Some tips for hunting snow geese in Pennsylvania
Last week I wrote of the annual sweep of snow geese passing through the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania, the beauty of the birds and the awe they inspire with such huge flocks flying and feeding so close to my home.
I also mentioned the frustration of hunting them, and how I’ve basically abandoned their pursuit, at least in any earnest and genuine form, being satisfied to sit on a couple of occasions — decoy free — near a flooded field corner in the hope any number of birds may just drop by.
In retrospect, anyone considering becoming a snow-goose hunter may have become discouraged after reading my gloomy remarks reflecting my snow-goose hunting. I apologize for that, because I undoubtedly do not wish to discourage anyone from an outdoor undertaking, especially one that involves the magnificent white geese.
I can truthfully say that through almost constant failure, I learned quite a bit in regard to hunting snow geese, and I’m able to offer some advice to any new hunters and future hunters of these elusive birds. For seasoned snow-goose hunters, they certainly know what I know.
First off, hunters considering the hunting of snow geese have most likely seen outdoor shows that offer scenes of a constant flow of approaching snow geese, followed by uncountable shotgun shots and birds dropping every which way. Be aware that these episodes are filmed in the Midwest, where hunters are hunting the lesser snow goose (a smaller version of snow geese), which breed in north-central Canada and the Northwest Territories and migrate through the Mississippi Flyway.
The lesser snow geese far outnumber greater snow geese, which winter along the East Coast and migrate through the Atlantic Flyway, and are the birds hunted in Pennsylvania. This sizable discrepancy in bird numbers gives a huge advantage to middle-America hunters for considerable increased action near their decoy spreads.
Here in Pennsylvania, hunters cannot expect to have birds coming to them in any form or manner considered continuous. During any hunt, it may only be one or two chances at shooting birds, even in an all-day affair.
Because snow geese are usually in huge flocks, big decoy spreads are recommended. While this is basically true, a bunch of stationary decoys are not enough. Kites with flapping wings – which means hunting on windy days, usually not a problem in spring – may bring birds close enough to shoot because they’re draw to motion. Rotary machines are an expensive investment, require a lot of time and effort to haul and set up, and don’t really seem to bring the geese any closer than flapping kites.
Electronic callers are a help, but it’s important to know that snow geese on the ground feeding make a different call to flying birds, versus the calling to birds in flight made by resting birds.
Hiding is extremely important, and bunching blinds and covering them with the actual cover that lies on the ground where one hunts can only help. Hunter movement seen by approaching birds … forget any chance to shoot.
All-day hunts give one the best chance at shooting birds because the birds can fly anytime during migration.
Hunters at water seem to have the best chances at snow geese. Small ponds and flooded fields with floating decoys can work because the birds will fly to these spots after feeding, for water and rest. Hiding is still imperative. As for roosting spots, absolutely not. One way to get geese from an area for good is to shoot their roost. Anyone that stupid deserves saying bye-bye to the geese.
Passing flocks will often check out a big decoy spread, descending from high above, which in itself is a wondrous sight. But although it may be tempting to wait for a big number of geese to come within range, it usually never happens in these parts because of so many adult birds in a flock being wary of decoy spreads. If you get some birds close, take them, because chances are that if you wait, you won’t bag a single one as they all choose to leave.
The birds are here, but huge numbers do not mean success is sure to follow. Good luck.