There aren’t many better pastimes than hunting geese. It is a thrill that ends with a delicious dinner; duck meat makes a great meal. The problem is that snow geese learn fast and understand when they are hunted. Snow goose hunting is difficult; these flocks are huge, and they know how to scout out an area before landing. Also, they are a nomadic breed, making them difficult to find.
Unlike other breeds, you get two chances to save the land that the geese are ravaging. Their large populations cause problems in the areas they heavily populate. Most states have no bag limit, so you can hunt until you are sick of goose meat. You don’t need a plug for your gun, and they even allow the use of electronic calls. There are few other opportunities so liberating as snow goose hunting.
Nothing will help you more than spending time out in the field. Getting a feel for where these lovely creatures spend time is a crucial first step. There are a few areas that have better opportunities for snow goose hunting. North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Northwest Missouri are popular states for spring hunting. To help you out, here are some of the best snow goose hunting tips.
Finding the Snow Geese
The best first step is to drive on back roads to find fields. Most geese spend time in large areas with plenty to eat. If you find a great spot, always make sure it isn’t privately owned. If it is, you will need permission from the landowner before you return to hunt there.
In the spring, it is a good idea to search for sheet water. It is a major factor in finding snow geese. They like to look for sheet water in fields. So, if you find this, you can set up decoys in the fields with water in them. Chances are it will be a great area to hunt.
Hunters need to understand their patterns. During the spring, their goal is to head northwards. Food and water are critical on their journey. However, as they move north, they will stop when they encounter the ice or snow line. If you can find the line, the geese are sure to be there.
The snowline is the best place to look. Sometimes, snow geese will spend time on the ice. They rarely will spend much time in an area where their food source is covered with snow. There can be some traces of snow here and there, but they won’t venture where a blanket of snow still exists.
Snow geese are slightly predictable. They will continue to return to the same field until the food is gone. During the spring, there is a window of time that you get to hunt. If you find the area they return to each year, you are ahead. Geese love to come back to the same field each year; they are creatures of habits.
High-traffic areas increase your odds of having successful hunts. These animals have great memories, which is the problem. Typically, they will not return to the same place where they were shot at.
If you find a very active field, decoys can typically get you two or three successful hunts. Chances are you won’t get more than that because the geese will move to a different area.
What is the Best Time to Hunt Snow Goose?
Just like any other animal, there are specific times each day when hunting is better. After the birds eat in the morning, they will head back to roost in their refuge area. They like to roost in the middle of the day. The time that they head back to their roost can be as early as 9 am and as later as noon. Their feeding flights in the afternoon can take place around two hours before dark or very close to nighttime.
You also have to consider the time of year to hunt snow geese. It can be tempting to head out into the field at first sight of migration. That would be an unwise move. Geese start to return as warm winds return. The first migrations are almost always the older aged geese who have seen it all. They aren’t tricked by decoys. Adult geese are tough to hunt because they have seen it all!
The best migrations to hunt are the middle or the back end. These are the best choices because they are the younger birds with less experience. You can trick them easier with decoys, and they are less likely to spot human presence.
Hide Human Presence
As mentioned above, snow geese are incredibly intelligent for waterfowl. It is important for you to hide your presence as much as possible to increase the chances of a successful hunt.
Wrappers, tire tracks and other signs of humans will cause them to find another food source. Also, it is a good idea to park your vehicle a half mile away from the field.
Hiding your presence also requires you to wear white camouflage if there are traces of snow on the ground. During the season of spring snow goose hunting, you definitely should wear white gear since snow still can be found in the field.
It is also necessary to use ground blinds. It is best to try to conceal the blinds from all angles; use any field changes to your advantage. Flat spots and field vegetation can be used for concealment. However, some areas are better without a blind. In those chances, you want to wear white camouflage.
One of the best ways to draw in geese is to use decoys. Believe it or not, successful hunters can use between 500 to 1,500 decoys in one field. You don’t have to use shell and silhouette decoys for the entire area. Some use white rags or plastic bag decoys. However, you don’t always have to use so many. The most important factor is the quality of the decoys, not the quantity.
You want to bring a variety of decoys with you. Floaters are essential if you want to use decoys on sheet water. They should always be properly spaced. Think about what geese look like in the natural world. They are intelligent and can spot a fake flock. Most of the time, geese are three or four feet apart.
Attracting geese to your spread is the next important step. Kites, flyers, flags and decoys with motion will attract the. Using decoys behind your blind on the upwind side is a smart move. From above, it will look like geese landing and moving around each other.
Your decoy spread has to reflect their natural pattern. Snow geese have an aggressive nature and will run over each other. They want to be the first to the food! Movement is another important key to a successful geese hunt. Some hunters even use a white vest on their dog!
Fog and Mud Everywhere
When you are spring snow goose hunting, you will find mud and fog nearly each time you head out to hunt. Thick fog can make it difficult to find the correct field to shoot; always check out landmarks nearby, so you don’t get confused in the early morning. A GPS saved location can help give you precise directions to the field. This is while goose hunters need a good GPS.
Spring and mud go together like ice and winter. It is better to be prepared for the mud than to hope it won’t be there. The wise idea is to bring extra clothing and accessories.
You should have a plan for bringing the decoys in and out because all of the mud will make driving through the field impossible. Also, trucks and trailers can destroy the land and leave tracks for the geese to spot.
Ballistics for Snow Geese Hunting
It is important for you to pick the right ballistics. Quality shells are a must-have. You have to know your effective maximum range with your shots. The goal is hunting, not shooting, so know how far you can shoot with the shells you have selected. Typically, hunters like a two ¾ inch shotgun shell with either a No. 1 or No. 2 steel shot. For 12 gauges, 3 inch BB or BBB shot are also loads of choice.
Snow geese aren’t as large as Canadian geese. On average, they range from 4 to seven pounds each. With no bag limit, you can be shooting a box or more of shells each day. You don’t need to go up to larger rounds with a bigger recoil. Most will stick to the 3-inch shell at 1500 fps.
Legally, you are allowed to remove the plug for snow goose hunting. Removal will increase the capacity of your shotgun to five shots. That sounds like a good number, but it isn’t near enough for when a large flock flies overhead. Many serious hunters opt for a magazine extension.
There is a nine shell extension kit available that can increase your total up to 12 or 13 shots, depending on your gun. However, eight is a great number to aim for because too many shells will increase the overall weight of your weapon.
Bringing your Dog to Hunt
Many hunters love the opportunity to bring their four-legged best friend along for the hunt. Snow goose hunting is a great time for young and old dogs to get experience and have a bit of fun. Most dogs are eager to please and take to the hunt quickly. During an active and fruitful hunt, a dog will have the opportunity to retrieve several geese in one day. Also, snow geese are great for visibility, especially for dogs who are just learning.
Always use caution when bringing new and inexperienced dogs on the field. If the hunt is active, your dog may be scared. You have to use caution and restraint. A duck dog is different than a snow goose dog. There is more excitement during the geese hunt because there can be dozens coming down if you are successful.
They have to be able to contain themselves and come back in if called. Another flock could come in, and your dog needs to stop retrieving, but an untrained dog may be too overwhelmed.
Weather Matters Too
You will need to set up your decoys depending on the weather. Snow goose has different patterns on a sunny and bright day verse a raining or stormy day. For a rough day, you need your visibility is high. Blue phase, snow decoys are best on those days.
Movement and sound are even more significant on days with the less ideal weather. You need to know the direction the birds are coming from; it makes spotting them much easier.
Consider a Guide
It may seem like a strange idea, but hiring a guide can be extremely helpful. They bring the decoys with them, so you don’t have to purchase hundreds yourself.
If you don’t have a snow goose dog or don’t understand their migration patterns, a guide can teach you everything you need to know. Hiring a guide can save you time and money, especially if you aren’t ready to jump in with both feet.
During conservation season, you are allowed to use electronic calls. You want the call to have a crisp, clear sound. With multiple speakers, you can arrange them throughout the field you are hunting. You should use at least four speakers pointed in different directions so that you can attract attention from distant flocks.
Let the hunt begin!
Snow goose hunting is quite rewarding. After you have spent time scouting and setting up hundreds or thousands of decoys, you want a successful hunt. There are plenty of tips to help you increase your likelihood. Most importantly, you should spend time learning the patterns and migrations of snow geese.
They are one of the most intelligent waterfowl breeds, creating a more challenging hunt. However, the more challenging the hunt, the more rewarding it is at the end.