Snow goose hunting is among the most challenging and enjoyable forms of hunting in New York State. Snow geese, named for their snow-white plumage, are extremely wary and travel in huge flocks of several hundred to several thousand. Fooling that many eyes is no easy task, but nothing compares to the sight and sound of a funnel cloud of thousands of snows circling and descending as you lay in a spread of decoys.
Snow goose hunting seasons in New York have increased recently, providing ample opportunity to try your hand at harvesting some of these tasty birds. New York has had a long snow goose hunting season for many years, including a 107-day regular season and, since 2009, a 36-day “Special Snow Goose Season” in most areas of the state. In 2013, DEC expanded this special season to 90 days—January 16 to April 15—resulting in a snow goose hunting season that runs from October 1 to April 15 in most of the state except the Long Island and Lake Champlain Waterfowl Hunting Zones.
In addition to increasing the number of days in the hunting season, DEC has allowed the use of electronic calls and unplugged guns, or shotguns capable of holding more than three shells, for hunting snow geese anytime other waterfowl hunting seasons are closed.
So why is an increased hunting opportunity for snow geese necessary? The Atlantic Flyway population of snow geese remains overabundant, with an excess of 1 million birds in recent years. Since DEC implemented the Special Snow Goose Season in 2009, hunters have taken about 3,000 to 14,000 snow geese per year, which is similar to the regular season harvest. Thus, the take of snow geese has essentially doubled. Even higher harvests in New York are possible and, indeed, necessary to reduce the population to a level that decreases damage to their fragile arctic breeding habitat.
No special permits are necessary to hunt snow geese in New York; all you need is a small game hunting license, a federal duck stamp, and registration in New York’s Harvest Information Program (HIP). Non-toxic shot is required, shooting hours are ½-hour before sunrise to sunset, and the bag limit is 25 snow geese per day, with no possession limit. Areas where large numbers of snow geese occur in New York include the Finger Lakes region, the St. Lawrence Valley, and the upper Hudson and Champlain Valley regions.
Getting started hunting snow geese can be intimidating and expensive, considering the number of decoys needed to attract a large flock of geese. Booking a hunt with a reputable guide service is a great way to try a snow goose hunt and learn some tips and techniques. Other hunting methods, such as jump shooting and pass shooting, can also work in the right situations. Visit the DEC website to view or download the brochure developed by the Atlantic Flyway Council, Successful Hunting Tactics for Greater Snow Geese.
For more information about snow geese in New York, visit the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/50514.html. For information about snow goose season dates and zone boundary descriptions, go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28503.html.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.