The best snow goose loads are those that perform well across a wide range of conditions and provide knock down power to harvest birds cleanly. With snow goose hunting, these factors almost always come down to shot size selection.
The best shot size for snow geese is BBB steel shot. Why? Because a good patterning load of BBB steel shot contains enough pattern density and energy to consistently harvest snow geese at up to 50 yards or more. A 1.5 ounce load of BBB shot contains 91 pellets and enough energy density to retain at least 300 feet per second (FPS) out to 55 yards. My favorite load is the Kent 1 9/16 oz. BBB load (Click to check it out at Cabelas).
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of most popular shot sizes for geese and discuss what makes BBB steel shot the most effective.
Most Popular Shot Sizes for Snow Geese
Steel shot size selection for snow geese can range anywhere from #2 shot all the way up to T-shot. With such a wide range of shot sizes, it can be confusing when trying to determine which shot size is the best. The typical shot sizes for snow geese are #2’s, #1’s, BB shot, BBB shot, and T shot.
Shot Size/Pellets Per Ounce/Max Distance
- #2 shot – 124 pellets – 40 yards
- #1 shot – 102 pellets – 43 yards
- BB shot – 72 pellets – 45 yards
- BBB shot – 61 pellets – 50 yards (Best Shot Size)
- T shot – 52 pellets – 55 yards
Snow geese aren’t the toughest of birds, so cleanly harvesting them doesn’t require large shot sizes. I’ve even used #4 shot on snow geese that were decoying close and it worked perfectly fine.
The problem with small shot though is that it doesn’t work well as an all-around pellet size. Most snow goose hunts require varying degrees of distance, angles, and other factors that work against your load the second it leaves your barrel.
I’ve found BBB steel shot the best combination of pellet density and energy down range to cover just about any shot you should be taking within reason. It has the range for both decoying birds and those hanging up on the edge of the spread that won’t fully commit. BBB shot also has the energy to cleanly pass through snow geese resulting in less cripples and sailer’s that you have to waste time chasing.
Why BBB Steel Shot Is the Best Shot Size for Snow Geese
When you sit down and compare BBB steel shot to other shot sizes, the differences are noticeable.
- BBB shot contains 61 pellets per ounce, or around 91 pellets for a 1.5 ounce load. This is plenty of pellets for a dense 40-50 yard pattern through an aftermarket choke.
- Larger shot like BBB retain enough energy for shots around 50 yards or more allowing you to harvest more birds.
- The energy density of large BBB pellets insures that birds will be harvest cleaner and reduce the amount of wounded birds.
- BBB shot gives you the most opportunity to harvest snow geese as it’s ballistically superior for constantly changing hunting conditions.
Here is a great clip on how to pick the right pellet size for snow geese
Features to look for in the best snow goose shotgun shell loads:
- Adequate pellet densities for the situation you’ll be hunting in. If you only shoot decoying snow geese, then the high pellet density loads of #1’s will work well. For an all-around snow goose load, BBB’s work the best.
- Shotgun shells above 1400fps work better. The best loads are 1600 fps or higher with steel shot.
- Loads that pattern well with your shotgun.
- Zinc coated pellets for corrosion resistance.
- Sealed crimps to prevent water intrusion.
- Hulls that cycle well with your shotgun. Some work better than others.
About Pellet Sizes and Pellet Density When Choosing a Goose Load
Pellet size and density are both factors you should consider when choosing which snow goose load to shoot for the spring conservation season. An increase in pellet density will result in a decrease in pellet size and an increase in pattern density.
Example: If you normally shoot BB steel shot, you can switch to #4 Hevishot for a load that has similar ballistics in both range and pellet energy, while gaining 120 pellets.
Steel Shot Vs. High Density Shot – Which is better?
- Steel Shot – Steel shot density is 7.9 g/cc and is the cheapest snow goose load you can buy. It works well for decoying birds, but lacks long range capabilities.
- High Density Shot – High Density Shot comes in a wide range of materials and alloys that include Bismuth, Hevishot Alloy (Nickel, Tungsten, Iron), and Tungsten. High Density Shot is basically any shotgun pellet heavier than steel. Pellet densities range from 9 g/cc to 18 g/cc. High density pellets are the best shot type for long distance goose loads.
I’ve used both steel shot and high density loads for snow geese and my preference is high density. Why? Because the pattern density and range of heavier than lead loads is unmatched.
Steel shot is currently the lightest material used for harvesting waterfowl in the U.S. and it loses its energy really quickly down range. It also requires larger pellet sizes to retain energy, which decreases pattern density.
The best thing about steel shot is that it’s affordable and if you go through a ton of shells each season it’s more economical.
High density loads like Hevishot, Bismuth, and TSS are ballistically superior to steel in every way. Since the pellets weigh more, you can get the same ballistics out of smaller pellets, thus increasing your pattern density and putting more pellets on the birds.
High density loads pattern tighter, hold their pattern longer, and let you extend your range further out so you can cleanly harvest birds that hang up just out of range of steel shot. The major downside is cost, as Tungsten based loads are considerably more expensive than steel shot.
If money is no concern, high density shot makes for the best snow goose loads you can use. I’ve written about my top 10 tips for having a good snow goose hunt, and shooting high density loads is an important factor.
The Gaining Popularity of High Density Shot for Goose Hunting
When lead shot was outlawed for waterfowl hunting in the 1970’s, the only other option at the time was steel shot. Since then, shotgun shells for waterfowl have drastically improved to provide dependable loads that work well across a wide range of waterfowl hunting situations.
This year is no different, and the gaining popularity of high density loads for geese is now greater than ever. Between Hevishot, TSS, and Rio Bismuth shot, there’s a high density load that fits almost everyone’s budget and hunting needs.
As high density loads become even more popular, I expect the options to increase even further. High density loads are superior to steel shot in every way. Spend one season shooting it exclusively and it’s difficult to go back to steel shot.
But if you must shoot steel shot for snow geese, try BBB on your next hunt and see how it performs for you. I’ve shot many cases of it, as well as other steel shot sizes, and it is the best all-around pellet size I’ve found. Check out the Kent 1 9/16oz BBB load at Cabelas, it’s what I use. If you want to try high density shot, try Hevishot #2’s for the best snow goose load ever made.
John is our resident expert on the outdoors. He writes about outdoor gear, camping, traveling, and anything outdoors related. He has over 20 years experience camping and hiking the backwoods of Montana and the plains of Texas. He has traveled extensively all over the world.