Category Archives: waterfowl hunting

All Goose Hunters are Liars

I’m writing this in response to the aggregate of some not-so-flattering feedback I received from some individuals who are obviously a more sophisticated and accomplished group of waterfowlers than I am.  The one, most articulate, of them sent me an email deriding me as a ‘fraudulent, amateurish, lying hack”.  Yes, that is a direct quote.  Fair enough…I’ve always said that if you write enough you’re bound to piss someone off eventually.  With a provocative title like the one above, I’m already anticipating even more backlash from the waterfowl powers-that-be.  But here goes anyways.
Yes, it is the truth: all goose hunters are liars.  I’m well-positioned to make this statement because I am an experienced goose hunter and an even more experienced and adept liar.  One does not inevitably breed the other (i.e. while all goose hunters are liars, not all are adept liars…likewise not all adept liars are goose hunters, although by virtue of their skill they already meet more than half the criteria to be labeled a goose hunter) but generally if you meet a person one day at the gas station and they have mud on their waders, corn stubble stuck through their belt loops, and they have a lanyard of short reed goose calls and aluminum leg bands around their neck, odds are good that he (or she, I don’t discriminate when it comes to fibbers) has been goose hunting.  Odds are even better that they are about to lie to you about something as they fill their pick-up truck (a truck that will no doubt be towing the ubiquitous trailer of morbidly expensive gear, of course).
Most of the lies that spew from the mouth of a goose hunter are benign, loving lies designed to either make the listener feel better about themselves or to make the liar in question seem like less of a lunatic/outcast/failure/success/etc.  But this much is for sure, if a goose hunter tells you something, don’t trust it any further than you could throw said goose hunter.  A goose hunter will lie about any number of hunting-related topics, the first category of which is the type of harmless lies told by someone who is either exceedingly proud or exceedingly ashamed of their pursuit.  While the material of the lies may differ, the fact that they are deceptions is constant.  A goose hunter will lie about the cost of their goose call; a proud one will inflate the price, an ashamed one will decrease the price.  A goose hunter will lie about the store where they buy their equipment, lest you begin to frequent the establishment and deplete the stock.  A goose hunter will lie about the size and velocity of the shotgun shells they shoot, and they will most assuredly lie about the shell’s pattern density and efficacy downrange, for various, poorly understood reasons.  A goose hunter will also lie rampantly about their own shooting ability; if a goose hunter states that they are a crack shot, they are likely terrible.  If a goose hunter tells you they miss a lot of geese and that they need to hit the sporting clays range, rest-assured that they will shoot most of the birds that day, thus affording the lying scoundrel all of your undivided adulation.
The second category of lies that a goose hunter will tell you are what I like to call ‘tactical lies’.  This type of fabrication is specifically employed to ensure that a goose hunter denies you vital information while simultaneously attempting to extract facts from you.  **Note: this is not a type of lie exclusively practiced by goose hunters.  In fact, I have met many turkey hunters, duck hunters, deer hunters, and even anglers that employ their own subtle variations of the ‘tactical lie’.  In my experience though, no one does it quite as well as the goose hunting segment of the population.  Ask a goose hunter what time the first flight is at, and then automatically subtract 90 minutes from it.  This lie is designed to misinform other hunters of when the liar will actually be afield, in the hopes that the hunter in question can get first crack those early morning geese.  Ask a goose hunter what the best part of a field or marsh to be set up in is and they will tell you a location that may be good, but one that is more likely just a spot that is far enough away from their intended blind so as to assure that there will be no worry over competition for birds.  Ask them what call works best for them, and I can guarantee you they will demonstrate for you a sound that will most definitely not help you kill more geese; it may even drive geese away from you and inevitably towards the liar’s own mellow, magical brand of goose-music.  Tactical lies stem from a selfish, ill-spirited streak that innately exists in all goose hunters.  This streak precludes a goose hunter from ever actually forming a truly trustworthy relationship; befriend a goose hunter at your own risk, and woe unto the poor deluded individual who actually gets married to a goose hunter, for they will be subjected to the most heinous of goose-hunting’s lies: the lies of convenience.
Lies of convenience are reserved exclusively for spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, various and sundry conjugal partners (because let’s face it, there is no person alive that is sexier than a goose hunter), and live-in roommates.  Lies of convenience are also sometimes used (sparingly) on teachers, parents, non-hunting friends, and employers.  These are the most basic, but also the most effective of the goose hunter’s entire arsenal of lies.  If the hunting is bad, a goose hunter will tell you it was great; this will ensure that no one ever says that goose hunting is boring and pointless and therefore not worthy of continued pursuit.   If the hunting was great, they will understate the brilliance of the day in order to ensure that they can say that they will be ‘making up for a bad day’ when they go on their next goose hunting trip.  If they shot poorly, they will say they shot well, so as to save their ego from the ridicule of being considered unskilled.  If they shot brilliantly they’ll use false modesty as their guide so that they can have more time in the marsh for ‘practicing’.  And so forth.
It is a truly confusing world in which the goose hunter dwells; a world in which black is white, up is down, success if failure, and the only constant is that the geese will fly whenever they feel like it.  But these are the facts, I promise you.
Which ultimately brings us to the following, cyclically logical conclusion.  I, Shawn West, am a goose hunter.  Therefore, I am by definition a liar.  I am asserting to you that everything I have written above is the truth, but then again, as a goose hunter, I’m inclined (and some would say compelled) to lie to you.  So what do you make of all this?  How do you reconcile the above paragraphs and their seemingly authoritative statement of the facts?  Maybe I’m using a tactical lie to dissuade others from joining in on my little slice of waterfowling paradise and crowding me.  Perhaps I truly am a fraudulent hack with no business writing about the subject matter.  Or is it possible that I’m just using this forum to have some fun with a topic (i.e. hunting) that was always meant to be fun in the first place, before some self-appointed authorities started determining what information about goose hunting was worthy of discussion in the public forum?
Who knows?  After all, would I lie?

Calls For the Rest of Us

I’ve been practicing like mad these last ten days or so in preparation for embarrassing myself in competition at the Ducks Unlimited 2011 Canadian Duck & Goose Calling Championship and as such, have managed to squeeze some “interesting” sounds out of my goose call (since I’m not competing in the duck contest).  Most have been pseudo-goosey and by next Friday night I hope to have a reasonably sound (no pun intended) routine ready for August 20th.

However all this huffing and puffing into a length of hollow acrylic got me to pondering about the language that we are presenting to geese and ducks.  Sure, the standard calls are pretty, well standard.  For ducks, or mallards at least, everything is based on a ‘quack’ sound.  The hail call is just a loud, long series of clear quacks, the come-on call (as it is popularly known) is just quacks that are sped up and blown with some urgency and excitement.  The feed chatter, often argued to be the toughest of the duck calls to make, is (in my opinion) just a very fast series of very short raspy, guttural quacks.  This video from Echo Calls (not a sponsor, although I wish they were) shows some of the finest contest-style feed chatters I’ve ever heard.  Most hunters I’ve met (and yours truly as well) cannot do this, but it is still pretty awesome.  Goose calling, for Canada Geese specifically, is similar in that most calls, in hunting or in contest calling, start with a cluck.  A honk is a loud, drawn out cluck, approach work or come-on calls are a series of rapid double and even triple clucks, moans and lay down work could be described as variations on the first part of a cluck without the break in the call, and so on.  Not an encyclopedic (or even a marginally correct assessment) of waterfowl language but just what I’ve been mulling over in my mind as I get quizzical looks from my neighbours and lower everyone in the proximity’s property values with my constant noise.  At least I shut it down for two hours on Sunday while my next-door neighbours had an open house with their realtor. No one wants to buy the house next door to the place that sounds like a duck and goose convention for three straight hours every evening.

So given that I generally understand the basics of waterfowl calling, here are some of the calls that I wish were formally recognized by serious callers.  Most are scenario specific, and all are completely made-up.  Enjoy.

The “Please Don’t Call So Loud” Call

This one is ideal for those rare occasions when you may have celebrated the arrival of hunting season a little too hard the night before the hunt (admit it, it happens; just try to be safe out there, okay?) and you are nursing a headache in the blind.  I imagine that through a duck call it would sound like a feeble, squeaky quack, and for a goose hunter just a half-hearted, plaintive moan.  It would signal to the birds that if they just wanted to continue to go along on their way, you wouldn’t really be bothered by that at all.  It would signal other hunters in your party, on the off chance the birds actually committed and tried to decoy, that everyone should just let the birds land without being shot at, since the sound of a shotgun report might actually make your head explode open like an over-cooked bratwurst on a grill.

The “You Didn’t See Anything…Honest” Call

This one actually exists, because I think I’ve both heard and performed this sound.  It is usually an inappropriately loud and totally uncharacteristic series of calls made by an embarrassed hunter that has just inadvertently moved and spooked the flock just as they were about to drop the landing gear.  Usually accompanied by flaring birds and much swearing from others in the blind, sometimes the non-guilty join in and this call is almost always continued in desperation for over a minute, long after the birds have made a beeline for the next county.  It ends when the offending hunter incredulously looks around and says “Who the hell moved?!” while casting accusatory looks at everyone else in the party.

The “Wha’ Happened?” Call
This call is made after a hunter empties their gun at birds that were so close and moving so slowly that they were ‘sure things’ and despite this, misses everything completely.  Accompanied by geese pumping their wings powerfully away or ducks trampolining straight up and out of sight, it is an attempt to convince those birds that you just missed cleanly to come back for a second look.  It differs from any accepted comeback calls because it usually sounds angry, since the poor nimrod doing the calling absolutely cannot believe they just wasted three shells (okay, two if you shoot a side-by-side or an over-under) at birds that should, by all rights, be laying belly up in the decoys.  The birds can sense this anger (and likely saw you rise to shoot) and thus they rarely, if ever, return.  In a tale related to this call, I was once hunting geese with my Dad on a foggy Thanksgiving Monday when the ceiling was twenty feet at best.  I could hear geese but rarely could I see them.  Miraculously I had managed to scratch down a double (another story altogether), but was still one bird shy of the limit.  I put the call on a distant single and the bird came as if on a string.  He (I’m assuming masculinity here, don’t be offended) was gliding in no more than fifteen feet off the ground and I whiffed on him twice inside of twenty yards.  Still for some reason he landed and stood in the decoys so I put the bead on his throat patch and attempted to shoot him turkey-hunter-style.  I failed, whizzing a load of BBs over his head.  As he clumsily ran and got airborne, I started howling a “Wha’ Happened?” call at him while ramming my last three shell into my gun with my other hand.  I never did get my limit that day.  Dad, predictably, did get his three geese that day.

The Belch

This one is usually a specialty of those hunters who like to feast in the blind.  I’m not talking about a granola bar or a Snickers.  I mean guys who bring pop, chips, Red Bull, sandwiches, and little propane cookers with them in a backpack or mini-Coleman cooler when they hit the fields and marshes.  This call usually happens when, after having consumed one pork rind too many, they are startled by a flock that has the gall to interrupt their meal and they then proceed to start blazing away on a call.  This usually gets their diaphragm all messed up and they blow a hiccup or burp right through their instrument, along with food particles of varying sizes that every once in a while render their calls stuck and useless.  It sounds just like you think it does.

So that’s just a small selection of the calls I wish that we waterfowlers recognized.  I’m sure there are lots of others that happen and I’ll post future editions as I come by them.