Call it climate change, a freakish mild winter or little snow cover, but huge flocks of greater snow geese have made their way into Pennsylvania, especially the southeastern portion, much earlier than normal.
Locally, they’ve been storming into fields of corn stubble and harvested soybean fields, plus the green countryside where sprouting winter wheat sits dormant. Just yesterday, I passed a huge field of corn stubble where probably close to 5,000 of these magnificent and breathtaking birds were eagerly feeding on spilled grain and the wild grasses that are often a part of spent corn fields.
At Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, it was reported that about 100,000 of these white waterfowl were using the area this past weekend, with about 80,000 still there as of Monday. Just picture 100,000 birds of the same color sitting on a body of water. That is mind-boggling.
In the eastern United States, snow geese are an extremely difficult bird to hunt. They usually travel in large flocks and do not readily decoy, even if hunters have spent considerable time and money setting huge decoy spreads, plus including all the advertised snow goose attractants like kites, rotary machines, wind socks and electronic calling apparatus.
I know from firsthand experience that the time, effort and money put forth to entice snow geese into shooting range usually ends with birds shying away just out of range, not to mention great frustration and tired hunters with nothing to show at the end of the day.
SOME INTERESTING SNOW GOOSE FACTS
Snow geese breed above the timberlines in Greenland, Alaska, Canada and the northeastern tip of Siberia. They migrate as far south as Texas and Mexico.
Chicks hatch within 40 to 50 days, have their eyes open, are fully down-covered and able to feed themselves when they first hatch.
Within the first three weeks of birth they can walk up to 50 miles in one day following parents to new and safer nesting sites. As adults, all molting snow geese are able to outrun most predators.
The oldest snow goose ever harvested was taken in Texas in 1999, and was 27 and a half years old.
I’m certainly not discouraging anyone from hunting snow geese as they are supremely challenging, great table fare and a beautiful reward when taken afield or on water. Just be prepared for some hugely frustrating days in their pursuit.