Scott Canterbury, as a young boy and son of this magazine’s founder, Harry L Canterbury, remembers asking his grandfather, Jack Canterbury, if they should go duck hunting this day or gear up for a Goose hunt? Jack replied, “Do you want to wait all day or have fun?” indicating preference for the fast action of Duck Hunting! This philosophy carried on through Harry L. Canterbury, the founder of this magazine, and then to his son. Scott. Judging from the multitude of duck and goose bands this family had acquired over three generations, they were often content to hunt geese but always preferred the then fast action of the duck hunting experience.
Fast forwarding many years, the waterfowl horizon has evolved with the growth of the white fronted goose populations. With great anticipation as I entered the seven-man Goose Pit manufactured by Concealed Comfort for a “bell to bell” hunt with Jacob Gessford and his father, Craig Gessford along with Jacobs’ two labs, the elder and famous Gunner and his young offspring, Loki, aptly named for the Norse God of Mischief!
This farm, the pit and opportunity afforded us was made possible by the late Gary Doyle who unfortunately left us prior to the last Waterfowl season. Gary’s old leather lanyard hung from the blinds ceiling in anticipation of fulfillment this day!
This cloudy day with little wind smelled of moisture to come later in the form of rain. The birds emerged quickly with large flock after another filling the skies. Frustration often found in the waterfowlers psyche was evident this morning as birds would break off and sail only to hover tantalizingly out of range as they studied the massive “Snow Goose” spread! Opportunities were often in the long shot variety which yours truly failed on consistently but would be overcome by Jacob and his father Craig with their successful follow-up shots!
As predicted, the rain ultimately came but with the blind providing some protection from misery along with concealment! Early shooting was sparse but successful from the two of the blinds’ occupants and with coaching from them, I was able to improve from pathetic to barely proficient!
The two reminded me of the prior day’s hunt where during the mid-day lull, both fellow hunter JJ Sykes and I were asleep in the sitting down position within the blind as the others were adjusting decoys. Suddenly, JJ jumped to life like a sleeping mallard being awakened by an approaching bobcat! What was that? He had heard the honk from a lone goose approaching. I jumped to look and sure enough a single bird was locked and approaching from the back of the blind! Unsure as to whether it was a Speckle Belly or a legal snow goose we hesitated until Jacob barked out to “shoot the bird” as he and the others were in a safe position!
JJ and I commenced our attempt accordingly! JJ’s first shot did not fire – he shucked the shell out in- tact pulled the trigger to find the second did not fire as well! My first shot missed and the Benelli jammed! Kevin Barnai, one of those outside the pit, instructed me to use his gun only a short reach away! I grabbed his piece and began to follow the bird for the “Coup De Grace” shot but my next four shots on the still circling very confused bird did not connect! I handed the gun to Kevin now standing at the top of the blind who finished it off on the second shot! JJ’s first two shells had primers indented by the firing pin but did not detonate! My jam was caused by the draw string of my white sweatshirt becoming entangled in the action of the gun while my subsequent misses using Kevin’s gun would be blamed on the lack of mobility offered by literally being hamstrung in movement by my drawstrings! This comedic episode, although successful, was not a confidence builder for one’s ego!
The day progressed toward darkness with many birds successfully taken. My final shot was a success providing a final memory negating the numerous previous failed attempts. The day was one for the books, in my opinion as the comradery, the history, the anticipation and the events made possible by the experienced Gessford hunting duo made this hunt truly remarkable! If Jack Canterbury were alive today, he would have to agree – this snow goose hunting is truly fast action and would rival his beloved ducks!