by Gary Koehler
What began as a grand experiment to discover a more effective means to harvest snow geese yielded huge dividends this spring during the course of the annual conservation order hunting season. Think full-body decoys. Think mammoth spreads. Now think huge numbers of feet-down adult snows and blues hovering over well-concealed layout blinds. Think consistently, as in day in and day out, from central Missouri on north into South Dakota. Think incredible results. And you would be right on the money.
There will inevitably be naysayers to this claim of snow goose delirium. The doubters will say that they have seldom seen mature snows behave that way. They will say that the birds have simply become too smart to be so easily tricked. They will say that they have hunted snows over several hundred rags, and windsocks, and shells, and maybe even white trash bags and paper plates, to little or no avail. Yes, adult snows will sometimes decoy, they will say, but on a regular basis in big flocks? No way.
But these skeptics were not in the company of Tony Vandemore, Tyson Keller, and assorted accomplices from February through April. And the skeptics probably did not put out as many as 1,700 full-body snow goose decoys on any given day while following the migration. This exercise involved more than a little manual labor. Three trailers were required to haul the enormous rig. The pick-up, move to another field, and set-up chores sometimes concluded at 1:30 in the morning.
"We really didn't know how it would work," says Keller, who, like Vandemore, is a member of the Avery Outdoors pro staff. "I experimented with field-testing full-body snow goose decoys a little bit last spring and some during the fall, but this spring was going to be the big test for us."