Thursday, January 17, 2008

1.17.08 "Snow" Goose Hunt

Ever had something just "felt right"? A favorite pair of boots, the smell of the air right after a rain shower, a well worn recliner, or maybe breakfast at your grandma's house. This morning was one of those moments. Daylight found Mark, his dog, Ike, and me sitting along the bank of a local farm pond. We'd thrown out just four mallard decoys and were waiting on the shoreline for some geese or quite possibly some ducks to show up. Two pair of long johns, sock liners and wool knee highs, a pair of goretex bibs, a waterproof parka, a wool shooter's sweater, warm gloves and a thick toboggan made sitting on the bank pretty comfortable. Wind-forced waves caused the decoys to dance perfectly. And, in spite of sleet bouncing of the back of my neck, all was right with the world. This was what duck hunting weather was supposed to be like.

Water the color of liquid lead.

Steely clouds camouflaged the sunrise.

The air smelled of cold, damp and faintly of a fire from a distant chimney.

Frozen rain hitting the pond, icey branches creaking inthe wind, crows arguing with one another and an occasional car traveling very carefully down an adjacent roadway.

Just after sunrise a small group of mallards dropped into middle of the pond. They came from nowhere and were in the water before I spotted them. I asked Mark, "Hey man, what was that noise?" and looked over to see him staring at something, left hand tightening on his Benelli, right hand reaching for one of the calls hanging from his neck. Ike was staring in the same direction, quiet and still except for the involuntary spasms of excitement ranging through his body. Following their gaze past our four faux ducks I saw three larger-than-life ducks swimming eighty yards from our location. The hen was fussing mightily at the other two for the error of their ways. Mark tried to lure them within range but like phantoms they were gone as quickly as they came.

An hour later sounds of geese in flight filtered across the farmland. They were coming our way so we hunkered down and anticipated their arrival. Sure enough a large flock, over thirty birds, was coming right to us unfortunately they veered to our right, circled around a stand of hardwoods and landed in a hayfield a hundred yards behind us. Lickity-split Mark was up, "I'm going after them. Maybe I can sneak up on 'em." We mapped out our plan and put it into action. Mark would try to sneak to the right while Ike and I would stake a spot to the left on the edge of a small clump of trees. Hopefully he would get within gun range and upon shooting would spook the now feeding geese toward our ambush.
Ike whined as we waited. It seemed like an eternity but in reality only ten minutes pasted until I heard the alarm call of one of the flock's sentries followed by the raucous cries of geese on the move. However, even as the geese flew away there were no shots. Just then, two more geese flew into view and they were coming right at Ike and I. Just as I was about to shoulder my gun, a three simulataneous booms rang out and the lead goose dropped to the ground. The other kept flying and when it came within range I attempted to draw a bead on it's outstretched neck. Little did I know that my sling had become wrapped around my parka preventing me from shooting. Eventually, after getting untangeled I raised my twelve's barrel but it was too late.
I released Ike who took off after the canada while Mark walked up grinning from ear to ear.

Not exactly the hunt we had in mind but a great time nonetheless. I can't wait for our next winter storm.

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