Spring Snows: Fun On The Tail End of Waterfowl Season

As another season of waterfowl hunting draws to the close, hunters like me look at their calendar with a frown as we realize that the most fun a human being can have is coming to an end for 254 long days (and yes, I keep a running count).  As the sun sets on the last day of duck season, many of will be deep cleaning our shotguns and getting all of our decoys cleaned up to be stored away for next season.  That is, of course, unless you hunt spring snow geese – which can extend your hunting season by over a month.

Snow goose hunting can often be the bane of a waterfowl hunter.  The birds required hundreds of decoys to bring in close enough to shoot.  Some of them are responsive to calling, but most of them are not.  They are also large birds that can be difficult to bring down with only one shell.  While limits on snow geese have always been generous (Texas permits twenty per day during the regular season), the spring snow goose season can be a pure joy:  No daily limits, no plugs in your shotgun, and electronic calls become legal.[1]  Some states, such as Arkansas, waive hunting license fees for out of state residents (although a Federal Duck Stamp is still required).

While I enjoy hunting ducks alone, I prefer to hunt geese (including snows) with a guide.  The reason for this is simple:  Snow goose decoy spreads, and the sound systems used for the spring hunts, can be very expensive.  While windsock type decoys are most popular for snow goose spreads, I have hunted with outfitters that have spent over $60,000 on massive full body snow goose spreads and sound systems.  They are a sight to behold, but prohibitively expensive for most of us.  I don’t live in a major snow goose flyaway, and even if I did, I have no room in my attic for that many decoys.  The $200.00 – $300.00 per day spent on a competent and qualified guide is money well spent during snow goose season.

Goose hunting is a great deal different from duck hunting, and personally, I think geese are some of the most annoying birds to hunt.  While ducks might circle once or twice before either hitting the decoys or bugging out, flocks of snow geese will often circle and squawk for twenty minutes without committing to a spread.  Duck hunting is a social activity and hunters – especially early season – can get away with a bit of chatter and movement in the blind.  Spring snow geese aren’t nearly as foolish, and successful hunts can be determined by the ability of hunters to remain quiet and still as geese circle overhead.  The size of these birds can easily cause a hunter to underestimate range to a target, which results in missed shots.

A great deal has been written on the best shells for hunting spring snow geese.  While I have always preferred the increased range and denser patterns of my Browning Gold 10 for larger birds, the truth is that snow geese can easily be taken with a standard twelve gauge.  Federal previously made a load from its Blackcloud line specifically geared toward snow goose hunting, although it appears to have been discontinued as its new and more flexible flitecontrol wad has been adopted.[2]  The rough equivalent would be its 3” 12 gauge high velocity load packed with 1 1/8oz of BB.  For those with guns that are capable, they also make a 3.5” shell packed with 1.5oz of BB.  I have also found that the 3” shells are less likely to jam up in the extended magazine tubes that are legal for spring snows.

I am no fan of the taste of snow geese and am mostly out looking for a special bird to put on the wall.  The Blue Goose (a species of snow goose) is one of the more aesthetically pleasing of geese.  Your guide should be able to help you pick out a pick mature one from a flock for taxidermy.  If you are lucky enough to harvest the rare and beautiful blue phase Ross goose, it would be prudent to purchase a lottery ticket on your way to the taxidermist.  Of course, I encourage new hunters to at least try snow geese to decide for themselves whether they like it.  There are many outstanding recipes available from Ducks Unlimited and other websites. [3]  Some food banks will accept snow geese for donation and I have even had friends that have used the meat to make healthy organic dog food.  Have a plan in advance for your kills so that nothing is wasted.  Good hunting!

[1] – Check your state laws to determine legal methods for taking snow geese during the spring conservation season.  Keep in mind that, in some jurisdictions (e.g. blue states), adding a magazine extension tube to your shotgun may be unlawful.

[2] – The new Blackcloud will function with any choke tube, while the old Blackcloud was not suitable for use with ported chokes.  I am not impressed with aftermarket choke tubes and find that a standard modified choke tube will provide good pattern density for ducks and geese alike.  Anything tighter is typically not recommended for steel shot and can damage your weapon.

[3] – However, most leave out the essential step of brining your meat overnight (this is necessary for ducks as well).  

J.L. Van Dyke, Esq.

Written by J.L. Van Dyke, Esq.

J.L. Van Dyke is a third degree brother and Sergeant-at-Arms of the Dallas/Ft. Worth chapter of Proud Boys. J.L. practices law in Texas and is an avid hunter of waterfowl, upland birds, and big game.

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