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Arkansas: An Early Snow Goose Option

geese are an abundant game bird that provide spring hunting opportunities in many states, including Arkansas.
Jerry Carlson

It seems like everybody has a passion for some type of outdoor adventure. For many, bird hunting ranks at the top of the list. And, when it comes to bird hunting, it is hard not to love the spring snow goose migration.

It has been more than a dozen years since a Conservation Order was put into place to reduce the population of snow geese in North America. These birds have become so plentiful they are endangering their tundra nesting areas in Northern Canada.

The reason the nesting habitat is being destroyed is a twofold problem. First, snow geese love the roots of the plants that grow in this frigid climate and they use their beaks to rip up the ground to get at the roots.  Secondly, with the short growing season, plant re-growth is a slow process on the tundra. In reality, the geese are literally eating themselves out of house and home.

The Conservation Order was an effort to slow the growth of the continental goose population. It was hoped that liberal limits, electronic calls, and unplugged shotguns would be able to substantially reduce the snow goose population.

Chad Allen from Barrels Up holds a few geese he harvested during a spring snow goose adventure.
Jerry Carlson

Unfortunately, the Conservation Order did not totally fix the population dilemma. However, it has helped. It has also opened up a whole new opportunity for outfitters and hunters to participate in a phenomenal hunting experience.

Over the past four years, I have had the chance to hunt snow geese in Missouri and South Dakota. These hunts have always taken place in March and have been enjoyable and productive. Although I am still planning on hunting the migration in South Dakota, I am also planning a trip to Arkansas in February.

It was during a South Dakota hunt with Brian Cahalan from Goose and Duck Smackers Guide Service (gooseandducksmackers.com) that I first learned about snow goose hunting in Arkansas. Although Cahalan follows the migrating geese through Missouri and South Dakota, he spends a month in Arkansas first.

According to Cahalan, the Arkansas hunt is a little different than hunting migrating snow geese in other states. Many of the snow geese in Arkansas actually winter in the area. Others are moving in as they begin staging for the migration process. Cahalan claims that for most of the month the geese are quite content to feed in the rice fields.

Cahalan likes the way geese decoy in Arkansas. He believes targets are generally closer during the early stages of the season than later in the spring. He also likes the fact there are plenty of juveniles around. Young birds are easier to decoy than the wary adults.

Cahalan also stated there are fewer outfitters in Arkansas which means less pressure on the birds and more success in the field. His standard set of 1200 decoys gets plenty of attention.

North American snow goose populations are estimated to be over 5 million. Any way you cut the pie that is an incredible number of birds. With the Conservation Order in place again this year, hunters will be working hard at taking out a few of the millions of geese that come north each spring.

Although there are plenty of opportunities to hunt snow geese, the February start in Arkansas may offer a unique early hunting experience to help chase away those winter blues.

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