by M.D. Johnson
Hardcore snow goose hunters are familiar with the name Tony Vandemore. Vandemore, and his crew of fanatical waterfowlers have redefined today's Light Goose Conservation Order, the federal mandate that allows the very liberalized hunting of snow geese throughout the months of February and March and into April.
Hundreds upon hundreds of full-bodied decoys, thousands of road miles, countless hours of lost sleep and full-course meals consisting of Monster energy drinks and cold pizza have resulted in more than 15,000 white geese on the ground since 2006. Yes, I said 15,000.
Today, Vandemore calls north-central Missouri home; however, when the south breeze blows through the Show-Me State, the former pitcher for the San Diego Padres farm club can be found anywhere from his home in Kirksville west to the Missouri River Breaks. Anywhere, that is, there are snow geese. Recently, I had the chance to do a little snow goose Q&A with Vandemore, who was taking a breather from his latest venture, Habitat Flats, an intensively managed, full-service operation that offers ducks, Canadas, upland birds and whitetails along with the light geese. He co-founded Habitat Flats with MOmarsh creator, Ira McCauley. So, students, grab a #2 pencil and a tablet; here's your spring snow goose tutorial, courtesy of one of the best in the business.
True or False: There's no reason to hunt afternoons. Afternoons are meant for scouting.
Vandemore: Definitely false. The birds I like to hunt are the migrators, the ones that get up at daylight and leave southeast Missouri. They get up here around 2 or 3 o'clock, and they're tired and hungry. Those are the days you wait for. That said, though, we'll always have one or two guys scout in the afternoon.
True or False: Success with spring snows is all about decoy numbers, and the more the better. Size matters, yes?
Vandemore: Realism. It's all about realism.
How important is camouflaging the blinds completely?
Vandemore: The blinds are critical. It's all attention to detail, and we try to improve each time we're out. We like the Avery Finishers because they cover people completely, but then we had to watch – 'Were the doors getting shut all the way? Were things – a blind bag, let's say – left outside that could have used more covering? When you're going to this much effort, there's no sense in doing things halfway.