Waterfowl Essentials – Goose Flag

It seems that when one looks hard for hunting gear, you will run into some of the most bizarre items or ideas. I think the goose hat idea was thought up over a lot of beers. Having a decoy slapped on your head to create movement might seem like a good idea. It makes me nervous thinking about some jackass pulling up to the side of your decoy spread in a pickup truck, seeing a big old goose moving around, and then having the jerk blow your head off. I can imagine the police report.

The idea of a goose flag has amazed me. I tell old timers about flagging in geese and they look at me with an odd look. The idea is about 10 years old and it started out with somebody trying to add a little flash to their decoy spread. They took a 2 foot by 2 foot square piece of black cloth, added a splash of white on it, attached a pole, and voila! Today there are many makes and types of goose flags, some with short poles, longer golf club handle style ones, ones that operate on a pull string, long 10 foot poles, even battery operated ones.

long 8 foot pole
Canada pattern on one side Cammo on other side to ‘hide’ it in the field
spring operated and a pull string to operate it around $75

Why have a goose flag? When geese sit on a field, there occasionally is one that stretches its wings and flaps a little bit. When the one bird does this, it catches our eye and you can bet it catches the  geese’s eyes. I have had good luck getting the attention of wary Canada geese, not so much with ducks. The combination of a decent goose decoy spread, adequate calling, and goose flagging can provide great success. Most of the birds that we hunt are not overly hunted but in early season when Canadas are still flying and feeding in family groups, the older adults are the ones we need to fool. Fool them into coming into the decoy spread and they will drag the dumb younglings in as well.

How do you use a flag? The person calling the shots within your hunting party may have ideas on how to use a goose flag. You need to follow their lead. This is how we usually utilize our flag people. I will hand my goose flag to a new guy and show them how to flutter the flag to the ground in a smooth motion. Now that my hands are free I can focus on calling and instructing the lads. When a group of geese are a long way away either coming to us or going another direction I will ask the lads to start flagging. I will do a few honks or clucks on the call. If you can see the geese they can see you. If they head straight for us I ask the lads to stop using the flags and I will keep blowing the goose call to lure them in. If birds are coming right at you DO NOT flag. Flagging is an attention getter and done wrong can make them flair away really fast. If the birds start to wander away from where we would like them to go, I will ask one or two of the flag guys to flutter their flags once or twice. At this point we are asking the birds to ‘look over here dummy’. I will keep calling and if the birds fly away we will increase the amount of flagging. If they head right back to us, the flagging stops. Hopefully a few birds (or all of them) drop into your kill hole in the decoy spread. Now there is no written in stone procedure on this. Reading how birds react is an acquired skill. A newer hunte needs to listen to the advice of the group leader. You will learn it pretty fast.

Here is the good news. Flags prices vary, cheap ones start at $24 and go up to $50. Some of the differences are just bells and whistles. Cheaper ones can be flimsy and I have wrecked a few in high winds. I get one season, sometimes two if I am lucky out of a goose flag. We on average use them quite a bit but with light use and good care a goose flag can used for years. What can I say, I use and beat on my gear. My layout blinds have a goose flag sleeve that stores my goose flag when not in use. Most layout blinds are equipped with side zippers, all one to reach outside of their blind and use a goose flag. If I had to choose between only having a call or a goose flag, I would choose the flag. They work that well. Off course we use both calls and flagging. Over the years the flagging technique has been productive.

Throw one of these in your kit, when you show up to the field and you have one, it really impresses people. Don’t show up with a goose hat, I will not be held responsible for any head shots. Get out there and get hunting.

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