Decoying Spring Snow Geese over Water with Black Goose Outfitters
By Brandon Crowley, Co-Founder, Ultimate Waterfowlers Challenge
When you think of decoying snow geese in the spring you probably think of frosty mornings, muddy fields, layout blinds and needing at least three pairs of boots (and possibly waders) for a three day hunt. My adventure decoying snow geese in eastern Nebraska presented the unique opportunity to hunt a dry pit blind with transportation to and from the blind while hunting snow geese over water with a floating snow goose spread.
The journey began as I left the Twin Cities with more ammunition and coolers than I’d take for a typical hunt. I headed for eastern Nebraska for two exciting days of decoying spring snow geese, making my way through Iowa where the temperature topped 90 degrees. With the sun shining and the warm springtime air surrounding me, I dreamed of soon seeing flocks of thousands of snow geese over my head.
I arrived in eastern Nebraska at Black Goose Outfitters’ head camp where owner Larry Frimann and head guide Mike Meyer greeted me. They had already started preparing that night’s dinner, which included a generous New York Strip steak complete with potatoes and vegetables.
While Mike finished cooking our dinner, Larry showed me around camp. What an amazing view from camp! The lodge overlooked the two flooded fields and decoy spread that we’d be hunting at the bottom of the valley. Meanwhile, I’d say the lodge itself was definitely “four stars,” providing everything needed for a fun and successful trip.
Most outfitters can’t provide lodging, so I was excited to spend time at their beautiful lodge. I felt like I had my very own man cave, complete with a kitchen, bedrooms to sleep up to six people comfortably, hot running water to take a shower at the end of the day, a bird cleaning area complete with good lighting to prepare birds after dark, freezers to store birds, a living room area with couches and a big screen TV, a dining room table, a grill to cook enough meat to feed 15 men, and, to top it off, a beautiful fire pit overlooking the valley. In other words, the camp was/is a hunter’s paradise!
After Larry and I finished the lodge tour we hopped in his truck and took a drive to see the land. Larry showed me a handful of his turkey blinds where he runs spring turkey hunts after the spring snow goose season. He has a terrific set-up and a very high success rate. I haven’t been on one of his turkey hunts, but my good friend and business partner, Dan Wennerlind, said it’s a “must” so definitely talk to Larry about booking that hunt.
Eventually, it came time to unload the truck and wash up for dinner. Larry and Mike know how to treat guests well and every time I’ve been on a guided hunt with Black Goose Outfitters the meals have consisted of thick T-bone steaks, huge pork chops, prime rib and even ribs. I promise you that the meals are better than what you eat on a daily basis at home– these guys know how to eat when on vacation.
After dinner I talked with the guys I would be hunting with in the morning. They told me about their previous hunts over the past three years with Larry and Mike and how they look forward to the hunt every year. I got excited hearing the numbers these guys were putting down on good migration days. Since they were from Iowa, we went into detail about the fall season they enjoy, including the early teal season. Later we agreed it was time to head for bed as we all had a date with the light geese early in the morning.
Waking up at 6am, it was time for a quick, light breakfast. (FYI: Black Goose Outfitters cooks you a hot breakfast in the blind– a very nice touch indeed.) Having put on our gear, we headed outside to discover the temperature had dropped 50 degrees overnight.
Waterfowlers know one thing about temperature and hunting: when you have a significant decrease in temperature no matter what time of the year, you get in your blind and you get there early because waterfowl love to migrate when temperatures drop and hunters often refer to this as the “big push.” Mike had the six-person ATV ready and warmed up, so we put our gear in the back, loaded up, and headed down the valley to the blind.
The set-up was awesome to say the least; they had two flooded fields with a dike that ran down the middle and a 10 person pit blind built into the ground. The decoy spread consisted of 1,500 decoys with 1,000 full bodies on the dike and in the water on the north side of the blind and 500 floating decoys to the south. They also had three motion machines going on the dike coupled with Mike’s very own e-caller sound system.
Mike has a background in audio and has custom recorded his very own snow goose sounds to replicate snow geese landing and sitting on the water– from single birds to large flocks. It’s quite the sound to listen to as he adjusts the volume and tracks as snow geese work the spread making it very effective.
We unloaded our gear while Mike guided us to the pit blind. Larry and Mike smartly installed rope lights making it much easier walking up and down the stairs during morning darkness. Carrying guns, ammo and personal belongings, those rope lights illuminated our steps so we didn’t trip before the hunt even started.
We all got in and closed the hatch as Mike took the ATV out of sight.
Then we waited 15 minutes until shooting time and loaded our guns; it wasn’t 10 minutes after shooting time that we had our first flock of birds working the spread. Now with my previous snow goose hunting experience in the United States, I knew that when you first see a flock until the time you might get the opportunity to shoot, it could take several long minutes. I quickly learned that hunting snow geese over water wasn’t going to be your typical muddy field hunt. These birds came down and they came down fast. It wasn’t 60 seconds before we first saw the flock and then pulled the trigger! I also learned that these guys from Iowa could shoot very well as we knocked 10 out of the 12 birds down. The fun had truly begun and I knew with such a good start to the morning that this was going to be one of those days to remember for the rest of my life.
Less than ten minutes later, as Mike and his Labrador Retriever finished picking up birds and returned to the blind, we had another flock of five Ross’ geese working the spread. They too, like the first flock, came in and presented a very manageable 20 yard shot and we harvested all five.
The sun began to rise. I had my shotgun in hand, covered in Natural Gear camouflage, and just made five new hunting buddies from Iowa– what a great morning.
The drop in temperature really had the ducks and Specklebelly geese on the move that morning. It was beautiful watching and taking pictures in between the action of Pintails with full sprigs and seeing the Specklebelly geese landing in our snow goose spread. We saw literally hundreds of Pintails that morning.
Now Mike usually likes to start cooking breakfast in the blind around 9am, but the action was so thick with Mike and his Lab retrieving birds that breakfast had to wait.
It wasn’t yet 10 o’clock and we had already shot down 41 birds. From singles and pairs to flocks of a hundred or greater working the decoy spread, Mike knew our comfort level as far as shooting distance and called the shots perfectly all morning long.
Eventually it was time to eat a full breakfast. Mike prepared a hearty meal including two dozen eggs with bacon to make each of us a “breakfast burrito” as he called it. Topped with taco sauce, nothing hit the belly better after the morning adrenaline rush of shooting snow geese. In fact, we were interrupted on multiple occasions while eating our breakfast by incoming birds so the guys took turns trading shots while the others enjoyed their delicious meal.
As the morning went on and led into the afternoon I had some quality time in between the incoming flocks to get to know Mike and more about Black Goose Outfitters. I learned a lot about the variety of hunts that they offer from spring turkey hunts to fall duck and goose hunts and, of course, the current hunt that I was on– their spring snow goose hunts.
We spoke more about the spring snow goose operation in eastern Nebraska and what realistic expectations were for how many birds they’d harvest on a daily basis. As all operations run, Mike said it depends on the day, how well everyone is shooting and how many hunters are in the pit. They’ve had days in the single digits to migration days where the birds are really flying some miles and hunters end up harvesting near triple digits.
Mike informed me that although I was only hunting two days, it’s very important to book three days for this hunt to ensure getting some good shooting time.
The afternoon consisted of steady flocks working our decoys and keeping our gun barrels hot. We hunted until dusk when Mike picked us up in the ATV. We headed back to camp with our 81 harvested birds.
After taking some pictures with the guys holding the birds, we checked out the cleaning station and it took less than 15 minutes to prep the birds for the freezer thanks to a flawless set-up.
I couldn’t believe how slick this cleaning station was– with two bird hitches it was highly effective. Larry had on-site freezers to store our birds– very convenient.
Dinner was delicious: thick cut pork chops with baked potatoes and veggies. Later that night I took a hot shower and hit the hay.
The next morning we were up at 6am, had a light breakfast, geared up, reloaded with shells, and headed down to the blind in the ATV. I had to laugh as I saw a couple of the guys wearing tennis shoes down to the blind on the second day. In all honesty this made sense– why track down large uncomfortable hunting boots when tennis shoes are much easier on the feet?
After all, the blind and dike were very dry and where in the world can you hunt snow geese in the spring in tennis shoes?
The morning temperature was in the low 40s with clear skies, similar to the first morning. Before we knew it, we had birds migrating into the decoys while we were still getting into the blind.
By the time we were set and ready, it was legal shooting time. The first flock was awesome to say the least; we managed to harvest all 14 birds as they nearly landed on top of the dike. I once again knew the day was headed in a great direction. It was almost an exact repeat of the first day, flock after flock giving us a great look (20-30 yards) picking off a handful of birds out of each flock and reloading for the next.
Mike had a good problem concerning what time to make pancakes for breakfast because it was non-stop action all morning into the afternoon.
While the morning consisted of pulling migrating birds down from what seemed the ozone layer, the afternoon was a little different. We managed to harvest our 81st bird around 2:15pm. Then thick clouds started rolling in and the rest of the afternoon saw only a handful of flocks for the remainder of the day.
As hunters, we knew two things by the end of the day: one, nobody was going to believe us that we harvested 81 birds on back-to-back days, and two, we saw a good part of the migration over the past 36 hours of hunting.
Like the end of the first day of hunting, we headed back to the lodge in the ATV, prepared our birds, and sat down to another delicious meal. Since this would be the last meal before we headed home in the morning, the guys decided to enjoy a nice campfire and share stories from the two days of hunting, taking time to just relax and enjoy our vacation. It was very peaceful as the clouds cleared and presented a beautiful star-filled sky with a bright moon. We even heard snow geese migrating in the distance.
We finished up, put out our campfire, and headed in for the night.
The trip exceeded my expectations. My hunting partner Dan Wennerlind and I go on several guided waterfowl hunting adventures all across the world and I always look forward to the trips with Larry and Mike with Black Goose Outfitters. They truly know how to cater to hunters of all backgrounds– young or old, male or female, children, the disabled, etc.
I’ve already booked my hunt for next season and look forward to bringing my Dad and brother– they’re big time deer hunters.
It didn’t take them long to know it was something they wanted to experience, too, after seeing my pictures, and I know, like me, they’ll be back for years to come.
Be sure to get a group of six to eight hunters of your family and friends together, and experience one of the best kept secrets in eastern Nebraska– decoying spring snow geese over water with Black Goose Outfitters!
ILARRY FRIMANN – BLACK GOOSE OUTFITTERS
PHONE: CALL 1-888-373-0008
EMAIL: CLICK HERE
WEBSITE: CLICK HERE
SPECIES HARVESTED ON THIS HUNT: SNOW GOOSE, BLUE GOOSE & ROSS’S GOOSE
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT SOME ADDITIONAL PICTURES FROM MY
RECENT TRIP WITH BLACK GOOSE OUTFITTERS