As one of the most abundant North American species of geese. Snow Geese are usually referred to as light geese. Snow Geese numbers have thrived over the years so much as to that they have become one of the most abundant waterfowl species in North America. However, it wasn’t always this way at one time in the early 1900’s Snow Geese were off limits to hunting. However, as the numbers increased snow goose hunting was allowed to hunt in 1975. Learning more about the species gives a better appreciation for them and helps to understand Snow Geese.
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Snow Goose Coloration –
When it comes to Snow Geese there are two different colorations. First is the white phase or “snow” and the second is referred to as the blue phase when the geese appear blue/gray. A Snow Goose that is in the white phase is usually all white with black tipped wings. Whereas the blue morph phase snow geese are all a slate grayish blue color, and their head has little to no white in it. Prior to 1972 these two where separate species, however, since then they have been combined to both be referred to as Snow Geese.
There is, however, two subspecies the lesser and larger snow goose. The lessers live from Central Canada to the Bering Straits. Whereas, the larger species nest in northeast Canada.
Snow Goose Breeding –
Beginning the end of May to early June, Snow Geese begin nesting. The females tend to nest in shallow nests and she will sit on the nest for 20-25 days until the eggs hatch. Snow Goose younglings are very developed when they hatch and are mobile in the first few hours of birth. After 40-50 days they will begin to learn how to fly until then they are closely protected by their mother and father from predators.
Snow Geese tend to form long-term partners which are formed in the second year of their life. However, they won’t begin breeding until the third year of life. Females tend to return to the place of their birth to nest and breed themselves. Most breeding occurs in Northern Canada in the tundra and prairie regions where trees cannot grow.
Snow Goose Migration –
Since Snow Geese breed and nest in May to August in the far North Arctic tundra of Canada. They spend nearly six months migrating to and from warm weather each season. Snow Geese can migrate as far as 3,000 miles from the tundra to wintering areas. They also tend to migrate in huge numbers at times the size of the birds migrating at one time can even be seen on doppler radar systems.
Much of the lesser snow geese travel along the Central, Pacific, and Mississippi Flyways. Whereas, the larger snow geese migrate on the Atlantic Flyway. As Snow geese migrate they tend to feed in what some call a frenzy across farmland. Which is another reason why a conservation order has been in place to help control the population every spring.
Snow Goose Population –
Snow Geese numbers were quite low in the early 1900’s. However, they have been able to bounce back in large numbers. Today the population is estimated to exceed over 15 million and it has grown 3X since the mid-1970’s. As of today, the population has been growing at a rate of 5% even after a conservation order is in place. The species have seemed to thrive each year even though they take such a long migration path.
Snow Goose Conservation Order –
It’s hard to believe that Snow Goose hunting was banned in the early 1910’s because the population was so low. Hence, they have thrived to such great numbers that in the late 1990’s they discovered that the Snow Geese had reached such high numbers. The Snow geese were destroying their very own nesting and breeding grounds. The Tundra and Arctic breeding grounds where being overeating and destroyed with the number of snow geese habiting them.
Therefore, Ducks Unlimited, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Canadian Wildlife Service got together to find a solution to help protect the tundra and the species. As a result, a conservation order was ordered in 1997. However, it was federally mandated in 1999. Hunting hours were exceeded, bag limits were increased to even unlimited, even the tools and gear required to hunt Snow Geese were relaxed. Giving hunters no plus in their shotguns and electronic callers. As a result, Spring Snow Geese season became a waterfowl hunters top reason to extend their season.
Snow Goose Hunting Tips –
When it comes to Snow Goose Hunting there are a number of factors to consider and learn so that you can have a successful hunt. Therefore, we have put together the leading snow goose hunting tips to consider to help improve your hunting success.
If your Canada Goose hunting or Snow goose hunting concealment has to be the number one tactic to consider. Concealment is going to be the ultimate factor of whether snow geese will approach close enough for you to have a shot at them. Therefore below are some tactics and tips to consider when setting up your spread.
Cover Your Blind –
Due to ever-changing weather and field conditions ensuring that you conceal your blind in the natural habitat and surroundings is crucial. Hence, if you’re hunting a cut corn field you have to stubble or conceal your blind with the stalks in that field. The same goes for a wheat or bean field, the necessity to blend into your environment is important. It seems a bit petty to have to match the environment so well. However, when you are snow goose hunting you may have a thousand or more eyes looking down on your spread. Each one of those birds are picking apart every detail to ensure that it’s a safe place to land. If your blinds stick out with a different shade of color snow geese will tend to flare and never get close enough.
Cover Your Tracks –
Maybe I’m paranoid, but when you spend the time scouting, preparing, investing and setting up a spread you want to have a successful hunt. Therefore, if you can cover your tracks or not disturb your hunting “X” you’ll have a better chance for a successful hunt. If you are using a decoy trailer and driving into the field, ensure that the ground isn’t too soft. With the weight of a truck and trailer, you can make some deep ruts in the field which can create shadows or stand out when snow goose hunting.
The second easiest tactic for covering your tracks is to ensure that you aren’t taking stubble or grass from the area you are hunting in. Instead, try and grab field grass or stubble from 100-200 yards away. This will help keep the “X” you’re hunting most natural. Same goes for when you are hunting in the snow, try and limit disturbing the snow by adding a bunch of footprints outside your designated spread.
Cover Yourself –
It goes without saying when you have hundreds or thousands of snow geese looking down at your spread. Layout blinds can be easy to spot if not properly concealed. Therefore, there are a few options to help keep you covered up. Option one is to lay inside layout blinds, and ensure you have them stubbled up really well. Utilize silhouette decoys, and full body snow goose decoys and place them tight and in some cases on top of your layout blinds. This will allow you to blend in more and not stand out to snow geese.
The second option which many people use when snow goose hunting is forgoing using layout blinds and instead of laying within the decoys. When snow geese feel pressure they can be some of the most difficult birds to decoy. Therefore, by not using layout blinds you can keep the profile of yourself much lower and smaller. The challenge with this is you have to wear solid camo or white to blend into the decoys and field. This can also be difficult if you have new snow goose hunters, as they tend to not sit still as the birds are approaching.
Like any type of waterfowl hunting, scouting is one of the most important aspects. This could not be more true with Snow goose hunting, as they tend to fly in very large flocks. Considering this a flock can eat an entire field in a matter of a week or at times even a day. Therefore, snow geese can move on a daily bases. Snow geese can also be very temperature conscious. Therefore, when the water changes quickly they can push great distances in just a few days. This is why it’s very important to scout snow geese day and night to find their patterns and fields if you are planning on hunting them.
Snoe goose hunting requires a lot of knowledge and experience of knowing when to call the shot. It can take some guys multiple seasons to understand predicting when a small group of snow geese will descend from the clouds and enter your decoys. Therefore, you have to patience to learn and study their habits. If you try and rush snow goose hunting, you risk spooking birds and have a busted hunt. Patience is usually taught the most by trial and error, as soon as you mess up enough times you realize the exact patience required for snow goose hunting.
Snow Goose Hunting Equipment
In a nutshell snow goose hunting equipment is essentially the same as other types of goose hunting. Both styles of hunting require decoys, calls, layout blinds, etc. However, due to the scale of snow goose hunting spreads. Some manufacturers have been able to tailor to the snow goose hunters on providing equipment that can be more useful and less expensive.
There are a few different types of decoys for snow goose hunting. Hence, to help explain the difference we have broken them down and have the best decoys listed for each category.
Full Body Snow Goose Decoys –
Full Body Snow Goose Decoys – Avery Greenhead Gear
When it comes to snow goose hunting having the correct decoys and enough of them is going to help improve your chances of a successful hunt. Therefore, many waterfowl hunters use full body snow goose decoys. They add the most realistic depiction of feeding and active snow geese. They can have a couple drawbacks, however, first, we must address the positives of full body snow goose decoys.
The Avery full body decoys are ultra-realistic carvings and paint schemes similar to snow geese or blue geese. To give the decoy’s motion, they have RealMotion II systems that provide them with motion even in the slightest of breezes.
The motion stick system makes these decoys extremely easy to set up and take down. Simply place the stake in the ground and the full body sits on top the stake similar to a turkey decoy.
Full body decoys give the best depiction of live snow geese feeding. They are lifelike and provide the best decoy for fooling snow geese. However, they have a few drawbacks. When snow goose hunting having large numbers of decoys is necessary, sometimes 500-1500 at one time. Therefore, full body decoys take up a lot of space and can be quite costly. Hence, most people have a large number of full-body decoys, but they mix in other decoys such as silosocks and silhouettes decoys.
Silosock Snow Goose Decoys –
Full Body Snow Goose Decoys –
When you are looking to fill in a spread and increase your snow goose presence the silosock is by far the best option. Not only are they inexpensive, but they add a lot of motion and body to your snow goose spread. Therefore, if you see a snow goose hunting spread more than likely the majority of the decoys are silosock.
Instead of utilizing a plastic that is used in full body decoys, silosock’s use a combination of lightweight Tyvek and Coroplast. The head is made of a 2D Coroplast with a realistic image of the head of a snow goose. Whereas the body is made of lightweight Tyvek that fills up in the wind to offer the look of a full body. The entire body then attaches to a steel stake that slides into just about any surface. The material is very durable even though it’s lightweight. This way it makes a lot of motion in even the slightest of winds.
The main benefit of using silosocks is that they are extremely mobile and easy to deploy. As a hunter, you can set up and deploy hundreds if not thousands of silosocks in a matter of minutes. Additionally, silosocks offer a lot of movement in a spread. Plus when numbers are the main goal they can be very cost effective compared to full body decoys when snow goose hunting.