Tuesday, February 12

A Guided Goose Hunt on the Eastern Shore


A Guide to Waterfowling
   After years in the trenches (or goose blind), I have graduated to the status of being a hunting guide. Successful in getting the picture of the client hoisting the goose in one hand and shotgun in the other, which is the equivalent of the Super Bowl MVP declaring their undying allegiance to Walt Disney, the only minor detail was that I was not paid for my effort.

Blind Preparation

  To me that is inconsequential, considering that my client was the Wildfowl Ninja and the day was the state’s Youth Waterfowl Hunt Day. In fact, I did not have to do too much as I relied on him to unload gear and get the decoys set up. Unbeknownst to my young partner was that I was using this as another opportunity to expand his knowledge. With one gun, there was no doubt as to who hit the bird, and with over half dozen days afield this season, he was well prepared to regurgitate the salient points of hours hunting together. I am not sure a discussion of heating a Pop Tart with a chemical hand warmer or the potential culinary wonder of a Slim Jim wrapped in bacon would be included in those points necessary to successfully bringing home geese.

The Full Spread

   It was our first afternoon hunt of the year and the wind was blowing at close to 15 mph from the NNW and the temperature was 38 before wind chill. We were well prepared for the cold and, luckily, none of the decoys went airborne. With the wind behind us, and a small pool of water in front of the blind, I set the decoys up with the “X” slightly to our right when looking out. Using a dozen oversized shells on motion stakes and five silhouettes near the water hole, I also filled out the 1 to 2 o’clock position with a dozen new GHG Pro Elite standard shells. These new dekes have great molded detail; an accurate paint scheme, and the flocked heads are easy to attach. Even though there were some 20 mph gusts, all decoys stayed in position and the motion staked shells did not spin like a gyro.

Looking to our 1 o'clock

  Settling into the blind, I continued calling and trying to get a bead on the afternoon’s flight characteristics. 300 yards out in front was a flock of over a hundred feeding, so any birds above 50 or 75 feet would get a good view of them and swing over there. Our bet was on low fliers staying out of the wind. One hour in, we had a set at our three o’clock and, as I called and suggested to keep still (as we had no overhead cover), the last of the four swung out and toward our spread. As he rejoined the others and continued to join the flash mob feeding in the field north of us, I heard a flapping and commented in colorful language, under my breath. It sounded like a goose had landed right on top of us, but there was nothing. Very weird. Looking out, I commented on the realism of our decoy spread, including the full body by the waterhole. As my mind put things together, he started to walk across the “X”. In hushed tones, I told the Wildfowl Ninja of our visitor and we stood up as he took off into the air. Two resounding reports cut through the air and he continued on his flight path up and out of range. Later, I realized that since we were down wind, he could not hear us talk, and even in a normal volume, he had not been alerted.

Now Where is that Pop Tart!?

  Hunkered down behind the screen blind, our view was limited and a bird less than 30 feet off the ground came in unnoticed. Silent, gliding and landing with the wind, it took us by complete surprise: a true Wildfowl Ninja. Sometimes your confidence gets the better of you, I related. There is no such thing as an easy shot. We scrounged the blind bag for the last of a season’s worth of snacks and a Pop Tart broken into fifty thousand pieces was our bounty. The pastry engineers at Kellog’s had us waterfowlers in mind when it designed a filling that acts as a bonding agent and holds the tasty mosaic together.

A View over the Dekes

  With the sun lazily drifting toward the horizon, we calculated an hour left to hunt. The flights were less frequent, but still heading toward the nearby field. Eyeing the spread through the “porthole” I cut in the camo burlap, the wily birds had done it again. But this time it was three geese on the outside of the spread at 11 o’clock and one directly on the “X”. I had reached the apex of goose hunting: the zen of goose hunting. Do nothing; don’t pay attention; don’t call, and they will land in your spread. OR, I was just enjoying the experience and lacked the hypersensitivity to pick up on the encroachment of another mammal in my “personal space” (decoy spread). We watched and marveled. Then he rose and greeted the goose (now on the wing) with the requisite salutation, “Hey Goosie!” and took the shot. The #2 payload hit its mark and the bird crumpled to the ground.

  In retrospect, I did not need to be there. The Wildfowl Ninja had done all the field work to bring the geese to him. In my place as an observer of the result of the culmination of a successful season’s hard work, I was content. He was thrilled.

  Our season came to a close with us pulling up the stakes of the blind, and reflecting on an outstanding season, ending with an even dozen geese (He bagged three and I bagged nine). It would not have been possible without the gracious invitation and support of CP and Mimi, as well as my friend, John.

  We brought home geese for the grill, but the true reward was the time spent with you.

Goose, Wildfowl Ninja and Weatherby


Steve Kline said...

A great piece, and very well written. Felt like I was back in the blind. Sounds like your boy has got the bug, here's wishing you many more mornings like this one.

Eastern Shore Outdoors said...

Thanks Steve...he is an excellent partner: calm, patient and funny.

The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

The green on the blind makes it blend right in, pretty cool.

I bring double chocolate Pop Tarts on every hunting trip.

Eastern Shore Outdoors said...

Thanks for the comment! I used the green netting to cover up the right side (when looking at the blind). In the picture with the full spread, you cannot even see the blind to the left of the netting. Next year, we will brush it up even better. Pop Tarts are not standard equipment.