Wednesday, January 15

Opening Day of Goose Season 2013

Brushed and Ready for Opening Day

  Gear stacked up on the first floor ready to put in the car, we sat before dawn in silence eating breakfast, watching the minutes tick away as we waited to leave. It was opening day of goose season 2013. Not unlike Christmas, you end up waking up every half hour waiting for the alarm to go off triggering next season's escapades. We were invited by John to shoot the piano blind we helped build about a month before and highlighted in a previous post. The blind was well brushed with cedar and bayberry over the roof.

  As we drove across the field with the decoys in the utility trailer behind us, it came into view. Today, there would be ten of us hunting two different blinds: five in the new blind and the others in a blind build decades before, of the same construction. It was in an adjoining field and the blinds were at 90 degree angles to one another, so there was no chance of a sudden shower of steel from an errant shot.

  The ~ four dozen decoys in a open pattern of "pods" allowed a nice landing zone. It was warm, 48 degrees, and wet and we dressed for it. Cloudy overnight, it had been close to a full moon the last few days and I was hoping that the geese had not fed under the fall moon. We set up and waited. Before long, the sound of birds behind us filled the air and many were passing between two bodies of water, as we were on a peninsula.  They did not seem to be hungry and were just buzzing by and checking out the action on the ground. There were only two or three sets that circled,  out of close to two dozen flights of birds, which seemed to us that they were not interested in food.

  Early in the season and with the warm weather, there was no reason to fatten up for the cold of winter. As the morning went on, I stepped out of the blind to see if there was any items that were catching their attention and making them flare. We caught up on conversation as the geese did fly-bys just out of range. I enjoyed having the Wildfowl Ninja in my blind, who was picking up sage advice from the group of seasoned hunters.

The Wildfowl Ninja Casts a Knowing Look

 As we called, a pair appeared and passed behind us and drifted in quick off the left side of the blind, silently gliding. They locked up their wings and we let the youngest in the group get ready (reference picture above), and as the two passed our blind about 25 yards out, the shells started ejecting. The lead bird on the right crumpled and spun into the ground. The second bird turned back to the left and before he could gain altitude, he was hit and fell into our decoys. Loping out into the field, Tucker, a beautiful Weimaraner, collected the birds and brought them back with a spring in his step.

Tucker in His Element

As the morning progressed, we dined on incredible smoked goose on a fresh slice of sourdough, as well as fresh figs. We also had to have the requisite ESO Opening Day delight, the venerable Pop-Tart.

Smoked Goose on Sourdough and Hevi-Shot: a Deadly Combination

Later, another flight landed at the edge of decoys, near the range decoy but were too far out for a good kill shot. Approaching noon, the realization that the geese weren't committing set in and we packed up our decoys.

Packing up the Dekes

 At which point, the skies are crowded with birds in passing range. It always happens.

  I breasted, brined and marinaded the goose breasts. It was a good start to the season: I didn't forget anything for the field; decoys were in great shape, and we were successful in bringing birds to our spreads.

  It dawned on me that there was a shift in my definition of a successful hunt. There is as much to gain from the experience and collective wisdom in the blind, as there is from shooting out of it.

  Do I have to fill the pot to bring home what I need?