By Wade Bourne
In the spring, a waterfowler's fancy naturally turns to snow geese
. Or at least it should, according to Avery Outdoors pro-staffer John Gordon of Hernando, Mississippi
, who says spring is the best time to pursue these wary birds.
"The special spring light goose season helps tip the scales in the average hunter's favor," Gordon says. "There are no bag or possession limits. Hunters can use electronic callers
. Shotguns don't have to be plugged. And the more birds you shoot, the more you're doing your part to help keep the snow goose population in check." This of course helps conserve the birds' fragile Arctic nesting habitat
, which is what the spring season is all about.
According to Gordon, hunters don't need thousands of decoys to lure snows within shooting range
. Hunting with a relatively modest decoy spread, he and a few friends routinely enjoy great shooting on birds heading north through the Mississippi Delta. "The secret is to make your scaled-down spread look big," Gordon says.
To accomplish this, Gordon and friends set out a spread of 16 dozen GHG Pro-Grade snow and blue goose shell decoys and five dozen GHG Pro-Grade snow and blue goose full-body decoys. They carry these decoys in large bags loaded in a trailer. If the ground is dry, they drive their truck right to their hunting site to unload. But when the ground is muddy, they ferry their decoys from the road to their hunting site on an ATV.
Their decoys are set in a rectangle that's about 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. They put the shell decoys on motion stakes and place them downwind, spreading them out to create the illusion of more birds.
They spread out the other decoys in small clusters as well, leaving 20 to 30 yards between groups.
"We create a feeding line on the upwind side of the spread, and this is where we arrange our layout blinds in a line," Gordon explains. "We put the full-body decoys here for greater realism, and we group them closer together to provide an impression that this is where the most food is located. We use feeding heads on about 80 percent of these decoys. We want incoming birds to home in on this area."
Gordon finishes his spread with a half dozen SilloSock Flapping Flyer decoys. He deploys these motion decoys on poles in the area where he wants incoming geese to finish. These windsock decoys provide additional movement and simulate a small flock of geese flying in to feed.
But the key to Gordon's strategy is his electronic caller. "I use a homemade system that has four speakers and 150 watts of power. Basically, this is an MP3 player that plays a recording of live snow geese, which I downloaded from the Internet. I regulate the volume according to the wind. This caller has enough volume to be heard by the geese in really gusty conditions."
Gordon says having an electronic caller makes a huge difference when hunting over a smaller decoy spread
. "Without the e-caller, I don't think passing geese would even look at us," he says. "But with this system, I can steer them right to the gunning line at the upwind edge of the spread. They home in on the speakers and come right to them."
Patience, Gordon says, is another key to hunting spring snow geese. "Some days the geese won't respond or finish, and you get very frustrated," he confesses. "But you just have to wait them out. I've had a lot of mornings when they wouldn't respond, then something would change, and they'd start coming in."
Hunting the spring conservation season is all about catching the geese at the right time. When you do, the action can be fantastic. "I've had groups of several thousand geese decoy at once," Gordon says.
"It's very exciting. These are challenging birds to hunt. They're not easy to deal with. But when everything happens just right, those are the hunts that keep you coming back."