Spring Waterfowling: Quebec’s greater snow geese

Most waterfowl hunters hung up their shotguns several months ago, but a few waterfowling opportunities still exist in parts of North America. The Ducks Unlimited Television crew traveled to Québec in the spring of 2012 for a greater snow goose hunt along the St. Lawrence River. This photo essay provides a glimpse of this unique late-spring hunting opportunity.

By Mike Checkett

Many of Canada's earliest settlements were established in Québec's St. Lawrence Valley. Located along the shores of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries, this region is a historic migration stopover and waterfowling area.

Greater snow geese return to Québec in April and May after a 900-kilometer, non-stop flight from their winter grounds along the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Coast.

By the 1950s, the greater snow goose population had dwindled to only 12,000 birds. Today, greater snow goose numbers have grown to more than 1 million, and waterfowl managers consider the birds on the verge of overpopulation.

Between 400,000 and 750,000 greater snow geese will gather in the spring along the St. Lawrence River, where they gorge on spartina rhizomes at low tide to fatten themselves for their impending migration and the nesting season.

The St. Lawrence River and private landholdings in close proximity to Cap Tourmente Reserve are the cornerstones of Québec's superior snow goose hunting.

Spring greater snow goose hunts in Québec are conducted from comfortable hides located strategically along the river's edge and from layout blinds located in fields to which the greater snow geese feed and rest at high tide.  

Hunters often wear white and recline on layout chairs while hunting in agricultural fields. Decoy spreads consist of a mixture of shells and wind socks, and electronic callers are used to imitate the bedlam of feeding geese.

Greater snow geese are 30-40 percent larger than lesser snow geese. The sexes are almost identical in appearance, but females are often smaller than males.

Greater snow geese retreat to agricultural fields during high tide periods to loaf and continue feeding.

Like other "light geese," greater snows are grubbers, feeding on roots (rhizomes) in mud flats and agricultural fields.

The average lifespan of greater snow geese is three years, but some individuals live into their late teens.

Huntley Ritter, former DU-TV host, poses with Ramsey Russell from Kennebec Outfitters with a nice bag of greater snow geese.

Wherever you find waterfowl, a DU project will almost certainly be nearby.

The Cape Tourmente Reserve was founded in 1969 solely to protect the greater snow goose population. Not surprisingly, unique hunting lore and traditions are deeply entrenched in the local community.

Hunting greater snow geese offers a unique opportunity in a waterfowl-rich environment.