Central Flyways Best Nebraska Spring Snow Goose Hunting
OUTFITTER REVIEW ON
CENTRAL FLYWAY’S BEST
Part 1: THE HUNT
Hunting Nebraska Spring Snows- Water Style With Central Flyway’s Best
by dan wennerlind
When most waterfowlers think of spring snow goose hunting these days, they envision lying in a muddy corn field overlooking a massive spread of Windsock or Sillosock decoys, with loud blaring e callers playing directly behind their layout blinds all day long, as they watch large flocks of migrating snow geese pass by overhead. Then occasionally a flock of Ross’s geese or pair of Snows that will drop down under the magic 45 yard mark triggering the “take em” call and a large group of hunters will open fire on the birds with extended magazines on their shotguns. Does that sound familiar?
When outfitters JJ Randolph and Kris Peterson of Central Flyway’s Best invited me down for what they referred to as “a different kind of spring snow goose hunt” to their set-up in SE Nebraska I have to say I wasn’t expecting much more.
However one thing I forgot to keep in mind was that JJ and Kris were trained by one of the best- an old timer named Dave Beam, and have been successfully guiding spring snow goose hunters in this region of the country since the inception of the spring conservations season back in 1996. These two die hards, I would soon come to find, have developed a system for hunting snow geese in the spring that has proven, season after season, to be very productive to say the least.
Upon arrival the night before my hunt, JJ and Kris met me at a local tavern for a bite to eat and a refreshing beverage to get caught up. JJ and Kris shared with me exactly what it was that makes their guide service so different than most others. They also stated that although this season the birds were a couple weeks ahead of schedule on their big push north, their hunters were consistently killing about 40 birds per day, per spread. Now that may not sound very impressive to some snow goose hunters, but one thing to keep in mind is that JJ and Kris limit the number of hunters in each blind to 4 or 5 tops. They never mix groups and their permanent blind set-ups can only hold 6 hunters total, including the guide. That in itself was refreshing to hear.
They went on to share with me that another aspect of their hunts that I would soon find to be very different from the traditional spring hunt, was that they run 5 spreads each season only totaling around 1,500 decoys (approx. 300 decoys per spread) but they don’t own a field decoy. The entire set-up is run over water!
In fact, they said 3 of the 5 leases they have in place are still the original leases they had when they started guiding in this area back in the late ‘90’s. Kris also added that by hunting over water, although they do their due diligence and get the hunters in the blinds by legal shooting time each day, the best window for success comes between 10am and 2pm when the birds make their push north each day, after the morning feed.
In fact JJ made the bold statement during dinner that night, that he hunts with a 20 gauge and his hunters never take a shot over 30 yards. And many times the birds are actually landing on the water when they call the shot. After that conversation I was about as impressed as I could be without having stepped foot in the blind. Now it was time for these two gentlemen to put their money where their mouth was… I couldn’t wait to see this.
The next morning I met the guys bright and early at 6am sharp at the local McDonalds, who by the way must absolutely love these guys, as they bring in over 20 hungry hunters and guides every morning for a month straight each spring. From there, all 5 groups of hunters branched off in different directions following their trusty guides for the day. I followed my pal Kris Peterson to our destination point about 10 minutes up the road. From their my 3 yr old chessie Brandy and I hopped into Kris’s Mule and were escorted down to the pre-set water spread and permanent heated blind set up that he already had in place for us. I felt like I was really getting the royal treatment today, although this was actually standard procedure.
After getting situated in the blind, I was quite comfortable with a propane heater at my back as I swiveled around in my comfy office chair overlooking the spread. The only downside I could see right off the bat was that we were set up on the north side of the pond and we had a stiff sound wind. From my many years in the duck blind I have to admit I was a little concerned that the birds weren’t going to finish the way we had hoped. However my trusty outfitter Kris calmed my fears as he gracefully tweaked the spread and move the decoys that had washed up on shore, strategically tossing them back out into the main spread on the pond. I thought to myself, if they can land geese in the decoys with this wind I was sold!
After the first half hour of watching some of the geese in the area trading from field to field, we finally had a decent sized flock lock up on our spread. After 2 passes they banked right over the top of us at about 30 yards high. I reached for my gun, anticipating Kris to call the shot but when I looked down to his end of the blind he wasn’t even getting excited yet. After that the birds banked north and just like that they were gone.
About 10 minutes later we had another flock working the spread again. After a couple of passes over the decoys they gave us another window of opportunity, hovering right over the top of the blind again for a split second. This time I would have bet they were down to about 25 yards high. I looked down at Kris again and he was simply adjusting the E-caller volume. It was evident he had no intention of calling the shot. Unfortunately this flock too, banked north with the wind and headed for greener pastures.
After that I had to ask “What are we waiting for Kris”? He responded by telling me that he really likes to wait for the birds to touch down on the water before he calls the shot. It all sounded good in theory but we had just passed on two flocks well within gunning range…
Before I could finish my objection we had yet another flock locked up, feet down directly overhead. “These birds look good” Kris exclaimed. Although they started out way high, they were dropping altitude quickly. We patiently waited as they made a second pass. As they swung over the top of the decoys we actually had 4 drop right into the spread, just like Kris said they would. Kris kept his cool as the rest of the flock swung around for one last pass. “This is it” Kris said, “Get ready”! Just like that the entire flock came right in- “Take em” Kris yelled! We both jumped up and emptied our guns on the unsuspecting geese, hovering 10 yards over the top of the decoys. The two of us dropped 5 birds, with the last one being one of the first geese that was already in the decoys, trying to lift off with the rest of the flock. “We did it” Kris yelled as we both high fived, watching my dog Brandy lunge into the water chasing the downed birds across the water.
Over the next hour we had two more flocks come right in just like that and Kris called the shot as the birds touched down. Now this was hunting! I was fast becoming a believer.
BRANDY WITH HER PRIZE AFTER A FAST ACTION MORNING OF SNOW GOOSE HUNTING IN NEBRASKA
As more and more flocks of adult snow geese continued to come in feet down right into the decoys just like JJ said they would the night before, I honestly couldn’t believe it. And keep in mind we were having this much success with the wind in our face set up on the windward shoreline.
Now don’t get me wrong, not every flock that looked at the spread fully committed, this was still snow goose hunting. We had just as many flocks that came over the decoys, gave us a hard look and moved on unscathed. But I had to admit Kris and JJ proved their point, at Central Flyway’s Best they land geese and a lot of them!
Around 1pm JJ made his way down to the blind to join us for the rest of the afternoon. JJ asked how we were doing? We had 22 down between the two of us at that point we said. “Not too bad” JJ replied. The other hunters were experiencing similar success he noted.
JJ quickly climbed into the blind with his 20 gauge shotgun, as we had yet another flock of around 30 birds locked up overhead. This time JJ was calling the shot and I was excited to see how he worked the birds. JJ patiently waited just like Kris did for their feet to touch the water before he called the shot and just like that we had another 6 birds down. This was fast becoming a hunt to remember.
Towards the end of the hunt Kris took off to the truck to grab his two labs and round up a couple geese that had sailed across the pond a little earlier. While he was gone we had yet another flock of around 100 geese lock up on the spread. This was truly a migration flock as they started off as little white specs way up in the blue sky above.
They already had their wings cupped and landing gear down from at least a mile high. I looked over at JJ as we each had smiles on our faces from ear to ear. We both knew what was about to happen!
After what seemed like an hour the birds finally dropped down to about 35 yards high. Although they were still a little leary they banked around for a third pass, even lower this time and about 20 of them dropped right into the spread. The rest of the main flock banked around for yet another pass. JJ looked at me and said “We are going to have some fun with these birds”! They came around again and JJ held off on calling the shot as yet another 15 birds dumped into the spread. The main flock circled around again. My heart was pounding, this was just too much fun. On the fifth pass half of the remaining flock dropped in. At this point I just had to sit back and laugh. JJ looked at me and we just sat there in the blind taking it all in and watching about 65 geese swimming around in the decoys, neither of us wanting to ruin the moment by calling the shot. As the flock still in the air made one final pass overhead the birds on the water got up and lifted off with them. I had to admit that was much more rewarding than actually pulling the trigger. What an incredible experience!
Of course, at this point we were just a couple of buddies having some fun. On a standard guided hunt with Central Flyway’s Best, guns would have been blazing much earlier. After decades of chasing these crazy white birds up and down the flyway, for me it was a much more memorable experience actually watch the birds work the spread and finish in the decoys rather than pulling the trigger.
As the sun dropped down lower in the sky we both knew our window of opportunity was fast coming to a close. It was time to put the smack down on one more flock before we ended our hunt together. And just like that we looked up and there was a flock locked up. As they came around the right end of the blind, wings set JJ said ”This is it”.
The birds finished just like we had hoped and JJ called the shot. I pulled up on a nice blue and folded him with my first shot. I was already thinking of the triple and overshot the second snow in my sights. Even though it took me 3 shots to bring down a pair, I was overjoyed. As the smoke cleared from JJ’s 20 gauge, he proved that even the pro’s get overly excited sometimes too, as he whiffed on the first shot and now four geese lay belly up in the decoys. It was the perfect end to an amazing spring snow goose hunting adventure!
PROFESSIONAL SPRING SNOW GOOSE OUTFITTERS JJ RANDOLPH AND KRIS PETERSON OF CENTRAL FLYWAY’S BEST
I admitted to JJ and Kris while we were picking up and taking photos, that I was a little skeptical when I first got out there in the morning but I was now a confirmed believer in their water spread set-up. JJ laughed and said there is a reason we have a 90% rebooking rate each year, and I do believe that. This hunt was about as good as it gets. We may not have shot 100 geese that day but we didn’t need to. I couldn’t thank the guys enough for sharing an incredible experience with me.
It isn’t often that I experience a day like this where an old habit is broken but I felt like a kid again and was able to let go of some of the misconceptions I previously had about decoying spring snow geese. If everything is set up properly, they will land in the decoys, if you just give them a chance….
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY||Score||5 / 5|
Having known JJ and Kris personally for many years, as well as knowing the fact that they have been guiding snow goose hunting for over 20 years, since the inception of the spring conservation season back in 1996- they are the true experts in the field. However that does not always make for the best hunt, what I feel is the “X Factor” is the fact that both JJ and Kris know what is important to the hunter and they have designed their hunts to offer a most rewarding and comfortable overall experience for the hunter. They truly know the meaning of “Customer Service” a term that seems to get lost in today’s industry- 5/5!!!
|QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT USED||Score||5 / 5|
The quality of the equipment used on this spring snow goose hunt is second to none. Expect to hunt over 300+ floater snow goose decoys on your hunt with a high quality electronic calling system. In fact the guides have the ability to regulate the sound volume from inside the blind, which I feel is a valuable asset during the hunt. And most importantly each group size is limited to 4 – 5 hunters tops and the hunters get to experience a most comfortable and rewarding hunt out of an above ground blind with heaters and swivel office chairs that is very easy to see out of and shoot out of- 5 / 5!
|OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE GAME||Score||5 / 5|
As much as I talked up the hunt on our experience with JJ and Kris, this is still spring snow goose hunting. I say that because on a slow migration day the hunting is not always a guaranteed success. As with all spring snow goose guide services, the best option is to book a 3 day hunt to insure you have at least one lights out day. I will go as far as to say if the birds are on the move you can expect a stellar day in the blind. We had snow geese landing in the decoys over and over again and that is not uncommon on this hunt. There is not a better place to be when the birds are there. 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF MEALS AND LODGING||Score||4 / 5|
With all of the hunts offered at WyoBraska Waterfowl they just charge for guide service only. However they have several great lodging options in town within 15 minutes of the leases that can accommodate hunters and their four legged companions from a low budget motel to a higher end modernized house in town. It simply depends on the group’s needs and budget. There are many great restaurants in town to choose from as well and JJ and Kris can assist in making recommendations for all aspects of the hunt to make sure you have a most rewarding experience!
|HUNT PACKAGES AND ADDITONAL FEES||Score||4 / 5|
One of the best parts about this hunt package. All of the WyoBraska hunts are $300 per day, per hunter- guide service only. That ensures a quality hunt with an experienced guide. In addition, one of the most important aspects of the hunt is that your group of either 4 or 5 hunters will hunt alone. Another great aspect of this hunt is that on a multiple day hunt your group will hunt a new location each day so you will not sit in the same blind 3 days in a row, that is a guarantee they offer. 4 / 5!
|OVERALL QUALITY OF THE TRIP||Score||5 / 5|
Overall we felt the entire operation from start to finish was top notch. Every aspect of Kris and JJ’s hunt was well put together and it was very evident that they not only knows how to hunt spring snow geese, but how to run a successful business by making his customers happy! An excellent hunt and a first class outfitter- 5 / 5!
|Overall Central Flyway’s Best Scored 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An “A” Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer JJ and Kris To Everyone For Their Spectacular Nebraska Spring Snow Goose Hunts!||Final Score||28 / 30|
Part 3: Booking Information
Contact Information For: Central Flyway’s Best
Outfitters: JJ Randolph & Kris Peterson
Additional Hunts Offered
In addition to Kris JJ’s fantastic Nebraska spring snow goose hunts. JJ also offers:
- Nebraska Fall Mallard & Canada goose hunts on the North Platte River (Nov – Jan)
- Wyoming Field Canada Goose Hunts Hunts (Nov – Jan)
For more information on any of these hunts be sure to give JJ a call ASAP as many of his hunts are pre booked each year from his repeat customers.