As much as I would like to paint a nice rosy picture about the upcoming season, the news is bad for the snow goose species. The Arctic spring was delayed for about three weeks. The optimum date for the spring thaw is June 1. This enables the snow geese to initiate nesting and for goslings to hatch with enough time to grow and fledge before the first snows of the fall. When the nesting is delayed, the adults will eventually give up and not nest. This appears to be what has happened this year.
What's the big deal? The snow goose population is still way above its long term average. Here's a fact....if a snow goose lives past its first year, there is a 95 percent chance that it will live to be 20 years or more. Mature snow geese are hard to decoy and without the young birds they change their habits entirely. This means they fly in huge groups, and they don't leave the roost until the sun comes up. They in essence become a different bird. The older snow geese are just that much smarter. Difficult but not impossible. The great equalizer in snow goose hunting - fog or wind - will always level the playing field.
What does this mean for you?
There are a couple of things people need to understand when you hunt in a year like this one is expected to be.
1. First, it is even more important to hunt with an experienced guide. Experienced guides know how to do more than just call birds and own fancy equipment.
An experienced guide knows how to put out the spread in the best way, depending on how the birds are moving. And he also accounts for other natural factors, like the wind, the sun and the types of fields to hunt.
2. Hunting the correct spot becomes even more important. Something we do different at Third Coast is we scout birds every single afternoon. We don't put out a spread and then leave it for a couple of days. We pick up the spread every single day. We move where the birds move. This is going to be a key factor when hunting these birds this season. It's not going to be easy and experienced guides will be able to make the necessary adjustments.
3. Third, hunting speckle bellies is going to be even more exciting this year. Unfortunately for Specks, they're just not that smart. You don't have the same issues hunting specks as you do hunting a snow goose. Ninety percent of the mid-continent speckle bellies winter in Arkansas. As stated in previous blogs specks are just easier. Also, speckle belly breeding grounds are in completely different areas than snow geese, and their hatch is looking good as they breed in southern regions of Alaska, which is further south than the snow goose hatches across Canada.
In Arkansas, each hunter is allowed 3 specks per hunt. In most states, the limit is 2. Arkansas speck hunting is fantastic, and that's what we will be focusing on this year. There is an early speck season in October. Specks start migrating to Arkansas in the middle of October and make their final push by Thanksgiving. What that means to goose hunters is the best speck hunting will be in November and December, bottom line.
4. Last, we don't have numbers for any duck hatches, yet. Last year, the duck hunting was subpar in November and December. It started picking up the last three weeks of the season (January). We don't have any predictions for duck hunting this year, but normally based on history, we should expect better than average duck hunting, as long as the ponds keep water.