‘Twas was the night before opening morning of goose season (well, in all honesty, the opening of a lot of seasons in SK, archery big game seasons, most game bird seasons, etc.). I had been under the weather throughout the day and had no urge to go hunting the following morning. Contributing to that was the fact that harvest was late starting this year due to the lack of mature crops and a bit of wet weather near the end of August and there were few places to hunt them. However, that evening as I felt better, the urge hit me to go hunting.
I had done no scouting, my dad and brother were away for the long weekend and there was no one I could think of that would have a license and be able to go with me. It looked like a bleak prospect for hunting in the morning and I knew of only a couple fields of peas and only knew of one that had been combined. Flocks of migrating snow geese had yet to arrive, but the local Canada geese had been bunching up in numbers. I had been seeing them on that one pea field that was combined. There were usually a couple hundred. This early in the season, I knew that hunting that field by myself would give me a chance to shoot my limit in Canada geese. I had never shot my limit in Canada geese and the prospect of doing it with my dad and younger brother away only intensified my urge to go out the next morning. I phoned the owner of the field and he informed me it was already taken for the next morning. However he was quick to inform me of another pea field close to his farm that had hundreds of geese on it. It was not yet combined, but that owner had decided it not worth it to combine and was going to till it under. He told me roughly where it was and with about 5 minutes of daylight I quickly drove the 2 miles of gravel to find it. It was right where he said, so I phoned that owner to inquire about the possibility of hunting it. He said I could if only his son had no plans of hunting it. His son was driving back after a road trip, but he promised to find out and phone me back. After about a half hour of tense waiting, he phones and said I was OK to hunt it, but said it was pretty muddy. I had already realized this and, due to a recent encounter with sand, knew that my 4×4 was not working on my truck and that I would have to walk in as I had no desire to either get stuck or rip up someone else’s field.
I woke up with plenty of time. I drove down, grabbed my sled and filled it with the essentials: shotgun, several boxes of shells, and about 30 goose decoys. I dragged it out about as far as I felt, about 400 yards from the road. At about that spot I started seeing goose droppings and knew this must be the right spot to set up. As I had not scouted the field with geese on it, I did not know where they had been feeding. The field comprised half a section and could only access the one edge of it without a truck and unfortunately that was the side farther from the roost the geese would be flying from. I set up my 30 Goose decoys in a loose semicircle pointing into the north wind. There was just a slight breeze that just barely moved the dozen Sillosock decoys. The rest of my decoys were shell decoys but I was setting up in the sparser area of the field which would make them more noticeable. I set up a makeshift laydown blind about 15 yards off the decoys in some thicker peas with my sled as my pillow, covered with a reed mat and another reed mat overtop of myself.
The first birds to come in were ducks. I knocked one down with some abysmal shooting that informed me that I should shoot some skeet next summer to stay in practice. Finally the Canadas started coming in just before dawn. I dropped a couple in the first few flights that came in. Never much of an afficionado with a mouth call, I nevertheless was getting some of the warier birds to circle around after their first look. There were a few more local snow geese than I anticipated, the first 3 coming in caught me by complete surprise, flying in at ground level and starting to land before I saw them. 25 yards was as far as they were and I anticipated being able to get all 3 as they took off. I stood up to get them to fly and realized that my shooting had not yet improved as I only managed to knock down 1 of them.
The Canadas kept streaming by and I had dropped 5 when it seemed that the flocks had slowed down. I was still hopeful of taking the limit as a flock of snow geese came by within range and I finally manged to knock down 2 out of 3 shots for the first time that morning. I went to collect them and was caught out by a flight of Canadas intent on flying low directly over my blind. They were headed my direction out into the field and as they kept coming I still managed to get nearly as good a shot as I would have had I been in the blind. I managed to knock 2 of them down, leaving me 1 goose short of the limit. I sat in the blind hopeful that I would have a single fly in and try his luck at landing. I figured a single would be better, although I should have realized that my shooting up to that point had been hard pressed to knock down 1 bird out of a flock, never mind 2…
I was finally rewarded for my patience when a loner Canadian did exactly what I had hoped one would do. It came in nice and low, setting its wings to land about 25 yards away. I was already imagining bragging about getting my limit to my little brother before I even raised up to shoot it. I sat up and swung my gun up. Disaster struck as the reed mat swung up with the gun. The swivel stud on the end of the magazine had gotten tangled up in the mat. The goose flared as I tried to free my gun and by the time I got it clear, the goose had moved directly in line my the sun. I shot blindly, hoping to hit it in the sun and missed him. I took a second blind shot, not because the goose was still in the sun, but because I was still blind at that point. The goose got clean away and I sat hoping and waiting for another chance at the now elusive last goose.
After another period of waiting a pair of geese came over checking me out. I managed to call them to come back for a second look. They showed no interest in landing so I took a shot at the one as they passed by the second time. It faltered a bit, but my second shot left no doubt as it fell. I had gotten my limit. A quick picture and MMS later and everyone that needed to be informed of this triumph, was informed.
The trip out of the field was much harder than the trip in. I filled my sled with the 13 birds I had gotten, 8 of them being greater Canada geese, weighing at least 10 pounds each. The mud held me back every step back to the truck. I had not realized with 100 pounds of birds that it would be that hard with the mud. Of course at this stage in the game, Geese were flying over regularly within easy shotgun range, happily honking, quite possibly aware that I was no longer a threat to them. Thus started the goose hunting of the 2014 season. I had been hunting geese and ducks for 15 years up to this point and had finally shot my limit in Canada geese. Granted, we had never gotten too seriously into hunting waterfowl, until the last 3 years or so as I started buying up a few dozen decoys each year and honing my craft. Try to see if I could improve this year at all over past years.
Stay tuned for further posts from this goose season, I have a bit of catchup to do… -Chris