November 03, 2010
By Bill Marchel
Hunters have come to expect a challenge when on the quest for snows, and that's exactly what they get...most of the time.
By Bill Marchel
For some people, the changing seasons mean little more than a modification of clothing - a metamorphosis of sort - to meet existing conditions. Others, with rake or shovel in hand, note the revolving seasons as they remove the various items Mother Nature has deposited on their lawns and walkways.
Still others--although elite--will walk with head cocked, an eye and ear to the sky, and gauge the change of seasons by the arrival of snow geese.
Love 'em or hate 'em, snow geese are stars of the prairie migration show.
Difficult to hunt, yes, but historically, no other winged navigator has evoked so much emotion in humans.
During migration, spring and fall, snow geese often fill the sky in wedge-shaped formations that seen endless. They announce their presence to the world below, each one it seems, trying to outdo the other, until the resulting chorus contains no individual's call. And they holler insistently, as if urging each other along.
But it is this gregarious behavior that makes snow geese so tough to hunt. They leave their resting areas en masse when they fly to feed. The lead flocks jockey from field to field until a safe spot is found. Then they spiral downward in a swirling mass of white and blue, and the trailing birds, spotting their descending brethren, alter their flight paths to join them.
Sometimes, luring snow geese to within shotgun range seems impossible. The best decoys, the finest calling, the ideal location, and all morning you watch the geese bypass your spread, white specs against a cobalt sky. If you haven't been skunked while hunting snow geese, you're probably a liar.
But bad weather is often an equalizer, especially strong wind. Then the skittish birds fly low; so low that at times they must rise to pass over a farmland shelterbelt.
When conditions are right, and you have spent the pre-dawn hours placing your decoys just-so in a field you had scouted the evening before, all the empty game bags of the past are temporarily forgotten.
From a distance--scarcely audible but growing louder--comes the din of restless snow geese. Then, stirred by a signal known only to geese, they leave a marsh and head your way, their eager cries resembling a playground full of clamorous school kids.
Moments later the flocks appear, undulating like a giant snake, barely making headway against the gale. The natives called them "wavy," and it's no wonder. This time they are coming. The snow geese signal their intent with excited barks.
The first birds to arrive hang over you on ridged wings, grunting excitedly as contented snow geese do. Shotguns roar, and several birds fold.You quickly reload. The next flock is on the way.