The Year of the Juvies

December 10, 2008 by  

My phone rang from a good buddy of mine who just got back from hunting Canada in September. “Chris, you’re not going to believe the amount of juvies!” If you’re a snow goose hunter, I’m sure you’ve heard this a few times or at least variations of it. This is a call a guy loves to hear, especially when you’re leaving soon to head up to Canada yourself.

The spring hatch reports first came in marginal. There was a lot of information thrown around by armchair biologists, and like all reports you have to take it with a grain of salt. Hundreds of pairs of eyes taking the field in September up by the Canadian treeline can often call a forecast better than any, and they were right. As September turned to October, more of these same phone calls and emails came in as hunters were boasting some of their best hunting ever; and for good reason. The juvy hatch this year in what appears to be most of the Central and Mississippi flyways looks to be one of the best in a long time. And I’m not speaking as a biologist, but from countless pictures and videos from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Even the front end of the migration has a good amount of juvies, which isn’t something you normally see.

So when mid-October came around, I loaded up the decoy trailer and packed my suitcase and I was off to meet my partners for our annual trip to Saskatchewan. I heard various reports from hunters the week prior to our departure, and overall it seemed to be a steady but overall slow migration. With another fall full of mild temperatures in the U.S. and Canada, they just didn’t have any urgency to migrate. In fact, when we arrived at our usual location in Canada, the bulk of the migration was still north of us. But we had enough in the area for good hunting, and the juvenile hatch had everything to do with it.

We had highs and lows during our snow goose hunting trip. We usually take a “gentleman’s hunt” approach to this trip, and this year was no different. I left most of the “trinkets” at home, and only brought up the essentials to our spread. I feel a lot of gadgets and tricks we use on adults aren’t really needed when there are a lot of juveniles in the area. Keep it manageable and simple, and choose your location wisely. A simple equation for good snow goose hunting during these conditions. Weather didn’t seem to matter. In fact, our best morning we didn’t have a cloud in the sky and light winds. But the flyway came early and was stacked full of juvies and ross. And when they came, it was with reckless abandonment that brough in the larger flocks as well. We were done by sunrise, it was some of the fastest hunting I’ve had in awhile.

One day, there was a large feed taking place right behind a farm. We had permission from the farmer and we sneaked in close to look for neck collars. I was able to crawl up to a weed edge and took hundreds of photos of the nearby flock. It clearly shows what everyone has been saying, and that the flock consisted of an enormously high volume of young birds. We even found 3 neck collars in this feed, although the guys never got a shot at any of them. I’m sure the guys at the USFWS I know are probably cringing that we were scoping collars (as it can affect research to some degree).
I’m going to make what I feel is an obvious prediction, and I expect the rest of this fall and next spring to produce a very high harvest. We’re all going to look like experts in the field. The good days of snow geese are still taking place today more then ever. Don’t pass up a chance to get afield this season, you won’t regret it.

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