Friday, September 16, 2011

Early goose season came and went too quickly

And just like - poof! - it was over; the first hunting season of the new hunting year vanished into the memory box.

Of course the early Canada goose-only hunting season is not a long one at only 15 days. Still, you’d expect the time to slip by with a little less greasy speed.

It didn’t. And the longer I hunt the shorter the seasons seem to get.

There were some similarities between this year’s start of the early goose season and the final day. Then too, the days showed some distinctions as well.

Both saw rain falling; a lot of it on September 1 though not quite as much on September 15; enough, however, that I could not drive around the farm pond to the blind. The ground was soft following the previous evening showers and I didn’t want to tear up the landowner’s turf.

So my two Labrador retrievers - Berry and Millie - and I hoofed the couple hundred yards around the pond, over its dam and to a makeshift blind built of burlap, plywood and PVC pipe.

It may not be much to look at (and it’s not) but the blind has covered me enough to have fooled more than a few Canada geese over its several years of life.

Add one more bird to the pot. Hardly had the three of us settled in when a single goose shot straight across the pond’s cove and made a beeline to my family setting of five goose decoys. Some music played on two acrylic goose calls was all the invitation the loner needed to pitch in.

It was a race to see which retriever would make it first to the dead goose now laying in the water. Berry might be older but she’s also wiser and knew what to expect. She beat Millie to the prize by less than a second.

For her part Millie backed up Berry, helping the elder to push the goose to the shore.

The gunfire also had awakened the interest of the landowner’s own two Labradors which were now racing around the pond and making their way to the blind.

Now I had four Labradors to keep me company. I don’t mind. The landowner’s dogs have proven worthy companions in the past and have also been my dogs’ playmates when the birds aren’t flying and there’s not much else for them to do.

On this, the season’s last day, playtime was a big deal. Birds were flying, but stirred by whatever motivation that their instincts dictated.

Twice single geese came ever-so-close to passing over the blind. They didn’t, though both Berry and Millie paid rapt attention to their passing.

The landowner’s dogs, not so much. They were perfectly happy to curl up on the blind’s wooden floor and tuck up against my legs rather than keep watch for a marauding goose.

Every now and then a flock of geese would pass out in the distance. None of them showed the slightest interest in the pond and its decoys. Once again, they had their bird brain-sized heads made up and it didn’t involve being shot at by me.

The rain would come and go, more go than come, as it turned out. The oily coats of all the dogs collected small droplets of rainwater. Millie and Berry were too busy either watching or playing to notice while the landowner’s two dogs were too occupied with resting to care.

I continued to keep watch, of course. I didn’t want a goose come silently sneaking in on me, which has happened more than once.

Even so, I was caught off guard but not by any goose. Instead a five-pack of blue-wing teal darted across the farm pond’s far side, gunned their way out of sight, reversed direction and roared (if I can be forgiven for using this term) across the top of my decoys at maybe 25 yards distant.

Before I could react the teal were here, there and gone. Not that it mattered since my over-under shotgun contained two rounds of BB-shot goose loads; way too much muscle for duck-dom’s smallest member.

In the past the flights of birds throttled back around 9:30 or 10 a.m. At least they do during the early season before the migrants come pouring south and the
weather turns delightfully sour.

By 10 a.m. the geese stopped flying completely. With a heavy mist dripping from the sky I packed up the gear I had assembled for the past 15 days. Double checking to ensure that nothing was being left behind and that the blind was in fine shape when the general waterfowl season starts up in another month, I then ushered the four retrievers and piloted them around the pond and to my awaiting SUV.

The landowner’s dogs I would drop off at the house, giving each a pig ear treat as always is my custom.

It had been a so-so early goose season if you count only the number of birds that I took (four, to be exact).

And it was sad in a way that the season raced by all too quickly. But the end held the promise of more days to come, days that have turned cooler with just the right hint of autumn color beginning to touch the trees.

I’m not trying to wish my life away but I’m all ready eager for October 15 to arrive when once again it will be me, my dogs, a farm pond and goose or two interested in a small flock of decoys and some reasonably okay calling. Yes, sir, those are going to be fine days, you can bet on it.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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