By Chris Hustad

Its going to be wet and muddy this spring, make sure you plan ahead on how youre going to get your decoys into the field

I love this time of year. The snow geese are pulling out of their wintering grounds in route up north, pushing as far as Mother Nature will allow them. Today there might not be a goose in the state, tomorrow there could be hundreds of thousands. I've setup a decoy spread in North Dakota when there wasn't a snow goose in the state. But I knew where the geese were staging the day before and the weather forecast looked nice with south winds; this is a simple recipe for a migration. If you plan to hunt in the spring, especially over decoys, there's a lot of work involved compared to the fall. The following is a list of tips and tactics we use to make the experience easier, and hopefully brings more snow geese into the landing zone.
  • Be where the birds are. Sounds simple, but if you're limited on your time to hunt it shouldn't be spent waiting for the birds to show up. Before the snow geese arrive, use the Internet to your advantage. Most of the state's have either an updated webpage with reports, a hotline to call, or both. These are typically your most reliable reports. Also take some time to read the snow goose hunting Internet forums as thousands of snow goose hunter's are reporting every day.
  • You don't need a fat wallet to amass a nice decoy spread in the spring. Keep an eye on classifieds in the paper and online as people are always buying and selling decoys. You can also buy affordable decoy kits nowadays that are more durable then ever.
  • In the fall, typically you're targeting a field to hunt where the birds were feeding the night before. This isn't always your best option in the spring, especially when birds are on the move. Find a location where the birds are constantly migrating overhead, regardless if the birds are there or not.
  • Corn is one of their favorite foods in the spring. They rely on it to keep up their energy and fat reserves when migrating, and they'll seek it out. For land spreads, we'll use a corn field the vast majority of the time. If the cornfield is flooded, than you're looking at an excellent location, with roosting possibilities. Geese don't rely on the traditional fall refuges for roosting, they use any sheetwater they can find at times. For water spreads, you're seeking out a quality roosting location. Considering water spots come in all shapes in sizes, here's a few things to keep in mind. Snow geese rarely leave themselves open to getting sneaked, they choose where they roost wisely. The simple rule I use when picking a water spot is, could I sneak my decoys if they were real geese??? With that being said, avoid sloughs with high vegetation, treelines, ditches running up to it and of course, far from roads. If the slough has quality feed around it such as corn, even better.
  • Driving in the fields in the spring sometimes isn't an option, and a lot of farmers don't want guys driving in the fields this time of year anyways. The past 5 years or so hasn't been as much of an issue with bone dry winters, but it's bound to change sooner or later. If you're looking at a wet spring, seek locations near pasture. Pasture land dries out very fast, when everything else is under water. When I'm looking for flooded corn, I'll look for any fields that are connected to pasture land in the flyway. I've been able to drive right next to our setup during these situations. A little extra scouting could save you a lot of trips hauling out decoys.
  • If you plan on dragging out decoys, the sled off your portable ice house work great. Fill it to the brim and strap it down and you'd be surprised how easy this is to bring out your decoys and gear.

    Be respectful of snow geese, dont skybust them but be patient to allow them to work your decoys

    Electronic callers are a great tool in the spring. When we used to use single speaker ecallers, we liked to use more than one, and use different CDs. Although don't just use any CD or tape, make sure it has distinct snow goose sounds, not drawn out flocks in the background. The options available nowadays are much better than the first couple spring seasons. If you use a single speaker ecaller, always aim it at the flock. They can't hear it when the speaker is pointed in the other direction. Test it out and you'll see what I mean. I've since customized my own ecaller, with an MP3 player (with remote), amp, and 4 30-watt speakers. The 4 speakers will allow me to aim in 4 different directions, and with the remote I can position the speakers where I want to, not just where our blinds are located. This will also help save my ears and I suggest wearing ear plugs if you have an ecaller close by. I also turn down the volume as they come down towards the decoys. And you should always make sure your ecaller will be working during the whole hunt. There's nothing worse than having a battery die on your ecaller when you're in the middle of a hunt. I recommend carrying an extra battery.
  • Don't leave your waders at home. Some retrieves will require waders due to the amount of water. Some guys in our group wear their waders in the field to keep dry as well.
  • Bring your snow goose call. We've found some good calling will help widen the vocabulary of the ecaller. It's also a good time to practice your call. If you make mistakes,the ecaller will help drown out missed pitches.
  • Be comfortable. Whether you're using blinds, chairs or lying on the ground, get in a comfortable position. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes to bring a flock into shooting range from the time they first lock up their wings while migrating. If you aren't comfortable, you'll find yourself shifting around which will probably spook the birds.
  • Do not short your concealment. Snow geese are the best at picking out hunters, and picking out blinds. We typically use field blinds, but just because you're in one doesn't mean you're hidden. This requires a group effort as one blind not properly dressed with stubble or mud can spook the geese and ruin it for everyone.
  • Don't get discouraged if the birds aren't responding to your decoys. Depending if you're in a field or water decoy spread, the birds will target both at different times of the day and at different times during the migration. Some mornings we can't get a goose under 100 yards and then the afternoon comes and it's like the geese flipped a switched and decoy with reckless abandon.
[*]As always, be careful not to shoot White Front or Specklebelly geese. Young specks look an awful lot like blue geese at times, when in doubt always aim for a snow goose. But just because specks are out of season, doesn't mean you shouldn't treat them like snows. Specks flaring from your decoys can flare snows. Specs landing in your decoys will bring in the birds better than any decoy. So for this reason, I treat all geese working the decoys the same.
These are some simple solutions to minor problems while hunting snow geese in the spring. If you haven't experienced a day in the decoys in the spring, you're really missing out on a great experience. It's not unusual in a day to see tens of thousands of geese and ducks, and they will most often decoy closer than the fall. Be prepared for a little work, but it's one of the most rewarding seasons for a waterfowler. Keep your eyes to the sky.