Updated: Nov 5
January goose hunting in Arkansas
Late season goose hunting in Arkansas has been on my bucket list for a long time. When my son Michael expressed an interest in it as well, we called my brother, Pat, who lives in Arkansas, to see what he knew about it. As it turned out, Pat goes on a guided trip every year with a guide service called Fully Committed Outfitters out of Carlisle Arkansas. He told us about how beautiful it was, and how the shooting was so good with huge flocks of geese coming in, the kind of thing you usually only see on youtube. I have seen the videos, guys in white jumpsuits shooting at enormous flocks of geese - it looks like something out of the 1800's, geese as plentiful as you can imagine. My brain was swirling with images of snow and speckledbelly geese flocks the size of football fields, and in my euphoric state, I booked our tickets to Little Rock. When I came back to reality a couple of days later, I was feeling a little silly for getting so caught up in the moment and thought to myself, "there is no way it can really be that good", as it turns out... it really is that good.
Here is a little background on snow geese.
Snow geese consist of Snow, Blue and Ross geese and they are overly abundant in Arkansas this time of year. Here is an excerpt from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on these geese:
Light geese aren't only a nuisance to Arkansas farmers. They have become so abundant, they are destroying their nesting grounds in the Arctic Tundra. Not only are the geese eating themselves out of house and home, they're destroying critical habitat for other species that share the Tundra. Biologists can conduct eradication efforts to balance the population, but do so only as a last resort. Increased hunting opportunity is the first wildlife management tool biologists turn to, because it costs very little to implement and is much more socially accepted than other population control measures.
The good news is that the overpopulation leads to increased daily limits of 20 per day on snow geese.
Speckledbelly geese, which are better for the dinner table, have a daily limit of 3 per day this season.
We flew in to Little Rock on Saturday night and stayed at my brothers house. We spent Sunday visiting family and getting our licenses, shells and gear ready for the hunt. Monday morning we were up at 3:30am and made the trip to Carlisle. We were joined there by our good friends Grady and Paul. The guides from Fully Committed showed on right on time, and we followed them to the hunting area.
My brother Pat loading up for the hunt.
We followed our guides to an empty field, parked our trucks and loaded our gear. From here the guides took us on side-by-sides to the hunting grounds. When we arrived, we were joined by another group of 4 hunters. We unloaded our gear, and all of us began putting out the decoys. I'll tell you it takes an army to set out that many decoys, and I was glad we had 9 of us working on it. The spread looked amazing, and we were positioned right in the middle of it.
Setting out Decoys
Once the decoys were set out it was time to put on the white jump suites and set up for the hunt. I stumbled through putting the suit on over my clothes. I fell a couple of times - but I figured the mud marks all over my suite would probably help me blend in even more, and I was proud of myself for getting it on with no help. However, when I looked around it turns out everyone else got their suit on with no problem and were all pristine white. My Brother and Son looked at me in their snow white suites and shook their heads. I was like "What? I think it looks good!"
We were hunting on the open ground and the white suites helped us blend in with the decoys. With my suit on, and laying on the ground surrounded by decoys I was ready to go. It did not take long for the geese to start flying and the shooting to start.
Michael and Pat ready for the hunt!
Wave after wave of snow geese came in right after first shooting light. It was just like I had envisioned when I booked our tickets for the hunt. Huge groups of snow geese all around us, it was hard to focus on just one bird. The action was non stop for a couple of hours. When the groups of birds finally slowed down the guides took a head count of the geese we had shot. We had a good amount of snows, but still needed a couple dozen speckledbellys to fill out our limits.
The action was so fast, that I had not really been paying attention to how many shots I had taken. Michael looked over at the pile of empties next to me and said, you better slow down or we are gonna run out of shells. I looked to my right and was shocked by how many empty shells were next to me. I thought to myself, NO WAY did I shoot that much. Then Pat looked over and said, "Man save some shells for the rest of us" . I was really feeling bad, and was really conscientious about my shooting for the next few groups of birds. As it turns out, they were throwing all their empties next to me when I was not looking, and Grady's shells were landing next to me too - the joke was on me and we all had a good laugh, Good times for sure!
empty shells everywhere!
The action was pretty slow for the next hour, with one bird here and there, but no big flocks. It was a good time to to get recalibrated and watch the thousands of geese working fields all around us. I am not exaggerating, there were literally thousands of geese in the fields around us, it was an amazing sight.
Around 9:00am, the geese started flying again, and this time it was mostly specklebellys. The guides did an amazing job of calling in the birds right to us. I loved the way the specklebellys came into the decoys. There was a 20mph wind blowing and the specklebelly geese would contort their bodies in awkward ways to navigate the gusts while attempting to land. It was a beautiful site to see them flying into us, their bodies almost upside down, with their neck and head twisted to view the ground.
We shot our limit of specklebellys and we were finished before 11am. We laid all the geese out, and among the group there was one well marked specklebelly, and a beautiful blue. I am getting them both mounted as a memento of this incredible hunt.
Michael and I with a Beautiful Blue Snow and Speckledbelly.
As a side note, I was unfamiliar with a "Blue" goose. A "Blue" goose is a variety of snow goose that is a darker blue/gray color. They are not as common as white snow geese and are quite beautiful with a white " eagle " head, black molting on the neck and blue gray wings and tail.
A better look a the "Eagle Head" Blue Snow goose
It was a fantastic hunt, made even better by sharing it with my son, brother and good friends. We marked it off our bucket list, but I guarantee you we will be back to do it again. If you want to do this trip, I highly recommend contacting Fully Committed Outfitters, they did a great job and will put you on the birds!
Thanks for reading,