Snow goose hunting is a spectacle like none other. There are few sights in the waterfowling world as thrilling as a snow goose tornado descending on your rig. With enough birds in the flock, it looks like a corkscrewing swarm of bees pulsing and undulating as the birds lose altitude and their circles get tighter and tighter.
At least, that’s what I remember it to look like. Truth is, ever since I got glasses I haven’t really seen the underbelly of a snownado. Can’t risk them seeing a glare off my lenses. My face is pretty much always covered up by a snow goose shell. I have to rely on my buddies to verbally let me know what’s happening, and when it’s time to sit up and shoot.
Snow geese are the FBI detectives of waterfowl. They can be deadly meticulous in looking for evidence of foul play as they descend on a decoy rig. The glint from an eyeglass lens, the shadow from a layout blind, the movement of an ungloved hand — any of these and a million more can send the flock reeling before they sail within shotgun range. It’s terribly frustrating.
You’d think that simply deploying 1,000 to 2,000 decoys would be enough to keep them from pegging you. I mean, that’s a lot of white objects to sort through to find you. But if your camouflage plan has any holes, the white devils will find them. And they’ll find them from 100 yards away. And then? Your snow goose hunting is done.
But just because the snow goose is a superb detective, doesn’t mean it can’t be fooled. You just have to put some serious thought into your hide.
For starters, the more decoys you have, the easier it is to disappear. The more objects the birds have to look over, the tougher it will be to find you. The guys I hunt with regularly deploy 2,000-plus decoys on every hunt. And the more hunters there are in the group, the higher the decoy count rises above the 2k mark.
Yes it’s a long, arduous task to individually stake 2,500 decoys into the ground. But if you want to kill snows, you gotta do what you gotta do.
There’s no question layout blinds are comfortable. They’re easy on the back, they protect you from wind, snow and rain, and they’ll hide any movement you might make as a flock approaches. But my crew leaves them at home when snow goose hunting.
We’ve found layout blinds make hiding more difficult. They cast unnatural shadows on sunny days and create odd-looking lumps in an otherwise flat field on overcast days. Plus, it’s usually difficult — and sometimes impossible — to effectively cover up the blind covers you eventually will have to fling open in order to sit up and shoot.
We like to make ourselves part of the spread. We wear white clothing from head to toe. Almost always when snow goose hunting, we’re wearing the Tyvek suits commercial painters wear to protect their clothes when they’re working.
Believe it or not, the color white is not universal. Some white garments have a pink hue to them; others have a bluish quality. For whatever reason, the Tyvek suits you can buy at the hardware store are the perfect shade of white. They match just about any snow goose decoy on the market, which, of course, is what you want.
These suits are easy to pull on and off, you can wear them over just about any clothing, and they’re fairly inexpensive, so it doesn’t sting when they tear. Buy a case of Tyvek suits and you’ve got enough camo to last you an entire season.
With a white hat and a white facemask added to your ensemble, you’ll blend in nicely with the decoys. Knowing my hands will be moving as I maneuver my shotgun and the decoy covering my face, I wear black gloves on my hands to imitate a snow goose’s black wingtips. Those things are always moving around, so they shouldn’t attract undue attention.
For comfort laying on the ground, get a camouflaged mat or reclining seat. MOmarsh makes a recliner called the Invisilounge that’s the bee’s knees for snow goose hunting. It’s got thick padding and it reclines way back to allow you to lay almost flat, but with your head raised a bit so you can sit up easier when it’s time to shoot.
With your white suit and ground pad, now you and your buddies can spread out in the rig to hide. Don’t line up shoulder to shoulder — you’re easy to spot like that. Set up in a line facing the direction you intend to shoot, but leave about 4 feet between each hunter.
Because you don’t have a blind to block places to set decoys, you can really cover yourself with decoys when you’re snow goose hunting. Plant decoys tight around your body and even stake one or two between your legs. If you’re using socks, you’ll be facing downwind, so the socks will be dancing over your body, hiding you perfectly from incoming snows.
When snow goose hunting, te way we set our decoy rig helps our hide. We plant decoys in a long, snaking line up the length of a field. The spread is thin, with lots of space between decoys at the extreme downwind edge, and it widens and thickens as it moves upwind. We usually leave a few gaps in the spread, about 20 yards in front of the hunters, to encourage the geese to land there.
From our hiding spot extending about another 20 yards behind our heads, the decoys are the thickest. We pack them in tight, which helps us disappear.
Once you’ve got everyone situated and hidden in the rig, have one person take a walk around and look for problems. If a guy has glasses or no facemask, give him a shell decoy to hold over his face. Hide extra gear under shells or somewhere away from the spread where it’s not going to spook birds.
The ultimate test will come when the snows descend. If you have flocks that keep bailing out at 70 or 80 yards, something’s wrong. Take a critical look at your setup and find the problem.
It doesn’t take much to spook a snow goose off a decoy rig. But hide effectively, and you’ll make it rain birds.