Monday, November 22, 2010

Saying good-by to waterfowl season hard as winter closes in

And just like that, it’s over.

Probably, or mostly, anyway. Which is a real shame since I’ve enjoyed watching the sun rise above the far tree line and then sprinkle the pond’s water with flecks of morning light.

Today was more threatening in its appearance, though. While the actual timing of the sun rising was on cue its glory was being over-shadowed by a heavy cloak of darkened clouds. The sky was a shade of sinful black and later threatened with loud claps of thunder and bursts of lightening.

A nasty bit of southwest wind was cutting deep furrows in the water, too, adding liveliness to the two remaining goose decoys and the like number of standard-size mallard duck decoys.

From a branch just out of arm’s reach of the goose-hunting blind hung a cheap hardware store thermometer I had attached to a piece of brush. The tool’s face was recording a temperature of 56 degrees, way too warm for this time of year.

And in another week the nearby landscape will be blotched with stains of hunter orange, the color of the season for firearms deer-hunting participants. While I could legally continue to hunt ducks and geese then I won’t. That’s because the landowner and his son are planning to cast a shooting net on what they hope will be a large buck.

To go banging away at waterfowl while they’re in the adjacent woodlot trying to kill a deer would anger the most temperate of landowners.

So I hope against hope that once the firearms deer-hunting season concludes I’ll get another crack at shooting a Canada goose. It’s just a thought and one likely not to bear fruit.

More times than I like to remember Ohio’s firearms deer-hunting season is plagued by snowy and cold weather of the kind that takes a choke hold on the pond’s open water. Either the pond is entirely encapsulated in ice or so nearly as such that I would not - will not - risk sending Blackberry, my black Labrador retriever, out to fetch a downed goose or duck.

Which explains why I need to get my licks in now, before the forecast of arctic cold zips shut the pond.

For that reason alone I was in the makeshift goose-hunting blind, looking out over the sacrificial decoys that I could spare if they become ice-bound statues.

Gone back to his Florida home was my father-in-law. He joined me on the general waterfowl season opener where he shot his first-ever Canada goose. Gone too was Steve Myers, busy with his new janitorial duties at Eageville Bible Church along with planning an expedition for the gun deer season.

Terry, my oldest brother, wasn’t around either. His Labrador retriever, Ben, just had major surgery to fix some serious (and seriously expensive) damage to a torn ligament. Ben will be out for the rest of the hunting year and that’s a powerful drag on Terry’s bird-hunting enthusiasm.

Even Beverly, my wife, is probably finished for the remainder of the waterfowl hunting season; or what will probably occur as a result of the all-but-guaranteed freeze-up of the pond.

Besides, Bev's busy trying to kill a deer with archery tackle. She has circled Friday and Saturday on the calendar, reserving the two dates for all-day archery hunting if that becomes necessary. I understand and heartily endorse her plans.

“Looks like just you me, Berry,” I said as I looked over the blind at the dog.

Berry was steadfast, determined to keep to her post. Her butt was anchored to a spit of muddy earth that stood between the blind and the pond’s edge.

This is how the two of us had started our waterfowling during September’s early Canada goose-only hunting season. And this, no doubt, is how our goose-hunting season will draw tightly in on itself.

I don’t mind. Really I don’t. I cut my hunting eyeteeth on hunting ducks and graduated to geese beginning in 1976. That’s when Tom Daly and I each bagged a goose on the second day that the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge ever conducted a controlled goose hunt.

I wonder whatever happened to Tom? I’d like to hunt geese with him one more time.

Yet while I enjoy companionship when waterfowling, it isn’t always mandatory. That is, so long as I have a Labrador retriever to debate life's critical issues and a long row of tethered goose calls to work in an effort to communicate with a flock of the real deal.

Of course I still have the waterfowling itch. Thus, I expect to visit the goose-hunting blind a couple of more times this week; Thanksgiving for sure and probably Saturday as well.

And after that? Well, let’s take it one step at a time. Maybe I’ll luck out and early December will see unseasonably warm temperatures and an open farm pond.

But if good weather migrates south and the pond closes its doors for the rest of the goose-hunting season, then so be it. What I do know is that it’s been a good ride all things being considered.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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