By Ken Kieser
October 16, 2012
I have heard many descriptions of a waterfowl hunter over the years and most not flattering. Yet before starting this column I want to emphasize that goose hunting has nothing to do with receiving a well-placed thumb in the nether region or the fist fight that often occurs after this shocking experience, no matter how often it happens in goose or duck hunting lodges. This is about the essence of a true wild goose or duck hunter.
Recently I spent a chilly morning with several hunting buddies during Missouri’s early goose season. I left a warm bed at 4 a.m. while my wife gave me the same heart-warming send off, “you’re crazy,” before rolling over, grateful for more room in the bed.
I stopped by the all-night gas station for a stale doughnut and equally stale coffee while the clerk suspiciously looked over my camouflage attire and black grease paint on my face. I noticed him closely watching me as I stepped in my pickup to drive several hours through total darkness while closely watching the road and ditches for deer that apparently love to jump in front of my pickup or a speeding tractor trailer that happened to arrive first.
I finally reached my destination of a trailer house that held three other sleepy-eyed hunters, two smelly black Labrador retrievers and the ever present scent of cigarette smoke hanging in the air like heavy pollution. I offered a greeting that was answered with at least one grunt and a belch.
“Want some breakfast?” someone asked. I said “Yes,” and he threw a rock-hard biscuit that bounced off my hands and hit a sleeping hunter just below his worry lines. “Good hands,” the biscuit thrower grumbled. “You should play for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
A few more endearing terms were exchanged that I would never print in a family publication. The previously sleeping hunter looked out the window and said, “Think it’s time to go to the blind,” as he tried to chew on the biscuit that had crashed upside his noggin.
Our long trek soon began as we set out to provide goose-meat nourishment for our families that costs several thousand dollars a pound after you factor in all expenses. Early season hunts generally mean more equipment to carry through brush and a high-grass laden hill. So we all loaded up with sacks of goose decoys, folding chairs, a kit bag of snacks, ammunition and the ever present thermos of coffee or tea, shotguns, and other necessities. Dawn was just breaking as we started our walk that seemed a lot easier 30 years ago.
We moved through the darkness while various forms of vegetation slowed our walk or threatened to tangle our feet and legs for an eventful fall. This face-first plunge would have drawn hysterical laughter from the other hunters and duck or goose blind conversation for all our remaining years. Eager Labrador retrievers added to this by occasionally bumping our legs at the end of full-speed runs.
So I will make a suggestion to young hunters that still have many years of hunting with buddies; never, and I repeat never, do something that may be classified as stupid on a waterfowl hunt. You will never hear the end of it! This brings up the art of duck or goose blind conversations. This is a series of talks about memorable hunts, an embarrassing moment that happened to someone else on a hunt or in our case, why Kansas City baseball and football teams never seem to win.
The make-shift blind was set in an often productive spot with carefully laid out equipment. Earlier we had waded out in the lake to set out decoys to imitate geese in a spot that was better than the other million spots all over the lake-or at least that’s what we were determined to make the geese think.
Soon we sat in our folding chairs with shotguns loaded and goose calls in hand as we scanned the sky and waited for a flock of Canada geese. Now picture this, we were sitting on a lake shoreline inside wire panels covered with brush and grasses in the teeth of an unseasonably chilly breeze. Our collars were turned up while we sat and sat and sat.
After sitting three hours in this uncomfortable place, someone suggested, “Well, I guess the geese are not coming.” so we packed up our gear and started walking the heart-testing one mile back up the long hill full of vegetation with a hundred pounds of equipment strapped over our shoulders and two disappointed Labrador retrievers that were apparently still trying to trip me.
Now a psychiatrist might offer a reason for full-grown men willingly spending a portion of their lives like this. Healers of our mind’s problems might find a scientific term for this behavior and may even write a thesis for the Nut-Case Journal.
No doubt their bottom line might be: “They put their bodies and minds through extreme torture and return year after year to continue this punishment. One must surmise that these tortured souls are chastising themselves for trespasses against social behaviors made in the past, their collective reasoning for continuing these irrational acts!”
You’ve got that right doc, now bring on the regular duck and goose season!