Too many waterfowl hunters end their season once thick ice forms on the ponds. Unfortunately this can happen way too early in the season resulting in thousands of birds leaving the great state of Nebraska without ever meeting a hunter. Outrage! Hunting birds over the ice is not impossible and by utilizing a few well placed tricks, you can extend your waterfowl season, often by several months. Generally in late December and January we see a late push of geese through Nebraska. Here are a few tips for capitalizing on this icy dilemma:
1. Dark plastic – try placing a large (or several large pieces) of black plastic tarp over the ice to mimic an open water hole. Use brick or steaks to anchor. Place geese around the plastic (often along the upwind side facing into the wind) and open a landing zone on the down wind side. Shells mixed with full body decoys will work best. Use a drill to place stakes into the ice for both decoys and anchoring plastic. When birds fly over to give you a look, call aggressively. Often geese will make several flyovers before coming into range and some will simly drop out of the sky anxious to have water.
2. Fill two 5 gallon buckets with water and add a clothing dye (dark blue) to the mix. Dump the bucket over the ice to appear like a puddle of water. The dye will stain the ice a bit to add to the realism. It does take the right kind of porous ice to make this work. Again place decoys as above and look out!
3. You can always cut a 6′ x 12′ hole in the ice but that is a lot of work when ice is more than two inches…
4. If you are really pushed for time, simply place decoys on the ice and try to get their attention as geese will often loaf on ice throughout the day.
Anytime you are on ice, some caution is in order. I don’t like to be on any ice less than four inches thick. If over deep water, take additional precautions such as have a pair of ice spikes around your shoulders along with a buddy in case the unthinkable happens.
Like any decoy set up, adding decoys with movement such as rags or shells on stakes can also add to the realism. Late season birds are the grad students of the goose world so take extra time to conceal your location or all the effort will be for not! I have also found that teeth chattering is actually a deterrent to geese so dress for the extremely cold temps. Unless of course you are still hunting out of the box blind…then just make sure you don’t wear anything you don’t want coffee spilled on.
There are still opportunities for some outstanding hunting in Nebraska. Change your tactics a bit and you could be in a situation where birds are above you with cupped wings, feet stretched down and heads hung low. Not much to say when that happens but “take em!”