S. Dakota Snow Goose Hunt March 2018
In March of 2018 our crew of family and lifelong friends headed west to northern South Dakota in search of Americas great waterfowl migration. Our target was the fabled Snow Geese making their way back from the southern winter grounds on the way to their nesting grounds on the Canadian prairies.
Each year, like clockwork, millions upon millions of geese and ducks follow a rather narrow corridor of land across our country on this epic journey.
Though I have been under this migration on numerous trips now, I still cannot get over the awe inspiring enormity of the endless flocks we see. It is one of nature’s spectacles that few ever experience and to be able to share it with my crew does something for me in an oddly spiritual way. Nature has a way of centering your thoughts and helping to ground you to the truth of something larger than yourself and this spectacle can certainly lead you to that understanding.
Brendan and I were joined on this trip by Uncle Steve Sears, Uncle Chris Hemminger, and Mama’s cousins Matt and Jason Herman.
While both Matt and Brendan both have been on numerous trips west, their youthful enthusiasm help the rest of our crew to remain focused on the stunning wonder and excitement of this annual event.
Our wonder and excitement levels were surely tested on this March weekend in early 2018 as Ma Nature hit the area with record breaking low temperatures and gale force winds!
You will never know cold like the cold you will feel laying in a picked South Dakota corn field at two below zero with forty five mile an hour gusts!! While not so bad for a guy like me wrapped in forty lbs. of extra bacon and Mickey Mouse boots, Uncle Chris with not an ounce of excess fat on his body nearly became a casualty. Cousin J who battles diabetes, wisely chose his toes over his pride and retreated to the warmth of the pickup. Needless to say, this trip will remain “frozen” in our memories for the rest of our lives.
Because of the horrendous conditions the birds were pretty much hunkered down to ride out the storm but we were able to experience another first on this trip, the phenomenon of ice balls on a “pushback” goose.
A “pushback” bird is one that has been pushed back south from his northern advance by a storm or weather condition that makes feeding or in this case, survival, impossible. The previous evening the temperatures dropped so quickly that the birds who overnight on large bodies of water in the thousands and spend all night jumping over other birds jockeying for the warmest center of the mass of birds, had accumulated balls of ice, some larger than golf balls on their tail feathers.
Because it is so cold the balls don’t melt and the birds flight is severely hampered. Twice Bren and Matt took birds that were flying into our spread a few mere feet above the ground and upon inspection found this rare condition.
Partly because of this experience, we have decided for our 2019 Spring trip to set up further south along the migration route, on the hilltops of northern Missouri.
Life is all about experience and I will never forget leaving the Dakotas that year after our hunt, with a blizzard on our tails. I’m not sure our bodies had fully warmed even when the hardwoods and fields of Berrien county filled the view in our windshields early the next morning!! The old wood stove never felt so good!