Spring Snow Goose season is not far away. Technically the season is already open as of March 15th but the snow geese do not pay attention to the hunting season regulations and they don’t start their journey north to the arctic breeding grounds until there is enough open water and open fields to sustain their multiple thousand bird flocks. That usually means 2nd to 3rd week of April before we see any good numbers here in Central Saskatchewan. But with what seems like an early spring this year, we are getting the blinds and decoys organized and guns inspected and oiled. Oh yeah, stocking up on ammo as well. Prepping for spring hunting always gets my running through some mental images of what it is like sitting in the blind, watching the geese drop their feet, and then the adrenaline rush at the call of “Take ‘Em! Take ‘Em! Take ‘Em!”.
I’ve had the chance to hunt with few of the most respected waterfowlers in North America. Snow Goose hunting legends such as Jim Jones and Waterfowl hunting show hosts such as Jared Brown (DU TV), Mike Checkett (DU TV), Buck McNeely (The Outdoorsman), and Chris Dorsey (Orion Media) . I have also hunted with some great hunters, some great shooters, who aren’t famous but can knock down geese and ducks with anyone. One thing I have learned is to not try to act like you know everything about hunting when in the presence of the masters. That doesn’t mean play stupid, it means don’t try to be the expert. Instead, listen, watch and learn.
A couple of observations come to mind from hunting with Jim Jones and Jared Brown. It has to do with selection of birds to shoot when there are multiple targets. Every now and then I like to set the gun aside and take out my video camera. While doing so I noticed that often when there are multiple bird kills, it’s the close bird that dies last. Especially with 4 or 5 guns in the blinds, I’ve noticed this to be a trend.
How to Shoot a Triple
To shoot a triple, meaning one hunter kills 3 birds, takes some quick decision making, proper choices, and ultimately excellent shooting. I have shot a few triples myself, doing it the hard way. After learning the right way to do it, my multiple bird shoots have increased. My approach used to be to make sure I got one (like the front end of a double play in baseball) by shooting the easiest to kill bird first then get another by shooting the next and then hoping to drop a third at 80 yards while it’s hightailing it away from the gun blasts. My success rate on the first bird is pretty good but the second and third attempts drop off quickly. Part of the issue I like to shoot my old Browning pump shot gun so I am slower to cycle to the second and third shots than when I shoot my Beretta semi-auto. Don’t ask me to justify that choice. I guess i just like the pump action and the extra half a second it forces you to prepare for the next shot.
But now the new method of shooting a triple goose or duck kill. Start by shooting the third bird closest to you, then shoot the second then the close bird. On average, the shot length will be shorter, which drastically increases your chances of dropping three birds. Let’s say you pull on the group of birds when the lead bird is 35 yards out, a comfortable shooting distance for many of us waterfowl hunters. With normal spacing in a group of birds, the third bird is going to be about 40 to 45 yards out, still a very make able shot, especially if the birds are still in landing mode, wings cupped, feet dragging. One the first shot, birds flare and try to climb and accelerate away from danger, putting shot number two at about 50 yards, the 40 yards it was at when you shot bird number one, plus 10 yards of get away flight. That should put the final bird at approximately 55 to 60 yards. Tougher shot, especially when it’s tail feathers may be facing you now, but definitely in killable range. Contrast this with where the third bird would be, adding roughly 20 to 25 yards to where it was on the first shot, and that puts the last shot at 75 to 80 yards.
Learning from the Wisdom of Others
Something else I have learned from Jim Jones is the answer to the question how big can a snow goose spread be? The answer has more to do with the size and capacity of your trailer. With enough hunters, Jim will empty the trailer meaning there will be up to 1500 decoys on the ground, stretching a few hundred yards. At first I thought that Jim was insane. Turns out that might be a little bit true as well, but mostly Jim is cunning. The monster spread proved it worth that day in Central Saskatchewan as we had 4 snow goose tornadoes over our heads.