They are not “sky carp” or trash birds. Light geese — snow and Ross’s geese, to be exact — are to be respected like any other natural resource.
These light geese are a worthy adversary of hunters and actually great to eat. Snow and Ross’s geese have dark, distinctive, richly flavored meat.
Dr. Mark Vrtiska, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s waterfowl program manager, says not to believe the rumor that snow geese are not palatable. “They are quite delicious if you adequately take care of them in the field, prepare them properly and cook them correctly,” he said.
There are too many snow geese in North America, and that is why some folks have such disdain for them. They are damaging their arctic and subarctic habitats. The large population growth of snow geese has come about primarily because of the expansion and abundance of agricultural foods in their wintering and migration areas since World War II.
Vrtiska says this is not a resource to condemn. “This is an exquisite migratory bird that is indigenous to North America,” he said. “It is not an invasive species, and it continues to modify its behavior with land use and climatic changes.”
The lack of adequate care in the field is the reason some dislike dining on snow and Ross’s geese. Keep in mind that the bodies of these geese are well-insulated with hundreds of feathers, including many down feathers.
When harvesting snow and Ross’s geese during this current Light Goose Conservation Order, especially in warmer weather, it is critical to get the birds out of the sun. Do not pile them up, but cool them down and field dress them as soon as possible after the retrieves.
Draw the entrails immediately and pull a few breast feathers to help the meat cool quickly. Excessive heat from ambient air temperature must be avoided. Place them in coolers with ice.
Each goose’s age and condition must be examined before deciding how best to prepare it. Young geese are best for roasting or cooking like a steak, while the older birds are more likely to be tougher and are best for grinding into sausage, making jerky or putting them in a long, slow braise.
To prevent tearing a light goose’s skin when plucking, pull the feathers with the grain of the bird from the head toward the tail. Do not try to pull too many feathers at once.
When breasting out geese, keep in mind that a single, fully feathered wing must remain attached to each breast for identification in transport. Nebraska law requires all harvested waterfowl to have either the head plumage or one fully feathered wing naturally attached to their bodies for identification purposes with transportation to a point of permanent storage.
Any waterfowl recipe can be used for snow or Ross’s geese. Adjust cooking time according to the bird’s weight. Snow geese typically weigh 5 to 6 pounds, yielding about 2 to 3 pounds of meat. Ross’s geese weigh 3½ to 4 pounds. Cooking times also will be longer for birds stuffed with dressing.
Good hunting, and good eating.