: Mid Continent population studies indicate that between the mid 1960s and now, snow goose numbers grew from an estimated 50,000 to more than one million. Officials predict that by the middle of the next decade, roughly two million snowies might compete for limited space, doubling in current size. (Delta Waterfowl media photo)
By Steve Hickoff
The so-called regular waterfowl seasons may be over, but don’t put your gear away just yet. Clean it, for sure, but keep it ready to roll . . .
In the heavily human-populated Atlantic Flyway where I write this — and elsewhere around the United States — it’s not just humankind competing for space. Snow goose numbers are at all-time highs, migration time depending.
That’s good news for hunters. In late-winter and early-spring you can jumpstart your waterfowl season, extending it into spring turkey time.
Snow goose numbers exceed available food and habitat in many areas. As a result, federal and state wildlife management organizations now offer expanded seasons for these waterfowl in many locations. By conservation order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has specifically mandated this effort to control growing numbers.
Though they’re hunted elsewhere, eight states in the Atlantic Flyway were open last year under the “conservation order” for late-winter and early-spring snow goose hunting. These included North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware to the south, and New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont to the north. Check your current regulations as changes may appear there.
More geese? Waterfowl hunters couldn’t be happier. So how do you hunt them?
First check to see if your state offers a late-winter or early-spring season. Many do.
Once licenses, permits and stamps are secured, assess your waterfowling gear. You may need to amp up your decoy holdings with snow goose fakes. Shells and full-body options are widely available for this growing sport.
As with real estate, location is everything. Scout for these so-called “light geese” in agricultural haunts. Gain permission from landowners to hunt these spots. Be there before dawn the next morning to set your spread of dekes.
Huddled in a layout blind, snow goose calls on a lanyard around your neck, non-toxic loads chambered in your shotgun, you’re ready to roll.
Some other tips to hunting these light geese include:
Your effort to find them might begin where they roost, and include locating a nearby field where they feed and/or might forage. Study them for a pattern of use. They’ll often move and feed early in the day and later in the afternoon, loafing elsewhere during midday. Sometimes too they just move on.
Study maps, drive and glass fields, and seek landowner permission at all costs, explaining what you’ll be doing and even why. Set your spread at midday for later afternoon hunts. If it feels right, get back there the next morning too. Don’t pressure a spot; then again, hunt it while it’s hot and even just a little warm.
As camouflage goes, wear white if snow covers the ground, or standard options if you’re in a layout blind or using natural cover. Blend in, no matter what. Snowies feel the pressure, and adjust accordingly. If possible, hide all unnatural evidence, including your truck, trailer and four-wheeler. Make it look real.
Spreads should consist of as many snow goose decoys as possible. Full body snows, shell fakes, and silhouettes should round off your presentation. It’s not unusual for a hardcore snow goose hunter to place several hundred to even 1,000 or more decoys out in a field, and even use wing flags to impart movement to the spread.