OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
Part 1:THE HUNT
A Spring Snow Goose Hunting Adventure With The Goose Guru
By Dan Wennerlind
As the sun came up over a sea of white decoys, from far off in the distance the sounds of early rising snow geese could already be heard. We were sitting atop a high cornfield setting in mid March overlooking the valley of Mound City, Missouri- home of the infamous Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
Every spring the Squaw Creek Refuge is the first major staging area for the migrating snow geese as they make their way north to the Tundra.
During a normal spring the refuge will peak out at about 500,000 – 700,000 light geese but this year was an exception. It just so happened that the refuge hit a new record this week holding a whopping 1.5 million light geese! There were geese everywhere. However as many veteran snow goose hunters know all too well, that does not mean necessarily mean success. In fact having that many adult geese in one area can actually make the hunting tougher then when there are fewer numbers of geese in the area, made up of the younger birds. These birds tend to show up a little later in the spring and are much more susceptible to decoy spreads.
But today I had no fear as we were hunting with one of the true legends of the spring snow goose conservation season, the one and only “Goose Guru” himself, Shawn Eldredge. Shawn runs Prairies Edge Guide Service and has been hunting around the Squaw Creek NWR for over 9 seasons now, both in the fall and the spring. During that time Shawn has had a chance to pattern the migrating waterfowl and lease many of the key fields that are sure to hold birds each year.
|Today we were hunting out of two of Shawn’s permanent pit blinds which provided a welcome change from the layout blinds that are most commonly used these days for fields hunting both Snow geese and Canada geese. I was very impressed with how comfortable the pit blinds were and how easy they were to see out of as well as shoot out of. I have spent many mornings straining my neck peaking out at incoming geese in other pit blinds. It was very evident with Shawn’s pits as well as with his overall operation that client comfort and satisfaction is of the highest concern.|
Right off the bat we had a pair of snow geese drop right into the spread and with a little extra coaxing from Shawn’s mouth call, the birds dropped right into our lap. As Shawn gave the “Take Em” command, the pit flaps dropped as well as the geese. We had our first birds of the day. My little chessy Jada and Shawn’s lab Molly Cornflake tag teamed on a beautiful double retrieve.
In minutes we were back to business as scanes of geese could now be seen across the entire horizon. As the morning progressed we had numerous singles and doubles circle the spread and ultimately commit into the decoy spread. After the mornings hunt was over we had 11 birds in hand.
Now after spending the morning in the blind and talking to a couple of Shawn’s regular clients, I found that last spring in this same field they harvested 138 snow geese on the first day of their hunt and 98 snow geese on their second days hunt- truly amazing! Shawn was quick to add to our conversation that the previous year the snow goose hatch up on the tundra was much more successful which made for an easier and more successful spring’s hunt, with the many more young birds available across the board. He also stated that due to the fact that everybody had excellent hunting success the prior spring, this year there were guide services popping up all over the place. He also added that because this year the hatch was much less successful, the hunting was much tougher and he has even had several days already this spring where they did not harvest a goose. This is very uncommon for the “Goose Guru”. Shawn said that these new guides are going to find out very quickly that it is not an easy game and it takes years of experience to be successful day in and day out during the spring conservation hunting season. As we wrapped up the afternoon hunt, we were able to double our morning’s take and walked out of the field with 22 gorgeous spring plumaged snow and blue geese.
That evening I had a chance to have dinner with Shawn and two of his head guides Kyle Phillips and Jeremy Marean at “The Klub” restaurant which is also home to the Waterfowlers Hall Of Fame. It was very evident that Mound City, Missouri has a rich history of waterfowl hunting dating all the way back to the late 40’s. As we shared some stories over dinner, Shawn said that the next day I would be hunting with Kyle near the refuge bottoms as they had a field holding over 60,000 snow geese that morning. After dinner I asked the guys what they felt were key elements which allow them to be successful each day through what ends up to be a very long spring season. A couple of things that were very evident were; the fact that prior to setting up in any field they will scout for days, even after having hunted the area for almost a decade. The things they look for are fields holding a lot of waste grain, usually on top of a high hilltop setting. This makes it easier for the geese to see the decoy spreads as well as allows them to get as close as possible to the incoming birds. They both recognized the fact the geese are much more likely to drop into gunning range when hunting the top of a hill versus hunting a low valley type setting where they feel that the birds are forced to drop lower then they sometimes feel comfortable doing. And of course having geese already using the fields they set up in is always a plus.
I then quizzed them a bit on the specific decoy spreads they run. All three of them agreed they prefer massive spreads of windsock decoys over everything else. With the recent buzz of the full body spreads I had to ask why they still like the windsocks spreads over the new Big Foot and Avery full bodies. I was told that it is almost impossible to put out the kind of numbers (up to 1,000 – 2,000) that they like to use, with full bodies. They also prefer the windsocks because when the wind cooperates they all felt that the windsock spreads offer a more realistic movement and emulates more of what you see with the big flocks of feeding snow geese. In addition they also noted that they have placed a bracing system into all of their windsocks so they do not hang limp on those no wind days. The second factor that all three agreed upon was to add as much additional movement to the spread as possible. Trust me when you drive by a Prairies Edge decoy spread you will see as many flying machines and decoys in the air than with anyone. One point they had a difference of opinion on was with mouth calling incoming geese along with the electronic callers. Shawn feels this is a very useful tool to help drop the incoming geese from the 80 yard distance, down to a more manageable distance of 20 – 40 yards. Kyle on the other hand would rather let the electronic caller do the work. Thus showing even the pros have their differences of opinion.
|On the second morning we were up and attem at 5:30 sharp. Kyle already had the spread of close to 1,800 windsock decoys set up in a fresh field full of 60,000 geese from the day before. I found right off the bat that Kyle is a stickler for details. This is why I think he is so successful, averaging over 30 geese per day after 3 weeks of hunting in the 2008 spring season. Keep in mind this is the time when everyone was struggling with hunting a mainly adult snow goose population. Kyle made sure each of our blinds were completely camouflaged. He also made sure that throughout the morning all empty shell hulls were continually picked up and thrown into a trash bag, also a great idea for land owner relations. Kyle made sure each hunter was completely covered up at all times as the geese can pick out a shinny face from a mile high. Kyle had more flying decoys and rotary machines in his spread than I have ever seen. It truly gave the illusion of a big flock of feeding snow geese. |
With a light wind if any and a heavy dampness on the ground, the mornings hunt was a little tough. Kyle stated the biggest adversary he faces is a no wind day. However that afternoon the winds picked up to around 10 15 mph and with that the geese worked the spread like clockwork. The hardest part was to get loaded back up and get back down into the blinds before the next flocks arrived. We were covered in geese for the entire last two hours of the day. When the smoked finally cleared we had 32 of the white buggers in hand. Kyle had done his job and so had the gunners.
I couldn’t thank Shawn and Kyle enough for sharing with me not only a fantastic spring snow goose hunting adventure to the infamous area of Mound City, Missouri, but for sharing with me their many secrets of success and gracious hospitality. It was very clear that at Prairies Edge customer success and satisfaction is their number one concern. And believe me the guys take it very personal when the birds don’t cooperate. I am proud to have Shawn and his crew as one of HuntTheNorth.com’s premier snow goose hunting outfitters.
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
Shawn and his crew are all seasoned veterans when it comes to hunting and guiding snow goose hunts. They also take their jobs very seriously and customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance I found. They are all very personable and make the hunt an enjoyable hunting experience for everyone.
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5 |
Shawn and his guys rely on big decoy spreads of well 800 – 2,000 windsocks to draw in the wary spring snows. In addition they also are very innovative about adding in a lot of decoy movement above and beyond the standard spread. The pits and blinds we hunted out of were top notch!
5 / 5
During both days of hunting we had multiple opportunities to take snow geese under 40 yards. We also harvested over 20 geese on each hunt which is a testament to the hard work and effort that was put into each hunt. Those who hunt snow geese in the spring know that a 20 bird day truly a successful day in the field in any snow goose hunters book!
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||3 / 5 |
Although meals and lodging are not included in your daily rate, Shawn is able to recommend several local motel lodging options in the immediate area. There are also several quality restaurants as well as a grocery store available in town for your meals.
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||5 / 5 |
Shawn charges $155.00 per day per gun. This is a full days hunt from sunrise to 6:00 pm. This is a very reasonably priced hunt. There were no hidden costs and the Missouri license fee is only $6.00. Tips are greatly appreciated on a job well done!
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
From the moment I arrived to the end of the hunt Shawn was a very gracious host to me as well as all of the other hunters in camp. Shawn and Kyle are very determined in making sure that they not only put geese in your face but also that everyone has an enjoyable experience!
Overall Prairies Edge Scored 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer Them For Their Excellent Spring Snow Goose Hunts!
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Part 3: Booking Information
|Additional Hunts Offered:|
Prairies Edge also offer fully guided Fall Waterfowl hunts as well as Fall Whitetail Deer Hunts and Spring Turkey Hunts in Iowa and Missouri.. Please contact Shawn for more details on these fantastic guided hunting opportunities!
Click here to read an article on Prairies Edge Fall Waterfowl Hunts
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