In order for pass shooting to be successful, it takes a large concentration of birds in the area. Since the early days of this past century, no species has been present in enough numbers to make pass shooting effective. However, in the spring migration, snow geese travel in extraordinary numbers, enough to make pass shooting a viable option for the hunter.
Due to the very little equipment required, pass shooting is a great choice for someone just getting started hunting snow geese. It is very similar to upland gunning, in that a gun, shells, and clothing are all that is essentially needed for a goose shoot. When compared to maintaining a decoy spread of several hundred decoys, the expense of time and money is minimal for a pass shoot setup.
The first key to successful pass shooting is finding the birds. The snow geese will be moving throughout their migration, and, as they feed in large groups, they exhaust the food supplies in fields quickly and move on. Scouting really pays off for a pass shoot; you need to know the location of the bird’s roosts and feeding fields. After finding the geese, you need to observe their flight paths. This is the ticket! You want to be positioned directly in their path. Then, you can intercept the geese as they leave and new birds arrive traveling between roosting and feeding sites.
The next step is to get permission from the landowner and locate a spot for the shooters. Fencelines, weedy draws and waterways are always good choices. The feature needs to be large enough to conceal the hunters from the geese; however, the location cannot be too prominent. These geese are educated birds, and they have learned to stay away from edges where predators, such as you and your 12-gauge, may be hiding. That is why you will usually observe geese feeding in the middle of large agricultural fields, far from roads and fences.
The location of the gunners, in relation to the birds on the ground is also very critical. You need to be close enough to the main group that the birds will be within effective gun range on their approach or departure from the site. However, you need to set up far enough away so you can enjoy a successful shoot without spooking the birds on the ground. This distance will come with experience and the individual situation, such as available cover.
Then, it all depends on the geese. It does help, though, if you have a team of hunters that can spread out along the flight line, to better your chances. Otherwise, the geese can outsmart you and pass over just out of range. If your setup is good, and the geese on the ground are content, you can enjoy a pass shoot for up to several hours. At times, though, the geese make up their mind to leave the area, and you only get one volley at the birds.
The weather will definitely be a determining factor of your success. On clear days, birds gain altitude quickly and make pass shooting difficult. The best action for pass shooting occurs when a front moves in and snow or low clouds are present. The geese seem to let their guard down a bit on these days, and they fly lower and tend to be closer to field edges.
Usually, though, your shots will not be close; this is definitely not "shoot ’em in the lips" gunning. Your shots need to be carefully placed with the correct lead; follow through and remember to lead the head of the goose, not the body. You also need to remember that 50 yards is about the limit. Beyond that, you risk crippling birds. Therefore, it is important that you pick some "hard hitting" non-toxic loads to pack the knockdown punch that is required at these ranges. A good choice for shot sizes will be BB and even BBB. These loads can provide more punch to bring those birds down. Some excellent loads offered by Cabela’s are the Remington Hevi-shot Loads and the Winchester Supreme High Velocity Steelshot. The velocity and patterns offered by these combinations should result in more geese in the game bag and less flying away!
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