Category Archives: goose calling

Being in the Moment

I always want to write these things down while they’re happening, but I’m usually too busy being ‘in the moment’.  Still, as I find myself in moments like the one I’m in now, bouncing along in turbulence somewhere over Lake Ontario, I think back to that good time had in the camp, and the memories replay like a slideshow across my mind replete with all the sepia-toned embellishments inherent in fond recollections.

There’s a mid-afternoon sun and a cool breeze from the northwest when we pull up to gate the day before the opener, and I don a hoodie before cracking a can of the cold stuff. It tightens my throat and I shiver but not from the early fall air, but from the adrenalin and anticipation.

Trucks begin to roll into what pass for parking spots, haphazardly crooked to the untrained eye, but for the baptized there is a sense of spacing and order.

We lean against railings and tailgates, busting each other’s chops, eating cured meat and crackers, punctuating insults and hunting stories with reckless cackles of laughter.  Evening creeps in and still more trucks filter in, until before long twenty grown men are milling around, shaking hands, toasting the gathering, and shouting to be heard.

The next door neighbor, who is also the father-in-law to one of our comrades stops over and we tell him not to expect much in the way of peace and quiet tonight.  He mutters a chuckled, unrepeatable curse word and an hour later meanders back home.

Cousin Luke has brought a couple of deep fryers and before long chicken wings are breaded and hit the oil.  A liter of Louisiana hot sauce meets a half pound of butter and they become one entity of molten beauty before being poured onto drummies and flatties that glisten crispy and golden after a swim at 350 degrees. In an act of mad-scientist impulse, sweet sticky rib sauce coats another batch of wings, while French fries roll in a turbulent froth of scalding oil.

The night carries on and we carry on with it.  30lbs of wings becomes a pile of cleanly-picked bones in a bowed out aluminum pan. Someone passes me a bottle of Jack Daniels Fire and the peer pressure mounts to have a smash of it, and never one to disappoint my friends in such a benign pastime I oblige them before passing the bottle to my right.  The whiskey hits the wings in my belly and I feel happy…in the moment.

Fast forward to sometime after midnight and the remaining men of the camp are all eyeballing the clock, wishing to go to bed but secretly afraid to be the first one to relent, lest his socks get a hole cut in them or he otherwise be deemed ‘soft’.  Everyone eventually tires and as if en masse we all find our bunks, while a few stragglers noisily fight the coming of the dawn.

An alarm blares and bleary-eyed goose hunters rue the moments just so shortly put to bed.  Teeth are brushed, coffee is slogged back, and gear is checked and double checked.  The time has come (too soon for some) to hit the fields and start the day’s work.

We split into two determined groups and make for our spots.  The group I take up with decides we have not been punished enough yet and we choose to hand carry a few dozen decoys, along with guns and blind bags the length of two fields.  We have permission to, and could just as easily driven out to the spot where we eventually plunk down our bags, but what’s the fun in that?  We assemble and place decoys in the dark, and as the first faint rays of sunlight begin to creep in from the east, we find our spots in a deep, grassy ditch to await the morning flight.

I sit pensively with my back against the gentle slope of the embankment, reflecting on the previous night’s decisions and the morning that I hope it will become.  Someone shouts down the line that we’re inside of legal light and the sounds of shotguns being loaded floats from station to station.  It is the modern era after all, and I confirm the time on my cell phone before texting a couple of guys in the other group.  It turns out they have competitors for their field, and are engaged in a debate with other hunters about setup and positioning.

I click the phone off and just listen to the dawn.

In time, and somewhere far off, I eventually hear the whispered calls of Canada geese.  I wave a black flag purposefully but with some degree of blind faith that if I can hear the birds, they can see me flagging to them.  The calls get closer, and someone hollers down the line.

“Geese in the northwest!” and my eyes and ears triangulate on them just as soon as my brain registers the announcement.  There’s a thin string, maybe ten birds in all, stretched out against the horizon and getting unmistakably closer. I put the call to my mouth with my right hand and flag a few more times with my left. The geese wing ever nearer and their chatter is no longer aimless but in response to my calling and the calls of my friends.  As they close to about a hundred yards they lock their wings and begin to drift in. They slide to my right and I break into some more excited chatter, trying to coax them back to centre stage.  They skirt our right flank, but one goose strays too close to our gun on that end and an expert shot folds the bird while the rest wing away braying and moaning.

The flight has started and we rush to make some daylight adjustments to the decoys, with the hopes that future birds will decoy more readily. With the fakes now in a more appealing semblance of order, we charm a few willing participants to play and as the guns bark, more birds tumble down into the grain stubble.

Geese trade about from all directions, some near and some hopelessly far off, and we shoot and we call and we ultimately decide once a dozen birds are in hand that it is time for breakfast.  We have a whole rest of the day to shoot and many of us are both famished and parched.  The masochists we are, we choose to hike all the gear out, and my shoulders really feel the added weight of birds in my hands.

Sometimes I don’t even know why those guys have trucks.

We monopolize four full tables in the local diner, and we eat massive breakfasts of bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, and toast, while pitchers of water and carafes of coffee make their way to our tables. We re-live the moments from less than two hours previous and we get an itinerary in order for the rest of the day.

Cleaning and butchering geese. Tidying up the camp. A long nap for some of us. And then back out again to another field for an afternoon shoot…but that last one is literally another story.

Back in the present, the flight has stopped jostling my hands and of course, all of the grievous spelling mistakes and typos will be cleansed before this gets to your screens, my friends.  Still, I can assure you that things were fairly bumpy here at 26,000 feet.

Not surprisingly, all it took to smooth out the turbulence was some time taken to myself reminiscing on a weekend that literally gets better and better every year.

Deferred Gratification, or, A Two-Truck Kind of Morning

The concept of deferred gratification, in a psychological sense, is that if an individual’s mind can be trained to delay a small reward in the short term for greater rewards in the longer term then research seems to indicate that those individuals who can defer rewards to a later period are typically more successful later in life.

Now, I can only trust the research at hand, but last weekend’s hunting in Bruce County seemed to bear out that hypothesis.

Having a real job, instead of my fantasy job of one day being a kept man who just goes hunting all autumn long, I was forced to miss the opening day and, by extension, the opening weekend of the 2015 early goose season due to work commitments in Western Canada.  It isn’t the first time that’s happened and it probably won’t be the last time.

As I sat in the Calgary departures lounge I was ruing a missed opportunity.  Historically, that early opener weekend has been a good few days of hunting with good weather, good friends, and willing birds that had not yet developed a hyper-sensitive wariness to decoys, goose calls, and ground blinds.  Family and several friends had plans to be out in the fields with their shotguns, and the social media world was counting down to the opener with heavy anticipation.

As that opening weekend progressed I puttered around the house aimlessly, not really interested in cutting the grass, or getting groceries, or any of the other mundane things that needed doing.  My mind was in the goose blinds with my friends and I lamented all the action, laughter, and fun they were no doubt having.

My Twitter feed was full of men and women who were out hunting their respective early goose (and in some realms, teal) seasons and I was getting more and more antsy.  Finally, late on Sunday evening I texted one of the guys in our group for an update.

He informed me that they had shot two birds all weekend. I was slightly shocked.

I had plans to hunt the weekend of September 119th and 20th, which is the last weekend in our area before the goose season takes a five-day government-mandated hiatus, and I was worried by his report of slack shooting and limited suitable fields for hunting.  I texted my cousin and he echoed the sentiment, but he did say that several fields were scheduled to be harvested in the week ahead and that when I arrived there would be greater opportunities to get after the geese.

Then the weather took a turn for the worse.

I arrived to the farm the Friday before the hunt, and there was a 100% chance of rain forecast for Saturday morning.  Early in the season, our group has some shockingly fair-weather hunters in our midst.  Nevertheless I set an alarm and woke to the sound of rain hitting the farmhouse rooftop.  I still dressed and geared up, before texting my compatriots to see if they were down for getting a bit soaked in search of good shooting.  One of them never even replied (no doubt fast asleep to the soothing patter of late summer rain at his window) while the other fellow said he was staying in bed.

So much for that, I thought.

I was just about to undress and get back in bed myself when my uncle arrived and we decided to forge out into the damp for a hunt.

We settled on a huge field that was frequently holding birds, but not surprisingly, they skirted our setup and landed a few hundred yards away.  After a time, something got those birds off the ground (I still have no idea what it was that spooked them) and as their honks, clucks, and moans hit a crescendo, we flagged and called them our way.  They slid past me on the furthest distance of my range, but they squared up nicely over my uncle and he scratched down a double.  As he shot I swung at the trailing birds and sent them on their merry way with two shots that tore through the wind and drizzle but failed to connect with feather, flesh or bone.

One of the birds my uncle had shot was banded, and after a half hour of not seeing any more action we decided to dodge any more potential foul weather and headed home.  I registered the band with my cell phone and found that the bird was two years old, was banded near Ypsilanti, Michigan, and was too small to even fly when it was banded in June of 2014.  Bird band data is always interesting and puts the journey of these game birds into distinct perspective.

Two early-morning geese, one of which was sporting some jewellery.
Two early-morning geese, one of which was sporting some jewellery.

The weather steadily improved and after an early afternoon nap, I outfitted my six-year-old son and with renewed hope we headed for a field that my friend Brian had said was flush with birds earlier that day.

This spot did not disappoint.

As we walked in from the road, birds were already trying to land in the cut grain field, and after getting safely situated and inserting my son’s ear plugs I loaded up and the shooting began.  Handfuls of geese traded across the skies steadily for the greater part of three hours and many groups worked our spread and responded to our calling.  Eventually we decided it was time to go, but not before 23 geese were piled in the back of Brian’s pickup truck.  We cleaned geese by the glow of truck headlights and then we sat at the picnic table at the farm under the starlight, sipping some cold beers and reliving the hunt that had ended just a few short hours earlier.

My oldest son, and the geese from Saturday evening's hunt.
My oldest son, and the geese from Saturday evening’s hunt.

We planned a return to the same field the next morning, fully expecting to experience a fraction of what we had just been through.  We were wrong in a very good way.

Geese whispered distantly in the dark as we put out decoys and found familiar hiding spots trampled down from the previous evening’s hunt.  I checked my watch and settled in as legal light came and passed; it was not long before the shooting started in earnest.

A light breeze blew from the east while geese begin to wing their way around the Ferndale flats on the purples and burning oranges of a coming dawn sky.  I flagged and called, trying to sound enticing and entirely non-threatening, and before long birds swung wide out over the cut grain field before dropping their feet into our spread.  We opened up on them over and over again, and in more than one instance I was emptying my gun and immediately jamming more shells into it as line after line of birds seemed to make their way for our field.

Professionals call it “being on the ‘X’”.  I just call it unreal goose hunting.

Geese fell, feathers floated in the sky, and Brian’s dog Levi worked retrieve after retrieve.  All the while the pile of birds we were concealing in the long grass of the deep ditch that formed our blind grew and grew.  Rough counts began to tell the story of the morning.

25…more birds.

29…a few more were fooled.

31…I shot badly that go around, punching holes in the air with my 870.

37…A great group and some excellent shooting; six came in and not a single bird left.

When we reached forty birds in the bag, we had a chat down the ditch.  We decided on one more group and the birds promptly obliged by sending a good-sized flock over.  The guns of seven hunters barked again in a carefully orchestrated cacophony, and five more geese found their way to hand before we set down our arms and traded laughs, smiles and high fives.  We were done and Brian headed for the truck.  My cousin Lukas joined him, because this was going to be a two-truck kind of morning.

Seven hunters. 45 birds. One great morning.
Seven hunters. 45 birds. One great morning.

While we cleaned up, to a man we agreed that it had been one of the most memorable hunts we had been together for, and the weekend had seen a polar opposite of experiences from what had gone down just seven days earlier. In a way, it proved that waiting made things sweeter.

Still it was officially hunting season for me then, and the short week-long interval between that morning spent in the ditch and the morning that would kick off the opening of duck season on September 26th was going to drag by ever so slowly. Still, as I sat at the breakfast table that morning, a pile of decoys in Brian’s truck bed and lot of fresh goose meat waiting to be processed in the back of Lukas’, I was just basking in the afterglow of a fine morning spent afield.

On the Lanyard: Goose Call Edition

In the years since I became an “independent” (read: unaccompanied adult) hunter, I have accumulated goose calls at a near staggering rate.  I’m not on the level of calling myself a collector yet, only because I define a collector as someone who owns more of something than they could conceivable utilize.

I’ve conversed with goose call manufacturers and collectors, as well as men and women with dozens and dozens (and in a few cases, over a hundred) of goose calls, and even they admit that there is no way they could possibly hunt with them all.  Some are showpiece or limited edition calls, others just calls that look nice on a mantle, while others still are ‘working calls’ that sound exceptional and see their share of time in the blinds, fields, pits, and swamps that we waterfowlers frequently skulk about in.

To date, all my calls have been ‘working’ calls, and both through the expansion of my goose calling abilities, as well as through necessities of space and finances, I’ve been turning my inventory of calls over these past twenty years by selling or trading older calls for either newer calls themselves or more frequently, for the capital required to purchase more goose calls.  I’ve owned several styles, tried dozens more, and from my Dad’s wooden Olt call, through to my current tools I could tell stories and share tidbits about them all; many of the older calls that I have not traded or sold sit in my gun cabinets and ammo lockers, or hang dusty on lanyards in my closet.  With all that said, this piece is going to focus on the three calls that will be residing on my lanyard this coming September.  All opinions here are my own, and the companies listed below have not had any contact with me regarding their products with respect to these reviews.


Super Mag

The first truly ‘custom’ short reed goose call I ever owned was my Super Mag.  It has been the last thing a lot of geese have heard since I started using it in 2005.  For years before I made the plunge into the custom acrylic short-reed market, I had been honing my skills on a variety of goose calls, from polycarbonate short reeds bought for $25 at the local hardware store to more elaborate flute-style calls bought online.  Those calls were important in learning how to run a goose call and to make the requisite sounds needed for hunting, but they all lacked ‘something’.  Some did not have enough high-note snap to be effective on windy days, while others lacked precision and realistic tone on the low moans and lay-down calls needed to finish geese close in.


The second I took the Super Mag out of its package, I could tell it had three things going for it.  First, it was sexy looking, with a polished silver band wrapped around amber acrylic that shared its colour with a well-aged bourbon.  Second, I could tell that it was solidly made by someone who hunted geese; simple minimalist lines fit comfortably in the hand and it was well-balanced.  Third, and most important, it sounded like a real goose.  For the first time I had a call that could flat out scream on a windy day, but was subtle enough to work low end moans and growls for when the birds were just about to commit.

It took a lot of practice to re-learn how to blow a short-reed goose call, but luckily it also came with a cassette tape (it was 2005 after all) with instructions from Tim Grounds and his son, Hunter.  If it had a downfall, my only complaint about the Super Mag was that it took (and still does take) a lot of air to get it running correctly.  The reed is set up quite stiff, and while this does make for absolutely realistic low end calling and crisp, snappy honks and clucks, you need to work hard if you need to run it consistently for a long time. That said, Tim & Hunter Grounds will custom tune any call you send them, and I won’t ever forget the day I came home from work and found a message from Tim himself on my home answering machine.  I had sent my call to them because I had managed to crack the reed near the end of the 2010 hunting season. That evening I was like a star-eyed fanboy when I called him back and we talked for ten minutes about the call and how I wanted it tuned with the new reed.  The call has been money ever since, and I’m now obsessive about my reeds and ensuring they are taken of.

On a personal note, this call is still my go-to, both because you never forget your first and because it is just a blue-collar workaholic call.  I have had bloody hands on it, it has been scratched and worn, I’ve used it on freezing winter mornings, and I even slammed it in a car door once.  It has character and it still sounds great.

Tim Grounds Championship Calls

PO Box 359, 14331 Prosperity Road

Johnson City, Illinois


Phone:  (618) 983-5649


The Goose Noose

During the 2014 off-season, I resolved to get my hands on a nice wooden short reed goose call, primarily because we had taken to hunting water now and then and I felt that the acrylic Super Mag created an unwanted echo.  I tried calls from Zink, Buck Gardner, and RNT before I found this hidden gem at my local (and newly-opened) Cabela’s store.

From the second I started blaring on it in the aisles at the store, I noticed that it had a dimension that my Super Mag did not have.  It was mellow, smooth, a little bit understated but truly goosey, especially on the moans and low end calls.  It still could run at some pretty high volumes, but while the Super Mag could plead and scream with ease and only worked the nice low end calls with some serious back-pressure, this call moaned and barked with less air and less back pressure, and even though the spit-notes and hail calls came out with a more mellow tone, it took a fraction of the air that my Tim Grounds call used.


I had not heard of Lynch Mob Calls before that day, so I went home and did a bit of research.  Satisfied with what I found, the next day I was back buying the call, and I began obsessively practicing on it.  I found YouTube clips, I looked for articles, and I ran it nightly.  Lynch Mob Calls has since replaced this model with one they call the Game Over, so in a way I guess I do have a bit of a collector’s item on my hands.

What can I say about this call?  It has great mid-to-low end tone and on calm days or over water it is deadly.  After huffing for nearly a decade on my Super Mag it took some practice to scale back the airflow so that I did not overblow it on honk, clucks, or comeback calls, but once that was mastered this call runs slick, deep sounds that are ‘big goose’ all the way.  I had more success with it in the later October and early November hunts, but even in the early September season it fooled resident Canada geese often.

Lynch Mob Calls

9032 Bay Creek Road

Erie, Michigan


Phone: (734) 848-2501


Shorty Express SS (Signature Series)

I spend a lot of time in the local BassPro Shops store, and for a long time I had coveted this call.  It has clean, sharp lines, the polished band glows, and I flat out love the colour.  I did not love that it was priced in excess of $180, and I tried it over and over again on multiple trips to the store in attempts to convince my fiscally-responsible side to make the impulse purchase.  Every time I had to put it back. Then in 2014, I stopped in to BassPro on my way up to the early November deer hunt to pick up some scent eliminator for one of the guys in camp.  On a whim I cruised by the duck and goose showcase, and I was taken aback.

The call was marked down to $45.99.  I was sure it was a mistake.  I located the floor staff and asked them to take a look in their inventory system.  The price was correct, and they had one left.  So I bought it.  I was more or less done with waterfowl for the year and I was focusing on deer hunting from then out, but I noodled with it for the evenings in deer camp and then even more during the long cold lonely winter up here in Ontario.  It fell out of use for the bulk of turkey season, but I picked it up again recently and have actually been so focused on it that I have not even picked up and practiced my other two goose calls.


The Shorty SS is a dark “mallard” acrylic and it just looks downright sexy.  It has nice lines with a curvy, rounded barrel.  The insert is a little narrow in the hand for my liking but it is not uncomfortable.  In terms of its sound it falls in between the Super Mag and the Goose Noose for volume and tone.  It makes solid goose-talk from top end to bottom end requiring just slightly more air than the Goose Noose, but almost any sound can be made using less back-pressure and expenditure than with my Super Mag.  Being an acrylic call, I find that it has a tendency to slide into the ‘high’ end easily, so in the same fashion as the Goose Noose I have to use caution not to over blow it and cause it to ‘squeal’, but it barks and double-clucks like nobody’s business.  I am very much looking forward to running this call on some of the resident Bruce County geese in six weeks.

Sean Mann Outdoors

555 Marlan Drive

Trappe, Maryland


Phone: 1-800-345-4539

The Primacy of Waterfowling

As with most things you’ve read here, what follows is a matter of opinion.  If you and I are similarly-minded, then I imagine we are not going to have too much to debate in the below ramblings.  If we are found to not share such ideals, then I defer to the time-proven axiom of “to each their own” and I can still share the field with you if you’d have me.

I haven’t hunted African plains game, and may never get the chance. 
I am a neophyte by most standards in that I possess less than a decade in the turkey woods, although I am a full convert to that particular aspect of our religion. 
My deer hunting experience is of less than a score of years, which is as much an accident of birth and the public policy at the time of my hunting certification as it is a function of my love of stalking the ghosts of the fall woods. 
Small game was once a deep passion, although a shortage of suitable hounds and a personal disinclination as I grow older to spend time in cold winds and deep snow has dulled my desire to chase grouse and rabbits.  Perhaps the acquisition of a sleek beagle may rekindle those fires, but for now they smolder low.
Moose hunting, while available, has always played second fiddle to deer hunting for me.
Predator hunting, while exciting and raw, often lacks the payoff of promised game meat for the eating.
Elk, bears of all fashions, antelope, and the like are all unavailable to me, for reasons of logistics, time, and finances respectively.
What the list above details are two things.  First, there is a literal glut of riches available to the North American sportsman.  Secondly, at least for me, is that all of the above opportunities finish behind the pursuit of waterfowl as the act that most defines my hunting experience.
My dad is a deer hunter.  He loves the ducks dropping in and the geese turning and cycling down into a set up as much as I do, but if you asked him what he’d rather be doing, he would say deer hunting every time.  I’ve had similar conversations with a couple of my cousins and friends and they all fall on the side of deer hunting, although there are a few that are fast becoming converts to the hallowed tradition of chasing wild turkeys.
Perhaps it is my instinctual desire to dissent from the group, perhaps it is my relative lack of success in killing deer and turkeys, or maybe, like the Grinch, my head isn’t screwed on just right.  Whatever the case may be, hunting ducks and geese tops my list of preferred hunting trips, although that’s a lot like trying to rate pizza versus ice cream versus sex.  I suppose you could prioritize them if you wanted to, but you really would never turn any of them down.  Hunting is like that.
Carrying on.
It is true that I love waterfowling above all else, and frankly, what isn’t there to love?  Sure the weather can be awful, but at the end of the day, you don’t have to go out in it if you don’t really want to.  Yet time and time again, a multitude of duck and goose hunters are out in the most tragically terrible weather, getting frost-nipped, wind-whipped, and generally cold, soaked and miserable.  And why is that, you ask?  Two reasons: first the ducks and geese don’t seem to care; in fact it seems that often the hunting gets better the worse the climate is.  But the secret, untold second reason is that waterfowlers need that lousy weather to make them feel like they are truly ‘hunting’.  Just as deer hunters need the fall colours and the cool in the air, and houndsmen need the bay of a dog to set the atmosphere, so it is with the men and women that chase after webbed feet and billed birds.  I’ve had good shoots on bluebird days, but the best ones that I recall had some pretty drizzly, damp and all around unpleasant weather.  It just made it ‘feel’ right.
Another niche that I fit cozily into when it comes to duck and goose hunting is the calling.  Although a strong argument can be made on behalf of a gobbler, few other animals respond to calling and decoys like waterfowl do.  All my life I have been intrigued by the language of animals (and languages in general, but that’s another story), and the way that hunting allows me to more or less ‘talk’ with ducks and geese is a thrill that I simply cannot get enough of.  Listening to the birds as they work, and watching their body language as they respond positively and negatively to the sounds you are feeding them is both education and exhilaration.  My favourite memory from calling waterfowl came on a breezy, cool, sunny day in late September.  Our camp group was working a small flock of about nine geese, and they were making wide circles as they eyed up our spread.  As they made what turned out to be their second-last pass, I made a low moan on my call, and to my astonishment, one of the geese mimicked it exactly.  Not similarly, not comparably, but precisely the same note, tone, and duration.  Naturally, I made the same call again (which may shock those of my friends who accuse me of never making the same sound twice) and the goose answered back again with the same sound.  So back and forth for five or six more sequences this goose and I made the same sounds.  It would call then I would call the same note back, and as their broad circle tightened and then straightened into a final approach I had a ripple of adrenaline course through me.  I was talking this bird, and the group that was with it, right into where we needed them to be.  And that was the point.  We took home five or six out of the group, and while I scratched down one of them, I can’t say for sure if the bird I got was the one that was communicating with me, or whether that bird was even in the bag at all.  But it didn’t matter of course, because aside from the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tricking a supremely evolved specimen of wildlife into a trap, I knew that for even a few short minutes I was intentionally communicating with a wild animal using their language, which was beyond anything I had done or experienced before.
I consider waterfowl to be some of the most delicious wild game meat I’ve ever eaten.  And I’m going to go so far as to be on record say something that some may find controversial.  Geese are delicious too.  Now I’ve heard from reputable sources that speckled-belly goose meat is the height of epicurean delights, and I’ve had some of the best roasted ducks out there (although the orgasmically tasty canvasback has long eluded me) but foremost I think Canada geese get a bad reputation when it comes to the plate.  Now before I continue I will say this; I have eaten some absolutely atrocious Canada goose meat, but that particular platter was filled with birds that were primarily “suburban geese”, and I don’t mean geese with mortgages and family sedans.  I was hunting with a friend on a farm that was just barely beyond the city limits of Guelph.  I believe we were legally hunting by about 50 yards.  We were helping out a farmer that my friend knew, and he had often complained of the geese, so we took a trip out to thin the numbers a bit.  Upon scouting we found that the birds were spending most of their day at a local public park about three kilometers away.  We shot three or four and upon consuming them the next day, I can safely say I have never eaten any wild game as unpleasant as those few birds.  Although I think they were eating some grain on this farm, I attribute most of their flavour to them eating chemically fertilized grass and what I can only assume was their own feces for most of their days.  Really “wild” geese, the kind that truly migrate and spend limited time in urban/suburban areas have never troubled me with their flavour.  In fact, a good late season goose with a layer of corn and grain fed fat on them is so darn good roasted and stuffed with apples, lemons, and rosemary that I could never think of skinning them for their breast and leg meat.  Early season geese aren’t as succulent in terms of that, and they usually are still a bit “pinny” as we say, so more often than not that meat goes into the grinder, which isn’t a bad way to enjoy the fruits of a goose hunt either.  Last year we took a pin-feathered mallard drake that was not even two hours expired (talk about fresh organic!) and made a great little appetizer by butterflying the breasts and then pan frying them with the whole, skinned legs.  We rarely go hungry during duck and goose season.
The atmosphere of the goose hunt itself also endears it further to me.  I do enjoy the silent solitude of deer and turkey hunting, but silence is mandated by the nature of the prey.  Deer, and to an even greater extent, wild turkeys have incredibly acute hearing.  I’m not disputing the hearing of a duck or a goose, but I find the waterfowl hunting experience just slightly more gregarious for those doing the hunting.  First off, we almost always do this a pretty large group.  Five or more at a minimum.  It is just too labour intensive with decoys, blinds, guns, ammunition and the assorted paraphernalia to not have many hands to make the work light.  In fact some of us take it much lighter than others.  Secondly this group mentality makes it easy to have a good time.  We often just stand in a ditch or along a well-concealed fencerow and half-shout jokes and barbs at each other.  We tell amusing stories about our spouses, friends of friends, or the hunting companions that have gone before us, some of whom have sadly departed.  We laugh and giggle until we weep, we try out each other’s calls, and we generally have a raucous time, all the while eyeing the horizon and the heavens for birds.  When we miss, we taunt and deride each other’s failures as human-beings, and when we succeed everyone claims the credit simultaneously, particularly if one of the many birds that hit the ground is wearing jewelry.
Since some of us purchased layout blinds, the experience has changed only slightly.  We still do all of the above, we just do it from a reclined position.
I could wax poetic about the time-honoured history of waterfowling in North America, about how it built economies and industries, of how it nearly died as a tradition in the early 1900’s, and how it has staged a comeback.  I could tell the indigenous inhabitants of North America’s legends related to ducks and geese that I have learned.  I could write about the powers of survival possessed by ducks and geese (powers that I have read about, heard about, and witnessed personally).  I could go on at length about the conservation successes originated by Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited, and I could lecture on our need to be even better conservationists to preserve our privilege to keep hunting ducks and geese.  There is just so much to tell of and to write about.  I’ve had more hunts than I can literally remember, and I’m not even 35 yet.  Think of the stories I have and that everyone else has that go untold; those that hunker in saw grass blinds, corn rows, flooded rice, and sinkboxes.
I haven’t even talked about retrievers yet.
In the end though what I say is likely just things that have been said before and known of for ages.  For my part I don’t need convincing.  As someone who loves and studied history, there is just far too much tradition, both personal and in the preceding years for me to ignore.
For those that do need convincing though, think about those histories while you are making your own.  And going forward, when you watch them lock up and drop in, as you thumb off the safety, rise and shout “Take ‘em!” or “Now!” or “Cut ‘em!” or whatever it is that you’ve made your war-cry, make sure that you commit those ones to your memory too.
Because when the hunt is over, that’s all we get to hang on to.  Until the next day out duck hunting that is.