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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Snow Days

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By Matt Young

Veteran waterfowlers describe their most unforgettable hunts in winter weather

There’s nothing like waterfowl hunting in the snow. Ducks and geese just seem to respond better to decoys and calling in wintry conditions, and a marsh is never more beautiful than when it’s covered in a mantle of white. But the onset of real winter weather is often bittersweet for waterfowl hunters. While a blizzard can bring fresh birds from the north and provide phenomenal shooting, the action is often fleeting as accumulating snow pushes ducks and geese southward not to return again until spring. 

In the spirit of the season, Ducks Unlimited asked three well-known waterfowlers—outdoor journalist Matt Wettish, wildlife artist Scot Storm, and waterfowl biologist Dr. Mark Vrtiska—to describe their most memorable hunts in the snow. These are their stories.

Luck of The Draw—Matt Wettish

My hunting partner Scott Lynch and I were scouting for geese when we found a cut cornfield just off the Connecticut River with about 200 birds in it. We knew beforehand that this area had a lot of collared and banded birds, and as we glassed the geese with our binoculars, we counted six collars. Since the bag limit during the regular goose season was two birds, we decided to get a couple more guys together and maybe try for a collared bird the next morning, which happened to be Thanksgiving. The forecast called for snow, and between the weather and the holiday, none of our hunting buddies could join us. Scott and I considered cancelling the hunt, but the field was close by. We decided to hunt for just an hour or two, so we could get home before the festivities.

As predicted, heavy snow was falling when we arrived at the field the next morning. A couple of inches covered the ground, and it was piling up fast. Fortunately, Scott had a snow plow on his truck. We plowed a strip along the edge of the field to clear a plate for the geese. Since we had to make this a quick hunt, we set only a few dozen silhouettes on the cleared ground and simply hunkered down under the overhanging limbs of an old cedar tree on the edge of the field. 

As it got light, we heard the first flock coming. There were probably 30 to 40 geese in the flock, but it was snowing so hard we could barely see them. We just caught brief glimpses of their ghostly forms gliding through the swirling flakes. Several other flocks arrived right behind them, and soon the air above the field was filled with the honks and moans of unseen geese circling in the snow. Finally, one flock got low enough to see the decoys and landed right in front of us. More geese piled in after them, and before we knew it, about 200 birds were standing less than 20 yards from us. We strained our eyes looking for collared geese, but the visibility was so bad we could barely make out individual birds. It was nearly time for us to head home, so we decided to run the geese off the field and then shoot the first flock that came back.  

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