Chasing & bagging early-season Canada geese: Illinois hunting

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Silhouette decoys worked just fine Sunday morning during Illinois’ early Canada goose season.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Two Canada geese coasted in like ghosts, 10 feet off the ground, without a sound at dawn Sunday, then landed on the edge of our decoy spread. Frank Lagodny and I eyed them through corn leaves.

Soon, six more coasted in, again without a sound. With those, we stood and began shooting. It was a solid hunt. We bagged three and should have had more in several rounds of shooting.

Illinois’ early Canada goose season is Sept. 1-15. Northeast Illinois is loaded with local geese.

If you find a spot to hunt, it can be very good. There’s the crux of the matter, a place to hunt. Virtually no corn or beans are harvested by early September. Until forest preserves allow some goose hunting (a dream), that access issue isn’t changing much.

Here’s where Lagodny’s gift of talking to people helps. I got to know the retired Prosser shop teacher through Prosser’s wood-duck box project.

A few years ago he gained permission to hunt south of the city where the farmer grows more than corn and beans. But the farmer does have corn, so there is a natural blind for the early season.

Dawn before a successful early-season hunt for Canada geese in 2017.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Dawn before a successful early-season hunt for Canada geese.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Before dawn, we set four full-body decoys, then stuck a couple dozen silhouette decoys before retreating to the corn and our buckets. Silhouettes have several advantages, especially for urban hunters. Notably, they are compact enough to fit into a bag and easy to stick and pick up.

And they work. We had half a dozen groups come to our spread without any calling.

The early goose season overlaps with dove hunting, which opens on Sept. 1. So we also carried No. 7 steel shot for doves and pigeons. We spent much of the morning quietly switching shells for the game within range. As it was, we only saw two doves and lots of pigeons, all still flying.

Frankly, I had not expected much shooting, but it was intense the first couple hours. We did catch up on life and Lagodny gave me a recipe for goose breast in marinara sauce, a sort of goose parmesan.

By 9 a.m., southwest winds built and with it the heat.

It was time.

Time enough to make church with a change of clothes and a goose in the trunk.

Starved Rock State Park’s southern entrance.

Starved Rock State Park’s southern entrance. | Photo from Starved Rock State Park’s online gallery.

Starved Rock State Park website

CALL OF THE WILD: Wild public spaces still matter. When the parking lots were closed noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks, people parked as far as a mile away and walked in, site superintendent Kerry Novak said.

WAUKEGAN WONDER: Saturday should be fun at Waukegan Harbor with the Salmon Unlimited Kids Derby and the aquatic pet take-back event by Be A Hero Release Zero overlapping.

STRAY CAST: I sense another year where I schedule hunting and fishing Sundays instead of Bears couch time.

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