Early Canada goose season is best kept secret in Carolinas

Big daily bag limits are big draw to early goose season hunters

Throughout much of the Carolinas, deer hunting and dove hunting seasons get into full swing this month. The saltwater fishing is also going strong. Bass will soon begin their fall transition. And catfishing is going strong on most of the lakes and rivers. And in all this, another season is also open, but often overlooked. The early Canada goose season is going on right now.

It is quite possibly the best kept secret in the outdoors world.

The early goose season runs through the last weekend of September. And it usually comes in and goes out with little fanfare, thanks to a number of factors.

“It’s still really hot, many folks are hunting deer or getting ready to hunt for deer. Others are focused on this weekend’s dove opener. And most people just aren’t in the habit of hunting geese so early in the year,” said Lancaster, S.C.’s Blake Hodge of Wrecking Crew Guide Service (803-320-3477).

But Hodge said a lot of positives linger for those who do pursue the big birds this time of year.

Early Canada goose season daily limit is 15 per person

“Probably the main difference between now and the regular waterfowl season is that you can keep 15 geese now as opposed to only five. So you can really have a lot of fun shooting and get plenty of meat for the freezer in the early season. And in most of North Carolina, you don’t have to plug your shotgun during the early season,” said Hodge.

And regulations aren’t the only thing different when it comes to hunting the early season as opposed to the regular waterfowl season.

“Hunting geese in the early season is a lot different. And one reason for that is the early season geese are mostly resident geese that have been here all year long, and have their own favorite places to go each day. That may change when a field is harvested. But it is possible to pattern them by watching them over the course of a few days. However, it’s almost impossible to lure them in with decoys or with calling this time of year. They have their minds made up on when and where they are going to land, and there’s really not a whole lot you can do to change that.

Scouting is the key in the early season

“Scouting is much more important in the early season. You can identify different groups of geese and then make a note of where each group spends most of their time. They are much more territorial than the geese we’ll hunt later in the year. And right now, decoys can literally push them away from landing where they normally land instead of attracting them,” said Hodge.

Another popular way to hunt geese in the early season is by taking a shotgun along while fishing farm ponds from johnboats or canoes. That’s how John Catarino of Lumberton, NC spends many evenings this month.

“I’ve got access to a handful of small farm ponds that range in size from an acre to about 20 acres. These resident geese spend a lot of time in these ponds and you can pattern them pretty accurately without much thought. I fish these ponds a lot all summer and into the fall. So I see the geese and know what time of day they’ll be at which ponds,” said Catarino.

The bonus, he said, is that by the time early goose season opens, the birds are used to seeing him. So they don’t shy away from him, at least not until the shooting starts.

Go fishing, but dress for hunting

“I fish out of an olive drab johnboat, and throughout the summer, I don’t pay much attention to what I wear. But I do tone down my colors once early goose season starts. Before you ever fire the first shot of the season, they’ll keep their regular distance from you. But your presence won’t prevent them from coming in and landing like normal. Now once you’ve killed a few of them, they’ll be more wary about you, and they’ll change up which ponds they land at sometimes. But if you give them a few days’ rest, they’ll go right back to their normal behavior,” he said.

“And on some days, they won’t show up at the pond you’re on, but that just means more time for fishing, and the geese will probably come around on your next trip,” he said.

Click here for North Carolina’s early goose season regulations. Find South Carolina’s regulations by clicking here.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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