Wednesday, December 26

Christmas Eve Hunt

Christmas Goose(s)...or Geese!

With a full Christmas Eve day schedule, including church at four and dinner to follow, could we squeeze in a morning goose hunt? How could we give up the opportunity for a Christmas goose!

  With the hot chocolate stowed and decoys loaded, we left in the dark. Arriving at close to sunrise, we humped our gear out to the field blind, which the Wildfowl Ninja had taken his limit the Saturday before.

  With even just a dozen shells and half a dozen silouettes, it seems we are loaded down Gunga Din Style. When did the blind bag get so heavy? Ah, yes, the Ninja's gear this year. Last year, he only brought himself and not his Weatherby, shells, snacks, etc.

Benelli Keeping Watch

  High winds early in the week had blown down much of the pine boughs and the grass we used to brush the blind.  After filling in the front of the blind with fresh grass and setting up the decoys, we settled in. We ended up extending the blind with ultralite Camo Systems netting.  This stuff is packable, light and provides great concealment while allowing me to look through.

Blind Extension with Camo Systems Netting

  The birds that were flying were focused on the scores of geese loafing on the creek about 50 yards behind us. It was interesting to hear them so close, and I used the opportunity to mimic their calls with mine. There were some high fliers, but we started to think that a waxing moon had provided night feeding opportunites.

  Walking back to check on the geese on the creek, three or more dozen lifted off in a crescendo of roiling water and wingbeats. We may have helped some folks down the creek.  Overall, there were alot of hunters out, based on the staccato sounds of shotguns in the distance.  It was a holiday and I assume there were many weekenders in from D.C. with their guests filling the blinds.

  As it warmed slightly and the wind remained calm, movement started. First, it was a few dozen about a 1/2 mile out and more began to criss cross above our position.  Three circled in behind us at about 100 yards high and flew directly out.  I flagged.  As they came back for another look, they canted their wings dropping in quick. 

  Cupping their wings and flying in about 40 yards out but coming in straight, I quietly said, "put down the hot chocolate and get ready".

  Time seemed to slow down as I looked out of the corner of my eye at my partner. He moved with deliberate action, knowing fluid slow movement was required.  "Ready?", I said. "Now", I declared, as I stood and they flared about 25 yards out.  I swung on the last bird and took him with a solid shot.  The Wildfowl Ninja shot next, as the remaining two banked hard and accelerated.  My next shot hit the second goose and he pinwheeled into the soft clay.  The third goose was out of range and I did not want to take the chance on a crippling shot.

  Guns on safe, we gathered our birds and brought them back to the blind.  Walking the distance on the birds, the first was at ~30 yards and the second at ~40 yards. Though I have counted the $$ when I pull the trigger on Hevi-Shot, the #2 payload from the 3 1/2" shell delivered a solid knockdown of both geese.

  We settled back into the blind hoping for another flight. I looked down at the full hot chocolate cup on the uneven ground between our chairs.  Put down with celerity, he had not spilled a drop.  Nice work, partner.


Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas to All!!

  From everyone at Eastern Shore Outoors, we wish you a Merry Christmas and are thankful for your support over the last year.

An ESO Christmas Tree (thanks to Cabela's for the idea)

Saturday, December 22

Grilled Goose Breast Extravaganza

 With six fresh goose breasts bathing in saltwater brine at home, I had the perfect opportunity to get the recipe for cooking a goose breast.  We were at a lovely Santa lunch with the Wildfowl Ninja and his sister (moniker to follow) and I saw a friend who is a trained culinary mystic and wildfowl afficionado.

  "So", I started, as I cornered him at a table ready to take another bite of his lunch. In retrospect, this was a dastardly move on my part, but frankly, I needed the goods, as I heard so many people referring to goose as  a third rate meal, akin to olive loaf.

  "The Wildfowl Ninja limited out yesterday and he helped with breasting them, which was easier than I had thought", I rambled as he eyed some french fries. "They are in brine, so how should I cook them?", I asked.

  "Cook them like a steak; if they are plump, butterfly them. Use a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and cook them medium rare. They are so lean that they will dry fast", he replied nonchalantly.

  With the grill pumping out mesquite smoke, I grilled per instructions and the result was worth every bit of the efffort.  Moist and pink in the center, there was a nice olfactory detonation of garlic and mesquite filling the air.

Mesquite Smoked Dry Rub Goose Breast...Medium Awesome!!

  In talking with my brother last night, I related that we worked on many tasks to bring these geese to table.

  We built the blind; setup the decoy spread; called them in; took them home and breasted them; cleaned and cooked them.  "Yes, but you did not build the fire", he said to me.  True, and we did not make the shells or their delivery system.  I have so much to learn and I relish every minute of it.

Sunday, December 16

The Wildfowl Ninja's First Goose Hunt

  You have to start at the beginning to appreciate the end.

  We had spent the previous Sunday building two field blinds on a cool, muddy day, interspersed with rain.
Walking a pine forest to find limbs and other brush, we spotted two fallen trees that must not have done well in Hurricane Sandy.  Hatchet and loppers in hands, we dragged and filled a truck bed full of brush.

  It was a good day of hard work, for we had never built a blind and give me a hatchet and a design plan in my head, and I am a happy man. Here are a few pictures of the first blind, which had a good set of natural cover behind us.

Stakes Ready for Backing
Backing Ready for Camo Cloth
Brushed Up with Pine and Cedar

  The second blind was on the edge of a field and was comprised of a simple camo screen. The Wildfowl Ninja suggested the grass. It turned out to be a great suggestion!

Second Field Blind against Marsh Grass
Grassed Up at the end of the Work Day

  Little did we know that it would pay off in what I considered the less concealed of the two blinds, on a bluebird morning that next Saturday.

  Arriving close to sunrise, we were treated to a Hunt Breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. The Wildfowl Ninja's grandmother was so kind to prepare it for us and it was just what we needed to start the day. After carrying more gear than a Sherpa on the way to base camp, we settled in at the second of the two blinds and made quick work of setting up our spread. With no wind, I set up three "pods" of four oversize shells on motion stakes, with five silhouettes at our 1 0'clock position to close off that part on the "X".

Looking Out over the Dekes

  This left a nice landing zone in front (with a range decoy at 35 yards) and after we added some camo netting, we settled in.  The Wildfowl Ninja was using his Weatherby SA-08 in 20 GA, with an extended IC Carlson's waterfowl choke and 3" Hevi-Metal #2's; I had my Benelli SBEII, with an extended Mod Carlson's choke and 3 1/2 Hevi-Shot #2's. If there was anything within the range decoy, our heaters were up to the task. But were we?  Early on, it seemed we would be skunked.

The Wildfowl Ninja wearing his Xmas Present!

I was vigilant in looking for birds, but not good on blind banter.  Changing that, before long we were laughing and I looked up to see six geese doing a fIy by fifteen yards out and banking up over us.  Whoops...I hope this was not the only set. From 8 a.m.  to 9:30 a.m., we had seen high flying birds coming from our 9 to 3 o'clock position and some had gotten close. Out in front and 100's of yards out, we had flagged in some for a closer look but no one was committing. I went out and checked the blind for any tell tale giveaways and "opened" up the spread a little, making more room between decoys.

Awaiting the Honkers

As the sun warmed things up, so did the action. There were a few flights that came in close and then a set of eight came in from our 8 o'clock position at 50 yards high. They looked like they would fly straight out and away, until they banked back toward us, dropped and came by for another look.  I dropped the flag, gave one last call and told my partner to get ready.  They cupped their wings and committed.

 "Now", I called out, and as he stood, they tried to gain altitude. He took his first shot and the goose pinwheeled to the ground. I stood up and took a shot, as he took his second.  My first shot connected and so did his second. My last shot went high.

I looked at him and he was beaming. Hours talking over strategy on the skeet range; setting up blinds and all the times he came as an observer paid off. In a big way. Two shots. Two geese. We put our guns on safety and went into the field. The last bird was winged and after I checked the other two, we went after him and brought him back to the other two.

It was a fine first goose hunt and I told him, "This was a good day, but there will be many times we won't bring home birds". Looking at me with a knowing smile, he replied, "I know". We did not need to say it. It was being together that was the true bounty. In learning from each other and spending time in the outdoors we always "limited out" And today, he did. On his first goose hunt. How cool is that!

Wildfowl Ninja with Half of His Limit!