Tuesday, March 13, 2012

White Fronted Goose Hunt

WOW, have I got some great stories to share with you all. I had a wonderful 8 days of hunting Specs on their migration North to their breeding grounds. This particular hunt takes place in 3 Oregon counties and can only be done on private property. This is in an effort to reduce the impact of crop damage, by reducing the overall numbers of geese. Snow Geese are also legal to hunt for this special season. The daily limits were 4 White Fronted Geese (aka Specs) and 6 Snow Geese and the possession limit is double the daily limit. ODFW regulations here.

On my first trip to Klamath for the opener of this season on Feb. 18th. I never fired a shot or even had a shot in 3 days time. There were some around but just not very many and the landscape was still quite wintry and frozen. So I returned home and waited for the geese to arrive and also got some work done in the shop. I headed back to Klamath on Friday the 3rd of March and was hopeful that more geese were en route northward. When I turned the corner and got to see the Klamath River I was not disappointed. There were large rafts of resting Specs lazily enjoying a warm afternoon on the river. My adrenaline spiked for a moment as my mind began plotting my first evenings hunt.

I got Jet and I unloaded and put away our gear in the cabin, then got ready for an abbreviated evening hunt. I placed myself next to the river dike that I drove in along but in the pasture side. This way they'd land in the pasture when I made a good shot as they passed overhead. The pasture has been grazed down by cattle and subsequently is showing the first signs of green up. Geese find it hard to pass up on fresh tender grasses. I hunkered down in the ditch amongst the remaining ice, snow and mud and made like a statue. I felt like I was finally home, right where I needed to be. I could hear the Specs vocalizing whistles, buzzes and general chatter.  Their voices are incredible, somewhat like that of a ventriloquist. At times they sound so close and yet they're so far away you can barely see them.

It didn't take long til they decided to get up off the river and head my direction. My adrenaline rose again and I was ready. They passed over off to my left side and I  sat up and got my first double. Right on, yes this is what it's supposed to be like. In all I suspect close to 75 birds flew over and I was hearing more up river while I was waiting. This is a good start I thought to myself. Headed back to the cabin and processed the 2 Specs and was quite pleased with my early success. Sure glad to have gotten that case of Federal Black Cloud 3" #2's before I left home, made all the difference for my little 20 ga. Beretta O/U, love those shells!

You might be asking yourself why leave? Well the deal with these geese is that they'll spend 80% of their time resting in the river because they know that's the only safe place for them during daylight hours. So in the early mornings and last hour or so before days end, is the only time to catch them going from the fields to the river or visa-versa.

It's a short window of opportunity and this hunt is all about being mobile for me. If I see them crossing over the river dike some 200 yards away I've got to get myself there fast. Our property is not ideal for them this early in Spring, need more warm days for the alfalfa to get going. So I don't set out my 2 dozen Spec decoys nor do I have the number of decoys it would take to bring in large flocks of a hundred or more birds. Seldom can you pull in singles and doubles when they see and hear several hundred of their fine feathered friends calling to them within eye shot of your decoys. With big flock numbers you need just about equally big decoy numbers. I have decoyed with limited success over the past few years for this particular hunt, but with increased hunting pressure the birds become educated that much quicker and shy away from smaller sets.

While I was processing my first pair of Specs I was also trying to figure out where I'd go for the morning hunt. I glassed the river all along our property line to see where the geese were. I decided to go to the S.E portion of our property and hunker on the field side of the river dike. With still quite a bit of snow I was post holing every step of the way. It was loud crusty granular old snow with ice along the edges of the flooded fields too. It was impossible to be quiet about my approach in the darkness of early morning.

I got settled in and was listening to the Specs vocalizing in the river as daybreak began. Their serenade of rising and falling crescendos had my adrenaline mirroring them. Oh my goodness, seems they can sit and chatter for what seems an endless amount of time before finally committing to take off. I realize it's not just getting up at 4 am that tires me but also having my adrenaline rise and fall that contributes as well.

Through the chatter I heard a motor and thought perhaps a rancher on a quad or 4 wheeler across the river. I was thinking maybe this will get the birds moving. It got closer and closer than nothing, silence and all was quiet again. Umm, I thought and after a couple minutes of pondering and hearing the geese move directly down river and never cross the dike. I decided to get up and try to get a visual on this persons where abouts. Holy cow I said as I saw this fellow with his dog sitting on the river dike about 30 yards away from me. He was in one of those canopy 4 wheel drive huntin' the country, buggy thing a ma jigs you see on the hunting shows. His Chocolate Lab saw me and began to growl at which got the gentleman's attention. He turned to look behind him and saw me in full camo from head to toe including face camo. He apologized and we were polite to each other as he went on his way. I shook my head and realized my morning hunt was over. He sat there in his buggy, facing the river in the absolute extreme wide open, over grazed dike just hoping I guess for a random Spec or Snow Goose to fly within range. Trust me, it wasn't going to happen! I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. This is a photo of him leaving, priceless.

This was just the beginning and more stories to come including the best sneak I have ever had with a gun in hand.

Women's Hunting Journal          Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy 12 th. Birthday Jet

My best friend and hunting partner Jet reaches another special day.  I remember very well the day I first picked her out of the litter at 3 and a half weeks young. She was the round one as all Lab pups are at that age but she also loved to be in the middle of the puppy pile. Not on the bottom or outside edge and heaven forbid off in the corner, oh no she knew exactly where she was going to be. Thankfully she has trained me well too. I have come to appreciate her idiosyncrasies and her looks of "you've got to be joking, right". She has retrieved her fare share of birds over the years and though she is for the most part retired now, I still share my stories and birds with her and try to get her a pheasant or snipe each Fall. She has taught me the most of all my Labs when it comes to training. Most of what she taught me is the importance of setting her up for success and seeing the world from her perspective, quite literally. She is even more vertically challenged than myself and I have come to appreciate her perspective. These days she is mostly content with a comfortable bed, a couple nice walks with lots of good things to sniff and pee on and lest we not forget her 2 squares a day, and any extra is fine too.  I cherish each day we have together cause I know what lies ahead and it just tears me up inside. So til then we will enjoy each others company, our own little quirks and lots of belly rubs. I am very thankful for my Jet and her loyalty, companionship and teachings about what really matters.
Happy Happy Birthday Jet!

Much love, your mom

Women's Hunting Journal         Integrity For The Hunt 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spec Hunt Update

This is just a quick nutshell report of my Spring Goose hunt. So far the geese have had it their way. With recent snows and cold temps at night, the possibility of pulling off an early morning sneak is essentially squashed due to loud crunchy snow giving away my every move. The property I have access to is not what the Specs are looking for either. For the most they are interested in fresh green shoots of alfalfa or any type of grasses or leftover oats and grain from last Fall's harvest. Our property is not grazed by cattle and has wonderful cover for typical hunting seasons but not favorable for this hunt. There is much more hunting pressure now than in past years and thus making for very wise quarry. The geese are sky high out of range by the time they cross over river dikes, irrigation canals and are able to drop right down like that of a parachuter hitting their mark safely smack dab in the middle of a 60 acre field. There numbers aren't this high for lack of smarts that's for sure. I've managed to get 3 thus far but that is well below from what I had hoped. I hope that with the coming fore casted rain that this will improve my odds and at least melt the snow and open up some ground for the birds. Sometimes I wish had a wetsuit and snorkel to gain access to these wise geese. Or maybe even spend the night in the ditch and wait for their arrival pre-dawn just so I'd be in position. Ultimately every day is a hypotethis on which way they'll come into the field or even which field they'll use. Or perhaps they'll just sit all day in the Klamath River (which can not be hunted) and go feed after shooting hours.

There is a wonderful abundance of waterfowl arriving and migrating Northward. I have been absolutely covered up with Canada Geese and all types of ducks, but none of them are legal, and they know it. I will be persistent and hope that some lesser educated specs come my way before the season ends on this Saturday. none the less I am savouring every hour laying out there in the field listening to Sandhill Cranes, whistling wings and a plethora of vocals. What a time to be afield, I absolutely love it!  Yep, they got it wired better than I do and they don't call it a wild goose chase for nothing!

I'll be out of blog range til Sunday but please leave a comment if you like and I'll get them published just as soon as I get my waders off !

Women's Hunting Journal      Integrity For The Hunt
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