Hunting Over a Plastic Flock - Canadian Geese and Decoys
By Gary Lewis
Through a loosely woven burlap blanket I watched the eastern sky pale.
I lay in the middle of a group of Canada Goose decoys in a cut-over barley field, the barrel of my double barreled shotgun just protruding from the corner of the straw-covered blanket. My friend, Darren, lay in the middle of another flock of decoys 35 yards to my right.
The first birds were mallards. We could hear the beat of their wings before we saw them, in groups of between two and ten, rocketing over our plastic flock.
I put my hand on the warm walnut stock and slid my fingers around the grip, laying my index on the trigger guard, thumb on the safety switch. There were honkers coming. I could hear them first from the south, circling us to land into the north wind. Spreading their wings, they stretched out their webbed feet to land almost on top of Darren.
"Take 'em," he yelled, throwing off the burlap, his barrel scribing a swift upward arc, his shoulder rocking with three well-spaced shots, three birds folding.
While Nook, Darren’s bruiser of a Chesapeake, retrieved, Darren talked the remaining birds into making another pass. As they drifted across in front of me, I peeled back the blanket and took two shots, missing twice. Accustomed to doves and ducks, I wasn’t used to shooting at anything that moved as slow as these geese.
Nook finished bringing in the birds and Darren and I traded places. I reloaded and pulled the burlap over my head again.
Fifteen long minutes went by and more ducks passed. Seagulls inspected us lazily from above, two hawks flew by together then split up to hunt the adjoining fields.
I wondered, had I blown my only chance? Were we done for the day? The sky grew brighter as the sun pushed back the night.
I could hear geese suddenly, at least two flocks. Then I could see them above the horizon, circling, inspecting the set, coming in for a landing.
We watched the flock touch down, probably 25 Canada Geese, to begin feeding in front of Darren. I eased out of the burlap. "Take 'em when you can," Darren said, and I lifted the shotgun to my shoulder. "Oh man," Darren yelled, "Look in front of you!"
While we had been watching the other birds land, a flock of 75 had come to ground in front of me without either of us seeing them. Both groups lifted into the air as one, 100 pairs of wings driving for altitude. My gun pushed against my shoulder twice and Nook sprang for two falling birds.
I reloaded and sank back against the ground, two flocks were flying for distant fields, another flock was coming. Just one more bird and we would both have our limits.
Our decoys were arranged such that incoming birds would land in the open spaces between them. Darren explained that geese land into the wind so we had positioned the shells and silhouettes in flocks of twenty to thirty with a hole on the south side where, we hoped, incoming geese would land. The three large groups of decoys were arranged in a half-circle with two small family groups separated from the rest.
I could smell the burnt gunpowder as I quickly wriggled back beneath the burlap. The last flock came in behind us and I rose to a sitting position, turned, chose a target, put the barrel on a bird, tightened up on the trigger and heard the gun thump. The hunt was over.
As I cleaned the birds and put the meat on ice, I knew I would always remember those minutes before first light, the cut barley bending with the wind, the cool of the morning and the whispered anticipation of honking geese against a paling sky. Probably as much as I’d remember how a hundred geese look ten feet off the ground and the feel of a shotgun against my shoulder.
I was hunting that morning with Darren Roe, a fishing and hunting guide in Klamath County. For hunting mallards in the marshes or ambushing Canada Geese in cut fields amid flocks of decoys, you can reach him at (541) 884-DUCK.