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Stack More Specklebelly Geese This Season with Some Tips from the Pros

Want to kill more white fronts, we've got several insights from some serious speck hunters.

Stack More Specklebelly Geese This Season with Some Tips from the Pros

With growing populations in many places, waterfowl hunters are turning their sights on the specklebelly goose. (Photo By: Cason Short/Bill Byers Hunter Club)

Specks. Specklebellies. Barbellies/Tarbellies. Laughing geese. White fronts. Giggle chickens. Whatever nickname you give the Greater White-Fronted goose, if you’ve hunted them, you know they’re a real hoot to shoot. In many places in North America, they’re merely a bonus bird to add to a day’s bag, but as of recently, the specklebelly goose is gaining popularity as a specifically targeted species in many places, and for good reason.

Specks are widespread across the continent, with population numbers that are stable or even growing in many places—the daily limit just went up to 8 birds in Canada. Whether you’re planning to target the bar-bellied goose on its own or you’re hoping to stack a few specks amongst other species, here are a few tips and tricks from some seasoned speck hunters.

Southern Spectacle

Cason Short, owner/operator of the Bill Byers Hunter Club in Hunter, Arkansas, has been fully enamored with the specklebelly goose for most of his life. In his decades of hunting waterfowl in the southern stretches of the Mississippi flyway, he has seen how speck numbers have continued to grow exponentially in recent years as more and more white-fronts are showing up during the hunting season, along with which has come more interest from hunters.

“We used to shoot a few specks while duck hunting, but they shifted their migration patterns to coincide with the rice production here, and we’re now seeing tens of thousands of birds in the area—it’s completely changed the way we hunt them. They used to decoy pretty easily, but with larger numbers and added hunting pressure, we’ve had to adapt our tactics to stay consistent.”

big flock of specklebelly geese
Big bunches of specklebelly geese start to stack up down south as they stage at their wintering grounds. (Photo By: Cason Short/Bill Byers Hunter Club)

If you’re targeting tarbellies in an area where they are thick, Short mentions a few helpful hints to bring more birds to the boot bag:

  • Set up on a dry field and plan to deploy at least 15 dozen decoys.
  • When you’re going with high volume, silhouette decoys can do the trick. They’re lighter to carry, faster to setup and take down, and don’t take up as much storage space.
  • Mix in a few snow goose decoys for added realism; specks and snows are often found together.
  • Their eyesight is unbelievable, bring the decoys in tight to help hide yourself in layouts; panel blinds can also be a good way to hide.
  • Work singles and pairs and pick out the lead bird in a flock; watch his wingbeats and body language and call and respond with just that bird.
  • Keep your dominant calling hand consistent but move your off hand to get different pitches on your call.
  • Specks are vocal; keep on calling to keep their confidence high; don’t stop calling like you would with ducks.

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Midwest Mixed Bag

If you’re hunting in the central region of North America, you’ll find that specks are a favorite addition to any mix bag waterfowl hunt. And the best part is that whether you’re going on a guided hunt or freelancing for yourself, your chances of bagging some bonus barbellies are pretty good at most times of the season.

banded specklebelly geese
A bonus barbelly is always a welcome sign on a mixed bag waterfowl hunt. (Photo By: Meghan Lupyan Photography/Fowl Plains)

Chase White, co-owner at Fowl Plains of Great Bend, Kansas, mentions that specks are friendly and don’t mind mingling with other species of waterfowl. “Earlier in the year when they first show up, specks will generally keep themselves, but once November hits and the snows and Canadas show up, the specks will mix right in.” “Because they’re social and like to hang with everybody, you can kill specks just by being situationally aware of what you’re hunting. That being said, you don’t have to set out speck decoys to kill them. You can kill them over Canada or snow decoys with a Canada goose call, with or without a speck call.”

black lab retrieving a specklebelly goose
Your gun dog will also appreciate the extra retrieve that a bonus speck brings. (Photo By: Meghan Lupyan Photography/Fowl Plains)

If you’re in an area with a variety of species and looking to sprinkle some specks into your bag limit, White offers a few more pieces of advice to tip the odds in your favor:

  • Specks are aggressive and will focus in where the decoys are close and concentrated; you can direct them where to land by making tight wads, unlike big Canadas where you want to give them room to land.
  • The type of field/cover, wind and sun direction, and how the birds are coming in should all factor into your hide and whether you should use a-frames, layouts, or other blinds.
  • If you can, place your blinds to put the wind and sun at your back.
  • Later in the year the birds will get educated; if you can, get the blinds out of the spread.
  • Scouting is the most important piece, followed by your hide, and thirdly calling; knowing how to read and call at specks can make the difference in finishing them.




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