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SNOW GOOSE TIPS
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HuntwashingtonState editors spent late November 2008 hunting for a week on fir island near Conway, Washington. Here are a few tips, tricks and lessons learned from that week and from a few years past.
Decoys, Decoys, Decoys... If you are able to secure land either through the WDFW drawing , private land, or a few of the public land fields (explained later) The name of the game for effectively decoying these geese is sheer numbers. Our recommendation is to have more than 500 (if you can swing it 1000) snow geese decoys. Snow Geese will only effectively decoy in when there are insane amounts of birds/decoys on the ground. Snow Geese are extremely gregarious and very little will pull them away from a true flock of 15,000 birds. We used up to 300 and found that number to be very inadequate.
If you cannot secure that many decoys, but, you are in a WDFW controlled field, it may be advantageous to use only a few (3 or 4) decoys to surround your blind as hunting over decoys is required
(check current regs regarding the minimum number of decoys required). The Fir Island area is frequented by small groups of Swans who routinely are seen in the middle of fields just browsing. It has been our observation that these massive waves of birds were incredibly shy of all of the decoy spreads of just a few hundred decoys and had no problem buzzing these small groups of swans.
Effective 2010!!! It
is unlawful to hunt snow geese on Fir Island, Skagit County, inland of
surrounding dikes, unless each hunter sets up a minimum of 24 snow geese
decoys. Additionally, it is unlawful to hunt snow geese over decoys unless
the decoys are set up in a realistic pattern, are under the immediate
control of the hunter, and are not left unattended. For the purposes of this
section a "decoy" is defined as any structure the size of or larger than a
mallard duck decoy.
If hunting one of the WDFW fields, attempt to contact the other hunters in the adjacent fields. Pool your resources and collectively hunt the adjacent corners of the fields. You should be able to combine the spreads to create a significantly larger target for the waves of birds coming off the water.
Hunt on windy days! Still days seemed to be unproductive as the birds would simply drop down into the flocks from well above all of the spreads. Do not "skybust" outside an effective range. The wind had the effect of pushing the birds lower and from better angles.
Time of day seemed to be irrelevant. Early morning seemed to be fruitless as the birds were sitting out in Skagit Bay until well into mid morning. They began to peel off the bay at around 9:30 AM and flew in waves to the refuge or past it towards private fields along I-5. The waves of birds coming off the bay lasted for about 2 hours. The birds were amazingly restless and came and went in their massive waves throughout the entire day. We saw many instances of thousands of birds landing in the exact same spot other hunters who picked up and went home were.
If you can time the flights correctly with low tides, a person could walk out on the flats from the Maupin Road dike access. Simply wait for these flocks to rise up from the bay and pass shoot as they fly low over the dike or over the water. The flats go out for quite some ways. Very careful attention needs to be made in the first hundred yards or so of the dike access as that particular area is extremely muddy. Once you get past the muck, you are on solid sandy beach. You can either hide next to a stump or log or you can pretend to be a log. It doesn't seem to flare the geese very much. We highly recommend visiting the site before the season to personally check out the way the tides work here. There can be some productive snow goose and duck shooting here.
We observed and utilized different types of hiding techniques. We wore white t shirts over our hunting clothes and hid amongst the decoys. We totally camouflaged up and hid in ditches (no other native cover is available). we saw hunters using layout blinds. One method we watched was to simply sit amongst the decoys and simply pass shoot.
Juvenile birds would come in to check out spreads as singles or very small flocks. We observed very few of these grayish birds in the November 2008 hunt.
Use correct ammo. No traditional duck loads can be used here. Magnum Goose loads in 3 or 3.5 inch are required.
Know the difference between a snow goose and a swan. One morning of hunting the unit will adequately show a hunter how to tell the difference. If unsure about the species, do not shoot. The State and Federal laws surrounding the penalties for shooting a swan are severe.
SNOW GOOSE DECOY TIPS
Motion in the decoy spread is critical. Everyone in the hunting party should have a white flag. It is possible on consistently windy days to even fly cheap plastic kites spray painted white to simulate landing snows.
Plastic texas rags are inexpensive (around $30.00 per hundred w/out stakes) Texas rag decoys are very realistic and move very nicely in the wind. Secure straight tree limbs from trees around your home or from neighbors with a surplus of bamboo, cut them into 24 inch lengths and securely tie or staple the rags to the sticks. You can carry around 50 of these at a time out to your spread. It is very important to prep these decoys well before the hunt as prepping takes a significant amount of time.
Decoys can be made out of Costco milk jugs. Just spray paint a small X on the base of the milk jug to simulate folded wings. You can simply drive a stake through the handle to keep it secure in the wind. You can easily collect hundreds of these jugs by asking around to neighbors, espresso shops, and the like. They will gladly give them to you. Make a stringer of them by passing a length of rope through the handles. You can easily carry a hundred of these jugs at a time using this method.
Some of the hunting clubs in the area utilize hundreds upon hundreds of expensive full body decoys and is obviously the preferred decoy, however, when these decoys cost $20 a piece, most hunters will not be able to afford such a spread.
Hunters can use white plastic garbage bags, torn bed sheets, or any other form of cheap decoy material to look like a huge swarm of snow geese.
Other non-hunting points about the skagit area goose hunting.
The Fir Island area is a popular bird watching spot. Do not display rude, unethical, or insensitive behavior. Your actions are highly visible and reflect on your hunting peers either positively or negatively.
Landowners have been generous in providing some raffle hunting opportunities in the area. Do not trespass on posted land (by the way, it's almost all posted) Do not shoot from or near the roadway per WA State law. And observe all safety zones demarcated by the WDFW.
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