Snow Goose Decoy Spreads – Be Different
By Chris Hustad
How many snow goose decoy spreads have you driven past over the years? Seriously, think about it. What did you notice? I swear most snow goose decoy spreads are close to the same. They consist of 300-600 snow goose decoys (usually windsock type), around a 4-12 flyers and maybe a circling machine or two. And did you notice the blinds? More often then not you do, and believe me more often then not; so do the birds. When planning your snow goose decoy spread, you need to be different. It takes planning and of course, your wallet (not always the easiest to swallow either). But truth be known, I think successful snow goose hunters are the one’s who think outside the box. Here are a few things that are worth thinking about when looking to build a snow goose spread or starting over.
First off, when I say “starting over”, it’s really not tough to do. Snow goose decoys move FAST in the classifieds on various forums, so it’s not like you’re really stuck with what you have. Put up a price that you think is a bit high and expect to settle at a price you’re comfortable with.
Second, when building a snow goose spread you should consider going small and VERY realistic or to go big. I’m one of the latter myself. I can never have a big enough snow goose spread. I add to my spread every single year whether I like it or not. I always admit I have a snow goose decoy addiction but I hunt snow geese enough where I can sleep with the cost. So with that being said, let’s take a moment and ponder the difference between going small and going big.
If you’re going to go small, try going the full body route. I’m not a full body guy myself but I do hunt with a lot of people who’s opinions I respect who swear by their effectiveness. When I ask about what they notice I tend to hear the same thing, “birds simply finish differently over full bodies”. Let’s face it, they are the most realistic looking snow goose decoys. One of their biggest draws, in my opinion, is you can have them facing all directions. With windsock style decoys, in any wind they all end up facing generally the same way. That’s a drawback for sure. If you scout a field of snow geese, you’ll notice they always feed in a certain direction but they aren’t robots either. They will move in any direction as long as it involves finding food. Also, you can control the movement of full bodies in HIGH winds where windsocks tend to move too much. If I were to go with full bodies, I’d probably keep my “trinkets” to a minimum as well.
If you’re going to go big, build as fast as you can afford. If you have hunting partners, build together effectively. Have one guy buy X amount of decoys while you do the same. Having a good, reliable hunting party is invaluable if you want to go big. Let’s face it, with snow geese it is USUALLY a numbers game. Snow geese feed in big flocks and a big snow goose decoy spread is the only way to mimic that flock. Grow as you can, and make sure you can get that snow goose spread into the field in an effective manner. This year, we’re going bigger then we have have (in our group). We’re going to be running between 1200-3000 decoys, depending on the day. And we’re going to have around 15 rotary machines, 80 flyers, and around 100-150 floaters. Sounds like overkill? Maybe, but we’ve been building for this for years and want to give it an honest effort. If we don’t notice a difference expect a lot of stuff going into the classifieds this off-season. But in reality, this is what we feel is the most realistic representation of real geese as we possibly can attempt.
Blinds, I flat out hate them. They are bulky, they are uncomfortable, they are tough to hide. And just when you think you’re all set and ready; the birds do something differently and you end up having to move. And when you’re moving blinds during the heat of the action it means moving, restuffing, resetting, reorganizing and so on. So what’s a good way to get away from blinds? Go old school! Our group is running whites this year. We used them a lot when I was younger but the introduction of field blinds changed everything. But I think snow geese are darn good at spotting them so we’re going back to the basics. Whites are great and I don’t think geese can pick them out as good as blinds. If you’ve ever used whites you know what I mean. When we pull up on geese, they don’t immediately flare like a line of blinds doors opening. That means better initial shots and less cripples. You can buy white tyvek suits for as cheap as around $4/each or you can buy white coveralls. Get a pair for each of your hunting buddies and give it a try this spring, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I’ve been saying this for years – floater spreads kill a lot of geese. Get your hands on some used floaters, paint some duck floaters, or think outside the box on building your own. Find a pond with minimal cattail cover such as a pasture pond or slough and give it a try. Leave the field decoys at home and just roll with the floaters. Spend some time on quality concealment and get covered up. It works – trust me.
I say this all the time to my customers who call to buy decoys from me when they ask about snow goose decoy spreads. If you ask 100 snow goose hunters what they recommend you’ll probably get 100 different responses. So my opinion is just some food for thought. Try something different this spring and see how it works. You may be surprised at it’s results.