Joe Balog interviews veteran snow goose hunter Marty Hesch, who offers his perspective and tips
It's snow goose time in many parts of the country, and last week, I interviewed veteran snow goose hunter Marty Hesch for the inside scoop on hunting these amazing birds. Hesch lives and hunts in eastern Arkansas, but he cut his waterfowling teeth in Indiana and across the northern prairies. Such gives him a unique perspective on the goose hunting scenarios throughout the country.
In any waterfowl hunting, scouting is the key, but Hesch mentioned two distinct tactics for finding and hunting snow geese. One is hunting feed fields. The other is running traffic. Let's look at both.
Feed hunting refers to setting up in fields where snow geese are actively feeding. Hunters are, essentially, on the X to begin with, so the key to success is in setting quick in the pre-dawn darkness and remaining mobile, as geese switch fields often. To hunt feeds, Hesch recommends an easily portable set of sock decoys and a couple rotary machines.
Hesch also stresses the importance of concealment. Snow geese can live for up to 20 years, and are very wary birds by nature. In addition, decoying huge groups, where thousands of eyes are watching, leaves no room for error. Hesch and his hunting party use layout blinds that are carefully brushed in.
When running traffic, the objective is to pull snows from overhead, in between points A and B. This takes a much more detailed, massive, decoy spread. Here, Hesch and his group hunt from permanent pit blinds over a spread that is left out for extended periods of time. Several thousand full-body decoys are used, as well as rotary machines and electronic callers when legal.
With setup becoming such a massive undertaking in both time and expense, Hesch points out the importance of networking within a group of hunters. You might get by with just a few guys and a mobile spread on a feed hunt, but more hands on deck will be needed when hunting traffic areas.
Work Your Dog
Another perk of hunting snows is the incredible training opportunity it presents for dog handlers. With these abundant and highly visible geese, long marking and extended retrieves are commonplace. Both the hunters and dog can see birds from far away, making it easy to get a young pup into the game.
Snow goose hunting is labor intensive, and ever-increasing hunting pressure makes it difficult. But when things go right, they go right. Hesch believes it's “the most majestic waterfowl experience there is.” And this is coming from a guy who regularly hunts the famed flooded timber of eastern Arkansas.
That sounds like reason enough to keep the gun out a little while longer.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.