Closing Time-Sunday Morning’s Hunt

I woke up Sunday morning with a complex mixture of anticipation, exhaustion, and disappointment.  The exhaustion stemmed from hardly sleeping the night before; it was hard enough to get to sleep as I was dreaming about decoying geese…the nighttime congestion from inhaling dust off the old feather pillows on the bed made it tough to maintain even a couple of hours of consistent sleep and I awoke often all phlegmy and coughing.  The disappointment came from knowing that after that morning’s hunt I’d have to pack up and head home.  The anticipation?  Well I was hunting so I could only look hopefully forward to another great day in the fields.
The night before had been a low key affair and after we all cleaned the geese and got them stowed in the freezer, I fried up some baloney, toasted some bread, and caramelized some sweet Walla Walla onions for everyone.  With a spritz of ballpark mustard and a melting piece of singles cheese, well let’s just say there were no leftovers.  Wash all that down with a cold beer and I’d defy you to find any simpler, more viscerally delicious way to wrap up an evening.  I had a slightly heated debate about economics with Rory’s girlfriend, but in the end she agreed to disagree.  (She’s feisty there Rory…hold onto her!)  All lights were out by 11pm or so, because we’d all had a long day of goose hunting, which can be surprisingly tiring given how much fun it is.
That Sunday morning we had decided to tackle a pasture field that the evening before had held well over 300 geese.  There was no ditch and no stubble so we opted to stow the layout blinds and make our stand along the grassy perimeter of a page wire fence.  This is how we’d done it for many seasons before, and we’d have to rely on good calling, good decoy placement, and a little luck to have the birds drop in within range.  Sitting very, very still would also be helpful and is usually recommended.
We got no help from the wind, as it stubbornly refused to blow at any kind of real strength, but we set out the spread and fanned out along the fence line.  What whisper of a breeze there was blew into our backs as we all faced south.  The plan was to have the geese drop over our heads, circle out over the pasture and finish towards us.  Of course, the geese need to co-operate in that respect as well, which is sometimes problematic.
A low ground fog crept along and the day broke with a tepid gray that hinted at drizzle.  We set up and settled in; I’d decided to hunt “the shoulder” and sat at the far left side of the line, almost beyond the left edge of the decoys.  Any geese taxiing into the spread would be approaching a veritable wall of guns as we had seven shooters spread out along a 100 yard section of that fence.  It goes without saying that for safety’s sake everyone was to shoot in the same direction.  Before long, the sun broke bright and electric pink through the low clouds and what menacing rain there could have been stayed to the northwest.
Although some geese traded around, none worked the set with any real interest and our flagging and calling met with initial indifference.  Then it happened again; a bunch of birds dropped into a field nearly a kilometer away and all we could do was sit and watch as they drew every flock from miles around to them.  At one point you could look at any of the four compass points and see dozens of birds flying in from every direction which is a good indication of the kind of surplus of geese that are now resident in the Bruce Peninsula area.  And good lord, the sounds.  For this humble writer the sound of scads of geese yapping and honking from all around you is glorious music, and second in terms of natural spectacle only to what I like to call the “goose hurricane” which is when you are lucky enough to be set up in a field (or marsh, I guess) where you have nothing above you but dozens or hundreds of geese spinning, circling, and pitching in willy-nilly.  It looks literally like a washing cycle full of geese and I’ve been privileged enough to see it on a half-dozen occasions or more.  But I digress.
Hastings went down with Levi to kick the big flock up from the field they were in and with much excited calling and flagging we did manage to turn a few small groups in our direction, but they lacked the commitment we had seen in the geese of the previous day and we only managed to take down four more geese to round out our weekend total for the group at large to 30.  In retrospect the pasture field we were staking out was probably as much to blame for our lack of success as anything else.  It was a veritable goose sanctuary from a geographic sense with no ditch, no field cover or stubble and only sparse grass bunched up along the fence line.  No predator human or otherwise could really achieve much in the way of success when faced with natural obstacles such as those.  But we took lemons and made lemonade so to speak; besides we were hunting so who could complain?
As is usually the case a group came in about ten feet over our heads while we had all the decoys half in their bags and guns unloaded, and this occurrence, as anyone who knows goose hunting is aware of, is the starkest proof that Murphy’s Law is a scientifically real thing.  Following that we once again trekked out for breakfast and then up to the farm to dress out these last birds.  All of those four that we had gotten this morning came home with me and now reside in my freezer waiting to be browned and used as stewing meat.  I can almost taste it now.  After tidying up the farm house I packed up and headed south on Highway #6 for home; then the disappointment came back.
All the local lads up there had plans for another evening hunt, but family duties (and my job in the GTA) required my attention and prompt return home; it is safe to say that if I hunted that evening, I would not have made it in to work for Monday morning…it’s just too much driving, and I’d be much too tempted to go on another hunt Monday morning.  But nonetheless there is no hopelessness without hope, and I couldn’t stop grinning about the laughs and memories we’d all just shared and I broke into another anticipatory shiver as I thought about the return visit for when the duck season opens on September 24th.  It sounds like a cliché (and it probably is) but at that moment I’d really rather have been hunting.  Or to put it another way, goose hunting trips are like potato chips.
Having just one is not enough.

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