Hunting the Wind

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

is nearly impossible even with several callers. The clamor of an approaching flock will tend to overwhelm your efforts anyway. But don't leave the call at home, it can be useful on singles or small flocks. With just a little practice most people can imitate the snow goose without a call.

When the plan comes together and your decoy set works, don't gloat on your success. That's because it's probably over. Rarely will you score a good second day's shoot in the same location. That's not to say the same tactics won't work in another location. They will, time and time again. Just plan on moving. You may find yourself back to the same field later in the season.

Ask a snow goose hunter the key to success and you will receive one single bit of advice that outweighs and precludes everything else. Hunt the wind. The higher the wind velocity the better. Regardless of all the weather factors waterfowl hunters dream of, including low skies, approaching fronts and freezing temperatures, a strong wind is foremost. A 60 degree cloudless sky day with a 30 mph wind can be an unbelievable snow goose day.

Snow goose hunting is a game of extremes. Extreme number of decoys, extreme amount of scouting, extreme amount of work and extreme wind speeds.

The lesser snow goose has prospered in recent times, probably due to relatively undisturbed breeding grounds and the shift in wintering birds' diet from natural foods to various agricultural crops. Biologists worry the snow goose population explosion will ultimately result in a snow goose population crash. For example, researchers have recently documented severe damage to the arctic breeding grounds.

Federal regulations have liberalized season length and daily bag limits in response, but the snow goose population continues to rise. Recently in Missouri, regulators extended the season length for snow geese to 107 days and the daily limit for snow geese has gone from 5 to 7 to 10. Other states in the lesser snow goose range have implemented similar bag limit increases.

During this same time period the mid-continent population of lesser snow geese went from about 1 million to 2.7 million, and total United States harvest of lesser snow geese dropped from 700,000 to 400,000. Lesser snow geese are a nearly untapped resource that can withstand higher harvest.

Hunting snow geese over decoys can provide an incomparable wing shooting experience. A bonus to the snow goose hunter is the prospect of having good shooting opportunities for other goose species, including Canadas, white-fronts or even Ross' geese. Frequently, ducks visit a white spread, usually mallards or pintails. You don't have to travel to Texas rice country or the Canadian prairies to enjoy this bonanza. It's right here in Missouri.

Just a reminder before you head afield: waterfowl hunters are required to have a Missouri small game hunting permit, Missouri migratory bird permit and a Federal migratory bird hunting conservation stamp. Waterfowl hunters are also restricted to the use and possession of shotshells loaded with non-toxic shot. The next time you see a swarm of snow geese funneling downward into a distant field, picture yourself under that "white tornado." It could happen if you scout, ask permission, set many decoys and hunt the wind.

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