In the 1960s, Canada geese made for a special encounter, and it was the talk of the town if someone was lucky enough to shoot one. Nowadays, Canada geese are pervasive, found in every state except Hawaii, and are huntable from August to March. But some states are much better than others, especially for the freelance goose hunter, so I talked to two of the best goose hunters I know about their favorite states for DIY goose hunting trips.
It’s hard to deny how great North Dakota is for goose hunting. The resident goose management season starts in August, the regular season runs through the end of December, and the state holds geese from start to finish.
Max Barta, a North Dakota native, explained what makes North Dakota such a good goose state.
“From the beginning of the season to the last day, you can be on birds,” Max said. “The opportunity is always there, most of the time you’re not waiting for the migration to push down, and there’s lots of resident geese. Early season, there’s geese on cattle ponds across the whole state. Late season, when everything else freezes over, the geese stage on the Missouri River.”
But it’s not just that there’s a lot of geese. It’s also that they’re accessible.
“Another plus to North Dakota’s goose hunting is the unposted rule. If the land isn’t posted, it’s fair game to hunt,” Max said. “It’s still good practice to talk to the farmer, but it makes getting on goose fields a lot easier.”
Scott Threinen, the owner of Molt Gear and a world champion goose caller, has decades of experience traveling to hunt geese. Wisconsin is near the top of his list.
“Wisconsin is a sleeper state,” Threinen said. “It has an abundance of resident geese, but it also has a mix. It has interior geese that move in in October, then big geese coming in later in the year.”
In addition to having geese all season long, they’re spread out and available across the Badger State.
“Another thing that’s great about Wisconsin is there are tons of dairy farmers that still cut September corn silage, which is getting harder to find,” Threinen said. “From the Mississippi River, to Madison, to Green Bay, you can find geese everywhere here, and permission is relatively easy to get. People are usually receptive to hunting here.”
I’ve personally spent a lot of time in Kansas. Some of the best waterfowl hunts I’ve been on were here, and I’ve filmed “tornados” of thousands of lesser Canada geese here that don’t look natural. The goose hunting here is very good.
Threinen agrees that Kansas is a good goose hunting state.
“I refer to Kansas as the smorgasbord of waterfowl hunting,” Threinen said. “You have two funnels feeding this state. There’s a lot of Mississippi Flyway geese that go here, and a lot of Central Flyway geese. From the wide-open plains in the West with little geese, to the big cities like Kansas City and Topeka with big giant Canadas, you can find everything here. From Halloween to February, there’s geese on a variety of options from farm ponds to rivers to wheat, corn, rye, and sorghum.”
However, one of the reasons Kansas slips down the list for both Scott and I is the droves of outfitters that have land tied up with leases. The going rate for land access in the more heavily hunted areas can vary from $25 to $100 a gun per day, which is a pretty steep fee if you don’t have clients. In addition to the waterfowl outfitters, you also must compete with whitetail outfitters. A lot of landowners have leased out all their hunting rights to deer outfits, and the geese find the fields that aren’t huntable pretty quickly.
However, if you’re willing to really put on the miles and get away from the outfitters, you can still knock on doors and get permission in Kansas. It’s just going to be a lot more work than it used to be.
Keeping in step with what makes Kansas good, Oklahoma is one of Scott Threinen’s top states for goose hunting.
“Oklahoma is kind of an extension of Kansas,” Threinen said. “People don’t look at it for its goose hunting near as much as its duck hunting, but there’s geese from the panhandle all the way to the cities in the eastern part of the state. Small reservoirs, lakes, farm ponds across the state all hold geese.”
And while Oklahoma’s number of outfitters is growing as well, it’s not a destination state for goose hunting in the same way Kansas is, so knocking on doors is much more feasible here.
Last on the list is Montana. Montana doesn’t have the same early-season goose hunting as the Midwest, is more drought- and weather-prone and lacks the widespread cornfields and beanfields that are a staple of other good goose hunting areas.
What Montana does have is fast-flowing rivers, warm-water springs, and warm valleys with irrigated wheat that make for great goose hunting in the late fall and early winter. These geese are the hardiest, mostly Giants, and will wait until the bitter snowy end to migrate south. If you catch the migration right when they’re hitting these wheat fields en masse, this can be some of the best goose hunting found in the country.
Right now, the middle part of the country continues to see great goose numbers, liberal limits, and widespread opportunity for the freelance hunter to fill the freezer. All it takes is knocking on doors and putting on the miles.