The snows are coming - snow geese, that is

When I moved to South Dakota in August, one of the top things I was excited about is the state's hunting -- especially how it's almost year-round here.

When I moved to South Dakota in August, one of the top things I was excited about is the state's hunting -- especially how it's almost year-round here.

Saturday morning marked the opening of the annual spring light goose hunting season, and from talking with local GF&P Conservation Officer Andy Peterson, a few flocks are starting to make their way through the area.

But, as the migration continues, and those light geese give a special-season hunt to those hunters like me who can't wait six and seven months to shoot waterfowl, soon enough, those massive flocks will be patrolling the fields in the area.

"The greatest concentration is between Salem and Mitchell," Peterson said. "They funnel from west of Yankton through here."

I'll be the first to admit I'm definitely a lot better Canada geese and duck sportsman than light geese. In fact, I've only shot three snow geese in my life. One came last fall southeast of Mitchell when I was pass shooting on a group crossing a soybean field and resting in a slough, and the other two I shot -- again pass shooting -- in North Dakota.


From what I've gathered in my few hunts on light geese is they're not easy to decoy, and they're smart birds.

The one question I always found myself asking while in the field watching large flocks of snows just fly past my decoys is: Why don't they even give my decoys a glance?

After research and a few outdoor-television learning shows, I've grown to understand you barely ever see small groups of light geese, which means there are always that many more eyes watching. And more often than not, to successfully draw in light geese, you probably need a pile of decoys with motion-flapping wings included.

So, if you don't have the money to put down on 1,000 or so decoys like me, another option is pass shooting, which I think I'll try to take advantage of this spring. But, just like any other sort of hunting, it takes scouting and understanding feeding and resting habits to have a successful pass shoot.

And since I'm still in the process of learning how to hunt light geese, I can't get into an in-depth instructions on how to go about to have a successful hunt.

But here are a few basic things I've learned about pass shooting. First, find when and where the birds are feeding and watch where they go for water. Hopefully, on a windy day, you can find a high knoll or a rock pile in between where the birds are feeding and resting.

"This year, with the lack of snow they might fly right through," Peterson said. "When they get here, you'll have to hunt them right away because if it stays like this they'll probably just keep migrating north."

Other information on the spring light goose hunt: Use the snow goose hotline frequently. Although the reports come from the Sand Lake Refuge, which is near Columbia, the refuge is almost directly north of Mitchell, and the birds that pass through Mitchell will almost definitely stop at Sand Lake. The hotline number, which is a recording, is 605-885-6401.


The season started on Saturday and goes through May 3 statewide.

A South Dakota sportsman must have, and this is directly from the GF&P Web site, an annual small game, 1-day small game, youth small game, combination, or junior combination license and Migratory Bird Certification stamp to hunt light geese. Residents who are at least 12-years-old may buy licenses and hunt light geese. Hunters ages 12 through 15 will need a Hunter Safety Card. The Federal Waterfowl Stamp is not needed for the spring hunt.

Unlike waterfowl season, electronic calls are allowed, shotguns can carry an unlimited amount of shells and there is an unlimited possession limit.

The daily limit for light geese, which includes snows, ross' and blues, is 20, and shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.

Enjoy the hunts!

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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