Hunting Snow Geese in Western New York

Pro-staff Contributor: Chris Davanzo

In western NY, when the snow and frost laden winds start to shift from the south, they bring a mass of voracious snow geese racing north to their breeding grounds of the northern tundra. Their migration moves pretty quicklGoose Binocularsy—the geese leave the eastern shore of Maryland as well as Middle Creek Pennsylvania to stage on the western Finger Lakes before moving onto the Saint Lawrence River and up through Quebec. My group has learned to target Greater Snow Geese, which are significantly larger than their cousins found in the Midwest and on the West Coast, in and around the Finger Lakes and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge area.

You Reap What You Sow

Snow goose hunting takes shear willpower and stamina. It requires early mornings with late nights, hours of scouting, ungodly amounts of fuel and mileage, and moving thousands of decoys a day with a small army of dedicated hunters all with one common goal.

This year, friends of Heartland Waterfowl—Matt Krekleberg, Brian Crumm, and Logan Burditt—made the 22 hour trek halfway across the country with 1200 decoys in tow. Due to changes in weather and bird movement we chose to be more mobile than just setting up and running traffic on birds. We ran a mix of Deadly Decoys, White Rock decoys and Avery full body snow goose decoys. Setting the rig of over 2500 goose decoys takes a solid 4-6 hours on average, but over the past two seasons we have realized that the more work you put into snow goose hunting the more geese you will harvest.

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

Our first few days of the season were plagued with poor weather and overall conditions.  There were overcast skies and no wind; which made it difficult to get birds to commit to our set because they were decoy-shy. On the second day, there were a ton of birds in the area but we had over an inch of rain so there was no way of getting the decoys into the field. But our patience paid off because the last three days were a different story.  We had high winds, sunny skies, and a little snow—the birds started working and coming into gun range!

The day that the weather changed started just like every other day of the season.  My alarm clock went off at 12:30 am and I eased myself awake with a hot cup of coffee and the realization of how much work was ahead of us. But when you work with a good group of guys everyone starts to fit into their niche, so the setup went very smoothly and we got the entire rig set in about three hours. The eight of us had a cool, calm demeanor as we sat in our blinds—knowing that we were in the right spot and Goose Decoyshad these geese in checkmate as we waited for dawn and the first barks from incoming snow geese. Minutes later “Snows coming!” was shouted and we covered up as the first flock came right in. With the first flocks centered up nicely, we took our shots and sighed in relief as all of the hard work of the past five days was rewarded with white feathers flurrying down upon us and the smell of burning gunpowder in the air.

The birds flew pretty consistently throughout the next two days and we were able to shoot a pile  out of that field—successfully ending a trip made of great memories, hard fought battles, and time with friends.  In the end, all of the work and waiting was worth it and we can’t wait until next season when the chase for the white devil starts again!

Chris Davanzo is from the finger lakes region of western NY. Chris is the owner and operator of Fish and Feathers Outfitters which is the Northeast’s premier outfitter for waterfowl. When Chris isn’t in the swamps chasing ducks you can find him on a trout stream or in a treestand with bow in hand. You can contact Chris via his site fandfoutfitters.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/chris.davanzo).

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