By Jerry Carlson
Of all the waterfowl hunting I do, there is little question that nothing is as challenging to hunt as snow geese. There are plenty of reasons for this fact.
First of all, snow geese get hunted for at least seven months out of the year. The pressure starts in Canada as they are making their way south and end in Canada as they complete the last leg to their summer breeding grounds near Hudson Bay.
The next major issue is related to the first. Snow geese live a long time and have an incredible memory for not forgetting the bad things that happen to them along the way. They have learned all about decoy spreads, electronic calls, layout blinds and the hunters associated with these items.
Another part of the frustration comes from their eyes. These birds are viewing decoy spreads through binocular vision. They literally see all evil and avoid anything that looks suspicious.
They also travel in extremely large flocks. What one bird doesn’t see; another one does. The spooked birds signal the alarm to the others and just like that, they are all gone. Time and again, snow geese appear to be setting up to make a run at the decoys only to pull the plug at 100 yards and continue on their way.
One last issue to contend with is their spring migration pattern. I have noticed that over the last ten years, snow geese have changed their habits during the spring conservation order. The area in Missouri we hunt used to have a three-week period where the geese would stage and feed. In the last years, this staging period may last a week.
One farmer in South Dakota that gave us permission to hunt the spring migration talked about this issue. He stated that when the geese come, they are everywhere for about two days and then gone.
This makes the timing of a hunt very tricky. In order to be successful, you must have large numbers of birds in the area with consistent activity. If your timing is off, so is the harvest.
In order to combat the difficulties in hunting snow geese, we have tried to tweak and change the way we approach our winter and spring hunts. One way is to hunt before the conservation order begins.
By traveling south, it is possible to get in on the last days of the regular goose season in many states. This option gives us a chance to hunt Canada geese as well as snow geese. Electronic calls and unplugged shotguns aren’t allowed, but it is nice to expand your options to include Canadas.
We pay a great deal of attention to concealment. For us, layout blinds are a thing of the past. We have had much more success by wearing ghillie suits or whites.
There is something about the shape of layout blinds that geese seem to notice. Some believe it is the rectangular profile while others say it is the shadows or elevation. At any rate, we have had more success since we stopped using them.
Snow geese love movement in the decoys and we try to provide that. Canada geese do not. If you are hunting both species at the same time, it is necessary to have remotes for turning off the movement.
Hunting is always a challenge. That is why it is called hunting and not shooting. Because of this, hunters must continually be thinking about what they are doing and adjusting their strategies.
This adaptation and tweaking process may need to be done on a daily basis. If something isn’t working, change it and see what happens.
Geese, especially snow geese, can be difficult to hunt. However, that has never stopped me from targeting these birds as I enjoy dealing with the challenge.