Several thousand snow geese on the move at first light
When I called an old friend and offered to trade hunts between leased farms, I hoped he would be game. My hunting has been "off" for a solid 12 months now (granted, there are only about 4 legitimate hunting months in there, total). We certainly have ducks and geese at the farm where I hunt, but nothing on the order of what he has. His curiosity - having never hunted "my" farm - got the best of him and he accepted my offer. Lucky for me, he wanted to hunt "his" place first. I've never hunted this 1500 acre farm, which I had heard is a special place for hunting ducks and geese. However, I've hunted the adjacent farm (owned by the same family) twice - once in the field and once on the river. Also a very special place.
I went down the night before, and got news on the way that about 5,000 snow geese were feeding in the field we were planning to hunt the next day. Snow geese have a strange lack of logic, so there was no telling if they'd be back. Snow geese are universally hated by farmers and conservationists. Unlike Canada Geese who nip the tips off of vegetation, snow geese are intensive grazers who pull plants up by the root, whether they are cover crops, fescue, or highly valuable aquatic vegetation. They rarely feed in small groups, which makes the problem even worse, and which makes them rather difficult to hunt at times, since the proper number of decoys is usually either "zero" or "three hundred." Their population numbers - 200,000 in 1980 and 1.4 million in 2009 - and the daily harvest limit - 15 per hunter - definitely bear that out. However, if you are in the place they want to be (which changes about every 60 hours), it can be an amazing experience, as they arrive in flocks of 80 to 200 birds at a time.
We woke up in the old farmhouse at 515am. The coffee was on. There was constant trafffic in and out of the bathroom, and the floor thumped from the sound of insulated rubber boots. The air was 17 degrees. The word had spread quickly about the snow geese, and our group swelled to nine hunters as we loaded up trucks and trailers full of about 12 dozen decoys. We set up down the farm road, waiting to hear geese in the wind. When the first light barely broke the sky, 3000-4000 snow geese started to move off of their roost. And then they started to head our way.
Good luck picking out a single bird
They hemmed and hawed a bit before starting to land about 150 yards in front of us. And once the first few dozen were on the ground, we were in for quite a show.
These birds knew where they wanted to be
And then it continued.......
By about 715am, we had about 6,000 snow geese on the ground in front of us. They were well outside of gun range, but slowly walking our way. I have to say that "the show" left an impression on me. I have never been so close (in hunting season) to a flock this large. Many times I've been hunting for snow geese, and a large flock would take up residence across the street or on the next farm. They are weird birds. Predictably, as we started to work on Canada Geese around 745, the snow geese hesitantly walked the other way, and eventually all left the property for more quiet feeding grounds. Canada Geese work a lot differently, and our outing (which had been more nature show than hunt up to this point) got real in a hurry!