When I arrived at the field, part of my hunting party was already busy putting out decoys. It was early afternoon, and there had been tens of thousands of snow geese in the field the day before. It was a perfect setup, with rolling hills and tall barley stubble. The wet conditions meant we had to walk our gear into the field. Todd and Linda Zimmerling had done the legwork, found the field, and extended invitations to Reid Zimmerling, myself, and Kevin Watson.
The job of placing over 700 decoys was just about complete when the wind decided to roar. The snow socks whipped in the violent wind and sounded like thunder as they snapped back and forth uncontrollably. I grabbed one of the socks, pushed the stake into the ground at a steep angle, pointed into the wind, closed the opening on the front of the decoy, and let the body fall flat against the ground. It worked! The sock moved slightly and was still completely visible, allowing us to manage the wind and save the hunt.
All five of us scurried to re-stake the decoys at a sharp angle to deal with the wind. It only took 10 minutes to complete, and we were settled comfortably in our ALPS Snow Goose Chairs to await the onslaught of snow and Ross’ geese. The zero-gravity design of the chairs makes them extremely comfortable to sit in, and you blend into the decoys by dressing in white.
We did not have to wait long. The massive flocks of snow geese were doing what arctic birds do best—jump from field to field as they fed. Anyone that has hunted snows will know they bounce lots. Birds feeding east of us were bouncing to the northwest. The small flocks, singles, and doubles that came close to our field made a beeline for the decoy spread. Shotguns roared, and the body count started to build.
It was an exciting day. Shootable birds continued to entertain and tease as they fought the wind until directly over us. We watched the main flock bounce from field-to-field, and stragglers target our decoys. We didn’t get vast swarms of geese working the decoys, but it didn’t matter. The smaller groups were decoying perfectly, and there was plenty of shooting for everyone. The birds would fight the wind hard to get to our location but could open their wings and disappear in seconds once the shooting started.
A single Ross’ passed by at about 50 yards, and I swung my shotgun hard to get in front of it. The bird tumbled to the ground, and I ran to retrieve it. The dainty little Ross’ sported some jewelry on one leg, which is always exciting.
The bird band was reported and told us that the goose was a male hatched in 2015 or earlier and banded near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The bird would have made a minimum of six migrations south and back north. The direct route from Cambridge Bay to the southern states is close to 2,735 miles one way, meaning the little Ross’ had likely traveled over 32,900 miles in its lifetime. The goose had likely experienced hunters along the way and saw things that we could only imagine.
The shot on the diminutive goose may have seemed rangy to some, but using Fiocchi Golden Waterfowl 3-inch magnums with #1 shot proved to be deadly. Fiocchi is an Italian-based company with two production facilities in the USA, one in Ozark, MO, and the newest in Little Rock, AR. Keeping with traditions, the American-made ammunition manufacturer prides itself on heritage, innovation, and performance. Fiocchi USA has spent considerable time branding its best shotgun ammunition under the Golden Line, using clean-burning powders to produce superior energy.
The #1 shot is an excellent option for superior knockdown power and maintaining a dense pattern. Plated shot further improves patterns and knockdown power. Controlled energy ensures reliable cycling. Italian-made hulls and components are assembled is in the United States.
Linda worked with her dog Koda to retrieve the close birds, and Todd took on the task of chasing down the flyers at the edge of the field. Reid shot his first blue-phased snow goose while Kevin and I giggled and shot birds at our end of the firing line. The geese flew all afternoon and into the evening, providing steady action.
With close to 80 birds on the ground and the sun starting to set, we decided to call it a successful day and pick up the decoys. Just carrying the geese the 600 yards back to the truck was going to be a workout. Kevin brought a wheeled cart that we used to move birds, decoys, blinds, and gear back in batches while the others packed up decoys.
It was dark when we finished, and everyone was bubbling with excitement and thrilled with our success. We packed up the decoy trailer, divided the birds amongst vehicles, and pointed the trucks back towards the big lights in the western sky.
Snow goose hunting can be terrific when birds work. Years like this, with an exceptional hatch and juvenile survival, the hunting can be spectacular. For many years, white geese got a bad rap from many hunters. However, they are gaining popularity and receiving the respect they deserve. Here’s hoping there can be a balance between sustained nesting habitat, goose populations, and continued spring and fall hunt opportunities. With liberal limits and hunting opportunities, there has never been a better time to become a snow goose addict.
The HuntStand app is a tremendous resource for waterfowl hunters. The app can be used to scout and mark exact locations in a field to return and hunt. Weather forecasts provide wind charts to know what to expect and set decoys for potential changes in conditions. In the HuntZone portion of the app, a visual compass shows what direction waterfowl will approach, making decoy set up an exact science. The moon phase component to the app includes sunrise and sunset times for the exact spot you are hunting. A Map Editor allows the user to measure distance and place markers for blinds. Additional in-app purchases are available. HuntStand allows hunters to build detailed maps of areas on Android, iOS, and any web browser. Information can then be shared with friends and hunting partners. For more information, visit huntstand.com.
ALPS OutdoorZ Legend Layout Blind
The Legend Layout Blind comes fully assembled and ready to hunt and is another excellent option for goose hunters wanting protection from the elements. The tarpaulin floor helps trap heat and keep the hunter off the wet ground or uncomfortable field material. The zero-gravity chair not only keeps you off the ground but allows you to maintain a low profile. The outer material of the blind is durable, camouflaged. It is fitted with stubble straps to weave cover onto the blind. The unit has backpack carry straps, zippered flag doors, a padded headrest, and a rear zippered door for access to storage. The doors are hinged for quick closing and spring open when it is time to shoot. www.alpsbrands.com