It was Saturday, September 23, 2000, a full week after opening day and I had gotten away from the office early enough to spot the evening before. The Artic whites hadn’t arrived in much for numbers yet but the little Hutchins’ or Richardson’s seemed to be everywhere. Just seven days before we hadn’t seen a single solitary Canada.
Of course numbers are all relative, for I had actually spotted about 25,000 snow and blues coming off the West end of Whitewater Lake and maybe 8,000 of the little Canadas. But the snows were all in one field and the Canadas in four or five different fields, so there seemed to be more blacks than whites. And of course the snows would all come at once while the Canadas would drift out all morning in small bunches and family groups.
It was the weekend for our traditional “Father and Son” goose shoot (there’s been several daughters on these shoots too by the way) although my own son was away at college so I had to adopt Gordon Speers. My brother Bill Johnston showed up with his three boys: Scott, Andrew and Paul. My two brother-in-laws Harley Bryson and Larry Wallace arrived in separate vehicles with their sons Tyler and Tod. And so the stage was set.
We set up just a half mile from Scuttlebuck Lodge south on our own barley stubble. The exact place we call “The West Amphitheatre” but with ten guys to hide not everybody could be in the decoys. Fortunately not everyone wanted to be in the decoys. Gordon and Andrew headed for the drainage ditch and Todd and Tyler for some tall weeds between us and the drainage ditch. By the time we had about 100 of the wooded Canada decoys out, the first flocks of Cacklers were on the move.
We hurried to put out a few hundred white rags and with still 20 minutes to sunrise, the guys were blasting away and geese were falling all around us. The weather conditions were near perfect – fog and a stiff Southwesterly wind. We huddled only a few yards apart in our deer whites surrounded by full body snow goose decoys. Up wind and twenty yards behind our hides were the Canadas – 200 in number and staggered into a basic two-flock set. The Canadas were decoying perfect in over top of us at about twenty yards up and looking past us to the Canada decoys perched on a small ridge.
It’s called The Amphitheatre” for a reason of course. Small ridges rise up in tiers in a semi-circle and when the wind is right, the geese cometh. By 9:00 o’clock, it was time to get a count. Since we only had seven licensed hunters (some of the sons were too young), it wasn’t going to take too long to make our quota of 35 Canadas. And it didn’t take very long either. Once we had our limit of Canadas (34 Cacklers and 1 Lesser), the boys started in on the snow geese. By quitting time, we had 49 geese on the ground (another 14 snows and blues and 1 Ross) and , of course, the Canadas just kept on coming in on us but we couldn’t shoot! A couple of us stayed to hunt the same field Monday but it was pretty well shot off.
10 happy men will always remember,The Great Father and Son Cackler Shoot of ’00.