It’s almost June as I write this, and the photos are still popping up on Facebook, piles and piles of birds, because Scott Butz is a little crazy, and blind to hunting any other type of bird.
Butz, who invented those spinning kite things that have lured so many white devils to their death, is the Ahab of the great white goose migration and certainly one of waterfowling’s most renowned mad scientists. It is strange to be with a hunter is constantly approached by fans outside restaurants in spots like Maryville, Missouri, where the migration is peaking. That’s where I caught up with him for some hilltop goose hunting in late March last year to film World of Beretta and get a killer story for WILDFOWL magazine, which featured Butz in their huge August gear issue.
An education was in order, and oh did I walk away with one. An outing with Butz and I could soon see how he had flipped the script on chasing white geese totally.
The first thing you may notice is his strange, stunted, sparse decoy spread, with spinning kite-like contraptions called Reel Wings, his invention, bobbing in the sky above it, connected to fishing reels. The second thing I noticed, between vollies of gunfire and retrieving geese downed my HEVI-Metal BBs, was that he could tweak that weird little spread and move the birds pretty much wherever he wanted. The third thing? That he always knew exactly what to do. No hesitation. No if, ans or Butz. And that’s because 47-year-old Scott Butz is goose crazy.
It’s been a quarter century since he lost it over geese, and the white birds became his singular obsession. His expertise is such that he has orchestrated the demise of more than 33,000 geese to his spreads (he keeps logs).
Back at camp in Maryville, tv cameraman and waterfowl expert Nathan Wilt said it best. “I have hunted with a lots of snow goose guides and the difference with Scott is he can make them finish exactly where he wants. There’s no left or right. Yesterday he made two moves and put them exactly where he needed them. He pulled two flyers off the edge, then one more move and they were in it. And his hilarious yard-sale spread with monster shells in it is ridiculous.”
This region is the most famous place in the nation to chase white geese, but it’s also one of the very hardest to hunt. It is The Bigs, the ground zero of snow goosedom. Millions of Birds flow come through Squaw Creek Refuge, and at times it seems there’s roughly the same number of hunters come, too.
Butz has no good news upon my arrival. “They’re not decoying. Everyone’s getting their ass kicked. We will go to war. Sometimes this bird gets an attitude,” he says.
Spend much time with him and you’ll start to smile at the way the mad professor refers to fast white goose flocks as “the bird”. He loves and hates the bird, curses them in one breath and then in the very next you can sense how much love and respect he has for them. With some 200 decoy spreads in the area, white blobs peeking off every hill top, this is a place for guys who love to compete. Many of the 200 spreads are on ground leased out from under Butz, who refuses to pay for fields, though whenever he is successful jealous competitors accuse him of it.
“I won’t play that game,” he says. “You do that and soon the locals hate you because kids around here can’t hunt the land they grew up on.”
The good news for you, dear reader, is that even in such a intensely competitive arena, Butz is still surprisingly open with the tactics that have made him a snow-goose-killing icon, (with his Hevi-Shot sponsored Waterfowl Obsession show on The Sportsman Channel). Odd, since the outfitters are all so cutthroat. Scott is open, but not un-opinionated. We’ll take a look at more of what he knows in our next blog.
THE TAKEAWAY: Be open-minded about the style of your spread, and that means literally OPEN minded. Put the spread back in your spread…spread it out in the most open manner you can think of, bearing in mind the idea of trickles of geese, not blobs of decoys. More on this soon. And learn to use Reelwings.—Skip Knowles, WILDFOWL magazine editor.