It’s that time of year for me. I’m done with winter blues and I’m starting to gear up for hunting spring snow geese. I’ve been writing recently about the truths of snow goose hunting, as well as the 2nd installment…and it got me thinking about how the heck I’m going to get it done this spring??? Snow geese are kicking people’s tails up and down the flyway this year on a consistent basis, and I’m seeing a pattern to those having better luck. They’re usually having better shoots in weather (such as fog) or hunting migrators over water.
It got me thinking about what’s worked for us in the past, and this year, we’ll have to be perfect to get any kind of measurable harvests for the smoker. And the answer is quite simply…WATER. The vast majority of my successful migrator hunts have been over water in some way, shape, or form. As I’ve stated before, snow geese migrate over countless cornfields in search of water. When they find a roost, they usually then focus on food.
I like to hunt a water setup for multiple days at a time, and this makes it A LOT easier on your back then setting up on X’s every day. But don’t settle for any water, take your time and SCOUT the best-looking one. And make sure it’s in the flyway, nothing more frustrating than being a mile or two OFF the main flight.
Here’s the general rule of thumb for hunting water in the spring…Can you jump your spread? Seriously, take a look at your setup and it should look natural. It should be far from any trees, roads, etc. If it doesn’t look legit, odds are, the snow geese won’t buy it…
So here are the various ways I hunt water for snow geese in the spring that has worked for us in the past.
I’ve hunted a ton of various pasture pond setups in a handful of states. At first, it seems weird to approach this kind of decoy setup. But snow geese use these ponds, and it looks natural when you pick the right one. The best part about pasture is the ability to drive in under most conditions. The hard ground makes it easy.
The timing of using pasture ponds is important. You want to hunt these on the right weather days, especially in warmer conditions. Midday is actually the best time to hunt snows in these setups. That 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. window can be the best. And also, the last hour can be killer as well. I’ve had slow days on ponds only to have non-stop action as the sun drops. Be patient and ride the hole.
The key to pasture pond setups is making it look natural. Most snow goose hunters probably haven’t hunted pasture, so here’s what’ll shorten the learning curve.
Not too big, not too small. Sounds easy, right? I like pasture ponds that are around ½ to 2 acres in size, sometimes bigger. I don’t like steep sides, it should gradually rise. And the pond should be visible in all directions, so birds can see you on the move.
Get as many floaters as you can. There are a variety of ways to do to beef up your floater spread in a hurry. One way is, of course, buying used from the various classifieds. There is usually always someone selling floaters. Another way is to paint Canada or even duck floaters. Seems silly I know, but the more white you have on the pond, the better.
Run the decoys up the hill. Yes, seriously, this works. And what’s even more amazing, is often the birds finish in the pasture, NOT the pond. Keep your shooters off the water’s edge as well, maybe up the hill a bit.
If I had my way, I would hunt a flooded cornfield every time (when available). If you have the right setup, you can decoy birds from sunup to sundown. Either they want the water or they want the food, either way, you’re working birds. The key to hunting flooded corn is finding the right field. It should have the following ingredients.
Not too big. My ideal size is around an acre for a decoy setup. I’ve tried hunting BIG water, and they just land in the middle when possible. Makes for a rough experiment only to watch everything land out of range. They usually like to land in the middle, so keep the size of the pond manageable so they’re in a good range when entering the hole.
Far from the road. This is rather obvious to most, but I’ve seen spreads starting a stone’s throw off a road. Not good. Look for water patches out in the middle of cornfields.
No cattails. I like sheetwater, not ponds surrounded by corn. The ponds are usually frozen when the migration is underway anyways, so sweetwater is the way to go. Low areas in otherwise flat, wide open fields are ideal.
Water/Field Decoy Setups
I LOVE doing this. As I stated earlier, it usually just looks natural. Sure there will be a ton of birds on the water, but a lot will be resting or feeding as well.
If you’re dealing with a round piece of water, I like to SURROUND it with decoys. Put decoys on the shore and into the water, and have plenty of floaters connecting both sides (if you have them available). If you don’t have floaters, you can put a lot of your decoys in the water…just make sure you have long stakes for this. With the remaining decoys, you can work them upwind into the field. If you put, say, 90% of your decoys around the water, then you only have to move 10% each day (if the wind changes).
I like decoy setups that cover a lot of real estate, and this is a great way to accomplish this. When you have a BIG setup, it makes it more difficult for snow geese to pick out the hunters. I’m a white suit kind of guy, I don’t use blinds, so this makes it easy to move as birds work the spread differently throughout the day. Be flexible, they aren’t always going to decoy in the middle of the spread.
Hopefully, I gave you a few ideas or tips along the way on hunting snow geese over water. It takes a lot of time scouting, prepping, money, and sweat. But when it all comes together, and the birds are working you close, then you know it was all worth it.
(Main Image Photo Credit: Garrett Trentham)