Reliable, specialized shotguns rule the day for spring goose guides
Spring snow goose hunting demands specialized gear, and that’s especially true with shotguns.
Hunters often enjoy high-volume shooting in miserable conditions during spring, so guns must be consistently reliable. Further, with no restrictions on the number of shells a gun can hold, many shooters beef up their magazine capacity, hoping to take full advantage when large flocks decoy (hey, we’re trying to save the tundra, right?).
Obviously, you might feel somewhat undergunned if you tote your standard duck gun on a spring trip, but many folks are unsure about what constitutes the best snow goose shotgun and what modifications it might require, such as a magazine extension or specialized choke. And what about shells? Don’t fret. We asked several longtime spring snow pros what they shoot, and their answers can help guide you.
Vandemore, owner of Habitat Flats, near Sumner, Missouri, and a longtime snow goose outfitter, uses a Benelli Super Black Eagle III for spring snows, and he shoots 3-inch loads of No. 2 Hevi XII or Hevi-Metal Longer Range shells. He adds a Rob Roberts Custom Gunworks T3 choke because it’s very tight, and a magazine extension.
“During light-wind days, geese don’t get out of the hole as fast, and (the extension) helps,” he said.
The owner of Top Gun Guide Services Inc., which runs spring goose hunts in seven states and Saskatchewan, Kostka goes with a Benelli SBE.
“They’re good for spring because they’re easy to clean,” he said. “Put them right in the bathtub.”
He favors Boss Shotshells loads of No. 5 bismuth shot.
“It’s plenty of shell to shoot snows, and if you have a lot of leftover shells, you can use them for ducks, Canadas and cranes later,” he said. “If I’m shooting steel, I use BBs with long-range Patternmaster chokes. And yes, we always use mag extensions. That way, you’re always loaded and on the big flocks, so you can really rain out a lot of birds.”
The owner of MaXXed Out Guides, which runs spring snow goose hunts in Kansas and South Dakota, Greseth shoots a Benelli Vinci. He likes stack loads of No. 2 and BB shot from Migra Ammunitions.
“I’ve been shooting a Carlson’s Choke Tubes mid-range choke for about 10 years now,” he said. “When you’re on them with that choke and the No. 2/BB stack from Migra, there are no cripples to chase. They’re dead.”
He fits his gun with an eight-shot magazine extension.
“I definitely use one for snows,” he said. “When snow geese do it right, they typically ball up right when they finish.”
Longtime waterfowl guide Troy Maaser runs spring goose hunts for Neu Outdoors and outfits for ducks and geese during fall in Canada and Texas. During spring, he shoots a Benelli SBEII with a Patternmaster Code Black Choke. His favorite loads are 3-inch steel BBs at 1,500 fps.
“I use a 10-shot extension,” he said. “It helps when you have a big flock and they bunch up. It’s also a help when you shoot into a flock and one (goose) comes back, so you have some shells in your gun and can shoot it without having to worry about reloading.”
Olmstead, also of Habitat Flats, chooses a Benelli SBE or SBEIII for spring snows, and he fits them with Sure Cycle magazine extensions.
“I believe they are five-shot extensions,” he said. “Nothing past the barrel for me. I’ve run short two-shot extensions and longer extensions that stick out past the barrel and have found that four-to-five-shot extensions are about perfect, for me at least.”
Like Vandemore, Olmstead uses Rob Roberts T3 chokes in his goose guns, believing a tighter choke performs better.
“More pellets on target usually means fewer cripples,” he said. “You either hit them and kill them or miss them completely.”
And he’s fairly opportunistic when it comes to shells.
“I usually shoot whatever I can get my hands on for shells, but usually it’s a mix of No. 2s and BBs,” he said. “I run 2s for the first few, followed by BBs. I’ll also run Boss Shotshells if I have some. With shot shortages, you can’t be too picky.”
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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.