Early Season Goose Hunt A Success

Having never hunted Minnesota’s early goose season, I was excited when my friend Jason Riopel called one evening to invite me along early season goose hunting the next morning. He said his friend Aaron Sawatzky had been scouting and located a couple hundred of Canada geese in a stubble field in Clay County, Minnesota, not far from the Red River where I live. It was the third week in September and the last week of Minnesota’s early goose season.

I drove to our meeting location just north of town in an unexpected thunderstorm with frequent lightning strikes! Naturally, I wasn’t real excited about laying in a flat stubble field, holding a 12-gauge lightning rod! We all agreed, however, to give it a try, as it would still be better than working.

The hunters put out about 40 goose decoys.

Mosquitoes On The Attack!
Fortunately, by the time we got to the field, about 20 miles away, we could see the blue sky moving in from the west. As the storm moved off to the southeast, we noticed another problem moving in — mosquitoes!

An unusually warm and wet week in the middle of September had brought mosquitoes. They were hard to swat with our arms full carrying our gear about 1/4-mile across the muddy, stubble field. The mosquitoes were ferocious and plentiful as we put out about 40 decoys and set up our layout blinds. Sawatzky finally gave in, saying “I’ll run to the Pearly C-store to get some repellant.” He returned in 20 minutes without the repellant, since the C-store didn’t open until 7 a.m.

Still before daylight, a lone greenhead circled and circled, landed once in our spread, and circled some more at about 25 yards out. What a pretty sight on a September Friday morning!

The hunters used layout blinds with great success.

“He won’t last long on opening day,” Riopel noted as the mallard kept coming back.

Layout Blinds Work
With five of us in the group laid out in a row, our layout blinds oriented to the north, we agreed that the two “newbie’s,” Larry Cihacek and I, would get the first shot. After, the first shot, however, it was fair game for anyone to join in.

The first group of 20 geese came right in to our spread, coaxed on by Pat Hollihan and Riopel’s calling. They dropped in on the south side and when Riopel said, “OK, shoot ’em,” my retiree body couldn’t get up from its prone position and get turned around fast enough to get a shot. Even without me shooting, three geese were on the ground.

Several more groups of from three to a dozen came in, came back, and left missing a few of their numbers. Some even came back after we shot one or more of their buddies so we could have another crack at them. The mosquitoes never left, nor did they leave us alone.

Jason Riopel (left) and Aaron Sawatzky retrieving two big Canadas.

Two cripples glided about 1/4-mile to the township road to the north. Riopel went over with his new boots to retrieve them, stone dead, from across the water-filled ditch! He has been hoping to shoot a banded goose for several years and told us, “one of those better have a band if I’m going to get wet feet to get it.” And wouldn’t you know it, one did have a band!

Last-Minute Geese
As usual, as we were thinking about starting to pack up, some flocks were showing up on the horizon. Back into the layout blinds we went with the calls blaring. We added two more to our bag and decided to call it quits about 10 a.m. so Hoolihan could make it to his college class on time.

The author shows off some nice Canadas.

After several photos of the group and our geese, we packed up and trudged the 1/4-mile back to our trucks.

We had about half our total limit of early season Canada geese along with memories of shooting them that will last a long time.

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