Wildlife officials are encouraging more hunters to target snow geese this year, and sportsmen should have no trouble finding them. With a current population estimated at between 15 and 35 million, the migratory birds are set to wreak havoc on America’s wetlands and crop fields. To combat this, outfitters are expanding to take on hunters who are interested in making a dent in the population.
“We’ve grown our business to the point where I can’t take any more hunters. The demand is absolutely unreal,” South Dakota outfitter Shane Erdmann told The Argus Leader.
That is not so surprising, seeing how the snow geese population is increasing by an concerning eight percent each year. Scientists estimate that the total global population of snow geese in 1969 hovered around 800,000, which exploded to 5.2 million some 20 years later. Now, the geese cast a shadow over the Central Flyway that spells dread for farmers and habitat degradation for the wetlands that are the lifeblood for the country’s waterfowl. Despite liberal hunting regulations, officials say that the impact from hunting is minimal. That may change as demand from hunters increase.
There are challenges unique to snow geese hunting, however, and the first may be that in some areas where the birds have taken up residence there are very few guide services that target them. Hunting for snow geese can be both time-consuming and expensive. Unlike most other waterfowl, snow geese hunters need at least dozens of decoys to draw a sizable group in.
“Snow geese are more rewarding because they are so challenging,” hunter Nathan Walters told WDDE.
Despite being plentiful and large, hunters say that snow geese are wary animals and quick learners. The birds are also long-lived with an average lifespan of about 20 years, and they learn from experience. Most of the best places to hunt snow geese are also on private land, but outfitters say that more landowners are becoming aware of the advantages of hunting snow geese. Erdmann said his company recently leased more than 100,000 acres of property in Missouri to hunt the birds.
Farmers are also realizing that allowing hunting on their land could deter crop damage and provide extra revenue. Many farmers across the Central Flyway let hunters—those who pay or otherwise—onto their land.
“If you get a large flock of 5,000 snow geese on a winter wheat crop, they can have a significant impact,” said David Savekis, director of the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife.
Erdmann is confident that more hunter pressure will result in fewer geese.
“By far, more young birds are shot than old birds. If we keep killing young birds, we will catch up eventually,” he said.