Fooling geese in the coldIt is 7 degrees at 9 a.m. on this mid-December day as I sit on a folding chair in my goose blind. John Thorp said the first geese flew at 9:21 a.m. yesterday. He is hiding in tall grass 100 yards away, and we have three dozen of my Canada honker decoys laid out between us.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
It is 7 degrees at 9 a.m. on this mid-December day as I sit on a folding chair in my goose blind. John Thorp said the first geese flew at 9:21 a.m. yesterday. He is hiding in tall grass 100 yards away, and we have three dozen of my Canada honker decoys laid out between us.
Now, we’ve hunted this spot on the edge of Bozeman many times and shot plenty of honkers at this location. (I shot one on opening day this year, about 75 yards from where I set up my blind.) However, today the geese are flying high, ignoring the decoys and my plaintive calls. They are on their way from open water on the Gallatin Valley’s gravel pits and marshes to fields somewhere far to the southeast. That’s where we should be set up, I think to myself, but this is where we have permission to hunt.
I try the handmade Iverson call, then the P.S. Olt that I have owned for close to 40 years, and last, the handmade Gadus goose flute. I try interspersing calls, but nothing works. And weak sun is not making it appreciably warmer in the blind. My feet are getting cold. So are my fingers.
I think back to the ‘90s when my friend Bob built this blind for me out of light pine laths and woven rush-like material that I think came from Cabela’s. The blind has four sides to it, tied together with heavy twine and parachute cord, so you can collapse it, stack the four sides together, and toss it into a pickup. I have lost count of the geese I have killed from this blind, but things are not working today.
At 11 a.m. it is clear that the geese are done with their morning flight. Stiff and cold, we pick up the decoys, fold the blind, and determine that we are relegated to hiding in the tall grass along the creek and pass shooting the evening flight. So that’s what we do four hours later.
John manages to scratch down another honker, the third he has taken since yesterday morning, but nothing flies within range of me.
Friday and Saturday we do this morning-and-evening routine, and finally on Sunday morning it comes together. I am sitting on the folding chair in the tallest grass I can find when two honkers approach from the northwest. I swing, touch off a load of Bismuth BBs from the 10 gauge, one goose folds, I swing on the other, fire, and watch it sail toward John who is a couple hundred yards up the creek. A hay barn is between us, so we are out of sight of one another.
Ten minutes later John fires and I see a goose tumble out of the sky. I hear the flat report of John’s shotgun and another goose falls. More geese are flying in from the northwest. I wait for a lull in flights, carefully cross the creek ice, and hobble out to where the goose lies in the field.
“More geese!” I hear John call, so I hunker down as best I can. The geese pass out-of-range, I pick up the goose and scramble back to the tall grass.
I swing on another flock of geese, hit one but it flies on. (I learn later that John is watching as the bird makes a big circle, comes back toward us and goes down in a stubble field. He trots to the downed bird and administers a finishing shot.)
More geese approach, I swing again and fold up another big Canada honker. Once again I ease across the ice and the uneven footing of the field, following my own tracks in the snow. The bird has fallen within two feet of where my first goose landed.
And then, like turning off a water spigot, the flight is over. John lugs four geese back to the hay barn where my pickup is parked, and tells me the story of retrieving two of mine. “I am a better retriever than your Labradors,” he says with a grin.
I can’t argue with that.