Now that duck season is officially over, many of us will drag out our snow goose decoys and electronic callers to pursue the snow geese as they are getting ready to migrate back north for the summer. Many people will find that this is much easier said than done. I will give you some tips and tactics to help you kill as many snows as possible this conservation season.
1. Know Your Area
Are you going to be hunting the feed or are you running traffic? If you don’t have permission to hunt the field that the birds are actively feeding in, try and get in the flight line from the roost and run traffic on the birds passing overhead. If you are hunting the feed, try and locate the X. Snow geese are aggressive feeders and can clean out a field in no time. With a little scouting, you can go from hunting snow geese to killing snow geese in no time.
2. Get Hid
The most conventional way to hide from snows is in layout blinds. They are compact and have a low profile that will keep you hidden from the birds. However, your shooting is very limited and your mobility and line of sight are hindered greatly. I have ditched all of my layout blinds for the new A-Frame blind from Avian-X. It is a very lightweight and portable blind. You can sit and shoot much more comfortably with far better results than shooting off your back. Try and use cover from the local area, but not from the immediate area you are hunting. They are great for all waterfowl hunting. From duck hunting to hunting snow geese, you can’t go wrong with the A-Frame.
The old-school logic of needing a thousand decoys to kill snows has come and gone. Sure, more decoys can help you. BUT, it is not a necessity to have an overly large decoy spread. I personally use around 60 Avian-X full-body snows/blues and about 400 Silo Socks. This is an inexpensive decoy spread as far as snow goose setups typically run. I will try to create an aggressive feed in my spread with more birds in the upwind side and small groups feeding off to each side with a slight V in front of our blinds. There is nothing better than a decoy spread of Avian-X snow goose decoys and Silo Socks.
Snow geese are suckers for motion decoys. My favorites are Reel Wings 360 Air Wings. The Reel Wings fly in the air and the 360s are mounted on small fiberglass poles. Both of these will add a great deal of motion and realism to your spread and are inexpensive. I try to run at least six of each with most of them close to my V or kill circle. If there is no wind, try putting the motion decoys right in front of the blind. The geese will drop right on top of your motion decoys. If there is wind, try putting the motion decoys behind the blind. The wind will push geese down as they try to line up on the motion decoys. They will come into your kill circle low and slow.
This is what separates the snow goose hunters who kill 20 from the hunters who kill 100. Everyone should shoot THEIR lane. Don’t try and overshoot to get at the lowest birds. Resist the urge to shoot at the closest bird and shoot at the ones in the middle of the flock to leave those super close birds for your third, fourth and fifth shots. Pick out a single bird and then go to the next. Little things like this can make a big difference on a snow goose hunt.
6. Don’t Be Greedy
We all want that super vortex of 500 birds grinding down on us from the heavens and it is indeed a magical moment. However, this is not the norm. If you get six to 10 down in the blocks, you had better go ahead and kill ’em. Greed will cost you a lot of birds at the end of the day, when in reality, you will shoot much better when there aren’t 1,000 barking and grinding overhead. There is no guarantee the super vortex will happen, so shoot them when you get them. Otherwise, you may have gotten dressed up for nothing.
7. E Caller
The E Caller is an awesome tool to lure the geese even closer to you and add that third dimension to your spread. However, more and more people are running them, so experiment and see what birds like and respond to on a given day. It is not a cure-all for a bad hide or poor location. Don’t be surprised if your E Caller works on one field and you get little response on another. Some days all you need is an E Caller and some days they shy from it.
The days of a 10-gauge with a 30-inch barrel used to shoot geese have come and gone. I personally shoot a 12 with 3-inch shells and BBs as my shot size of choice. I use an extended-range Patternmaster choke tube and have had very few issues with my setup. We can take out our plugs for the conservation season and that gives me five shots. My good friend Boone Barton uses a 10-round magazine extension called “the snow plow” that gives him the ability to throw a steel curtain into the air and that gives him that many more chances to kill snows. Every hunter should bring a minimum of six boxes of shells each. You don’t want to be out there and run out of shells when the geese are still flying. Shells are by far the cheapest part of the equation, and I have never killed a goose I didn’t shoot at.
9. Little Things
Just like the song by Bush, “Little Things Kill,” keep your eye out for little things. When your blind is surrounded by red hulls, pick ’em up. When you park your trucks or side-by-side, park a minimum of a quarter mile away. When the birds are finishing slightly to one side, move that extra 30 yards to finish them in your grill. Insist that other hunters do the same. Also, teach beginning hunters to do the little things right. Don’t let a few little things add up to be one big thing that costs you dead snow geese.
10. Snow Goose Hunting with a Guide
Snow goose equipment is very expensive and there are a lot of people who don’t want to spend the money to hunt snows a few days a year. Hiring a guide will put the odds in your favor to kill more birds and not have the investment of a large snow goose spread. Most of these guides have all the gear, knowledge and land to consistently put you on birds. Plan ahead — a good guide will often book solid before the season starts. Please do your research and hire a guide who has a good reputation and clients to back it up. Often, a quick search on social media can give you an idea of how successful the guide has been lately and the quality of the gear they use.
There is no need to pack your waders away when duck season ends. For many waterfowl hunters, the season is only half over. Snow goose hunting is a great way to extend your waterfowl season. If you have never been, I highly encourage you to try it. It is much different than duck hunting or even hunting lesser Canadas or Specks. You can easily get a beginning hunter hooked on waterfowl hunting if you take them on a successful snow goose hunt. Snow goose hunting can be a lot of work but can also be some of the most fun you can have with your waders on.