How To Stay A Step Ahead Of The Migration

February 13, 2009 by  

By Chris Hustad

Spring snow goose hunting has become one of my favorite seasons. While still close to its infancy, it has provided some of my most memorable waterfowling experiences. Whether it may be fooling a migrating flock of snows into shooting range or watching flock after flock of whitefronts, canadas and ducks land in your spread; it has endless experiences. I’ve spent more time wading through the mud the last five springs than most hunters would want to stand in a lifetime, but in the last couple seasons it’s gotten easier. New techniques and understanding have put us on the birds in most situations, and I’ll elaborate in the following section.

If you want to understand spring hunting, you should understand the migration first. I see the migration as two halves; the breeders and the non-breeders. The first half is the birds that are instinctively trying to get up to the tundra to start nesting. The second half is the non-breeders, composed mostly of juveniles. This is very important before planning an outing, and will clarify to you when I speak of “halves” of the migration.

I’m a fan of the first half. It doesn’t consist of many juveniles, but their patterns are very predictable. These birds won’t waste much time in an area if they have a clear path to migrate north and find a place to roost when they get there. During years of a lot of snow, the birds can follow the melt going north and can roost in the fields sheetwater. But the last 4 springs have been dryer, and it can hold up the birds a bit as they must wait for bodies of water to melt to the north. So how can you predict these kinds of migrations? I use maps that determine the snowline.

Click Here for a good map that can tell you snow depths and sheetwater amounts. If you follow our bird reports, analyze it with the snow maps and follow the weather favorable for the migration, you should be able to determine when the birds will push north. If you don’t have the time to take off and time the migration, no problem. Coming up the rear of the first half will be scattered flocks that should move through for weeks. There are a lot of juveniles this year, so they are very huntable. These birds can be unpredictable though, as they’ll come and go depending on a lot of variables. Usually by the time they show up, a lot of hunters hung up the season. The result is pockets of a few thousand birds that don’t get any pressure and will hang around wherever there’s ample food. I’ve seen geese around past the season closure in mid-May. So keep your eyes on our reports and you should have plenty of time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Every spring migration is different. The weather all winter and the present weather will have a big impact on snow goose patterns. But with some understanding of how they migrate, you should be able to stay a step ahead of the birds.




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