Sunaert’s South- South Half: Saturday, September 21, 2013

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!

(Dinger/Hop/Speers Picture)

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

Opening Day 2013- Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Spring Update: Late and wet spring led to limited hunts and limited effort. 

Year Total to Date: 1

Cumulative Total: 4,274

Opening Day 2013 felt like it came sooner than ever before. Maybe it was because there was little to no hunting in the spring, or maybe it’s because it literally did come sooner.

Day Total: 24

Year Total to Date: 25

Cumulative Total: 4,298

November 3rd, 2012- Next to the Top

This was very nearly a hunt that didn’t happen. Not only is hunting in November much colder than most goose hunters care to endure, but it is also a much shorter day, with very few daylight hours to work with. With Uncle Bob et al, in Jamaica for Keely and Eugene’s wedding and most others having packed up their hunting supplies for the winter, this weekend was left to just Big Wayne Carey and myself. Leaving Brandon immediately after work, around 3:40 pm or so, we were rushed to make the hour drive in enough time and daylight left to have a plan for the morning.

We first pulled through Elgin at just before 5 and spotted what days before had been filled with snow geese to be bare and white with just snow. Across the road held our best opportunity to this point at somewhere between 12 and 16 honkers nearly 20 minutes drive North of the Lodge. We soldiered on. After hopelessly checking our best guesses as to where there may be geese, and light fading fast, our last stop was at the burnt barley on Barry Janssens’ on the North lakeshore. As we pulled in, kitty-corner across the road towards Richard Sexton’s home, we spotted nearly 200 November honkers. This was something we couldn’t pass up.

The next morning we dispersed close to 50 decoys and our 2 goose chairs, and hid the truck in a pump jack driveway about 200 yards away. As I walked in from hiding the truck, Wayne had what was surely a surprise. 11 snow geese quietly approached the decoys and caught our not-so-nimble colleague off guard! Not to worry! They’d be back.

Hid in our chairs, and calls and flags at the ready, the first group of Canadas came to us from completely the wrong direction. They spun and worked us and circled and circled and eventually tried to land to our left, we shot out 6 pops and got two, but were very worried that this may be the way the morning played out. We pulled back the legs from the front of our “V” of decoys and created what was basically a straight line across the front of our decoys. This we hoped would get the birds all the way to us at least, if they were going to be hesitant.

Our first flock off the lake headed out our way, but they drifted a little West and looked like they may go out around us. We called and flapped and it showed great impact as it drew the birds to us, they centred up and we got 4 on a pretty good chance. The next flock out tried to land behind us, and on this chance we got 3. What had started out a little sketchy, had turned out great to this point, and with the overcast skies turning to snowfall and a stiff North wind, even the weather couldn’t have been better.

As soon as you thought that, of course, a truck pulled up. Right to the intersection 100 yards from us and stopped, watching us, clearly unsure if we were geese themselves, or the decoys we were. We didn’t do them any favours as we laid still and waited for our next chance. Then as luck would have it, when the next flock out started off further West and surely to miss us, this truck pulls down the turkey trail toward the lake and parks 500 yards in front of us. Instant rage pours out of Wayne and me, but the passengers of the truck never did get out, but they did turn the flock right towards us.

Now is where it got fun. In seeing this flock approach, one thing caught my eye, a long ways out. The lead goose of this flock was a monster, a clearly superior bird to the rest of the flock. Shortly after the scare with the truck, this flock straightened up and came in as though they were being reeled in on a string. We waited, and called, and once it was time we popped up and gave them six. 5 birds came crashing down, including the big lead goose. I will never forget Bubba’s cry, “HELLO WORLD!” moments after we shot, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was up and dancing around yelling, “I GOT THE BIG ONE! I GOT THE BIG ONE!”. This was a moment of sheer ecstasy for the pair of us.

With 14 in hand and a serious need to weigh them Wayne set off for the truck and I began collecting the decoys. We thought a limit would be nice, but this was a hell of a shoot. I swear I was all but finished cleaning up the decoys and Wayne was halfway back with the truck when 10 more honkers glided my way. Scrambling, I grabbed my gun and gave them three shots. The two closest geese fell, neither very dead, but we had our limit. Wayne threw the last few decoys in the truck and drove out to pick me up as I collected the last two sailers. We had our limit.

My goose weighed in at 14 lbs 7 oz, and is currently the new #1 biggest goose in Scuttlebuck’s history… For now.

Day Total: 16

Year Total to Date: 221

Cumulative Total: 4,259

10/27/2012- AM

Frosty morning, seven hunters, 100 honkers and… Two Americans in our spot. Drat. Now that’s a tough way to spend any morning, nevermind it already being -12 degrees at day break. Our backup plan consisted of the fifteen minute drive to pass shoot literally inside the beautiful, scenic village of Elgin. Honkers had also been spotted here the previous evening  barely scraping over the hydro wires. Alas, on this morning, there was very little wind and some very little honkers. What was thought to be 13 lbs 3 oz honkers, like the one Donald Elgin Bell himself had harversted the previous evening, turned out to be a 3 lbs 13 oz cackler. Add him to the chart, we’ll take em. 201 geese and counting. Our travels back to the lodge after the slaughter at Elgin took us to a corn field in close proximity to Bond’s Cattle Farm just south of Highway 23. One long cold jump later we had five snow geese down and “One Proud Harley”.

Day Total: 5

Season Total: 205

Thanksgiving Monday- October 8th, 2012

Barry Sunaert’s Yard in the Mist:

Participants: Andrew Johnston, Lars Johnston, Wayne Carey, Brock Bastone, Nolan Jago and Tanner Jago.

It was good. We hunted from in the slough North of the decoys. We crushed birds. There was a goose in our decoys when we got back in the afternoon.

Shot 3 honkers pass shooting at dark.

Day Total: 29

Year Total to Date: 183

Cumulative Total: 4,226