Late February, and early March is a special time of year for the die hard waterfowlers in the Midwest. As most states have completed their regular waterfowl seasons this time of year, the conservation order for spring snow geese is already in full swing. For most die hard waterfowlers, including myself, it has been a long, snow filled winter, and hunters and anglers alike are suffering from cabin fever in the worst way. Every problem, including cabin fever has a solution. Spring snow geese!!!
Many states in the Midwest offer great opportunity at spring snows. Although every state has different regulations, they are all similar. With the conservation order in effect, unplugged shotguns, electronic callers, and no possession limits are very common terms for spring snows. This alone draws the attention of hunters, but extending their season doesn’t hurt either.
With months of preparation completed, and the spring migration in full swing, my vacation from work is finally here. With the trailer loaded, and the truck fueled up, we were headed South to embrace another season for snow geese in the great state of Missouri. With an unknown exact destination in mind, we were looking for big numbers of staging snow geese in which North West Missouri is famous for. After crossing the Iowa-Missouri border, it did not take long to spot the huge flocks of snow geese looking for fields to feed in, or birds that were on a destination North to new staging grounds. After several hundred miles, and countless hours of travel, we had finally reached the mecca for spring snow goose hunters.
After several hours in the truck scouting, and trying to access permission for a field to hunt, I locked up a great field. The field itself was a harvested corn field, 400 plus acres, with two large ponds on the South end of the property. From past experience, I knew this would be a great set up for snows. What more could the birds ask for? They had a huge field to feed in, and water nearby to loaf and roost on. On top of that, the field had a high ridge top where we could set the spread, and we would be visible for miles.
This time of year, the weather is very unpredictable. When we arrived in NW Missouri, we were in t-shirts with sunny, 63 degree weather. The forecast for tomorrow was a blizzard!!! After surviving a blizzard that dumped 5″ of snow, and a few days of pretty slow hunting the weather man was predicting sunny, windy conditions from the South, with warmer temperatures. This meant good news! We would melt the remaining snow cover, and the water in the area would again open up. Along with those conditions, South winds should mean migrating snow geese, and a great shoot!
As we headed to the field in the early morning hours, I had that gut feeling that it would be a productive day. As I emptied the trailer full of gear, and transported my buddies to the field, it was just about time to sit back and watch the sun come up on another beautiful spring day. After parking the ATV, last minute adjustments to the spread of 1200 plus decoys were being completed and the gunners were starting to load up.
Just that fast, the first bird of the day came in to join us. An adult eagle head blue goose was given a lethal dose of steel shot from a Beretta shotgun, and folded up as fast as he came in. The skunk was off for the day, and we already had the first bird down, and in the mouth of my black Labrador retriever named Tucker. Tucker was quick to mark, and made a efficient retrieve before climbing back in his blind patiently waiting for the next retrieve. A good start to a great day!
When the sun finally came up, we were amazed. Looking back to the South, huge masses of snow geese lined the horizon and appeared to be heading in our general direction. The order was given out to get down and cover up as the first of several groups started working the spread. Flocks of several thousand geese started to tornado down on my spread, with layers and layers of snow geese letting the air out of their wings, cupped up tight, some with their feet down already. I called the shot, “shoot em” as a few juvenile birds had fallen for the decoy spread. Those juveniles ended up making the ultimate sacrifice, and were succumbed to the overwhelming amounts of well placed steel shot pellets that filled the air. As I exited my blind after the first barrage, Tucker was already on his way back to me with a juvenile snow goose in his mouth. Tucker made a great retrieve, and was sent back several times to finish his work with multiple birds on the ground. High fives were exchanged between the hunters, and smiles filled the upper portions of each layout blind in the field.
Just that fast another flock was working. The electronic caller was on, producing realistic feeding and greeting calls, and the wind was blowing strong making the decoys active. Another spin was happening directly over head. Another huge flock of snows above, looking for food, and looking at us hard. A few more juvenile birds had committed, and were coming in fast. As they descended, and were in tight, I called the shot once again, “shoot em!” Another barrage of gunfire erupted from the high hill-ed corn field, and several more geese fell to the ground. Tucker was busy again, retrieving multiple downed birds. We continued to have several more flocks throughout the morning do the exact same thing.
After the morning flight from the South, the mid-day lull was upon us. We spent some free time exchanging stories, and snacking to fill the void in the action. Our “lull” did not last long. A flock of high traveling snows was observed from the East, heading West. The caller was turned on, and wouldn’t you know, they started working the spread. Some of these birds started off in the heavens. They were high to say the least. As the birds worked the wind, dropping altitude on every pass, it was just about game on for us again! Another small bunch of juveniles had peeled off of the main flock, and made a very bad mistake, which turned deadly after the shot was called yet again. Multiple birds fell to the ground, and Tucker was getting another corn field work out.
As the day went on, our bird count was growing by the minute. Although it was not non-stop shooting, it had been a very productive day. By mid afternoon we had 30 plus birds on the ground, with a few hours to hunt for the day. As I looked to the East, another flock of snows was working in our direction yet again. As the birds worked the wind, pass after pass, we finally had some in range. The shot was called again, and several more snows hit the ground. Tucker was already busy making quick work out of his retrieves, saving me countless steps in the field. Tucker had been retrieving downed birds, and noticed a juvenile snow that was crippled trying to make an escape. The chase was on. As the snow goose was steadily gaining ground from the hunters in the spread, Tucker was locked on to his target like a fighter pilot. That snow goose was later hit by a black freight train, named Tucker. Again Tucker had earned his keep, and was en route back to the spread with yet another downed bird. As tucker returned to the spread, we started to evaluate our harvest of downed birds.
With the bright afternoon sunshine, the birds on the ground looked amazing. While sorting through the pile of geese, I noticed one of the adult snows that had been harvested, was special. The special adult snow was sporting some bling on it leg. We had a banded bird in the pile and did not even know it! Tucker must have retrieved the bird during the mass chaos of several flocks earlier in the day, and the bird was placed into the pile un- noticed. What a great addition to an already great day.
After a few more flocks, and a few more birds on the ground, the sun was starting to fade. I decided to call an end to the day as we had a lot of work ahead. We still had to pack our gear, get hunters back to the truck and process our harvest of the day. We decided to grab some quick photos, and get a bird count for the day. With 5 happy hunters and a tired black lab, we posed for some photos that were not hard to smile in. The day ended up yielding 44 snows and blues, along with that special one.
[wpg_thumb width=”300″ height=”300″ perrow=”1″]