There are thousands of techniques for snow goose hunters to mull over as they make a plan for the Light Goose Conservation Order this spring. However, overthinking the process can throw a wrench into every well-thought-out approach. The following tips discuss the basics of hunting spring snows, and provide a baseline for having a successful hunt.
One of the more vexing questions is whether to invest in a spread that consists of windsock or full-body decoys. Ideally, a full rig of each would be at your disposal, and many avid waterfowlers who chase the white geese will have both options available in the trailer. Unfortunately, for most hunters this isn’t practical.
Each decoy has perceived advantages, but this begs the question, is one more effective than the other? The answer is highly dependent on each hunting scenario. Spreads left out for multiple days are better suited to full-bodies, which hold up better to the elements, and work regardless of wind speed and direction - with little regard for adjustment.
On the other hand, transporting heaps of full bodies can be challenging. Whereas socks don’t take up much space, and they are much lighter. Plus, they can be picked up and moved relatively quickly. Socks also move in lighter breezes. Snows tend to approach over the top of a spread, so basic body profiles work, despite looking a lot less like a goose than a realistic full body.
In the end, the best choice is whichever suits your needs, and of course, budget. Both styles of decoys have their place. Having some good looking full-bodies around the “hole” is a good idea regardless. Many snow goose hunters pool resources into a sort of co-op, and buy decoys to be used together in a given spread.
How to Hide
Perhaps no other species is more difficult to finish in the decoys than snow geese. Adults are known to live for many years and with each passing season their instincts are honed by predators and hunting pressure as they traverse the flyways. Compounding this intelligence and savvy is the fact that snows often travel in very large flocks. This means the hide must be rock solid or hunters have a hard time fooling so many eyes.
Determining what style of blind to use on a given hunt is largely dependent on the type of terrain and natural cover present. Many guides employ a-frame or panel style blinds for their ease of use, and with each day’s crew consisting of a different cast of characters. Layout blinds work great as well, and they are the go-to for countless snow goose hunters. But, blinds in general are often a liability when it comes to snow geese. Another alternative is to wear “whites” and lay in the decoys.
There are several good options for pant/jacket combos specifically marketed for snow goose hunting and they work great. In addition, Tyvek protective suits are relatively cheap and can be worn over any clothing and disposed of after a hunt or two.
The objective is to disappear by blending into the decoys. Whites also work great when hunting in snowy conditions, regardless of species. Hunters may use blind bags for a headrest, or better yet, invest in a backboard such as the MOmarsh Invisi-Lounge XL.
Even the most perfectly camouflaged blind produces a silhouette. This is especially true on bright days when the sun's angle forms long shadows. Smart geese and waterfowl in general, avoid dark shadows when working into a spread. Blinds profiles are a notorious problem snow goose hunters are all to familiar with.
Thankfully, white spreads reflect a lot of light. By filling any shadowy areas with decoys, hunters can hide their blinds better. Windsocks on tall stakes do an excellent job of hiding layout blinds. Ideally, the body of the windsock will deploy over the top of the blind and along the sides and back, blending the blind into the spread.
Another great option is to use flyer decoys mounted on varying length, thin steel rods (available at many hardware stores) that can be tapered over the top of the shadow. This works especially well for blinds with a high vertical profile such as A-frames. It’s also great option for hiding the opening of layout blinds where birds may key in on a hunter’s face or movement. The bottom line is, hide well and fill shadows.
The Light Goose Conservation Order regulations allows the use of unplugged shotguns and it’s not uncommon for hunters to use shotguns with 8 to 12 shot magazine extensions. While most shots at snow geese are overhead and require little swing, the extra shell weight added to magazines can change the balance of a shotgun drastically.
Adding nearly a pound of shells to an extended magazine pushes the balance forward. Sometimes it takes a few volleys to get used to, but many waterfowl hunters shoot instinctively and quickly revert back to their normal shooting style, which may be disrupted by the drastic change in gun balance. Do yourself a favor and shoot your snow goose guns prior to the hunt. Shooting clays with lighter loads is fine for tune-ups, but keep in mind many snow goose guns don’t cycle efficiently with lighter loads.
And, speaking of cycling, reconfiguring shotguns can be problematic. Sometimes magazine springs are too light, or too tight, and it’s almost a guarantee that a dirty firearm will fail during a snow goose hunt. Practicing will reveal many issues quickly.
Snow Goose Hunting Checklist
- Keep guns clean and avoid over-oiling, especially inertia actions
- Keep basic gun maintenance items in blind bag
- Have a backup gun available, similar to your primary
- Use tighter chokes but pattern the gun/shell combo before the hunt
- Hydrate with water, dehydration often occurs before the first shots are fired
- Keep energy bars in blind bag for quick energy
- Use sunblock on your face on sunny days
- Wear tight gloves when setting and pulling spreads
- Wear quality, non-mirrored sunglasses on sunny days
- Wear a white neck gator or bandanna to cover your face when working birds
- Heavy duck loads are plenty lethal, don’t overthink ammo for snows
- Full charge mobile phone and backup battery pack prior to hunt
- When warm, keep a big cooler with ice nearby so birds won’t spoil