When I last left you I had returned emptyhanded from the Ahnapee. I vowed revenge on the Mighty Ahnapee Goose. Let’s pick up where I left off.
Sunday, November 30. 5:21 AM. My alarm goes off. “We Ain’t Them” by Childish Gambino. Great way to start the day. One of the great hip hop songs of the century, in my opinion. Most mornings I tap Snooze at least twice…usually more like five times. Not on this day. I jumped out of bed with purpose. Got the camo gear on. Back to the Ahnapee. I loaded up Nicki and waited for Hoot.
6:05 AM. Back on the road, but first, a mandatory stop at Kwik Trip on GV.
7:15 AM. Back in the river. Not a hunter or goose in sight. This time Hoot is with me. We have about three hours before we return to Green Bay. Plenty of time to bag a Canadian or four.
Before I continue, let’s play a quick game of Where’s Hoot? It’s just like Where’s Waldo, except we’re looking for Hoot. Check out the picture below. I promise Hoot and his boat with all of his gear are in the picture. I’m not making this up. It’s not a trick either. He’s not buried back in the weeds, hiding in the trees in the distance, or even underwater. He’s right out in the open. I was amazed at the effectiveness of the camo. I had to take a picture. See if you can find him.
Maybe you did find him, but either way, you have to admit the camo is effective. Also, if you found him, you’re a goddamned eagle.
Back to the story. We weren’t in the river for long before we started hearing the distant honking. Geese were moving all morning, but many of them seemed to be flying from Lake Michigan in the east to the open fields in the west for breakfast. All of them passing by high in the air with no interest in a swim amongst our floating plastic impostors.
Hoot and I heard shotgun blasts to the west where the geese were landing and it wasn’t long before they were searching for safe refuge in the welcoming Ahnapee waters. We were there to greet them…with a comedy of errors.
The first flock that came in circled low and looked like they were ready to commit. Hoot and I unintentionally had an understanding that we weren’t taking these geese until they were about to drop right in to the decoys. Instead they circled twice and headed south. We never shot. They saw something they didn’t like. “What the hell just happened?” we asked each other. We could’ve had high percentage shots. Why didn’t we take them? Were we getting too picky? If we had shot, Belle would’ve been busy retrieving and we would’ve been celebrating. We discussed and decided that we’d play it by ear next time.
Another flock came by. They looked more suspicious than the last. They were circling, but much higher. I didn’t approve of their tactics or appreciate their apprehension. I suspected they were going to exit faster than the last flock and I wasn’t about to let more geese escape without sending a terrifying message. I put the Nova to work. Three clouds of steel blasted straight up in to the cool morning sky. Nothing. He was too nice to say it, but I could sense Hoot’s diapproval. He thought they might descend. I got antsy.
Next flock, same situation. In fact, from my angle, this flock seemed further away and less interested than those before. This time Hoot got the itch. He unloaded. No geese. I felt relief. We were even. One bad decision and terrible round of shots each.
Now we were just laughing. The Mighty Ahnapee Geese were getting the best of us again and we knew it. You can either let it bother you or you can have fun with it. We choose to have fun. We tried some experimental goose and duck calling techniques that had us both doubled over laughing. Then, for the first time this season, a flock of ducks actually buzzed by…quickly. They were out of my range, and I thought Hoot might get a shot, but he passed. Maybe they’d come back. Of course they didn’t. I’m starting to hate ducks.
Another flock approached presenting low percentage shots. We didn’t care. More shooting, by both of us this time. More missing. Hoot and I discussed strategy again and decided we’d go back to what we were doing originally. No shots at geese unless they were truly cupped and committed. Enough wasteful shooting. We’re better than this (we’re really not). Yet another flock came by to investigate. We waited patiently. They circled twice and fled.
Could it be that our amazing goose layout with realistic jerk rig wasn’t working? We were motionless. Our calling seemed to be bringing them close. I believe success came more easily in early-October when the geese weren’t as wary and weren’t getting shot at every time they wanted to land. I have to imagine if I got shot at every time I got out of my car, I’d probably make damn sure the area was clear of shooters before I stopped and got out every single time. Maybe I’m giving their tiny goose brains more credit than they deserve. I don’t think so. These geese are more seasoned than those we saw a month ago.
We were stumped, and worse, we were out of time. As painful as it was, we had to pack up and come home. I took a picture that I believe sums up the morning perfectly. You can see some of my empty shells floating in the river with the dog looking up at me. I believe if she could talk, in this picture she’d be saying to me, “You suck,” or, “Nice shooting, jackass,” or, “I put on my fancy hunting jacket for nothing, loser.”
Here’s the lesson: A morning spent on the Ahnapee with Hoot and Belle is a damn good morning, geese or no geese. We had a blast, and we had the bonus of not having to pluck and clean geese when we got home! Also, as I type this Belle is lying by my feet. I’m glad to report that she seems to have forgiven me.
I have one other unrelated tale before I end this post.
Halloween is an important day to me for many reasons. My kids love Halloween. It’s easily second to only Christmas on their list of favorite holidays. About five years ago we were taking the kids to grandma’s house to show her their costumes before trick or treating. After stopping to see Dave & Cindi we decided to remain in their neighborhood instead of heading elsewhere. After a trip down to the corner and back (trick or treating was really easy when they were younger…six houses was plenty), we were going to take them to get Happy Meals. Dave & Cindi said they’d make hot dogs and mac & cheese. By accident, a great tradition was born.
Now the group has grown and the trick or treating takes much longer, but the dinner and fun are the same. How does this story apply to a blog post about hunting? The sneaky fun part of this tradition for me is that it also doubles as our deer hunting planning meeting, or as I call it, The Elite Deer Hunters’ Summit. There’s a bar and everything. There are constant interruptions by the women and children, but we still get the important stuff done.
This year’s attendees: Brett, Uncle Dave, T-Bone, Kneecap, Colin, and myself. Shoutout to Tyson. I will send Ty the minutes since he was unable to attend. T-Bone no longer travels with our crew to Polk County, but his wisdom and integrity made him a worthy substitute for Tyson in this situation.
We settled on travel arrangements, hotel rooms, meals, and beverages. I’ll bring the cribbage board. BYOB. Mom is making monster cookies. Does any of the rest of it really matter? We urged the Bretts to do whatever necessary to get to the Blacksmith Shop on Thursday night to join us for Cribbage and Drinking night. Despite our pleading, Dave isn’t leaving until Friday morning. The Bretts may not either. No matter what happens, I know that Tyson, Colin, and I will be loading up and setting the GPS for the Blacksmith Shop (with stops at Kwik Trips in Bonduel, Wausau, and Barron) at 8:00 AM, Thursday, November 17th.
That means in 16 days, 8 hours, and 49 minutes…