Snow goose hunting is some of the toughest waterfowl hunting there is. Just because there are hundreds of thousands of them doesn’t make them easier to hunt. The can provide both frustration and jubilation. It requires careful planning, attention to details, and lots of energy.

Waterfowl Hunting Canada

Waterfowl Hunting Canada

Many have the dream of waterfowl hunting Canada. Increased bag limits, limited pressure, and uneducated birds often lead to incredible hunts that create memories for a lifetime. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to waterfowl hunt Canada just a couple weeks ago. We ventured north with plans to freelance hunt just as we predominantly do back home. The thought of not having any hunts lined up in a foreign place 25 hours from home was intimidating, but it all worked out in the end.

Hitting the Road

The trek from Illinois to Saskatchewan was a long 25 hours. With 5 guys in the truck, we ran it straight through taking turns along the route. Upon arriving, we unloaded what we could to the hotel rooms, unhooked the trailer, and set off in search of birds. We quickly located a couple good flocks of snow geese, spoke with the farmer, and had our first field lined up. A great start to the week! A few miles down the road we spotted a pea field holding snow geese and ducks. Field #2 was now set. With the first two locations close together, we took off west to locate some birds in another area. We located a pond not far off the road that appeared loaded with birds. Feathers and dropping were everywhere around it. Scouting for WaterfowlEventhough there were no birds on the pond at the time, the sign couldn’t be ignored. Since the pond was small, we figured it was utilized as a loafing area mid-day and not as a roost. We were able to gain access to that location as well and ended up planning on opening up our Canada trip on the pond the following morning.

Time to Hunt

We arrived early not knowing 100 percent what was using the pond or how they were using it. Shortly after first light ducks began to fly over the pond. We shot a few, but the Canada Geese and Snow Geese were flying off in the distance. The few dark geese that would fly over were on a mission elsewhere and we were beginning to doubt our decision to hunt the pond. Finally, around 10am, a small group of honkers came over the tree line barrel rolling and locked. These were our geese! They got inside of 25 yards and flared, but it was too late. Six of the 7 fell and another group was right behind them. The second group bugged out at 40 yards, came by for a second look and was gone. A few minutes later, another group coasted over the treeline with wings locked. The flared at 30 yards, but we managed to take a few more. We quickly moved the decoys to the far side of the pond to try and force the birds over us. The plan worked to no avail and the subsequent groups continue to flare. We checked everything around the blinds to see if anything was shining or sticking out in the sun. The only thing we could figure was wrong, was that they’ve been shot from this location recently. The farmer said we were the first to hunt it, but the reaction of the birds seemed otherwise so we decided to switch gears and hunt Snow Geese.

Our scouting the day before lead us to a roost/loafing pond with a barley field across the road. We had hoped the birds were resting mid-day as we made our move, but there were already a few hundred in the field. This field was located in a triangle of 3 roost ponds so we knew this was the place to be. We went ahead and setup a few hundred yards from the feeding snows. The birds that were on the ground didn’t have a care in the world as we set a spread of around 500 decoys. The birds we saw the day before were spaced out while feeding. They were content and had no plans of migrating unlike when we hunt them back in Illinois. We placed the decoys according to what we saw, climbed in the blinds, and within a fewSnow Goose Hunting minutes the first bird hit the dirt. The next few hours were some of the best snow goose hunting we’ve ever experienced. Groups of 4-6 birds would drop in and not leave. Single and pairs would break off of flocks flying between roosts and feeds and sail in for a look at our spread. That afternoon we were able to shoot 79 snow geese! We quickly learned that snows are much easier to hunt at the start of the migration and when the juveniles have zero education.

The pea field was next and with snows and ducks in the field two days before, we ran a mixed spread of decoys. When we previously looked at the field, it was loaded with waste grain sitting on top of the chaff and dirt. As the sun rose that morning, the amount of peas was far less than what we had previously seen. We still enticed quite a few birds in that morning, but cut the hunt short because it was time to scout again. The locations we were hunting were 45 minutes from the hotel so 3am wake up calls and laying back down at 11 after cleaning birds, eating, and charging camera batteries was the norm. Exhausting, but worth it for waterfowl hunting Canada!

Waterfowl Hunting Canada

Scouting Leads to Success and Failures

The weather had been pretty warm and dry. There weren’t a ton of ducks and geese down from the north. The birds that were around, were predominantly locals other than the Snow Geese. The dry weather had many of the potholes lacking water, so the birds were sticking around larger ponds, lakes, and Ducks Unlimited Projects. This concentrated them few areas and by mid-week other hunters were in the area hunting the same birds that we were. Scouting was vital to our success and in order to scout we had to give up many of our afternoon hunts. One of the few days we hunted the afternoon we ended with a 5 man limit of 100 Snow Geese. For years we had dreamed of hitting that bench mark, and we finally accomplished  it while waterfowl hunting Canada! One of the negatives we experienced on this trip was arriving at pre-scouted field that was loaded with geese and ducks only to find another group of hunters already setting up. The farmer had given us both permission and failed to say it was a first come, first serve basis. They beat us in there, so we had to relocate elsewhere.Waterfowl Scouting

Looking Ahead

All in all, it was an awesome trip! We traveled around 4000 miles in total. Our scouting and traveling from hotel to field took up around 1000 miles. Lots of driving in 5 days of hunting, but we played the cards we were dealt. Tons of drive time for a few hours of hunting each day. This year started much like last year ended for us with a lack of ducks and dark geese so we resorted to Snow Goose hunting. In 5 days of hunting, we were able to shoot 271 birds. The farmers are very grateful when you return to their house with bags of meat. Not only does it help fill their freezer, but it also is a great gesture for them allowing us to hunt their land. Next year, they’ll remember us and hopefully allow us to hunt their land again. Speaking of next year, we will make our Canada trip later in October and hopefully hit it during prime time instead of early like we did this year.

From what we saw waterfowl hunting Canada, the Snow Goose hatch appeared to be great. There were juveniles everywhere. We really can’t say anything about the record duck hatch reported this year. The groups of ducks we did see were comprised of many young birds, but there wasn’t enough flocks around to enjoy the reported record numbers. Shortly after we returned home, snow fell across portions of southern Canada and the Dakotas. Birds are moving south and hopefully as we continue to push toward winter, the cold fronts will continue and the 2012-2013 waterfowl hunting season will be one to remember.



Patterning Shotguns For Waterfowl Hunting

Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl Hunting

Patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting is an often overlooked aspect of the hunt. So much emphasis is put on decoy placement, concealment, and scouting, but none of that matters if you’re throwing a pattern out there that that isn’t uniform and has holes in it. The only way to find out what your gun is doing is to test it on the range much like turkey hunters do. You want to give yourself the best chance possible at harvesting that passing duck or goose and firing some shots down range is the way to do so.


The Test

We gathered some waterfowl hunting buddies up in southern Illinois and ended up with a small arsenal of guns and ammo.  We were well prepared had a fight broke out! Each shot took place at 40 yards into a 20 inch circle without the use of a bench. Targets were marked and labeled after each shot, then grouped by gun. We used the Winchester Super X2, Beretta A400, Beretta XTrema 2, Benelli Super Black Eagle, Remington 870, and the Remington SP-10. Bear in mind that no two guns are the same. You could take 2 of the same make/model of gun and not get the same results from using the same choke/shell combo. You can use this data as a starting point for your patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting, but don’t take it as the gospel. Just because a choke/shell combo didn’t perform well in our test doesn’t mean both should be abandoned. Try the same choke with a different shell or the same shell with a different choke. Most of us have a few chokes laying around to use and by inviting some buddies to the range with you, you’ll have a variety of shells that you can all try.


Our setup wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t by the book like most people say how to do it, but it was consistent. Every shot was fired at the same distance and the same size circle. Most tests you read about take place at 40 yards into a 30 inch circle. We had chunks of cardboard from a recent move that only measured 20 inches.  We used what we had and for the sake of consistency, they worked. Now don’t go comparing our shot numbers and percentages to other tests because their targets are probably larger allowing more pellets to be counted. What we wanted to do was see what our guns were doing and give others an idea of how different shell/choke combos stacked up against each other. This is far from scientific, but come on, we are resourceful waterfowl hunters!

What to Look For

When patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting, it isn’t just about the number of pellets in the circle. You want your pattern to be uniform throughout the circle and have a minimal number of bare spots in it.

Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl HuntingEveryone would like to see a completely uniform pattern across the circle, but it is nearly impossible to achieve. Good results minimize and keep the gaps at 3 inches or under. The example at left shows a centered pattern, but there is a noticeable gap at the bottom left of the 20 inch circle. The pellets that did hit low and left hit outside of the target circle. When shooting a smaller size shot, the shell has more pellets in it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more pellets on target. Some load and choke combos just don’t work well. The number of pellets on target is an important part of taking a bird down, but it’s penetration that kills. Penetration comes from the speed and size of the shot. It obviously takes more energy to penetrate the thick down of a goose and since they are a larger animal we typically utilize BB shot size. For ducks, their feathers are thinner and they aren’t as large as a goose so 2’s typically work well.  Shot size for ducks or geese isn’t set in stone. It carries a bit of personal preference in the decision, but keep in mind your typical shot distance and the size of the birds you’re going after.

Our Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl Hunting Results

Gun Choke Shell Size Shot Size Shell Make Hits/TotalPercentage
RemingtonSP10 Factory I.M. 3.5 2 RemingtonHS Steel 82/?/?
Factory Modified 3.5 2 Black Cloud 121/18864%
Remington870 Factory Modified 3.5 BB Black Cloud 60/10856%
BenelliSBE Factory Modified 3.5 BB Black Cloud 71/18838%
WinchesterSX2 SRM Terror .655 3 3 Black Cloud 75/19838%
SRM Terror .655 3 2 Hevi-Metal 81/18644%
Briley I.M. 3 2 Hevi-Metal 88/18647%
Kicks Modified 3 2 Kent 50/15632%
SRM Terror .655 3 2 Kent 50/15632%
SRM Terror .655 3 1 Estate 56/12943%
SRM Terror .655 3.5 2 Black Cloud 121/18864%
SRM Terror .655 3.5 BB Kent 57/9958%
BerettaXtrema 2 Wrights Full 3 1 Estate 61/12947%
Wrights Full 3.5 2 Hevi-Metal 77/21137%
Wrights Full 3.5 2 Black Cloud 70/18837%
Wrights Full 3.5 2 Black Cloud 65/18835%
Wrights Modified 3.5 3 Black Cloud 50/18827%
Beretta A400 Factory Full 3 2 Hevi-Metal 67/18636%
Factory Full 3.5 2 Black Cloud 77/18841%
Factory Full 3.5 BB Kent 47/9948%

You can see the number of pellets in the shell didn’t always mean more pellets on target. The Super X2 shooting the 3’s is advertised as having 198 pellets per shell while the 2’s have 186. The 2’s had 6 more pellets on target while being advertised as having 12 fewer pellets in the shell. It all boils down to finding the load(s) your gun performs best with.  For the SP10 we used in our shotgun patterning, the load that performed best was 3.5 inch #2 Black Cloud through the factory modified choke tube. The center of the pattern was slightly high and left, but still managed to put 121 inside the 20 inch circle.

Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl Hunting

Take these results as a guide. Each gun is different and it’s up to you to test and obtain your own results. We owe it to the waterfowl we pursue to limit the number of cripples and lost birds. As diehard waterfowl hunters we are always looking for something to do in the offseason and what better way to get a fix than patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting this coming season.



Snow Goose Migration – March 13, 2012

Snow Goose Migration


We are going to go ahead and post the latest snow goose migration update even though new surveys aren't available yet.  The incredibly warm weather has the birds in the express lane north.  Birds have now crossed into areas of North Dakota and are moving north in a hurry.  South Dakota has large numbers of snow geese all across the state as well, and some guys even starting to kill some juvenile birds.  If you plan on going there to hunt, you better leave now because it's not going to last long. The forecast for Pierre, SD the next 7 days calls for highs ranging from 65-77.  That's unheard of for mid March!  Take a look at the snow cover data from the past two years:


snow goose migration



snow goose migration

Major differences and this explains why the birds are in areas 1-2 weeks earlier than normal.  It started all the way back in January when many of the snow geese spent their winter in areas of Illinois and Missouri instead of Arkansas and Louisiana. They had a head start returning north to their summer grounds and now with no snow cover on into Canada, they'll continue their push north in a hurry!  If you're planning a trip to the Dakotas I hope it's soon because they'll move through in a hurry with this weather.

Further south, a decent number of birds remains near Squaw Creek.  There aren't as many as there has been, but hunters are still enjoying some success.  There are even huntable numbers remaining in areas of central and west central Illinois.  The predictions of a spread out migration seem to be ringing true.  The main masses of birds are long since through these parts of Illinois, but the concentrations of birds remain in select areas.  It requires lots of driving to find the birds and you have to go in with the mindset that you will not see a ton, but with limited competition from feeding flocks on the ground you should have some success.  One thing that continues to be noted both from reports and what we've been seeing is the lack of large groups of juvenile birds.  They are just aren't there this year.  The juvies remained mixed in the with the adults birds over the course of the winter and are making their move north with them as well.

Don't forget to check out new episodes of Fowled Reality every Monday right here on our site, Vimeo, or YouTube.

Here is some snow goose hunting action from opening day of the conservation order season in Illinois.


Snow Goose Migration – March 2, 2012

Snow Goose Migration


The snow goose migration continues its track northward as Spring temperatures begin to show.  The masses of leading edge birds continue to hang out in NW Missouri and parts of Nebraska and Kansas. It looks like much of the country will experience warm temperatures next week and the birds will likely make a large jump north as the snow disappears.


The snow goose migration is strung out from Arkansas to parts of south east South Dakota.  Small pockets of birds can still be found in Arkansas and what birds hunters can find are very friendly and decoy well.  Further north into Illinois and Missouri, the story is about the same with pockets of birds in certain areas.  The southern Illinois waterfowl survey showed 41,000 birds in southern Illinois which is near the 5 year average. Hunters must spend the scouting time to find the birds, but if you do, you're in for a great hunt.  It all comes down to if you want to see birds or kill birds.  For some seeing a million birds is great, for others, they'd rather see a few thousand and kill a hundred.  The numbers in NW Missouri continued to be strong until mid week.  Squaw Creek's survey showed a large drop on birds on Tuesday.

Squaw Creek NWR Survey

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Survey courtesy of the IDNR

Last week over a million were reported, while this week the number dropped to over 300,000.  Blake was in NW Missouri Tuesday and Wednesday and and saw crazy amounts of geese.  The birds are still there, they must have just been on other bodies of water in the area and not on Squaw to be counted.  Success in those parts has been anywhere from 20-50 birds a field with some guys shooting near 100 birds occasionally.  Even though, the leading edge of birds are near, there are still a great number of juvies mixed in.  You'll have a few thousand fly over and a handful of young birds will drop out and come in.  With the snow line starting in South Dakota, the birds have some more room to move north, but the lack of snow melt this year has left much of the rainwater basins in Nebraska dry.  There is little area for birds to roost in these parts so they are continuing to hold in Northwest Missouri.

snow goose migration



The warm weather next week should help the birds make the jump into southern South Dakota and the back half of the snow goose migration will begin moving in the Squaw Creek area.  Hunter success should continue to be great and could even increase with a larger number of juvies moving into the area.



Our trip to Northwest Missouri was one to remember.  It was quick, but very successful!  in 1.5 days with two guns, we took 84 birds!  The wind cooperated, but we had some rain on Tuesday.  The birds didn't mind though.  Wednesday the wind was screaming at 40mph+ and the birds wanted down.  Groups were locked and barrel rolling at 300 yards away.  The wind made shooting a challenge, but we still had a great shoot in the morning!  Here's a few of the birds we took. Our snow goose hunting take was about about a 50/50 split of juvies and adults.


snow goose migration

Snow Goose Migration – February 22, 2012

Snow Goose Migration


The snow goose migration continues to be in full swing across the Mississippi Flyway.  Last week, some birds moved south as snow fell across portions of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois, but temperatures have moderated and the geese are moving back north.  Success is being reported all the way from Arkansas to northern Missouri and Iowa.


Snow goose migration reports put the masses of leading edge adults as far north as NW Missouri around Squaw creek, Western Iowa and southeast Nebraska.  Squaw Creek last week had it's largest snow goose survey of the year thus far at 1.25 million. The survey yesterday fell to just over 1 million.  The snow line starts in central South Dakota and carries on north from there.  The large concentrations of birds have some more room to move north to edge closer to the snow line, but they're probably limited on available roost water due to frozen lakes.  A winter weather system is forecasted to move over areas where there is already snow this weekend so a large northward movement from areas already holding masses of geese is unlikely.

snow goose migration



Squaw Creek Waterfowl Survey courtesy of the Midwest Region Refuge System


Further south, there are still good numbers of birds in areas of Arkansas and southern Illinois/Missouri.  In these areas, the concentrations of geese sporadic.  Hunters must do their homework by scouting and driving to find locations holding these concentrations.  With the leading edge of birds, you could set up nearly anywhere. Towards the back part of the migration you have to spend time scouting to find exactly where the birds are roosting and feeding.  It's a lot of work, but success at this point could be better than hunting the huge numbers of birds at the beginning.  One thing that the Fowled Reality crew has noticed is the back part of the migration sill has quite a few adult birds mixed in with the juvies.  Most years, the tail end of the snow goose migration is characterized by predominantly juvies in the flocks.  This year there are good numbers of juvies bringing up the rear, but there seems to be more adults than normal.  It could be due to the abnormally warm winter we had.  Some adult snow geese took their typical southward migration to the gulf coast even with the warm temps and they're just now getting this far north and joining up with the juvenile snow geese that start their migration north later than the adults. While some other adult snow geese didn't go as far south as typical because of the mild temperatures.  Regardless, huntable numbers of snow geese remain through these areas.  The surveyed numbers in southern Illinois are just behind their 5 year average at 49,000.

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Survey courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources


The forecast for the rest of the week and into the weekend calls for seasonable to mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies after a chance of rain tomorrow.  It also looks like a few days of good wind which we all know is key to killing snow geese.  Good hunting conditions should prevail across southern Illinois after tomorrow and hunters should experience good success with proper scouting and larger numbers of juvenile birds coming through.