Snow geese travel to Alberta in huge flocks – this means you have to hide from hundreds, if not thousands of sets of eyes. Decoys are key, and how you set up your “decoy spread” makes all the difference. And, how you set up has everything to do with how these birds feed and interact. Here are 10 things you need to know.
Set as many decoys as possible – we’re talking the 500 to 2500 range. You want to attract the geese in the air to join their friends on the ground. To do this you need hundreds of decoys to keep flocks from flying past to another field.
Set decoys in a long string with a concentration of decoys at the upwind edge. Snow geese naturally spread out this way in a field, as they walk out and away from the area the other birds have already fed through. The spread will look like a big check mark with the “v” formed between the two lines being filled with decoys and your blinds.
With snow geese, there is safety in numbers, and while they feed out and away from the main flock to find sufficient food, they do like to stay close together. Place some of your white goose decoys nice and tight.
Snow geese are continually flying from the back of the flock to get out in front. Use decoys that resemble flying birds at the upwind end of your spread. The flying decoys instill confidence for incoming birds that there is good feed worth getting in front for.
The birds already on the ground have eaten everything in their path – so incoming birds land ahead. Place your blinds the farthest away upwind in your decoy spread as possible. Being on the upper end will mean incoming geese will be close to you when they commit to landing.
Snow geese look to flock up with other snows. Use full-bodied decoys or shells on the downwind edges of your spread. These are the decoys the birds will see first, making it easier for incoming birds to look them over carefully.
Snow geese start to drop elevation fast when they get over the decoys. The longer the spread, the lower the geese will be when they fly over your blinds. Elongate your decoy spread.
This means you need some decoys that move in the breeze or look like geese walking and feeding.
Snow geese are extremely vocal and hundreds or thousands of birds on the ground make an incredible amount of noise. If incoming birds are met by a silent mob on the ground, they immediately know something is wrong, as their buddies are never quiet or reserved. Use an amplified electronic caller. Paint it white and it doubles as a decoy.
And understandably so. The birds that arrive in Alberta are survivors and their end-goal is to reach their nesting grounds in the Arctic. People and our stuff (like blinds) make them skittish so they steer clear. Once you’ve set up your decoy spread and concealed yourself and your blind as best you can, it’s time to get comfortable and be patient and still. If you’re jumpy, the snows will be too.
Good luck putting this delicious bird on the table! Let us know if you’re out there seeing snow geese. Post your sightings on Instagram at #AlbertaSnowGooseTracker.