Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blizzard of Seven-Pound Flakes

Incoming: Snow Geese

A couple days ago I found myself in a snowstorm dropping seven-pound flakes.

Well, not exactly, but it sure felt like it.

Stan Oulette, owner of Deer Creek Motel and Pheasant Shooting Preserve on NY Rte. 3, a little north of Port Ontario (315-298-3730) invited me up to shoot some "snow geese."

"The DEC extended their season," he said over the phone. "Normally, it ends just before the greatest numbers of birds are heading back north. This year they're letting us hunt them until April 15--during the heaviest flights. The hunting's fantastic. You gotta see it to believe it."

I got to the motel at 6:30 a.m. sharp. Fifteen minutes later we're in a corn field just south of his place, in the middle of a patch of decoys numbering 500, and costing about $2,500. Besides stationary silhouettes, it included a dozen "socks" (wind sock-like decoys that move with the breeze), 1½ dozen flappers (held up by steel poles, their wings flap in the wind), and two vortexes (aka tornadoes, these decoys are on poles attached to a motor which spins them in a circle, making them look like birds landing).

In addition, a small flock of Canada goose decoys was about 200 yards away.

"They're my confidence spread," explained Stan. "They attract Canada geese, and live Canadas working the field nearby give flying snows the confidence to land."

We lay down in coffin blinds camouflaged by stalks of corn. "Under no circumstances are you to shoot wildly at a flock" he ordered, while turning on an electronic call.

About a half-hour later a huge flock circled overhead and started down. Stan instructed me to lie still until he gave the word, and then to sit up, target a specific bird and keep shooting until it drops.

Suddenly, they rolled in like a honking blizzard. After what seemed like a real long time, but was probably only a few seconds, they were within 20 yards or so, and Stan shouted: “Now, Spider, shoot now.”

These creaky old bones ain't as quick as they used to be and by the time I sat up and shouldered my gun, the birds spun around and were on their way out of range. I fired but to no avail; such is life, I suppose.

The reason for extending the season is to manage snow geese populations. Recently, their numbers have grown to the point where they're harming their fragile Arctic breeding grounds, and crops of hay, winter wheat, barley and rye growing along their migration routes.

There are a couple of minor changes to the rules. The DEC press release states:

“All migratory game bird hunting regulations and requirements apply to the taking of snow geese during this spring harvest period, except that use of recorded or electronically amplified calls or sounds is allowed as is the use of shotguns capable of holding more than three shells.”

For the DEC press release, go to, click on press release in the right column, scroll down to February and the press release of 02/03/09 "DEC Announces Special Snow Goose Season."

To view the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group report on greater snow geese, go to:

Setting Flappers

Checking the spread; note the vortexes in the background

Stan Oulette in his coffin

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