The incoming birds continued straight towards us, some actually lowering their feet and looking as if they were going to land right on top of us. In one quick action, I sat up and shifted my position; I was now facing the incoming flock. Bringing my Remington to bear as the first birds in the line passed the edge of our decoys. Picking out a single bird, I fired and quickly worked the action of the pump gun. There wasn’t much need for lead or swing, it was more of a “block out a bird with the end of your barrel” shot and then find another. After dropping two of the three birds I was shooting at, I was now franticly trying to get three more shells into the Wingmaster’s magazine before the flight of birds passed out of range. Back in the fight, I dropped one bird high overhead and heading away that hit the ground running. As the remaining birds franticly climbed and scattered, exceeding the range of our guns, Jerry called for a “cease-fire”. We cleared our guns and went to recover our birds.
There wasn’t much need for lead or swing, it was more of a "block out a bird with the end of your barrel" shot and then find another.
Photo by: Author
Jerry was busy sending his Chesapeake Bay Retriever, “Ace”, after the cripples, while we hurriedly picked up the dead birds and laid them among the decoys near our recliners. I kept an eye on the swarm of circling snows, which was now beginning to dissipate as more and more of the birds settled into the distant field. We had several more good shoots throughout the day, as small groups of snows would descend into our spread and we took turns shooting and backing one another as pairs or singles came in. None of us left with a limit, but we all retained a memory of our first snows and the white tornado!
This was my first spring snow goose hunt. It took place in late February of 1999. This hunt occurred before federal regulations changed, allowing hunters to remove the plugs from their guns. Current longer seasons, liberal bag limits, which allow 15 snow geese per hunter per day with no possession limit and the elimination of plugged shotguns, have helped to increase harvest rates and lower the population levels.
There are three species of wild white geese in North America. These species are the Ross’ goose, the lesser snow goose, including the blue phase color called a “blue” goose, which are collectively known as “light geese”, and the greater snow goose. Light geese are primarily found in the Mississippi and Central flyways, while greater snows migrate within the Atlantic flyway. Because all three of these species numbers have rapidly increased over the past three decades, they are basically devouring their fragile arctic breeding grounds. These tundra wetlands are slow to recover from this extensive habitat damage. White geese are herbivorous grubbers, feeding mainly on roots and shoots of native tidal and marsh grasses and aquatic vegetation. On wintering grounds and during their spring migration North, they can also be found foraging in agricultural fields feeding on waste grains. Greater snows winter from Southern New Jersey south to North Carolina, with approximately 80% of the overall population in the Atlantic Flyway wintering from southern New Jersey to Northern Virginia.
Unlike most other migrant waterfowl species, hunting snow geese offers the opportunity to harvest large number of birds, while actually helping to ensure the health and future of these magnificent white birds!
Photo by: Author
Jerry and his staff are based in Delaware, but guide waterfowlers throughout the famed Atlantic Flyway wintering grounds of Southern New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. These areas traditionally hold more than 600,000 greater snow geese annually. These white geese winter over along the plentiful agricultural lands, bays, tidal marshes, countless holding ponds and the National Wildlife Refuge system that makes up the famed Eastern Shore area. Jerry leases more than 16,000 acres of prime agricultural flyway farmland in these three states and by rotating his hunting parties over more than 58 fields; he helps to ensure quality hunting from October through February. Most of the field hunting is done from either pit blinds or laying out in the decoys, which usually includes a mixture of rags, shells, silhouettes and full bodies. Jerry also offers a variety of other waterfowling experiences, including Canada goose hunts and both puddle and diver duck hunting.
The image of tens of thousands of snow geese drifting across vast blue Mid-Atlantic skies is a sight all true sportsmen will appreciate. To many hunters, the sight of wild geese on the wing represents ideals of self-reliance, freedom and the grandeur of nature; the essences of why we go afield. Snow goose hunting is an experience all waterfowlers will enjoy. Unlike most other migrant waterfowl species, hunting snow geese offers the opportunity to harvest large number of birds, while actually helping to ensure the health and future of these magnificent white birds!
Jerry Kucharski and Del-Bay Guide Service can be reached by phone at: 1-800-500-7640 or visit them on the web at: www.delbayguide.com.