Easy Snows? Decoying Snow Geese Pays Off

When we spotted the barley field for an early-morning shoot the next day, it wasn't hard to find the birds. The tornado of white geese descended, one after another, on the harvested crops. We tried hard to estimate the total number of ducks and geese covering the field, but it was impossible. The best guess we could come up with was 20,000 birds. Besides the ridiculous number of snows, there was also a spattering of specks, small Canadas and mallards. It was such an exciting sight; I knew sleep was going to be hard to come by.

We arrived early the next day, setting up 500 Tanglefree decoys, along with two custom-made e-callers and some raised flyer decoys. The spread looked impressive, and we wondered how the morning would play out as a dense fog settled in over our layout blinds.

A rising sun began to burn off some of the haze, and we waited — close to an hour — before the first birds winged towards us. We couldn't see them, but their shrill voices could be heard cutting through the fog. A small flock emerged from the sky, like white ghosts, zeroing in on our callers. When the birds saw the decoys they made a quick descent.


There were more birds following, but the first flight of 13 snows that flew over our blinds were knocked to the ground with the roar of six shotguns. The next hour was complete mayhem. Geese came in big waves, decoying as if they'd never seen a hunter before. I just happened to be with some snow goose aficionados on their third monster shoot of the week. In less than 90 minutes, we bagged 120 snow geese, 20 specklebellies and 25 mallards. We decided to call it a day and sat back to enjoy the incredible sight of birds decoying in tight.


Rare Breed


There aren't many avid snow goose hunters in Canada. Most smoothbore enthusiasts curse whites for their fickle nature and tendency not to show up after significant effort has gone into setting up hundreds of decoys. They have been given nicknames like "sky carp," and somehow developed a reputation as poor table fare — nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, they aren't given the respect they deserve as being wary and smart quarry.

Snow geese feed, and act, much differently than other popular waterfowl pursued in agricultural fields. They feed and stage in massive hoards, giving them a sense of security. With hundreds or thousands of birds feeding in a single field, incoming snow geese will land over the leading edge of the birds, knowing that any available grain has already been gobbled up behind the masses.

They are loud, social birds, and if you don't have an extremely high-volume caller, there is no way that your spread will seem believable. If you pay attention to the details, hunting whites can be one of the most rewarding experiences a waterfowler could ever have.


The agricultural fields situated along the edge of the boreal forest are the first grain fields the northern birds see on their migration south. Not having seen the big decoy spreads or heard e-callers, the birds are often ignorant of hunters. They decoy with reckless abandon and young birds will often circle back into a spread after being shot at. When I regale tales about the naive birds, I'm often accused of being a storyteller. However, in true snow goose-style, they do clue in to the hunting action quickly. Within a few weeks of showing up, they become much more difficult to hunt. It is important to note, that if you spend the time and effort to spot, and set up right, the birds will provide exceptional hunting opportunities anytime you pursue them.

Plan Your Adventure

The first whites show up in September and continue to build in numbers through the middle of October. Depending on the weather, they will often be the last to migrate if there are plenty of feeding opportunities, providing good hunting right into November.


Manitoba and Saskatchewan have great numbers of whites, and the eastern half of Alberta is also prime for sheer numbers of migrants. There is also a Pacific migration that offers gunning in British Columbia. On the Atlantic flyway, hoards of whites work their way through Quebec, where there is a strong hunting tradition for these birds. There are some unique hunts available along the Arctic coastline, in remote areas where geese stage in huge numbers.

Opportunities have expanded over the years, in all jurisdictions, with long seasons and high bag limits. Saskatchewan and Manitoba even offer spring seasons, where gunning can be exceptional. When winter lingers in the north, white geese tend to hang around longer in the last agricultural fields before continuing on their way to nesting grounds in the Arctic.

There are outfitters that specialize in snow goose hunts in all regions of Canada. With the serious commitment required to hunt whites properly, outfitters are often the best option. Hunters can freelance in most areas, and hunting is often as easy as finding staging birds, spotting properly, and getting permission to hunt from landowners.

Honkers, mallards, and even divers tend to get the most attention from hunters, but for sheer volume, whites offer more than they are given credit for. Those that have keyed into them are hooked for life. The gents I hunted with last fall make an annual pilgrimage to Canada, targeting only snow geese. Of course, they end up taking lots of more popular species on the same hunt, but it is the snows that provide the most satisfaction.

How many waterfowl hunts can you go on where you shoot multiple boxes of ammunition in a couple hours and harvest more birds in a single outing than many hunters will see in a season? There's only one true option.

If you want to take advantage of the naive early birds, plan a trip earlier in the season. It is a special time of year when you can see thousands of birds and have them decoy so close you'd swear you could grab them out of the air as they come over the blinds. The late-season birds are fun too, and anyone that sets up right will be successful

Hunting snows is good management for the species, as sportsmen try to reduce overall numbers. With the incredible hunting, we can even hope these birds will someday get the respect they truly deserve.

Recommended for You

See how this new line performed in the field! Clothing & Waders

Field Tested: Sitka Women's Waterfowl System

Emily Kantner - July 19, 2019

See how this new line performed in the field!

To date, Ducks Unlimited has played a role in conserving 14 million acres. Industry

Ducks Unlimited: A Duck Man's Best Friend

David Hart

To date, Ducks Unlimited has played a role in conserving 14 million acres.

Nourish your pup's noggin for elite performance. Retriever

Gun Dog Nutrition & Intelligence

Tony J. Peterson

Nourish your pup's noggin for elite performance.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Craig Boddington and Eric Poole take a look at the new modern Franchi Affinity shotgun.

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways! Clothing & Waders

New SITKA Women's Waterfowl Lineup for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full...

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer.

Of course, it Boats

8 Best Mud Motors for 2016

David Hart - May 26, 2016

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer. Of course,...

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call. Calls

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during...

See More Stories

More Decoy Tips

It's become a common sight come November here in the Midwest. Elsewhere too, I reckon, but I'm most Decoy Tips

How to Make Small Decoy Spreads Work for You

M.D. Johnson - May 05, 2016

It's become a common sight come November here in the Midwest. Elsewhere too, I reckon, but I'm...



My old man stood at the end of the driveway. He would wrench on that goose call for hours, my Decoy Tips

Driveway Decoying

Joe Genzel - February 08, 2012

My old man stood at the end of the driveway. He would wrench on that goose call for hours,...

There is a magic about duck hunting in that we enjoy it as much now as when we were young boys. Decoy Tips

Why Geese Make the Best Duck Decoys

Kyle Wintersteen - August 27, 2012

There is a magic about duck hunting in that we enjoy it as much now as when we were young...

See More Decoy Tips

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.