It’s the beginning of the end for snow goose hunters in the Atlantic Flyway. Spring has finally sprung, and rising temperatures have cleared out most of the snow cover in the Northeast. After a flurry of activity in the past week, many snow geese have jumped over the border into Canada, where the birds will stage until the final leg of the journey back to their tundra breeding grounds.
“Friday and Saturday saw big pushes of snows,” explains Ryan Muller of Fowl Exposure Outfitters in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Though one of his hunters took a banded bird that was 18 years old, about half of his bag over the weekend was made up of juveniles—a big increase from earlier in the migration, when young birds made up only about five percent of his harvest. The increased presence of juveniles is a sure sign that the trailing edge of the migration has reached central New York, but there still may be a few birds bringing up the rear. “I have heard some reports of a few stragglers to the south, but not enough to expect another big push,” Muller says.
“There were some big feeds, but they’re gone now,” says wetland specialist Mathew Shawl, who is based in the Saint Lawrence River Valley. “The agricultural fields outside Massena don’t seem to be holding many geese.”
Shawl believes that might be all for the season. “They pushed through quickly, possibly due to rapid snow melt,” he says.
Captain Matt Martin of Frontier Guide Service in Chazy, New York, also believes they have seen the bulk of the snow goose migration. Open fields on the north side of the Saint Lawrence River are providing snows with plenty of food as they wait for the tundra to open, and Martin’s friends in Canada have reported geese all the way from Montreal to Rimouski. Martin also reports an uptick in juvenile birds in his area.
Despite all the geese staging to the north, Martin is hopeful there might be a few opportunities just yet. With late-season snow geese, Martin says, “It’s feast or famine. We might get a late shot of juvies, but you just can’t count on it. With all the food available to the north, many are just skipping right over the border.”
The Light Goose Conservation Order got off to a slow start here in the Northeast, but the pace quickened in the past week with plenty of wind, sunshine, and warm temperatures. It appears the season may be winding down now, although there are enough scattered pockets of birds to give hunters hope. If everything lines up right, there could be one last push to close out the season.