Goose hunting can be extremely frustrating, especially when geese won’t completely commit and land in the decoys. It’s happened to me countless times when I was just starting out, and it left me wondering what I was doing wrong.
More often than not, I realized geese wouldn’t land in the decoys for the same reoccurring reasons. Something did not look right to them and as such would flare off before they committed fully. After analyzing my spread, blinds, and hunting locations, I came up with the top reasons why geese wouldn’t land in my decoys.
Most of the time geese wouldn’t land in my decoys because I was hunting a bad location to begin with, my decoys sucked (hey, sometimes you have to do your best with what you have), I wasn’t concealing myself or the blinds properly, or someone moved while the birds were getting close.
Here are the top reasons why geese are not landing in your decoys and steps you can take to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
1) Bad location
Hunting where the birds want to be can make you look like a ROCKSTAR. All the other factors that go into getting geese to land in your spread can go out the window if they want in your spot bad enough.
The problem though is that we can’t always hunt exactly where the birds want to be. Either someone else got permission to the hunt the field or you’re confined to the lease you’re on. Whatever the case may be, picking a bad location to hunt ensures birds will never land in your decoys.
And if you can’t be where the birds want to be, don’t get frustrated when they won’t fully commit. To consistently get geese to land, you must have a lot of factors in your favor, including the rest of the items in this list.
If you want to read more about how to get the best goose hunting fields to put yourself in the best locations, check out my top 10 tips for hunting geese that I’ve compiled from decades of trial and error.
2) Decoys are not realistic enough
I can’t express this enough, DON’T SKIMP ON THE QUALITY OF DECOYS. For geese to get close enough to land, they are going to be able to see the smallest details with your spread.
Feather detail and flocking can go a long way in reducing shine and other factors that make goose decoys appear less life like. There were times I couldn’t afford the best decoys and while geese did land sometimes, more often than not they got close enough. Reduce your expectations if you can’t set a realistic looking spread.
Pro Tip: If you can only afford a dozen or so realistic decoys, place them where you think the birds will land. The larger spread will get their attention and the more realistic decoys will help build their confidence.
3) Hunters not properly concealed
I hunt by myself a lot, so hiding well is pretty easy. The problem I see most often are large groups of 5 or more hunters trying to hide in a field with very little cover and the birds want nothing to do with it.
5 or more layout blinds not properly camouflaged is a huge eyesore to geese and doesn’t look natural. Learning to properly conceal hunters in your spread goes a long way to getting geese to land consistently.
4) Birds are too pressured
Let’s face it, geese are smart birds and get even smarter when they are shot at each and every day. They learn quickly what most goose spreads look like and what a human caller sounds like.
Pressured birds are the hardest to get to land in the decoys and some mornings it may even seem impossible. Finding unpressured birds can mean all the difference in the world.
Most of my best hunts have occurred in areas where birds just aren’t hunted much. I often found fields bordering ranches or areas where the geese weren’t hunted at all. When they left those areas, they acted like they had never seen a spread before and landed almost IMMEDIATELY.
5) Movement in the blind
Geese that are interested in your spread are looking for any unnatural movement to indicate that something is not right. If your decoys are all moving in unison, they can’t quite pick out anything that looks out of place.
If all of sudden they see something camouflaged move, the gig is up. They will flare and be gone forever. If I was a goose and saw the ground suddenly move (i.e. a camouflaged hand or head), I would be a little freaked out too.
Geese are constantly looking for anything out of the ordinary. Any movement by hunters, either reaching for something or turning to look, can cause geese to flare off and not land in your spread.
Pro Tip: Have a conversation before the hunt with the rest of the hunters in your spread to let them know that movement while birds are working won’t be tolerated.
6) Shine from decoys or equipment
Decoy shine is the leading killer of great goose hunts. Kiss any hopes of landing bird’s goodbye. Shine is not limited to decoys though, as watches, firearms, coke cans, and even faces can reflect the sun and be seen for miles.
To reduce decoy shine, hunt on overcast days with a steady wind. Avoid clear and calm days where moisture buildup can cause reflection on each and every decoy you set out.
After the sun comes up, I always walk away from the spread to check to see if anything might be causing a reflection that I’m not aware of. This has helped save numerous hunts for me.
7) Calling too much or too little
Some great goose callers can do some amazing things with decoying birds. Mastering calling takes time and experience that is hard to replicate from lessons or practice alone.
To get really good at calling geese, you need to hunt as much as possible to experience as many different situations to determine what works. Simply showing up and doing your same old calling routine might work one day, but don’t expect it to work all the time.
To get geese to land in your spread, you need to know when to call and when not to. Overcalling can spook birds and under calling can leave them without the confidence to come closer.
Finding the sweet spot and judging how birds react on any given day, will help you adjust your calling to what the birds want to hear.
Pro Tip: Calling less is usually better. Call enough to keep their interest, but not enough to blow your cover.
8) No open spots in the decoys for them to land
Goose decoy strategies play an important role in deciding where geese will land. If you set a tight spread with no openings, the geese might land, but it will be on the edge of your spread.
Landing on the edge of the spread is not necessarily a confidence booster for geese. If you watch geese from afar, they almost always land amongst the center of other geese. This is naturally the area where geese feel safer having just arrived to a field. They then work their way outward.
Implement this strategy into your goose spread as well. Set two or three holes in the landing zones to give the geese a place to land where they feel safe. You’ll land more geese and at spots for better shots.
9) The spread is too noisy
If you’ve ever used windsocks, you know what I mean. A strong wind will cause them to make a popping or snapping noise as they dance around.
This is a very difficult situation to get geese to land in because the sound of 1,000 windsocks in the wind is not natural. Geese will usually be lulled in by the movement alone, but getting them to fully commit can be almost impossible with the horrendous sound.
I usually try and place windsocks stakes as far into the ground as possible if there’s going to be a heavy wind. It helps streamline the decoy and not allow the back end to dance around as much.
Pro Tip: Switch to fullbody decoys in high winds to eliminate unwanted noise from windsocks.
10) They weren’t going to land anyways
Let’s face it, if I went around expecting to land geese each and every time I went hunting, I would walk away more disappointed than not. Sometimes geese just don’t want to land. Call it the stars not aligning or what have you, geese can change their mood drastically from one day to another.
The best luck I’ve had with getting geese to land in my spread with any kind of consistency is to follow the steps I’ve outlined above. More often than not, when I have each of these factors going for me, the birds will come in close and actually land.
Being in a good location can negate some of these factors, so start with being in the right field and work your way down. With a little luck, you’ll have geese not only landing in your spread, but on your blind as well.
John is our resident expert on the outdoors. He writes about outdoor gear, camping, traveling, and anything outdoors related. He has over 20 years experience camping and hiking the backwoods of Montana and has traveled extensively all over the world.