Tracking geese as season endsThe last time I hunted geese from a layout blind was opening day in 2004, and I remember missing a crossing shot at a Canada goose that I should have been able to hit with a rock. So I was not optimistic when my young friend Lee said we’d be hunting from layout blinds on our hunt along the Yellowstone River near Hysham, Mont.
The last time I hunted geese from a layout blind was opening day in 2004, and I remember missing a crossing shot at a Canada goose that I should have been able to hit with a rock. So I was not optimistic when my young friend Lee said we’d be hunting from layout blinds on our hunt along the Yellowstone River near Hysham, Mont.
We leave Bozeman at 3 a.m., get to the field where Lee has permission to hunt, and by 8 a.m. Lee has set out about 100 decoys that we assembled near his pickup. His Labradors scamper about in the dark. Lee kennels 12-year-old Parker in his pickup shell, and sets up a dog blind for Chloe, a three-year-old yellow Lab. Then he helps me into my blind.
Immediately, I determine that I can’t get my shotgun into my shoulder while wearing the Cabela’s parka, so Lee wrenches me to my feet, and I switch to a fleece pullover topped by a wool mackinaw. (It occurs to me that I am a pretty lousy hunting partner these days.)
The first goose comes in minutes later, swooping unexpectedly out of the grey sky, and neither of us has time for a shot. I hear a thumping sound, and thinking a decoy might be flopping in the breeze, I ask Lee about it.
“Oh, that’s just Chloe’s tail wagging. She’ll do that all day.”
“Birds coming from nine o’clock,” Lee says before he begins his calling routine. I chime in with my calls, and when the geese pass to our front, I swing as best I can and fire three shots at the same bird with my 10 gauge. Lee’s lone shot from his 3-1/2” Winchester Super-X-3 comes at the same time as my third shot, and the goose drops dead.
As Chloe dashes from her dog blind to make the retrieve, Lee says, “You got him.”
“No way,” I reply. “I was behind on all three shots.”
This scene repeats itself in varying forms several times during the next couple hours — geese leaving the Yellowstone River to our north, and some approaching the decoy spread. One time I swing on a quartering bird and kill it; another time Lee and I fire together and a goose tumbles to the ground. My shots feel true but I am having trouble swinging the gun while in the blind.
Stiff and chilly, I need to get out of this blind, so later in the morning I announce that I am going to hide in a deep irrigation ditch 100 yards to the north. From that spot I have several more shots but my swing is erratic and I do plenty of missing. (Lee says many of my shots were too far.)
A pair of honkers approaches again and this time I fold up the bird on the right, and it plunges to the ground. I have fired all the shells that were in my pocket, but it is time to quit nonetheless because we are limited out.
We pick up the decoys in early afternoon, and now the geese really are flying. I enjoy watching them and listening to their music. Lee wants to drive around a bit to scout for the next day’s hunt — the last day of the season — when he will bring his friend Mike from Bozeman. We see thousands of geese sitting in the dirt of harvested sugar beet fields, and Lee says, “There were twice as many geese in the area a few weeks ago, if you can believe that.”
It has been an exhausting day for me, but an enjoyable one. My shoulders and knees ache. I soak up the heat of the pickup cab as Lee talks on the phone with his friend. If Lee, who is three decades my junior, is the least bit tired, I cannot see it. “Come on now, you wanted to go goose hunting and tomorrow’s the last day,” he says to Mike. At last, his friend relents and says he will go.
“I’ll pick you up at 3 a.m.,” Lee says as we continue down the highway. The boundless energy of youth…