Good shots always matter. Here's how to handle those big snow goose flocks
Every duck and goose hunter knows about the trap of shooting into large flocks of decoying birds. Although it seems like a slam-dunk, many of those shots somehow find the air surrounding all those birds.
That's especially true with flocks of spring snow geese, which, if they buy what you're selling, can present more targets over your decoys than you've ever experienced. And because you're trying to shoot as many geese as possible to save the tundra, you desperately want to take advantage. Opinions vary about the best and most efficient way to do that, but top snow goose guides have some tips that can help.
It definitely can be hard to pick out one bird, but it's important to make the first five to six rounds count, said Tony Vandemore, owner of Habitat Flats, near Sumner, Missouri. As they are getting closer, the last few seconds before it's time to go, pick one out and concentrate on it.
Cooper Olmstead, also of Habitat Flats, agreed, saying many spring snow goose hunters give in to excitement at the moment of truth.
A big mistake that guys make is just shooting into the bunch — flock shooting, he said. You're never going to kill very many that way. Pick one bird at a time, and stick with it until it's down.
Veteran guide Troy Maaser, who guides snow goose hunts in several states for Neu Outdoors, said he instructs shooters to act as a team, with each playing different roles depending on their position.
I always tell the outside guys to start on their side and work inward, he said. Then I have one guy in the center start with the lowest bird and work up. With the other clients in the middle, just make sure you pick a bird out, and stay on it till it falls.
Graham Greseth, owner of MaXXed Out Guides, which runs snow goose hunts in Kansas and South Dakota, said his shooting advice varies with the situation and how birds are reacting.
This really depends on how well the snows are giving it up, he said. If the birds are hanging up on top and spinning the spread without getting down below 40 yards — often the case with snows — then yes, you need to practice your standard shooting technique of picking out one bird and making sure it's dead before moving to the next.
However, if geese are decoying tight to the spread, Greseth gives his clients different — and perhaps nonintuitive — instructions.
That's the only time as a guide that I encourage my clients to flock-shoot and do it quickly, he said. When large flocks of snows decoy, they tend to ball up right as they are getting in. My instructions to my clients in those situations — and this is addressed in the safety meeting in the morning — is to aim toward the top half of the ball of birds and rattle off as many shots as they can in their 10:00-to-2:00 o'clock zone as quickly as they can as those birds start to lift out. The key is getting the clients to go back to picking out birds after a big flock decoys. Shooting coaches might not like it, but it's a very effective strategy.
(Don't miss: Concealment Tips for More Snow Geese)
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