Snow Goose Decoy Spreads
by Nick Roehl
Snow goose hunting has been a love/hate relationship with me. Growing up in North Dakota we are invaded by these white devils each spring and fall. As a young hunter, I always marveled at the sheer numbers of snow geese that seemed like an endless string of white and blue specks from one horizon to the next.
My first encounter was on a late fall afternoon in a blizzard. I was out pheasant hunting with my father and brothers. You couldn’t see more than a hundred yards in front of your face. This, along with monster snowflake’s hitting my face, almost made hunting impossible. That’s when I saw a field loaded with snows. They were flying 15 feet off the ground over a mile away from a roost to a cut corn field.
I just so happened to have a few boxes of steel loads for duck hunting and figured I had to find a place to pass shoot these beautiful birds. My brother and I crawled out to the end of a tree line the birds were flying close to. We spread out about 50 yards and sat on the frozen cold ground, praying one of these white ghosts would fly within range.
We were hunkered down blending in the tree line as best we could. Then it seemed out of nowhere a flock of 5 snows came down the pipe. I could hear that high-pitched bark and it sent shivers down my spine. I closed my eyes and ask the good lord above just to send one my way, in range.
At this point in my hunting career, at 15 years old, snow goose hunting was something people talked about, but rarely did I ever see a spread set up let alone a pile of birds in the back of a pick-up truck.
As I thought to myself how tough it was to shoot these birds, reality quickly set in as I looked overhead to see 5 big old snows hanging in the gusting winds and snow storm. I leveled my trusty 870 and let 3 shells loose in a blitzkrieg fashion. To my amazement I clipped the lead bird in the wing and watched him sail 50 yards down in the corn field. I ran out of the tree line as if my life depended on it, eyes watering, tripping over corn stalks, then I spotted my bird walking away. On the fly I slipped a round in the chamber dusting that snow for the final time.
My brother made his way over to me and as I held my snow high and proud ‑ we just stared at it, taking in all its beauty. Its feathers were bright white, whiter than any fresh snow I have seen. As we were admiring and taking in all of this, another flock of mixed blues and snows started towards our location. After an hour or so we had 7 birds on the ground and a new addiction that would sure to keep us up at night.
Since those days we have added 500 Sillosock decoys, feeders, uprights, flyers, goose calls, vortex machines, and e-callers for the spring. My spread is on the small side, too. Many hunters use, and I have hunted, 1,500 decoys spreads or bigger.
In the last few years my decoying techniques have come together and I have killed quite a few snows at 10-20 yards feet down. A far shout from the days of hoping a snow would fly by for a passing shot.
Snow goose decoy spreads seem to differ from one group to the next. I know some guys won’t hunt without 1,000 decoys plus several vortex machines. I like to see what I can get away with for smaller spreads. I usually get together with a buddy of mine, Matt Diederick, for 2-man snow goose hunts in the fall. We set up 300-500 Sillosocks with 9 flyers, and I have spent the time learning how to sound like feeding snows with my goose call. All these things together have made some great memories for Matt and I each fall in North Dakota.
It seems those old days of pass shooting, and crawling on snows is a 100 years removed. We all start somewhere though. Most of us end with good snow goose decoy spreads enjoying birds that we have worked into close range. However you choose to kill snow geese be respectful of others, and have a good time. That’s what it is all about.