How Many Decoys Do I Need to Hunt Geese?
The number of decoys you need to hunt geese is an important consideration as you work to effectively hunt Canada geese.
If you ask most people this question they will typically say the more decoys you have in your goose decoy spreads the better. Although I will not completely disagree with this statement, it is not always necessary to fill the field with hundreds of decoys to have goose hunting success.
In fact, I have seen hunters have success with small decoy spreads if they know proper decoy setup techniques and can call geese effectively. Personally, I have had success with as few as 18 decoys setup if it is just me hunting.
Now lets discuss several of the considerations to take regarding the size of your decoy spread.
Factors Impacting the Number of Decoys in your Spread:
- Time of Season
- Decoy Type
- Number of Hunters
Time of Season
As a general rule of thumb, you will want to increase the number of decoys in your Canada goose decoy spreads as the hunting season progresses. This is because as the seasons progress so do the size of the flocks of the geese you will see due to the progressing migration.
It is often said that geese do not like to land in flocks that are smaller in size than the flock they have. For example, if a flock of geese that you see has 20 geese in it than you would need at least a decoy spread size of more than 20 to make them feel comfortable landing in your spread.
When you are hunting the early season you will typically be hunting local geese. These flocks are usually smaller since they are local and have not had a chance to congregate with other geese yet.
Number of Decoys: 12-18
Smaller spreads in the early season can be effective, particularly if you have full body decoys or oversized shell decoys that provide excellent visibility. Since you may see smaller groups of 2-12 birds, the smaller spreads can be effective. Having an extremely large decoy spread this early in the year can actually look unnatural to geese and they might not be attracted to the spread.
Another reason that these small goose spreads can work in the early season is the fact that the geese have not had much hunting pressure yet. This means that early season geese will feel comfortable landing with a smaller flock of Canada geese.
As the season progresses the number of geese migrating to your area will likely increase. This means that you will need to increase the number of decoys.
Number of Decoys: 20-40
In the mid-season, geese are beginning to connect with other migrating geese and it is not uncommon to see flocks of 12-30 geese. This means that you will likely want to move up to decoy spreads of 20-40 decoys.
Additionally, the geese have now begun to feel hunting pressure and they might have been shot at several times by now. For flocks to feel comfortable landing they want to see larger flocks as they have a tendency to feel more comfortable joining up with these larger numbers.
The late season calls for the largest of decoy spreads. Geese are now in full migration and the flocks are large.
Number of Decoys: 24-70+
This does not mean that you cannot have success with smaller numbers of decoys, especially if you get solo birds flying by. However, in order to pull in larger flocks, larger spreads are likely going to be needed.
With the late season try to mix up how you setup your decoys. By this time of year geese have been hunted hard for a few months and are used to seeing decoys. Try adjusting your setup to make your spread stand out from the others.
The type of decoy that you are hunting with can significantly impact the numbers you need in your Canada goose decoy spreads. Common decoy types include full body, shells, windsock and silhouette decoys.
For those who hunt with full body decoys they can sometimes get away with small goose spreads because full body goose decoys typically have the greatest visibility out of all of the decoy types. Oversized shell decoys also have great visibility for Canada geese.
In contrast, hunters using silhouette decoys are going to need a significantly larger number of decoys in their Canada goose decoy spreads.
This is because silhouette decoys are 2 dimensional and can only be seen when they are broadside to geese. For silhouette decoys to be effective, you need to have several dozen of them with the decoys facing a variety of directions so that regardless of the angle that the Canadian geese are approaching from they will be able to see some decoys.
Number of Hunters
Some experienced Canada goose hunters use a number of decoys in their spread formula based on the number of hunters they have with.
For example, a guide or experienced hunter may say they put out 2-3 dozen decoys per hunter in their party. So if they have 6 hunters and they use a 2 dozen decoy formula they would have at least 72 decoys in their spread.
There are a few reasons why they use a formula like this for determining their goose decoy spread sizes. First, every hunter you add also adds another blind in the field. With each blind added you need to ensure the blind is properly concealed.
In order to conceal these extra blinds you need more decoys in your spread to surround those blinds in order to make those bumps blend in better with the surroundings.
The second reason is the expanded width of the decoy spread needed to accommodate that many hunters. If you only had one hunter you could get away with small goose spreads because the hunter could be at the point of the small “V” and be easily concealed.
However, with these larger groups you need the point of the “V” to be thick enough so that all hunters are within the point of the “V”. By doing this it allows each hunter to have better shooting opportunities as the geese approach the decoy spread.
Final Thoughts on Proper Goose Decoy Spread Size
In general, larger spreads can be very effective for hunting geese. However, it is important to factor in all considerations before making a determination on how many decoys you need to put in your Canada goose decoy spreads.
Time of season, decoy type and the number of hunters in your party will all impact the number of decoys in your spread you need to effectively hunt geese and to have a proper goose decoy spread size. Regardless of what number you select, there is no guarantee that you will have success and this is exactly why it is called hunting and not shooting.
I encourage you to use the recommendations in this article as a starting point for your decoy spread size but I also want to encourage you to be willing to adjust. If you find that large decoy spreads are not working try playing around with small goose spreads and the way you setup your spreads. If you stay engaged and use trial and error you will eventually find out what works best for you and your area.
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Scott – Owner – DecoyPro