Outdoor Life

Snow geese as far as the eye can see.

—Photo by MDC

While crappie fishing last week, I noticed thousands of snow geese landing in a field where there were already thousands of birds feeding. It’s easy to see why the snow geese are causing problems in their breeding grounds.

The number of snow geese has more than tripled since the 1990s, and they literally are destroying their fragile Artic breeding grounds. Many national wildlife organizations including, Ducks Unlimited, the Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation, have voiced support for measures which could help reduce the snow goose numbers before their habitat is lost.

Not only are the snow geese self-destructing, they are taking other species with them. The expanding population may cause irreversible ecological damage. As they continue to destroy habitat, they will make it a condition where neither the geese or other birds will be able to exist.

The snow goose population is out of control because of changes in agricultural practices on their wintering grounds and other human activities which require a man-made solution such as increased hunting. Without it, we could be witness to a catastrophic loss of habitat in the Artic.

Hunters have harvested an estimated 800,000 snow geese for the past two years, but wildlife managers said harvesting two or three times as many birds would be necessary to bring populations under control. Through hunting, the population can be reduced without wasting these resources. Hunters always have been the most devout conservationists, and also show respect for this species of waterfowl.

Missouri hunters have a long snow goose season which started Feb. 7, and will continue through April 30. Hunters only have to possess a $5 conservation order permit. There is no daily limit on the number of light geese during the conservation order season.

Tony Vandemore, a snow goose guide around Mound City, said, “Huge concentrations of birds provide great hunting opportunities, and when things go right, the tornado of birds spiraling down on your spread of decoys can leave you speechless. Juvenile geese are on a much more realized north migration schedule, so it is closer to what you would see with Canada geese or ducks. Birds which left Southeast Missouri in the morning are just getting up here by the afternoon. They are tired and hungry. On these migration days afternoon hunts can be outstanding.”

Dan Wright has hunted snow geese for years and enjoys the late season when the other waterfowl seasons have ended.

“ For many years, when the weather turned bad and most other hunters have given up hunting until the April turkey season, I have had the snow goose much to myself,” Wright said. “I never had any trouble getting permission to hunt snows because most of the landowners were happy to have someone drive the geese away from their winter wheat fields. By driving around and watching the geese circling a field, I would return the next day with several hundred white rags or newspapers to put out to decoy the geese. Many times, the geese wouldn’t bother to circle, they just set their wings and dropped in. The action was fast and furious for a while.”

Personally, I can remember a great hunt for snow geese in Carroll County. A winter wheat field which was flat as a pancake was attracting the birds, but it was next to impossible to get close to them even with a lot of decoys. Then two of my hunting friends found a couple of green rugs, which were as green as the fields, and used it to cover up with in the field along with several dozen white decoys. Before sunrise we covered up with the rugs and waited. It worked, the geese sailed right in close to the decoys. We waited until there were nearly a hundred geese within 30 yards, then we popped up and started firing. After the shooting stopped, we had all the geese we wanted. The memory of the sights and sounds from that hunt still linger.

The spring snow goose migration is an unforgettable event to witness. You can see the sky covered with flocks of snow geese stretching for miles. This spring migration is much more condensed than the fall migration.

With today’s no limit and the fact there are plenty of geese to go along with a liberal season, hunting for snow geese at this time of the year can be an adventure you won’t soon forget.

Snow goose hunting isn’t easy, it takes a lot of time and work to have success, but when you decoy a big flock of those light geese, it makes it all worth it.

White, a Stockton resident, has a versatile background in sports as a participant and a journalist. His column appears weekly.

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