvy birds in the flock they can help you bag more birds. For some reason juvy geese just love to hone in on flier decoys.
On the other hand, I’ve also seen geese flare off them. Especially older snow geese that have seen it all. On windy days I’ll usually deploy Sillosock fliers and gauge the bird’s reaction. Sometimes they help and other times I’ll take them down if the birds aren’t finishing right.
Experiment with flyer decoys to simulate birds landing in high winds, it could help add realism the birds are looking for.
Pro Tip: Set the flier decoys in the back of the spread to simulate birds hopping around looking for food as they feed into the wind.
7) Layer up your clothing to stay warm
Often overlooked when hunting geese on windy days is the fact that the wind chill factor is going to be extreme. If birds aren’t moving, it just makes it even more miserable. The one thing you do have under your control is the ability to stay warm and be prepared for the conditions.
Layering up is the most effective way to stay warm on cold mornings when the temperature is below freezing, and the winds are howling out of the north. Base layers capable of wicking away sweat and perspiration are key, along with double layers of socks, a durable windproof jacket like Sitka cold weather gear, and even hand warmers.
Pro Tip: Place hand warmer packets in your boots to keep your toes warm the entire hunt.
Hunting geese on windy days is often the most successful time to be in the field. High winds usually force geese to fly low and this makes decoying them even easier. Employ these goose hunting tips to be more successful on your next windy day hunt.
Placing your decoy spread between the roost and the field they are feeding in is the most important aspect of hunting on windy days. This forces geese to fight the wind over your spread and hopefully puts you in a good position to decoy birds right into your spread.
If you’re hunting with windsock decoys like Sillosocks, place the stake as far down in the ground as possible. This will reduce the noise the decoys make popping around and also prevent the dreaded death wobble in high winds. Positioning your blinds at the front of the spread will help give you opportunities on birds that are fighting the wind only to skirt off at the last second.
High winds tend to make steel shot drift and reduce its overall effectiveness. Switch to Hevishot and other heavier than lead alternatives to increase your success for hunting geese in high winds. Modify you calling techniques to include longer notes and high-pitched barks and yelps so they travel further.
Flyer decoys need wind to work and placing them upwind of your spread gives the impression that birds are hopping around to find food. Finally, layer up in cold, high wind conditions in order to stay warm for long periods of time. The last thing you want is to quit the hunt early because it’s too cold.
Hunting geese on Big Water? Read More Here