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5 Shooting Tips for Spring Snows

Follow this expert advice to bag more light geese this season

© Chris Jennings

The Light Goose Conservation Order provides hunters with the opportunity to decoy hundreds, if not thousands, of snow geese into close range. The sights and sounds of so many geese in close proximity, however, can overwhelm even the most experienced shooters. The following five tips offer useful advice on how to stay calm in the storm and shoot straight on spring snows.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The sensory overload created by swarms of birds decoying at close range is often compounded by the unfamiliar shooting position that hunters find themselves in during the spring snow goose season. "If you're going to invest the time and effort into a spring snow goose hunt, practice shooting from a sitting position or from a layout blind," says avid snow goose hunter John Gordon. "If you can, practice those straight-up shots that seem to be so common during spring snow goose season. And be sure to establish enough lead. Snow geese are bigger than ducks, and I think it is easy to focus on the size and not realize just how fast these birds are moving." 

Pick Your Shots

Adding a magazine extension to a shotgun is common practice for spring snow goose hunters, but veteran guide Ben Fujan cautions against trying to empty a gun with every flock. "You're probably going to be more effective with five well-placed shots than trying to squeeze off 10," Fujan says. "Just because you have those shells available doesn't mean that you have to use them. Focus your shots. Pick out a bird and stay on it until it falls."

Put Young Hunters Close to the Action

The excitement of a spring snow goose hunt is appealing to shooters of all ages. You can make the hunt even more rewarding for young and inexperienced hunters, however, if you position their blinds toward the middle of the action. "By keeping the younger hunters in the middle of the spread, I give them the best chance to shoot the birds that decoy in nice and close," says South Dakota guide Charles Hamre. "The shooters on either side are given the instruction to leave the close birds for the young guns in the middle and focus their shots on the back half of the flock."

Stay in the Zone

Before every spring snow goose hunt, New York guide Mike Bard has an important talk with the hunters about the importance of staying in their shooting lanes. "Everyone has a shooting zone that extends out from their blind at roughly 45-degree angles. My instruction is simple: do not shoot anything outside of the zone," Bard says. "This has helped tremendously in maximizing our shooting opportunities, because hunters do not double-up on as many birds."

Bard also advises hunters to start high rather than low when it comes to picking out a target. "As snow geese are flaring out of a decoy spread, they are basically going to go straight up," says Bard. "Starting at the top and working your way down makes searching out that next target just a little bit easier.

Call the Shot

Having someone designated to call the shot on every flock is a must when you're snow goose hunting. The person calling the shots should be an experienced snow goose hunter. Even more important, he or she should really know how to read the birds.

"You have to watch the wings of the geese to see when they hit what we call the wall," says Trevor Mantuefel, a veteran guide who follows the migration from Arkansas to Alberta each spring. "Steady, slow, or no wing movement is good, because it signals that the birds are going to continue to close the gap. But when those wings start to pump, they've hit the wall and are going to head out." Calling the shot at that moment can save hunters 10 to 15 yards on their initial shots. And that can make a big difference, especially on days with a big wind, when the geese can put some distance between themselves and hunters pretty quickly.


Migration Alert: Light Goose Conservation Order Outlook

Central and Mississippi Flyways

© Avery Outdoors

The Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO) is set to begin soon across the birds’ traditional wintering grounds, and while the coming weeks are certain to provide challenges to hunters, there are reasons to be optimistic heading into this popular option for those looking to extend the waterfowl hunting season.

Light goose hunters in the southern reaches of the Central and Mississippi Flyways are likely to benefit in the short term from a line of ice and snow that currently extends across Kansas and Missouri, with deeper snow levels found in eastern Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakotas. These conditions should keep the geese from pushing too far north until the first real warm-up arrives across the midlatitude states.

What really has hunters excited is the apparent increase in the number of juvenile snows, blues and Ross’s geese staging on their wintering grounds.

“From the snow geese that I’ve observed this winter, I’d say that the flocks are made up of around 10 to 15 percent juvenile birds, which is a huge step up from last year,” says Trevor Manteufel with Eaglehead Outdoors, who will be based in Arkansas for the start of the LGCO. “On the negative side, the geese that are here have been here a while just hanging out. They are incredibly stale and will probably remain tough to hunt until we get a push of birds from the south. I just keep telling myself that things can’t be as bad as last year.”

The 2019 LGCO was certainly filled with challenges. Flocks comprised almost entirely of savvy adult birds combined with unfavorable weather and habitat conditions made for a frustrating spring for many hunters, including those in Nebraska, which regularly offers some of the continent’s best light goose hunting opportunities. This spring, however, Mark Vrtiska with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission believes that hunters in that state could see an improved harvest of light geese.

“We tend to stop more snow geese in the spring when we have more water on the landscape, and this year we have water everywhere, particularly along the eastern side of the state in the Missouri River valley,” Vrtiska says. “I’m really curious to see how that amount of shallow water impacts the migration, because I’ve never seen conditions like this in all my years at this job.”

Lingering snow and ice pushed back last year’s migration of light geese through Nebraska, but once again, Vrtiska is optimistic for a different outcome in 2020.

“I’m sure guessing that we’ll see an earlier migration this year, but a lot can change in the coming weeks. Last year was just so different that it’s hard to believe that we’ll see something like that again,” Vrtiska says. “What we do know is that there is decent snow pack in South Dakota, North Dakota and I believe up into Prairie Canada, too, which should hold those birds back a bit and help increase hunter harvest.”



These five of our favorite squirrel recipes are guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

These squirrel meat recipes will have you heading off to the woods to bag some squirrels for dinner!

Some would say young squirrels taste the best, but once you try it for the first time, you'll finally catch on to what the rest of us already know. These aren't the type of thing you'll find on AllRecipes all that often, so we thought we'd serve as a source.

They're simple, but if you want to cook those squirrel legs and other meat the right way, follow these directions.

We've collected some of the best squirrel recipes from all over, and wanted to offer up a variety of styles to highlight our favorite ways to cook these small but tasty critters.

1. Baked Squirrel

  • 4 cut up squirrels (use only hind legs and meaty back pieces)
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp. red wine
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 c. vinegar
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Adolph's tenderizer
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Crisco and cooking oil
Mix vinegar and salt with water to cover squirrel. Soak 2 hours in solution. Remove pieces and shake on tenderizer and pepper. Roll in flour. Fry in Crisco until golden brown. Place pieces in baking dish.
In another skillet saute onion and pepper in butter. Add wine and soup. Mix well. Pour over squirrel. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of

2. Country-Style squirrel

  • 2 squirrels
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Flour
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. water
Cut squirrel into small chunks of frying size pieces, salt and pepper then roll in flour until coated well. Put in skillet of hot oil and fry until golden. Remove squirrel and most the oil, then add water and bring to boil. Place squirrel back into the skillet, turn to low heat, cover and cook for approximately 1 hour.
Serve with some large potatoes that have been baked for a great combination.
Recipe courtesy of

3. Oven-Fried Squirrel

  • One squirrel
  • 4 eggs
  • bread crumbs
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil/ vegetable oil
  • Butter

Pat meat dry with paper towel to remove any moisture. Dip squirrel in egg. Combine bread crumbs with flour, dip egg-covered squirrel in mix. Cover bottom of skillet with olive oil and canola oil, add butter and brown meat well (about 20 min). Put squirrel in baking dish and pour contents of skillet over meat. Bake for one hour at 375°F.

4. Belgian Squirrel

  • 3 large squirrels
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 18 pitted prunes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold water
  1. Clean squirrels. Burn away any fur that clings. Rinse the meat though several changes of water and pat dry. Cut squirrels into serving pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add squirrel pieces and fry until browned on all sides, but do not cook through. Remove the squirrel pieces to a large Dutch oven or oven safe crock. Add onions to the butter in the skillet; cook and stir until tender and browned. Pour the onions and butter into the pot with the squirrel. Fill with enough water to almost cover the meat. Mix in the vinegar and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and place in the oven.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the pot from the oven and add the prunes. Return to the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Continue baking for another 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the oven. Mix the flour and cold water together in a cup. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and prunes to a serving dish. Set the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and water and simmer, stirring constantly, until the gravy is thick enough to coat a metal spoon. Serve meat with a lot of gravy.

5. Squirrel Country Sausage

  • 4 ½ lbs. squirrel (approx. 15 fox squirrels)
  • 1 Tbsp. sage
  • 2 lbs. fresh seasoned pork sausage (with sage)
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tsp. margarine
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. thyme

De-bone the squirrel and chop in food processor. Mix together with fresh pork. Mince the onion and garlic (Use a tablespoon of garlic powder if you don't have cloves).

Cook the onion until transparent and add the garlic and sauté slightly. Mix together meats, onion, garlic and herbs.

To test seasonings, form a small patty and fry in a cast iron frying pan with butter. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Form into small patties to cook or grill and use with your favorite sausage recipes. Great on pizza, with pancakes or scrambled in eggs.

Recipe courtesy of MDOC.

Squirrel can be a delightful wild-game meal and will maybe make your yard a bit quieter.



Quick Fixes for Better Shooting

Follow these 25 simple tips to bag more ducks and geese

By Phil Bourjaily

Shotgunning is simple. In fact, the phrase "eye on the target, head on the stock" covers about 95 percent of what you need to know. In theory, at least. In practice, however, it's all about the other 5 percent—the tiny details that can mean the difference between a big day in the field and an empty duck strap. Here are 25 tips that will help you fine-tune your shooting technique for waterfowl.


Quick Fix #1: Cut the Kick

Recoil builds bad shooting habits. Cutting the kick makes you a better shot. The best recoil reducer is a lighter load. If your gun beats you up, try a load that's 1/8 ounce lighter and 100 fps slower. A gas-operated autoloader is the second-best recoil reducer, especially if the gun has some heft to it. A good recoil pad such as a LimbSaver or Kick-Eez is yet another buffer against felt recoil. Combining all three can make your shooting a lot more comfortable and successful.

Quick Fix #2: Blacken the Bead

The shotgun bead is not there to be looked at. You're supposed to see it in your peripheral vision to help you keep track of the muzzle-target relationship as you look at the target. As soon as your focus shifts to the bead, the gun stops moving and you miss behind the bird. If the bead distracts you, replace it with a less obvious sight, remove it completely, or blacken it with a permanent marker.

Quick Fix #3: Be Prepared for Problems

A cleaning rod is a handy tool to have with you in case a shot wad, or even mud, gets stuck in the barrel. And sometimes a spray of Break Free CLP or G96 Gun Treatment will help you get through a hunt when a grimy gun becomes sluggish. For any repairs beyond that, the best insurance is an extra gun. 

Quick Fix #4: Shorten Up the Stock

Late in the season, when you're bundled up in heavy clothing, you might find that a shorter-stocked gun is much easier to mount. A good solution is to adjust your stock or have it cut to the right length for hunting in winter clothing. You can always use a slip-on recoil pad for early-season teal or other shirtsleeve-weather hunts.


Quick Fix #5: Mix Loads for Maximum Results

You can get some of the benefits of a double gun, with its two chokes, by first chambering a shell with an open pattern followed by two tight-patterning loads. Winchester Blind Side and Xpert as well as Federal Black Cloud Close Range tend to open up faster than many other steel loads. Load one of those, then follow it with two standard premium steel cartridges in a larger shot size.

Quick Fix #6: Compensate for the Cold

The increased resistance of dense, cold air slows pellets and opens patterns. You might lose up to 75 fps of velocity and shoot patterns that are 10 percent wider late in the season, when temperatures drop. You can compensate for this by selecting shot that's one size larger than the pellets in your regular load and then tightening your choke. Cold air affects larger pellets less than it does smaller ones.

Quick Fix #7: Choose an All-Around Pellet

Steel 2s come as close as anything to an all-purpose pellet for waterfowl. They shoot patterns that are dense enough for close-range teal and yet sufficiently powerful to bag decoying geese. If I had to choose just one load for all waterfowl, it would be 1 1/4 ounces of size 2 shot at 1,450 to 1,500 fps. Take geese out of the equation and I'd go with 3s as a good all-around pellet.

Quick Fix #8: Use Swatter Loads for Cripples

You can use up a lot of ammunition trying to hit a crippled duck or goose in the head. Steel 6s give you greater pattern density for hitting birds in that small, vital area. Shoot a little low at swimming cripples so you don't waste the top half of the pattern. I also keep a bunch of 2s or 4s in my pocket for dispatching crippled geese in dry fields. 

Quick Fix #9: Open Your Chokes

Most waterfowl gunners are over-choked. You don't need tight patterns at 40 yards if you shoot your birds over decoys at 25. Improved-cylinder or light-modified chokes work very well at decoying ranges. When you choose chokes, pattern your gun for the distance at which you expect to take most of your shots. Look for a pattern that puts 75 to 80 percent of its pellets in a 30-inch circle at that range, with good coverage out to the pattern's edges.


Quick Fix #10: Practice at home

The most essential skill in field shooting is a good gun mount. Learning to bring the gun to your face smoothly and consistently helps you shoot instinctively, without conscious effort. Practice your gun mount at home with an unloaded gun. Concentrate on bringing the gun to your face first, then tucking the butt into your shoulder. Repeat this same gun-mounting routine while wearing your cold-weather waterfowling clothes, so you learn to push the gun out and away from your body to keep it from snagging on all those layers.

Quick Fix #11: Match the Target's Speed

Moving the gun muzzle too fast destroys your "feel" for the target and attracts your eye to the bead, which stops the gun. If you start the muzzle in front of the bird, match the bird's speed. However, swing-through shooters should think of moving the gun about 1 mph faster than the bird as they move the barrel through the target. On high passing shots you have to really slow down. Move the gun at half the speed you think you should.

Quick Fix #12: Point Below the Target

Keeping the muzzle below the target allows you to see the bird clearly. That's important, because blocking your view of the target with the muzzle makes you look at the gun, causing you to miss high and behind—the most common way to whiff in shotgunning. The only time you need to cover the bird with the gun is when ducks jump out of the decoys or when you have an overhead shot.

Quick Fix #13: Take Your Time 

Shooting ducks isn't a fast-draw competition. Rushing the shot only increases the chance of a bad gun mount. See the target and move the gun to it slowly. You have more time than you think.

Quick Fix #14: Keep the Gun in Front

The easiest way to make a crossing shot is to never let the bird pass your gun muzzle. Keeping the gun in front of the target will make the bird seem to fly slower, because you won't feel the need to rush to catch up. If your eyes stay on the target, your gun becomes a blur in your peripheral vision as the barrel remains out front.

Quick Fix #15: Focus on the Bird

The more precisely you focus on the target, the better your hands know where to put the gun. If you look in the general direction of a duck, that's what you hit. When you're having a bad day, take the time to narrow your focus to the bird's bill or eyes and the gun will go where it has to.


Quick Fix #16: Talk to Yourself

If you get excited when birds come in, use self-talk. Borrow a technique from target shooters and keep your thoughts performance-oriented. For example, think about what you need to do—such as pick a bird or move the gun slowly—in order to make a successful shot. 

Quick Fix #17: Stay Positive

Slumps happen, and they tend to get worse when your thoughts turn negative. Once you start thinking I'm a terrible shot; I never hit anything, a slump can become harder to break. Think only about what you can control—the next shot. When you miss a bird, think about why you missed it and move on. When you hit one, shooting will begin to feel like the easiest thing in the world and the slump will end.

Quick Fix #18: Read a Golf Book

Reading a book about golf psychology can help you handle the mental challenges of shotgunning, even if you don't play golf. The similarities between the two sports are remarkable; they go far beyond keeping your head down and your eye on the target. One of my favorite golf books for getting into a good shooting mindset is Zen Putting by Dr. Joe Parent.

Quick Fix #19: Avoid Mental Blocks

Although it's important to have confidence in your equipment, don't get stuck on a particular brand of shotshell, a specific velocity, or a certain pellet size. If you do, you'll be off your game the first day you have to shoot something else. 

Quick Fix #20: Visualize the Shot

Visualization is a lot like daydreaming, which is how most of us get through the off-season anyway. When you visualize, you are actually training your mind. See yourself shooting successfully. The more completely you can imagine the situation—the cold, the wind, the sights and sounds—the better. Picture yourself doing the things you need to do to be successful, and this positive outlook will carry over into your shooting.


Quick Fix #21: Help Yourself Up

When hunting in a layout blind, some hunters will dig a shallow depression beneath their seat so they're already partially sitting up in shooting position. Others will dig below the foot of the layout to gain the leverage needed to sit up more easily. Either one of these tactics will help make it easier to sit up and shoot in a layout blind. 

Quick Fix #22: Cover Your Face

Wear a face mask or paint. Dimming the shine of your face could give you a slightly bigger window of opportunity to keep your head up as the birds come in. It's much easier to shoot if you don't have to look up suddenly and try to find a target when someone calls the shot.

Quick Fix #23: Keep Your Hands Warm

Shooting with numb fingers can be challenging. Chemical hand warmers are great, just as long as you can keep them dry. However, rechargeable devices such as ThermaCell hand warmers and Flambeau heated hand muffs will keep your hands warm even in wet weather. Taking along extra pairs of gloves also helps.

Quick Fix #24: Have a Clear View

Pulling the bill of your cap down too low on your face can make it difficult to see the target and potentially cause you to lift your head off the gun. Tip back the bill of your cap or turn it around, and you'll see better and have an easier time keeping your head down as you mount the gun. 

Another way to improve your ability to see waterfowl is to leave your shades at home. Sunglasses can help cut down glare if you're looking into bright sunlight, but dark lenses make it hard to see ducks and geese. Instead of sunglasses, wear shooting glasses—and choose the lightest tint you can use without squinting. You'll see targets better that way.

Quick Fix #25: Set Your Feet

Being able to move your feet when you're standing in the water is often a luxury. Usually you have to shoot with your feet stuck in the mud. If that's the case, set them so you are facing slightly to the right (if you're right-handed) of where you expect to shoot. It's much easier to swing to your left without binding up than to your right.


Organized coyote hunts are now targets,

but so far not in Pennsylvania

by Jeff Mulhollem

(Photo by Alan Emery/Unsplash)

As I put the finishing touches on this blog, a news story just aired about two attacks by coyotes in Chicago, one victim a child; the other an elderly man. One wonders how those kind of incidents — which are growing more common — will affect peoples’ opinions on the following …

A bit of research has revealed that organized coyote hunts are held in at least 45 states, but Pennsylvania — with at least 30 organized predator hunts this winter — has more than any other state. Paradoxically, unlike many other states, we have experienced very little controversy related to organized coyote hunts. But that may be about to change.

With 12 hunts planned this month, 17 slated in February and one scheduled in early March, we are all about organized coyote hunting here. All of those events are held by sportsmen’s and municipal groups as fundraisers.

The highlight of Pennsylvania’s organized coyote hunts, of course, is the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s contest Feb. 21-23, which is the largest coyote hunt in the United States.

Although there has been no recent criticism of the organized hunts here, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board recently voted to ban coyote-hunting contests. That ban will prohibit hunting contests for “predators and furbearers,” which includes coyotes, bobcats, red foxes, gray foxes, weasels, minks, skunks, river otters, muskrats, beavers, fishers, raccoons and opossums.

On its website, the state agency, dubbed “MassWildlife,” wrote that the new rule “addresses public concerns that these hunting contests are unethical, contribute to the waste of animals and incentivize indiscriminate killing of wildlife.”

Interestingly, Massachusetts’ new rules also ban the “wanton waste” of birds and game animals that are legally killed during hunting seasons. That means a hunter cannot “intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal or bird in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it.”

California, Arizona, Vermont and New Mexico have similar bans in place, and lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Oregon are reportedly considering some form of ban. Their efforts are responses to organized coyote hunts drawing protests from animal rights activists, who call the contests “barbaric and wasteful killing of treasured wildlife.”

The “treasured wildlife” concept will be difficult to attach to coyotes in Pennsylvania with our super strong deer-hunting heritage, given that coyotes kill many thousands of fawns here each spring. And there seems to be endless hordes of coyotes here.

Still, even among hunter ranks, a distaste for organized coyote hunts is other states. When Arizona banned coyote hunting contests, the chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission said they weren’t “painting the right picture of what ethical hunting and fair chase is all about.”

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