So you want to start hunting snow geese or maybe you’ve been hunting them for years with little success. Maybe you’ve been having great hunts for years and now all of sudden things aren’t going well anymore. Lets face it, these are smart birds (unlike ducks…just kidding, but not really!) that can reach 20+ years of age and have been shot at for at least 6 months out of the year. After decades of hunting snow geese, I’ve compiled this list of the top 10 snow goose hunting tips that I wish I had known just starting out.
The bread and butter seasons are during great hatches when an abundant amount of juvenile birds are mixed in the with the adults. These are the years almost anyone can go from a zero to hero, and the years you should be out in the field the most. But it’s all about the sunrises, right? (I didn’t think so).
The most important snow goose hunting tips are being in the right location, setting a realistic spread, shooting well, hunting good weather days, and finding low pressured birds.
In this review, we’ll discuss the in’s and out’s of successful Snow Goose hunting and highlight tips and tricks that can help you bag more snow geese.
1) Pick the Right Location
Seems logical, right? Hunt where the birds are. We’ve all heard it a thousand times. But what does it really mean? Unless you are an outfitter, it is impossible for most hunters to be where the birds want to be the majority of the time. This all comes down to cost, since access to property in Arkansas, Texas, and other places in the U.S. are mostly private and without an inside connection to someones land for free, you must pay up.
This is usually done through a gate fee or lease fee. The former meaning you pay a standard fee after each hunt and the latter means you pay a lump sum amount to have the sole hunting rights to a tract of land for a season. The average snow goose hunter probably spends around $1,000-2,500 on goose leases each year in places where getting permission by asking a farmer is either extremely difficult or impossible. This may get you 1 to 4 tract leases or it may get you a membership to a hunting club with 20+ fields (and 10x’s the amount of hunters). This doesn’t even count towards costs associated with decoys, ammo, transportation, and other equipment. It can add up fast.
So lets break down the typical types of leases.
Tract Leases, Sub leases, and Private Leases
These types of leases are usually either purchased from an outfitter, farmer, or hunting club for you or your group to hunt on exclusively. These are the most ideal types of leases because you make your own rules as far as when to hunt, who will show up, and how the hunt will go down. You purchased the hunting rights to the field and no one else will be hunting it. You will not have anyone show up unannounced and potentially ruin your hunt or force you to hunt around someone that you do not know which could be unsafe.
Outfitter Season Leases and Club Memberships
These are the leases you will likely see in the newspaper offering 30,000 acres of land with fields all over the place. It sounds good in theory and you get to hunt in many counties or parishes and chase the birds right? Not really. Unless you become friends with the outfitter or club manager, you will not be able to hunt when and where you want all the time or necessarily get to choose with who. The reason they have so much land is 1) They have a lot of lease members to pay for it; 2) the Outfitter is usually running guided hunts on the same land the lease members are hunting. They will be catered more toward duck hunters and scout the fields each day. The best you can hope for most days is to tag along with the outfitter as he takes day hunters in on a lease field the birds are using.
Obviously this will vary from place to place, but the main takeaway is that it’s usually a large operation trying to satisfy a bunch of people and that usually comes with some headaches. Club leases are usually better than outfitter leases if you have to choose. Some of the best hunting can still be found on club leases.
You’ll have to decide which type of lease fits your style and budget. The ideal type of situation for most snow goose hunters doing this in their spare time is to find fields in key wintering areas of the Arkansas rice belt and the Gulf Coast so that you can move around with the birds. The birds may not be in your field every day or hardly at all, but you have a better chance of being close to them somewhere if your leases are spread out. A lot of times just being relatively close to where the geese want to be is good enough.
One of the most important things to remember when leasing land is that something will always be available for lease. That’s also the problem because the vast majority of available land is not worth leasing. You’ll have to determine through experience or word of mouth what is worth leasing and what is not. This usually comes with years of experience seeing certain areas during good and bad years, crop rotations, roost pond locations (or lack thereof), and even bird migration shifts overtime.
2) Hunt on Good Weather Days
Weather is ranked only slightly behind Location, but not by much. This is assuming that the objective is to kill as many decoying geese as possible on any given outing. Now, being successful at goose hunting means different things to different people. Are you happy with not being at work and enjoying a morning outdoors killing a few birds, or is your goal to harvest a bunch of geese? If it’s the latter, then factoring in weather is a must.
What is the best weather? WIND! And lots of it. If you’re objective is to harvest geese every time you go out, then you should not even be entertaining wasting your time in the field until there is a good wind forecasted. Before I go any further, I’m not insinuating geese can’t be killed on a clear calm day or good hunts don’t happen with no wind present, they do, but they are few and far between. This also goes back to what defines a good hunt for each individual person. Is it a handful in the bag per hunter, a speck limit, around 10 per hunter, or even a limit? If you asked a group a hunters you would probably get a lot of different answers. If you want 10-20 snow geese per hunter, then weather is a must. Monitoring sites like Wunderground and Weather.com for the best time to be out in the field should be a top priority.
Fog is another situation that can present good hunting opportunities. The issue with fog, especially a thick one, is that birds will not fly much and in some circumstances even walk off the roost to feed. Most people having good hunts in the fog are right next to a roost where the birds can just hop over and not fly far. More often than not you will find snow geese using plowed ground during a fog. Most likely so they can better see predators. If you are not near a roost and it’s a thick foggy morning, it will likely be extremely slow until the fog lifts and the birds finally expand out a little.
Weather and other factors that are a must during regular season, can mean very little when conservation season starts and e-callers are allowed.
3) Increase Your Shooting Ability
There are other factors that can easily be listed at #3 (like decoys or concealment), but to have a good hunt (10-20 snow geese per hunter) you have to be able to shoot good. There are just not enough opportunities on a typical regular season snow goose hunt to miss a bunch of shots and still have a large bag of birds.
Because of this you have to make your shots count. Letting birds get in range and taking a shot you are comfortable with can only be perfected with experience. Your first shot is usually the best shot before the birds flare off, so it must be a good one. If you are hunting with a large group of people, this can be difficult because once people start shooting you’ll see it become a mad house or spray and pray type atmosphere (one of the downsides to hunting with a large group). The more you shoot, the more proficient you will become at being successful with your first shot and following up with your second and third.
4) Find Low Pressure Areas
One snow goose hunting tip that really goes a long way is trying to find unpressured birds. If you’ve hunted geese quite a bit in high pressure areas, you’ve witnessed the first cold fronts of the year deposit new birds on the prairie that seem to decoy great.
This is understandable since they don’t know the area and haven’t developed a pattern yet. A week or two after they arrive, however, they are back to their old ways and are extremely weary after being shot at every day of the week. Their weariness may last the remainder of the season or until new geese arrive.
One way to counteract this is to find birds that spend most of their time in unpressured areas. These could include large ranches, off limit areas like refuges, or even hunting clubs that don’t target snow geese. Finding unpressured birds can mean great snow goose decoying action all year long.
5) Get to Know Other Hunters in the Area
Waterfowl hunting in general can be a secretive affair, but snow goose hunting is often more successful when you get to know your fellow hunters that hunt in the same area. They can be a wealth of info that can be used in tandem with your own scouting.
Benefits of Getting to Know Other Hunters
- Real Time Reports of Bird Movements When You’re not Around
- Reports of How Other Hunters are Doing in the Area
- Possibility of Swapping Hunts
- Someone to Help Set the Spread if You’re Hunting Alone
Getting to know your fellow hunters ensures you show up to hunt with the most information possible. You may have scouted the previous day, but other hunters could be feeding you information all week long for a more complete picture.
Obviously sharing info is a two way street, so don’t expect to get the latest reports for nothing. But being able to share information between friends and hunting buddies helps avoid setting the spread in the wrong place, hunting the wrong field, or missing out on a great snow goose hunt.
6) Concealment is Key
Snow geese have some of the best vision of any bird species and not hiding yourself properly can result in an unsuccessful hunt. The 4 most common types of concealment for snow geese are layout blinds, ghillie blankets, pit blinds, and white Tyvek suits.
Ghillie blankets are the most versatile concealment option since they work across a wide range of field situations from rye grass to plowed ground. Rancho Safari makes an 8 foot long Ghillie Blanket that is extremely durable and creates a super low profile.
Layout blinds work best in grain fields where the profile can be broken up with left over stubble from harvest or crop rows. Corn fields and pea fields are ideal since the husks and row swaths can be attached to the layout blind to help conceal it.
Pit blinds can be a great tool, but they lack the mobility of other concealment methods. White Tyvek suits are the cheapest way of hiding from snow geese and have proven capable of blending in to an all-white spread.
Whichever concealment method you choose, it needs to look natural, be low profile, and not cast shadows. Uncovered faces, glare from glasses and watch faces, and unnecessary movement in the blind can all cause snow geese to flare from your spread. Work on improving your concealment and your hunting success will improve considerably.
7) Shoot Dense Shot like Hevishot or TSS
A great tool for increasing your snow goose harvest is to switch to heavier than lead non-toxic loads like Hevishot, Heavyweight, or TSS. Not only will you harvest birds more cleanly, but effective range is increased as well.
You may be thinking that steel works just fine for you, and there is no arguing that for decoying birds out to 40- 50 yards that’s correct, but there are certain areas where steel just can’t compete. The first is pattern density. Heavier than lead shot allows you to shoot smaller shot and increase the amount of pellets that you can put on target. This increase in pattern density creates more hits on target and more birds in the bag. (TSS Pellet Count Per Ounce Chart)
The second aspect is that heavier than lead pellets retain their energy at a further distance. This added pellet energy is great for extending your range to 60-70 yards for those birds that hang up. Switching to shot denser than steel will help reduce crippled birds, increase pattern density, and extend your range. All these factors combined will help you harvest more snow geese each trip.
8) Know when to call and when not
Too much of a good thing can hurt, and the same goes for calling in snow geese. Most hunters tend to call way too much and at the wrong times. Knowing when to call and when not to will help you bag more snow geese.
A quality snow goose call is at the forefront of developing a good calling routine. The Sean Mann Whiteout Express is a proven snow goose call that sounds great right out of the packaging and we highly recommend. Learning the barks and yelps that a snow goose makes is pretty easy compared to other waterfowl. Snow geese communicate in a few high and low notes, but the timing of these notes is extremely important.
The calling technique that works the best is a series of slow; high and low barks which are spaced at 5 second intervals or more. The purpose of this is to get their attention, but not give away too much information. If snow geese are locked up on your spread, call just enough, but not so much that you blow your cover. Don’t mess up a good thing, they are already coming your way. Just give them enough to keep their interest.
If juvie birds are being really vocal, calling to them a lot to keep them responding is ok, but adult birds won’t fall for it. For weary late season birds, limit your calling to a few barks to keep their interest at optimum times and you will kill more snow geese.
9) Set a Good Decoy Spread
The most overlooked aspect for consistent snow goose hunting is setting a good spread each and every time you go out. Maybe you’re tired or the ground is muddy and you don’t feel like putting in the effort to set out a lot of decoys or make them look the best they can be. Just know, your hunt will likely suffer because of it.
Whether you use Sillosocks, Full bodies, or are still holding on to the good old days of Texas Rags, setting the best spread you can is always the base of good snow goose hunting. Studying different snow goose spread setups and what works in different wind conditions will help you become a better hunter. Every other aspect that goes into a good snow goose hunt usually feeds off of a good spread setup.
To make sure you maximize your time out on the field, buy quality decoys and set out as many snow goose decoys as possible every time. If you’re not setting out 500+ decoys on regular season snow goose hunts then you are already starting off at a disadvantage.
Don’t be afraid to spread decoys out to create a larger spread, and pack plenty of decoys in tight around where you will be hiding to break up your outline. Avoid mixing different types of snow goose decoys since it creates an unnatural look with many different shapes and sizes. Look for a uniform spread of Sillosocks or Full bodies which won’t draw attention to one specific area of your spread.
Setting large snow goose spreads with quality decoys will help bag more snow geese consistently throughout the year. Being lazy by only putting a few decoys out or refusing to purchase decent looking decoys will make snow goose hunting more frustrating than anything. The days of decoying snow geese to paper plates, newspapers, or cut up table clothes are long gone unfortunately.
10) Pattern Your Shotgun
Patterning your shotgun is something all waterfowl hunters should do prior to going out into the field. It’s easily overlooked by most since it’s time consuming, but it can pay off with cleaner kills and more birds in your bag.
The best way to pattern your shotgun is to test multiple chokes and waterfowl load combinations to determine which one puts the most evenly distributed groups of pellets in a 30 inch circle. Even distribution insures that birds are less likely to slip through large gaps that plague bad patterning load and choke combinations.
Aftermarket chokes often provide better results and greater customization over factory standard chokes. The best aftermarket chokes for waterfowl tend to be from Briley, Patternmaster. Terror, and Carlson.
Patterning should be done at the average range you intend to shoot, and 3 shot averages per load will allow you to get a better idea of real world performance. Patterning your shotgun lets you know the limitations of your waterfowl loads and will help you settle on a combination that works for your shotgun.
In this review, we’ve discussed our top 10 tips for hunting snow geese. These tips are based off of many years of snow goose hunting and what it takes to be successful doing it.
Being in the right location on a good weather day is the ideal snow goose hunting scenario you should always shoot for when trying to have a bang up hunt.
Increasing your shooting ability by taking lessons or shooting clays in the off season can help you become more comfortable shooting in different situations. Finding low pressure areas where birds aren’t skittish can make all the difference in the world.
Getting to know other hunters in your area is a great way to get bird movement info and stay in the loop. Using Ghillie Blankets or layout blinds that are blended in with surrounding vegetation are the keys to concealment from snow geese locked up on your spread.
Ditching steel shot for heavier than lead alternatives like Hevishot, Heavyweight, or TSS will help you extend your range and get cleaner kills. Knowing when to call and when be quiet can mean all the difference for weary late season snow geese. Less calling is almost always the best.
Setting a good spread every time you hunt is the backbone to successful snow goose hunting. Try and set 500 or more decoys for each hunt and make sure they are quality decoys like Sillosocks, Fullbodies, or White Rocks. Patterning your shotgun can help you avoid choke and load combinations that have large gaps in the pattern at the distances you’ll be shooting. A good patterning shotgun means more snow geese in the bag and cleaner kills that won’t have you chasing sailing birds.
These are some of the most important aspects of what it takes to be successful at hunting snow geese these days. All of these used together can result in memorable snow goose hunts you’ll be talking about for years.
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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 has traveled extensively all over the world.