Sometimes a passion can turn into such an obsession that looking back on your experience makes you question your own sanity.
Every hunter knows the season is never really over; one closes and another begins. You see people on social media posting the countdown to duck season. Trust me, I spend copious amounts of time on Facebook. Spring is when the greenhead blues kick in for most, but it’s prime time for snow goose hunters.
The special conservation season is built around the reverse migration. As the snows travel north, we have a second chance to stack up some numbers and save the tundra that is so badly damaged by excessive goose populations on the arctic nesting grounds. There is no limit, no need for plugs in your guns, and electronic calls are legal. This is a real opportunity for you to get into the birds.
Here are 10 Snow Goose hunting tips you should know:
Know the Weather: There is a difference in your set up if you are hunting a clear sunny day verse a stormy day. If there is a storm you need to make sure your visibility is high. Use as many blue phase snow decoys as possible, create a lot of movement, and sound is crucial. Also make sure you know where the birds are coming from. Hunting bad weather can be challenging but also extremely rewarding.
Shoot Your Lanes: This seems like a self explanatory tip but this is how you really put snow goose numbers on the ground. This always gets overlooked and it is something so simple that can make a huge difference in your bird numbers. Make sure everyone is shooting their lanes and working their way outwards.
Use Durable Equipment: Snow goose hunting is not very forgiving on your equipment. You will put your gear through the wringer. Make sure you are using top of the line products. You don’t want to deal with things breaking in the middle of a hunt. My personal favorite is Rig ‘Em Right Waterfowl Gear. They have extremely reliable products that they stand behind 100%. Check out the Mudslinger Floating Backpack. It has an easy access ammunition pocket for your scattered snow goose shells so you can just grab and load.
A Duck Dog is not a Snow Goose Dog: It’s not even in the same ball park. A dog that is not use to thousands of geese tornadoing down around them may lose their cool in the blind and break early. It is a lot more excitement and action. Your dog will have to watch a lot of birds fall and you need to be able to call them back even in the middle of retrieves if big flocks start to come in.
Our youngest lab, Clutch, is currently at Salt Creek Labs in Nebraska running these essential drills and learning how to handle the storm.
There is a difference between a 20-30 bird duck hunt and a 200-300 bird snow goose hunt when it comes to conditioning your dog so be prepared.
Scouting: Scouting is important for any type of hunting but you aren’t trying to shoot a handful of greenheads or Canadas. You are trying to put numbers on the ground. You want big feeds and you want birds that are at ease in that field.
Snow geese will usually continue to feed in a field until there is nothing left which gives them the opportunity to get really comfortable day after day. Play the wind and never hunt a field with the roost at your back if you can help it. Hunt the X.
Concealment: You have to be hidden in the field when thousands of eyes are over you. We wear all white and lay very close to the ground. When my foot was broken I covered myself in a white sheet so my boot was not visible. Hide yourself with decoys.
Wind socks add dimension and depth so surround yourself with them. Put your layout blinds out that night and let the snow naturally cover them for the next morning.
Be Mobile: Remember when Jon says, “Get to the cattails!?” You need to be able to move if needed. The grab and go motto. A lot of people do not hunt like this and would never move if the birds weren’t committing how you wanted. If you want to kill birds though sometimes you have to do what the birds do.
Add Movement: Add movement into your spread. Flyers are a good addition to any spread to help direct the birds and to add significant movement. Never under estimate the power of a flag either. This is something simple you can add to the mix when hunting any type of waterfowl. Make sure you know how and when to flag though. It can be a deadly tool if used correctly.
Decoys: Set a minimum of 500 decoys, but I would say 1000-2000 decoys is the most effective. Snow geese are all about visibility and numbers. They want to be where all the other snow geese are. Just because you have a large number of decoys doesn’t mean you will kill birds though. You need to set them according to the time of day, feed, and wind. You want to sort of funnel them into the kill zone.
Snow geese will ball up and start to roll around in the sky. They get impatient and are very aggressive and are gluttonous birds when it comes to food. You will kill a lot more birds when they are concentrated into one area.
Hire a Guide: This doesn’t seem like your obvious tip but it is. You probably don’t want to buy 1500 decoys or more. Maybe you don’t want a snow goose dog and you don’t want to research these squirrely birds or study their habits. You probably just want a small taste of snow goose hunting and don’t want to dive in head first all season chasing the migration.
Hire a guide. It will save a lot of time and money on your end if you just appoint someone to do it for you. That’s why they are there. There are professional storm chasers and are willing to give you the hunt of a lifetime.