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Tales of a Snow Goose Hunter

by Jon Mitzel

 Snow geese, snow geese and more snow geese! That’s what we witnessed on a mild spring day in northern South Dakota recently.

   I’m about as good a snow goose hunter as a golfer. And that’s just not very good. However, we did manage to hunt snow geese three times last fall, witnessing thousands of birds looking to feed.

   Our snow goose hunts, I think, are nothing shy of an amazing show. Seeing thousands upon thousands geese is one thing, but having them decoy is a totally different experience. So exciting.

   We’ve seen some amazing things over the years, as our snow goose decoying skills improved. In fact, last fall three of us took some 20 snow geese on one trip, which I thought was a great day.

   The spring snow goose season offers willing hunters another chance to harvest a few snows and blues. We’ve seen some amazing videos where guys are grinding snow geese and birds are decoying with ease. Some even on clear-blue days. Those videos tell us that maybe one day we’ll be able to decoy snow geese on a regular basis.

   Snow goose hunting is certainly not for the lazy man. Typically it takes a couple hours to set up a spread of hundreds of decoys in the morning darkness. That’s part of the experience. Once you get the spread set, if you’ve done your homework, found a feed field, gotten permission from the landowner you should be set to witness an amazing display. Ducks are often a bonus.

   When you do have a group of snow geese spot your spread, you lay there for many minutes, or what feels like hours, just watching geese work the spread. And if you’re lucky enough, a few of them approach shooting distance.

   But why do we work so hard for often so little? Expectations and anticipation. You lay tucked in your blind, so thrilled as you watch snow geese circle and work your spread until a few make that last loop and drop in. Sometimes birds come in low and quick from the bottom of the spread and catch you off guard. And there’s the ever-popular single that appears out of nowhere when you’re all standing around talking.

   We’ve found, over the years, snow geese have gotten wise to picking out blinds in decoy spreads, and wearing whites can often work just as well as laying in a blind. But it’s not as comfortable.

   The spring snow geese season began early this season, a result of warm weather. For some, just witnessing snow goose sights and sounds is enough. It’s always a show. I guess that’s why we do it. It’s something one could try to write about and describe, but there’s no way to do it justice.

   You have to be out there to understand. •