September goose season for us in Southeastern Virginia is what truly kickstarts our hunting season for the year & can allow for some of the best wing shooting around. As soon as the corn gets cut, the birds become very concentrated and predictable. With a little bit of scouting, one can pattern these early season resident birds very well, enabling the hunters to position themselves for a day of wing shooting fun that will be talked about for years to come.
The birds in September are very inexperienced and have not been exposed to all of the different spreads up and down the flyways, nor have they heard calling since January/February which can really make or break a late season hunt. We usually utilize a “J” or “U” shaped decoy spread, while also implementing some smaller family groups around the main part of the spread. While these are fairly mainstream decoy spreads, during your scouting, pay attention to what the birds in the field look like, and do your best to imitate the majority of the birds in the field. Do everything that you possibly can to make your spread look as real and natural as possible.
Most of our hunting is out of layout blinds, so our decision on where to set up is made between the wind direction and the amount of cover that we can hide our layouts in. As most know, waterfowl like to decoy into the wind, making your layout position at the upwind side of your decoy spread to get the best “in your face” shooting. Every now and then though, the cover you have is not available at the upwind side, and you must adjust to where a side shot instead of oncoming birds is necessary. The key is hiding your blinds as best as you possibly can, and enjoying the time in the field with your friends whether you’re shooting oncoming birds or maybe taking side shots.
In my area, the birds early in the year are incredibly responsive to calling. Knowing when to call birds in my opinion is far more important early on, than sounding like a world champion goose caller. If the birds are approaching or locked up on your decoy spread, I’m a firm believer in just letting the decoys do the work with minimal calling. As soon as the birds stray off of the spread a bit though, I tend to get on them until they get back on track with some calling whether it’s just a couple of honks, or a series of comeback calls. Some days though, you need to stay on them with constant calling all the way to the ground, some days you won’t really need to call at all. It all really depends on the day, and the first volley of birds can usually be a relatively good indication of what the birds are going to do on that particular day.
The early season is an extremely exciting time of the year, knowing that hunting season is here, and the shooting can be phenomenal. Not having to freeze to death and enjoying fun waterfowl shooting in shorts and a t-shirt is also a plus! If you have the opportunity to get out and try a September goose hunt, I definitely recommend getting out there and giving it a try, you won’t be disappointed. Just remember, the most important aspect of having a successful early season hunt, is being where the birds want to be, which always begins with scouting.
Marsh Mutt Prostaff