On the Sanity of Goose Hunters

There are many who are content to sit over a duck-heavy spread with a dozen Canada dekes pitched on the upwind edge, their reward being the occasional “bonus” goose. But the honker hunters I admire most are those who set up specifically for geese.

At first glance, the sanity of such men may seem questionable. For one thing, these folks actually consider scouting “fun,” and if you are ever invited to join them, my advice is this: Hang on. Expect things to play out thusly: You meet in the late afternoon near a river, lake or other large body of water holding sufficient numbers of resting geese. Shortly thereafter the geese take flight from their midday roost and your host tears down the pavement in his truck, chasing after the flock at tremendous speed with little regard for posted traffic signs. When the truck is done fishtailing and you pull your head out from between your legs, you observe the grain field the birds have chosen to feed in that evening (and have likely fed upon throughout consecutive evenings).

Your host meets you back at the field at 5 a.m., driving a pickup that’s overflowing with full-body decoys and silhouettes. (The truly sick arrive with entire trailers stuffed with decoys, lay-out blinds and other gear.) You place the last dozen decoys and crawl inside your blind just as the sun begins to rise.

Then—nothing. Have the geese chosen a different field for breakfast? Pushed farther south? By mid-morning you begin to doze off, but then there appears the faint outline of geese on the horizon, so distant you have to squint to make them out. But they are coming. You clutch your 12-gauge autoloader topped off with 3 1/2-inch BBs as your host’s 16-year-old son “flags” the geese with a black, homemade device. How it could ever fool the wary eyes of a Canada goose, you don’t know, but he gains the flock’s attention.

Your host hits them with his short-reed, kerrrrrr-honk … keerrrrr-honk … kerr-honk-honk, kerr-honk-kerr-honk-keer-honk! “Stay away, geese! This is our food!” The birds circle, and on the second pass four break from the flock and commit, cupping their 3-foot wings and gliding to your left.

Your host says “take ’em,” and you swing through the lead bird’s bill and touch the trigger, folding it cleanly. You pick out a second goose and clip it through the primaries. Instinctively, your host’s Chessie seeks out your poorly shot bird first, charging it with searing yellow eyes that reflect confident determination despite the goose’s hissing protest. The collision rocks the goose like a blindsided quarterback.

You collect the birds. Exchange high-fives. And you no longer question the sanity of the goose addict.

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