Tuesday, February 5

Blind Man's Bluff

It was a color of red I had never seen. Illuminated by the rising sun, this maple was a splendid orange and it leaves swayed in a glorious greeting to us. It was a wave to five sportsman concealed in the stubble of a field scanning the horizon for Canada Geese. Practical Knowledge. The knowledge of a subject through practical application of principles learned. I can read about the mechanics of how the gears work on a bicycle, and how to work those gears to keep the bike upright. But until I ride the bicycle and understand for myself, I have nothing to pass onto others. The satisfaction and enrichment we gain learning new techniques, add a new layer of knowledge. More importantly, we catalyze our experience and techniques. What I pass on is a legacy of a love of learning and the tips to help make sure that my children follow books when necessary, but “skin their knees” when the answer is not in the pages. Digression helps to clear the mind; hope I did not muddy yours, so I will continue. My time in a pit blind is limited and though I read much on goose hunting, you have to get in the pit to get the quarry. This day, odd man out would be an understatement. The cacophony of goose calling in a metal underground blind was almost as strong as my eagerness to contribute. Keeping an eye skyward was my present contribution, until I learn to blow a goose call. The blind was in the center of a large decoy spread, in the shape of a large rectangle. There were six to seven dozen magnum decoys with shell decoys on the inside of the spread. Sentinel dekes lined the outside of the spread created a landing zone in the middle of the decoy spread. This zone was where the blind was located and where the siren song worked its magic. The first geese were far out, hardly visible, and peeled off. Within fifteen minutes, small flocks of six or so started to eye their grounded brethren. Wary and patient, the flocks would call out to the decoys and the blind would answer back. An interesting tete a tete began. “Hey, come on down”, we called. “Everything safe down there?”, the lead goose replied. As the geese closed in, I did notice that some of my colleagues were matching the lead goose’s reply, closing the communication gap and, hopefully, the distance between us. Turning toward the decoys, a group of eight to ten geese approached. Parallel to the blind and coming from right to left, they descended and were even with the front of the blind, when our host called the shot. With the words “Take ‘Em”, still hanging in the air, we stood up and broke the silence with the combined voices of Benelli, Beretta and Browning. Although lacking the harmony of the Three Tenors, the effect was just as powerful. Geese were collected and the man out of the blind had to keep still afield as more geese appeared. As the sun brightened the day and the geese left their nightly resting spots to feed, their visitations increased and we drew closer to limiting out. Collecting decoys (and my thoughts), I considered the idea of Practical Knowledge. There was much to be learned from my numerous books on hunting in the “Sporting Collection” library at home. There was more to be learned from listening to my blind mates. Their comments on the weather, past hunts, or why they were using a particular call provided insight not found between the covers of a book. Discussions of loads, shotguns, and decoying technique provided the spice of the hunt, as much as the tasty venison jerky. It was Opening Day for Canada Geese. Hats off to my gracious host for a memorable day and thanks to all for sharing your stories, tips and calls.