Today’s tale begins the evening before, about an hour before dark, with the group of scouter’s befuddled in a conundrum. With the afternoon arrivals of Jim Ferguson (Ferg), John Donald (JD), Don Bell (Dinger), Wayne Couling (Hop), Uncle Robert (GooseBoss), and Wayne Carey (Bubba), joining this week’s residents Brock Bastone (Preacher) and myself at the house, the spotting was in full force in anticipation of the morning.
With Saturday’s clan being greater in number than most September Saturdays, the pressure was on for the scouting staff. With 25 square miles or so to cover, the team divided in two to maximize our dwindling light. The older (or more mature) group headed south to a field well known to us, to spy on an opportunity at some of our lake’s local Greater Canadas.
The second group of slightly less mature scouters, consisting of Bubba, the Preacher and yours truly, started out on the North side of the lake. Thursday’s shoot still fresh in our minds, we first headed to Sexton’s most Westerly half section, but to no avail. Out of the corner of his eye, Bubba spots a flock airborne between the lake and Big Sexy’s, so the Preacher put his foot only slightly further toward the floor and we slowly puttered our way toward the geese. It revealed to us Lorne Bolduc’s lakeshore barley with about 5 or 6 hundred snow geese in it. Dually noted.
This left only a few options left to hit, including Bell’s MudBowl, McGee’s Barley/Slough, and the Dump+Edwards’ Barley, alongside Barry Janssens’ Barley. McGee’s was full of ducks and a handful of honkers, the Dump/Edwards’ had its fair share of sandhill cranes, but the snow goose hunt to be had, was definitely on Janssens’.
We stopped in to inquire about permission with Barry, but only his daughter and a friend were around. I left word tback the boys from Scuttlebuck had dropped in and that I would certainly be back, but that’s a story for another day.
A quick phone call to the GooseBoss, revealed an eagerness to shoot the Southside Fellas in the morning, and us younger gents sent the old folks over to pass shoot McGee’s flock at dark.
*** Skip ahead an hour to the meeting at the dinner table after dark. ***
The Boss had himself a dusty, old honker and smiles were had all around. As dinner was in its earliest stages and we had to devise a strategy to hide 8 hunters in a honker spread in the morning. We set our minds and bodies to building a willow blind right on top of the spot the geese were sitting that evening. This was no small undertaking. Bubba, the Preacher and I did succeed though, in managing to construct such an elegant solution to our dilemma. With stomachs full, and expectations high, our heroes all let heads hit pillows to rest up for the 5 am wake up chimes.
(Insert Blind Photo Here)
Our plan for the decoys was to create and “X” in families of Canadas with the willow blind safely in the middle of it. With our flier deke upwind and the majority of the decoys behind us, the hunters piled into the blind gently rubbing elbows in the confined space available. The flight began just in time, with the tell-tale howl of “Geese from the East” from Dinger, and the hunt was off and running.
Now to many people, hunting with 8 participants is a near impossible feat. What most don’t appreciate though, is that should all be well hidden, 8 weapons gives possibility to achieve overwhelming results. On this particular morning, it was the latter. With at least 3 callers calling and one flagger flagging at all times, the birds had not encountered a quarry such as this in recent memory.
The first flock out, as previous declared by the Ding, was a group of 30 or so cacklers (Richardson’s Canada Goose, or small Canada goose). At first they seemed hesitant, and drifted West of our set and flew slightly upwind Southwest of us. With the stiff 25-30 kmph wind out of the Southeast, it wasn’t much more than a bank left for the birds and they zoomed across the front of our blind. With Bubba’s bellowing war cry, “Ok Boys!!”, 8 men popped up, 24 shots were fired, and the result left the group in awe for a few short moments.
Now see many of these boys, old and new, have been on a goose hunt or 2 in their day, but rarely or never had they witnessed what we all saw that first volley. After the deafening crash of the guns, all that followed was silence split shortly by the squawking of the startled remnants of the flock in serious escape-mode, our hunters all cheered to the success of 10 cacklers scattered across the stubble. Nearly half the flock… This was quite the start. The boys were thrilled. 3 retrievers set out and brought in the harvest in a hurry because Dinger’s call informed us of the newest flock of birds set on joining us in the field were approaching.
Time it was honkers, and they didn’t work us quite the same, which they hardly do, and a premature shot call lead to some sore eardrums. Two or three honkers in the bag, and a handful of adjustments were made to eliminate out issues with shooting over the rest of the group. The decision was made; to wait as long as we could, to let the honkers work as long as we could East of us and take them just before landing. That way, they would be almost parallel to the blind at an optimal shot angle for every hunter.
This lead to great success for the group, with chance after chance leading to 6’s and 7’s falling to us with regularity. This is where our story gets to the “Rinse, Wash, Repeat” stage. Dinger would announce, “Here they come again! From the East!”, and we’d all hunter down. The calls would ring out and flags would flap, and often break much to my inconvenience, Wayne would call the shot, and the boys would harvest. Handfulls upon handfulls of geese were brought in by the GooseBoss, the Preacher and myself, sprinkle in some hilarity for the group at watching Brock flailing away after elusive cripples, and we were having ourselves quite a morning.
In any bird hunt, injured birds often sail to a distance not so convenient for retrieval, and this one was no exception. After our sailers had grown to too many to ignore, I set off toward the vehicles to claim a couple, and Robert headed East to a dugout in pursuit of another. Almost like clockwork, as soon as a hunter, or 2 in this case, leaves the blind, an opportunity at more birds surfaces. While I was to the West, the boys claimed all 4 geese from a small flock that did in fact land in our decoys. It’s always neat to get a chance to witness that type of thing from outside the blind as well as in. I then went East, after a pair more birds were knocked down all while the Boss was still at the dugout. One of them was dead, but the other was booking it toward a barbed wire fence between our decoy set and the dugout, and it was now my turn to cause the hilarity for the group. Was a minutes pursuit and a face full of mud, I had the bird by the tail feathers, halfway under the fence.
Again the boys in the blind had another chance while we were caught out of the blind, but this time the birds landed too far out for our boys to get a chance, between Bob and I, and the blind. I, of course, had no gun. The GooseBoss was much more wiley and had his with him. When the geese spooked from the not-so-suttle hustle and bustled in our man-made bush, they flew right over the unarmed Andrew and straight to Bob. One more dot on the chart as we say. On the way back into the decoys, with three birds in hand, Bob and I were again forced to hit the deck as 3 honkers came in just as we had it planned, and with 2 shots, all three were down. Ferg had gotten 2 in one shot!! (They must’ve been pretty close.)
At this point, we were totally unaware of what our total was. The flight as it seemed, was all but over, and it was time to count up. First count was 47… Then 49… Then more geese came… When we finally decided to send for the trucks, the total was 54. Ill say that again, 54. With only the first 10 being cacklers, that comes to 44 honkers. Observe.
(Stacked up honkers photo here)
GooseBoss, JD and Ferg all headed for home that afternoon, but Gord Speers graced us with his presence (and breakfast). After a solid Lodge Nap, we headed back to the field once more and came home with 7 more honkers, with Speers taking down the majority of those. Add to that, one Ross goose harvested in spotting fashion by Big Wayne, and our day total was finished at 62 birds. Of the group, we had 4 honkers break 12 lbs. 12-5, 12-4, 12-2 and 12-0. All great birds!
This glorious day lifted us to 149 geese for the year-to-date, a snow goose hunted spotted for Sunday morning, and a lifetime of memories, all collected in just a few short, albeit early, hours.
(Rack Picture with Ferg, Hop, Ding and Bob)
Day Total: 62
Year Total to Date: 149
Cumulative Total: 4,422