Snow goose hunting is a numbers game, there is really no way around it. More than any other duck or goose we hunt, large numbers of decoys are required for consistent success with the white birds. The geese simply find comfort and safety in numbers. It’s not uncommon to see flocks of 5,000 to 25,000 feeding in a field. Knowing this, how many decoys do you need in your decoy spread to be effective?
So what is the number? 1,000 decoys? 1,500? More? The easy answer and simplest way to start out is to figure you will need 100 decoys per hunter on a snow goose hunt, which is probably way less than most people think they need. This is purely just a rule of thumb and will represent our baseline for most hunts. There are lots of factors that come into play which would cause you to add or subtract from that number, but that’s a great starting point. Let’s look at some of the variables that may affect the number of dekes you might put out for a hunt.
- Spring season: add 50-100 decoys per person
- Small group of hunters: figure on a minimum of 400 decoys total even if just two of you are hunting
- Trying to outdo the lease or outfitter next door: add as many as possible!
- Running traffic instead of hunting the “x”: add 100 per person
- Hunting during a significant front or storm: subtract up to 50 per person depending on the severity of the weather
- Can’t drive into the field: everyone takes a bag of 100 decoys
- Using layout blinds instead of backboards: add 20 decoys per hunter
- Trying to draw birds out of an adjacent field the birds are now feeding in: go get breakfast (remember, they’re snow geese!)
In my opinion, 100 decoys per person is a great number to start with and to hunt over in the fall, with a minimum spread size of 400. It seems like 1,000 decoys for a group of 5 hunters should be better than 500, but my experience is that you can easily make 500 decoys look like a bigger spread if that is all you have. It’s important to have a plan, and the plan should include landing areas, hiding areas, holes, family groups, etc. We focus on making distinct landing zones at the head of the spread , which is also where we generally place flyers. Groups of birds with open areas in between will make your spread appear larger and more natural.
It’s tempting to want a giant snow goose spread because we’re used to seeing huge flocks. Also, if you’ve had the experience of having 5,000 geese land in the field next to you and pull every bird that comes your way over with them, it’s only natural to want to hunt as big a decoy spread as possible. We’ve found that careful planning and placement can really increase the effectiveness of your spread, more so than just adding more decoys. If you stick to a good plan and strategically put your decoys out you will be amazed at the success you will have with maybe half the decoys you thought you needed.