Approaching Spring Snow Goose Decoy Spreads

February 14, 2009 by  

By Chris Hustad

For the snow goose hunter, the spring offers a wide variety of options and setups

For the snow goose hunter, the spring offers a wide variety of options and setups

There’s just something about the spring season that gets me fired up. It gives me the chance to extend my hunting season, and gives me an excuse for my wife when I explain why I spend so much on snow goose decoys. And I’m not alone in this obsession. Each spring brings more hunters and more elaborate decoy spreads. Spring snow goose hunting is not like the fall, and traditional snow goose spreads don’t always make the difference on the weary snow goose. With spring snows means fast migration, and hunters are being more creative in their ways to attract snow geese into close range. From snow goose spreads on land to large floater spreads and everything in-between, snow goose hunting is becoming an art form. Here’s some examples.

The Water Spread

As you can see this snow goose spread is targeting the water and not any food source

As you can see this snow goose spread is targeting the water and not any food source

A Nodak Outdoors member by the username “goose” prefers to target spring snows over the water. Their snow goose spread consists of around 1100 winsocks and 90 floaters. They target a pasture ponds that geese aren’t using, but when they expect geese to be in the area. They’ve had great success in these types of setups.

When asked specifically, Reid stated, “The spread was basically just a blob spread that worked down to the shore where the floaters were. The grass was VERY short so we hid right in the drop off between the pasture and the water. This spread was set up up on the south east side of the pond so we could use southerly winds at our advantage for shooting migrating snow geese.”

As snow goose hunters have learned over the years in the spring, snow geese tend to come down faster as they tend to have less fear coming into water. Snow geese are hunted most of the fall over land and rely on refuges and big roost ponds when staging. Since they tend to have less pressure over water, snow goose hunters have gotten more creative at fooling snows into imitation roosting spreads.

Traditional Land Spreads

Spreading out your decoys gives snow geese a larger area to look at for danger. Tighter spreads allow snow geese to easily pick out the flaws from above.

Spreading out your decoys gives snow geese a larger area to look at for danger. Tighter spreads allow snow geese to easily pick out the flaws from above.

Another Nodak Outdoors member, Daniel Liane, likes to target geese in the fields. When I asked why he sets up the decoys the way he does, he stated “I figure they’ve been getting used to seeing the decoys right on the water in the classic sheet water spread, so we’ve been kinda getting away from that. We generally don’t go as big as some guys. Usually only two of us are hunting so we stay right around 350-400 decoys, and a lot of times we’ll use less. The decoys we use are a majority of custom NW’s with maybe 40% Deadly Decoys.”

Field spreads are the most traditional snow goose spreads, and for obvious reasons…to decoy hungry snow geese. When you’re in an area where there’s a lot of geese holding and the weather isn’t cooperating for a migration, these types of spreads are the best option. And at times, migrating snows will decoy just as well or better when you’re in the right feed field. It just depends on the time of year, and the area that you’re in.

Land / Water Decoy Spreads

Land and water can be a deadly combination for a decoy spread

Land and water can be a deadly combination for a decoy spread

If I could build the perfect location for hunting spring snow geese, it would involve a good food source like corn and water with some good cover where they meet. I remember hunting snows for 12 days the first spring season over land and it wasn’t until I attempted a hunt over flooded corn did the light bulb go on. By combining both a potential roosting area and a food source, you’re offering something for snow geese no matter what time of day.

We’ve hunted some combination spreads of land and water with spreads amassing over 2,000 decoys. Some days I feel the large spreads are crucial in attracting snow geese from far distances during a migration. Snow geese travel in large numbers, therefore will come in more confidently into large spreads. But this isn’t always the case. I’ve stated before that on one occasion, I worked snow geese close into the decoys with just 14 decoys. I was just on a spot of corn and water that a large number of birds wanted to use and they came in with reckless abandon.

Some hunters like Nodak Outdoors member, Jim Mertz, likes to hunt land and water together without a large spread. On a successful day last spring, Jim set out 24 shells, a dozen floaters, around 150 windsocks, and four fliers on 3 to 5 foot poles for motion. According to Jim, “What I tried to do with my spread was put out a group of floaters that would represent a flock that recently landed, then shells and windsocks walking out of the water into the corn to feed. This was my most successful spring hunt with the most exciting moment, decoying 1200 snow geese right over the water around 20 yards away.”

Jims decoy spread using the KISS method with the decoys but being where the geese want to be

Jim's decoy spread using the KISS method with the decoys but being where the geese want to be

Scouting is the most important key to these types of setups. I’ve taken a day weeks before the snow geese will arrive to glass the traditional snow goose flyways looking for prime real estate. One key thing to think about is accessibility to your hunting spot. If your spread takes a lot of work to put out and the fields are too muddy to drive-in, you may have to move on. I’ve spent as much as 6 hours to put out one decoy spread, and it can kill you when you think about taking it out.

These are really the 3 most standard types of decoy spreads. The location and how you approach the spread is the concept, how the spread comes together can vary. Windsock decoys of all shapes and forms has been the staple of spring hunting since it’s inception. With the possibility of wet and muddy conditions and the possibility of walk-in setups, windsocks give the hunter more options. In this spring of 2007, I’m expecting to see more full body decoy spreads then any other spring. Hunters are trading in the portability for realism in an effort to get the geese closer. I expect some hunters to come up with some pretty creative methods for transporting gear and decoys. And it’s the creativity in itself, and the hunters taking chances at untraditional hunting methods, that has shaped spring snow goose hunting and the decoy spreads hunter’s use. This should be another great spring season, no matter what method you use.


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