Western Hunting Journal, Premiere Issue whj001_premiere - Page 77

When hunting geese sustained success is often determined by how well you hide and where you position your blinds. A great hide is arguably the most important element of a great goose hunt. By Dave Smith M ICHAEL PARK AND I CROUCHED deeper into our layout blinds as flock after flock of cacklers tornado’d into our small spread of decoys. Deciding it was too large a flock to shoot into we elected to just enjoy this amazing show, one that never gets old. Birds were build- ing up; some close, others farther away. After about an hour, one by one, flocks would pick up and fly past us to another field a half mile away. I was staring at the birds on the ground when one stood out to me about 90 yards away. It was the rare “bling” of a yellow neck collar — the trophy “antlers” of any sea- soned goose hunter. I watched the bird for several minutes until it eventually got up and joined a flock as it flew towards me. It was low to my side, about 45 yards away. It was at that moment I exploded out of my blind and made a clean shot — my 100th neck collared goose. I was able to reach a milestone and was thankful and blessed to celebrate this with my good friend and hunting partner. As a young kid I was able to fish for huge, wild steelhead in a nearby river that no longer sees steelhead return. I grew up hunting giant blacktail bucks so rutty and plentiful in the foothills of Mount Hood. Pheasants were everywhere. Mule deer were huge and plentiful all over Eastern Oregon. Today—whether it’s pheasants, steelhead or big bucks—the populations aren’t what they used to be. Because there are more people and less habitat I catch myself reminisc- ing about the “good old days” of yesterday. As an avid outdoorsman, I take so- lace in knowing that there are still exceptions, and field hunting for Canada geese is much like the 100th neck-collared goose I shot. It’s a shining exception to one of my many pursuits. I take comfort knowing that we are living in the good old days right now. Throughout the West, thankfully, goose numbers are high and hunting opportunities are vast. From the dark ages of days gone by, goose hunting techniques have come a long way. I can still remember reading advice from waterfowlers that the key to success was to set up decoys to draw geese close enough to shoot. I remember thinking there had to be more to it, and I refused to settle for this simple advice. It was time to question conventional wisdom, and like a handful of others, I did what I could to change that situation. There were times in recent history where goose numbers were much high- er than they are now, and there was less hunting pressure, yet the hope was just to lure a few geese to gunning range. Now it’s very common to land flock www.westernhuntingjournal.com 75