Snow Goose Decoy Spreads

February 13, 2009 by  

By Perry Thorvig

The following is a description of decoy spreads deployed on a recent hunting trip. There were two groups hunting. Each group had about 500 decoys. They consisted of Northwinds, Last Looks, shells, and various flags and kites.

There was no frost on the decoys any morning. E-caller’s was used only once.

During a brief interlude in the bird flights, Kenny Carlson and I moved our blinds into the northerly leg of the U. Todd and Dan stayed in the south leg. All four shooters continued to experience shooting until about 9:15 a.m.

Results: 15 birds by 9:30 a.m.

Day 3

Conditions: Northwest wind at 15 to 20. Clear sky. 50 degrees.

The move to the third morning’s field was preceded by a long discussion about the merits of two different fields that were 10 miles apart. Finally, we settled on the field that attracted birds from the roost we hunted the first morning. The field was about four miles to the east of the roost.

It was decided that the decoy spread of the day would resemble a rough J shape. The short end of the J would be on the northerly side of the spread. The long end would be on the south side. This morning’s combined spread of about a thousand decoys utilized natural cover. A north-south field separation line was covered with rocks and tumbleweed. It was 20 feet wide.

The long end of the J ran right up to the rock/weed line in the field. It ran loosely up the field in a northwesterly direction about 200 yards. At that point, it curled back to the east and crossed the rock/weed line. It looked very unorthodox to me. I am used to setting up my decoys in the middle of a field and staying away from fence lines that might flare birds.

I learned something that morning. The first loner scout that came out from the roost saw the flash of fire from gun barrels a half second before it fell. It had come in on the long end of the J about 10 yards from the downwind tip, very near the rock/weed line. The next couple of birds did the same thing.

Four of us already had our low profile blinds down near the tip of the long end of the J and were well positioned to shoot. The other three hunters initially deployed in the short end of the J.

Day 1

Conditions: Northwest wind at about 15. Clear sky. 45 degrees.

The very large roost was about a mile north of the selected field.

Chris’ group got to the field early and set up. They were almost done when our group arrived. Chris set his decoys out in a 100 yard long and 25-yard wide string facing a little off the NW wind by about 20 degrees to the south. There were no family groups and the decoys were pretty close together. There was a lot of wind action and the spread looked very good.

Our string was set directly into the NW wind so that the two spreads formed a V. Our spread did not contain quite as many decoys as Chris’ all white string. So, the decoys seemed to be a little farther apart then Chris’ did. Our side also included two Wing Waver decoys. Both sides had pole flags that were waved from the blinds. There was an E-caller set up in the upwind end of Chris’ northerly side of the spread, and Chris and Taylor managed individual E-callers from their blinds.

There was about a 25-yard alley for the birds to fly into the V trap. The hunters were laid out in low profile blinds about 10 yards from the downwind tip of the spread. We were on the right side of the spread facing the rising sun. Chris’ group of four was to the left of us on the other end of the V.

We were downwinded by another party about 350 yards away. There were two other parties in the area. Neither the downwind group nor the others in the area got much shooting. We at least quadrupled their combined discharge.

The first geese of the morning found their way out past the other groups and came into our right (south) side of the spread. Later, they seemed to come on the left side. Several birds worked right into the middle of the opening. Many other birds came flying in from behind us or from the sides. There were others that seemed to fly 90 degrees to the wind as they came across the downwind end of our decoys.Many of these birds were dropped by the shooters who were right below them.

Most of the birds stayed pretty high. There weren’t any of those wavies that came in right on the deck.

Shooting opportunities were about equal amongst the eight hunters.

Results: 25 birds by 9:30 a.m.

Day 2

Conditions: No wind, then building to 15 from the northwest. Clear skies. Warm.

Chris led us to a different roost on the second morning. This morning found our group in a different field than Chris’ group. Our four hunters were located about a half mile south of an asphalt highway. A large roost lay another quarter mile north of the road. The birds would have to come from the north across the road into our field.

Day 2 was very difficult. First, it was very warm. Second, the wind was moving around at set up time. It was supposed be from the southwest, but was whispering very lightly from the SE as we opened the trailer doors.

We scratched our heads and stood around for a while waiting for the wind to make up its mind. First it was from the SE. Then, it was still. Then there was a zephyr from the west. That was it. The wind was starting to move toward the predicted direction. We began to unpack the decoys and set them into an expected southwest wind. We were going to use a U shape with about a 30 yard alley on the open end. We were 15 minutes into the deployment when the fickle wind shifted back to the south or southeast.

We stopped for a while and waited. The fickle female wind shifted back toward the west. We resumed our deployment. Fifteen minutes later I realized that the wind was starting to build and it was moving to the NW.

Crap!! We were screwed. We were well into setting decoys and were now faced with the problem that the entry channel into the decoy spread was going to be way off the wind. The birds would have to come in kiddy corner from the southeast across a U that was facing in a southwest-northeast direction. That usually makes geese really nervous and hard to decoy.

We finished our work. However, we also deployed a Jackite and two of Randy Bartz’ flags on a crappie pole about halfway up the northerly leg of the U. We put our four blinds together in the south leg directly downwind from the Jackite. We faced southeast into what would be a rising sun.

We got lucky. There were enough juvies to give us some good shooting despite a decoy spread that was out of line with the wind. Our blinds were in the right place as the birds focused on the twirling Jackite. However, much to my surprise, there were some birds that tried to work the entry channel rather than coming directly into the flags. One youngster landed in the north leg of the spread and experienced the sting of burning BBs as he stood in the decoys.

During a brief interlude in the bird flights, Kenny Carlson and I moved our blinds into the northerly leg of the U. Todd and Dan stayed in the south leg. All four shooters continued to experience shooting until about 9:15 a.m.

Results: 15 birds by 9:30 a.m.

Day 3

Conditions: Northwest wind at 15 to 20. Clear sky. 50 degrees.

The move to the third morning’s field was preceded by a long discussion about the merits of two different fields that were 10 miles apart. Finally, we settled on the field that attracted birds from the roost we hunted the first morning. The field was about four miles to the east of the roost.

It was decided that the decoy spread of the day would resemble a rough J shape. The short end of the J would be on the northerly side of the spread. The long end would be on the south side. This morning’s combined spread of about a thousand decoys utilized natural cover. A north-south field separation line was covered with rocks and tumbleweed. It was 20 feet wide.

The long end of the J ran right up to the rock/weed line in the field. It ran loosely up the field in a northwesterly direction about 200 yards. At that point, it curled back to the east and crossed the rock/weed line. It looked very unorthodox to me. I am used to setting up my decoys in the middle of a field and staying away from fence lines that might flare birds.

I learned something that morning. The first loner scout that came out from the roost saw the flash of fire from gun barrels a half second before it fell. It had come in on the long end of the J about 10 yards from the downwind tip, very near the rock/weed line. The next couple of birds did the same thing.

Four of us already had our low profile blinds down near the tip of the long end of the J and were well positioned to shoot. The other three hunters initially deployed in the short end of the J. These boys showed great savvy after the first few shots to quickly scurry into the rock piles down by the hunters in their low profile blinds out in the decoys.

Soon, the bigger flocks of wavies came from the roost. They all wanted to approach the decoys from the far downwind end of the J along the rock piles. They became targets for all seven hunters. No birds approached the “pocket” near the short end of the J.

Results: 25 birds by 9:30 a.m.

Day 4

Conditions: East wind at 25+. Clear sky. Temperature: 40s.

By day four, only two of us hunters were left. The other guys had called it quits and were heading home that morning. Big mistake!

Kenny and I debated which field to go to and did not decide until we pulled on our boots and buckled our belts before going out the door. The flags at the motel showed a very brisk east wind. We decided to hunt the same field we hunted on Day 3. As we approached the field, I realized that we could use the same north/south weed/rock line that we used the day before. We would place our blinds among the many tumbleweeds and be invisible to approaching birds.

Our single line of Northwind and Last Look decoys facing into the east wind was about 25 yards wide and 150 yards long. The decoys were deployed in family groups of five to seven and spread about 15 yards apart. The whole area where the truck and trailer had been was left open. The downwind end had a few decoys with their butts virtually touching the tumbleweeds. Six windsocks were placed across the rock line out into the wheat stubble to the west to attract the incoming flights. The crappie pole with the two Bartz flags was set at the far upwind end of the spread. We used no flags from our blinds.

As I got done setting the crappie pole, I walked back down the line of decoys toward the blinds and admired Kenny’s work. He had done a great job of setting out the windsocks. We were done setting decoys plenty early. We huddled behind the trailer to get out of the wind. It got a little chilly when we weren’t out there working.

Eventually, the dark of night turned to twilight and shooting time approached. We hunkered down in our blinds. The geese were late that morning. I feared that they went someplace else. I hoped that they were only slowed by the wind. We could not view the birds coming from the roost to the west because the tumbleweeds blocked our views. I closed my eyes in the silence of dawn and began to fall asleep.

“Ha-honk”. The silence was broken. I fumbled for my call. “Ha-honk,” I responded. About five seconds later, two birds came right off the deck over the tips of the tumbleweeds. I ripped one on the first shot and winged another that sailed off to the south.

Within minutes, the first large flock came in. A steady stream of birds followed. “Oh my,” I said to myself. “Those guys are going to be pissed.” I was referring to our five companions that had gone home that morning. Kenny and I scrambled for shells for the next two hours. It was the best shoot of my life.

Results:

When the smoke had cleared, there were 36 birds scattered around us. We wounded another three that sailed away and escaped our search.

Conclusion: Get ready for snows when an east wind blows!


Comments

2 Comments on "Snow Goose Decoy Spreads"

  1. Shawn on Tue, 7th Feb 2012 10:18 pm 

    I just have a question I live in utah we dont get a ton of snow geese during our spring hunt 15- 20,000 at the most this is my second year hunting them I only have around 250 decoys and I hunt a very clean and short winter wheat field, last year I used winter wheat grass to stubble my blind and it seemed like they picked me apart, this year I was thinking about using my snow cover to try and blend in with the decoys, I was just wondering if you think this might work? or what I should try thanks.

  2. admin on Tue, 7th Feb 2012 11:11 pm 

    Google white tyvek suits and wear whites, you will notice the difference.

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!





Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


*