Submission by Travis Thompson
Some would say snow goose hunters are the wackiest of them all…That is until you experience the intense roar of thousands of decoying snow geese descending in to your decoy spread. It gives me goosebumps just replaying it in my head as I write this.
If duck and goose season doesn’t quite fill your waterfowling appetite then here’s 9 great reasons to hunt snow geese this spring…
1. The Tornado – How many geese make up a tornado? 200? 300? 500? Hell, it may be 2000 or more, I really don’t know how to explain the phenomenon. Some liken it to the sound a jet makes on the tarmac . . . A dull, deafening roar of wings and honks and squawks. There’s no waterfowl experience even remotely close to the tornado . . . You lie there covered in what could pass for a bed sheet and you’d swear you’re either going to die of a heart attack or the beating in your chest is going to actually flair the birds. They make the first pass, and what seemed like 300 birds intersects with, what, another 200? And they’re flipping and somersaulting and turning and you’re worrying about whether or not you’ll remember to flip your safety off.
Then, just like an actual tornado, they begin to spiral down EXACTLY where the guide said they would.
Folks, there ain’t much better in the world than nature doing exactly what you set out for it to do – a big gobbler, answering your call and strutting into a clearing; a monster fish exploding on your topwater bait; waterfowl decoying . . . This is like all of that, on steroids . . .
No, tornados aren’t a guarantee, but the chance of seeing one is worth the price of admission. Trust me.
2. No plugs – I’ve just wrapped up a pretty successful waterfowl season. Lots of birds, lots of good shots, plenty of birds working the decoys . . . But you know what I think about during the offseason? The ones that got away. A banded drake blue wing with a crescent completely around his head; I missed with a third shot and he headed back to Saskatchewan. A pair of Cans dropping into our diver spread after we’d unloaded on a pod of bluebills, everyone standing there with empty guns.
Conservation season gives you the chance to right these wrongs. What’s the extended capacity of your gun? 8 shells? 9? Bring it on. Unload. Pick your bird, drop him, pick another. No plugs is a freeing feeling to a waterfowler. It’s like therapy.
3. It’s Eco-Friendly – Know what snow geese do to the tundra? The annihilate it.
Seriously, spend a few minutes on google and take a gander at snow goose damage to the tundra. Fields of willows, stripped bare. Ground rooted more efficiently than any garden tiller. Grass? What grass?
What’s crazy is these birds are actually damaging their own (as well as many other species’) nesting habitat. They have flourished more than many other waterfowl species over decades, but taking down great numbers of them on the reverse migration is as important as it is fun.
4. The Sore Shoulder – We’ve all had it at some point in our hunting career . . . That day where you go through a box of shells for 12 doves or 6 ducks . . . You wake up the next morning and grin as you see the bruising on your shoulder. It’s a badge of honor . . . And fun . . .
Now imagine not having limitations on how many birds you can kill . . . You absolutely WILL NOT feel it while you’re out in the field, but, after you get home, a couple days after the hunt, you’ll bump it and wince. And smile that smile that only a wingshooter understands.
5. The Decoys – Conservation hunts can be a round-the-clock affair.
If you’re involved in setting decoys, this is done, often off scouting and migration news, in the middle of the night. The hope is the snows on the move in the morning will see these huge spreads that appear overnight and their instincts to feed and congregate will overpower their caution.
Tens of hundreds of decoys will dot the field . . . Wind socks and bags and spinning wings and, it seems like, every piece of white linen your guide owns, will litter the landing zone.
Conservation hunts can take your breath away from the shear magnitude of the operation. Everyone should see these spreads at least once in their life.
6. The Camaraderie – All night decoy setups. All day goose hunts. Breakfast in the blind. Lunch in the blind. Heck, I’ve eaten supper in the blind.
One of the greatest things about waterfowling in general is the time in between the birds . . . The laughs at missed shots, at great shots, at trophies and smiles . . . Conservation hunts put all of this into a magnified perspective . . . Having no limits and gigantic decoy spreads gives plenty of time to work as a team, to bond, to hang out . . . Miss a group? That’s okay, we’re not going anywhere . . .
7. The Dogs – There’s nothing like the sight of a good duck dog working.
I’ve gotten out of bed on the coldest of days to watch my lab pick up a single wood duck. There’s just something about it.
Watching a snow goose dog is like watching a whole different species altogether. Tireless doesn’t begin to describe how hard and efficiently these dogs work. Back and forth across the field, chasing cripples, and then holding rock steady as two thousand geese plummet into your spread. E-calls and pit blinds and layouts and wind socks and plenty of distractions. These dogs are Maverick and Goose at Miramar – they’re the “Top Gun” of retrievers . . .
8. The Trophies – Collars. Bands. Blue Snows, and Blue Ross’ . . . Just the sheer number of birds greatly increases your chances of bringing home some hardware. Sure, it’s not a guarantee, but the odds are definitely more in your favor on this hunt than many others . . .
9. The Memories – Unseasonably cold, or warm. Rain and wind and snow and sunshine. Small groups of birds, wary geese, and huge swarms . . . Granola bars and black coffee and ham sandwiches and the smile on your dad’s face, your daughter’s face, your buddy’s face, as you begin to pile the birds up and count. The faded squawking you hear as you doze off a night three weeks later . . . The chills you get at the rush of wind through feathers . . . I tell my clients all the time, “you don’t pay for the trophies, you pay for the experience – the trophies are a bonus . . .”