The Long Glide!
The spread of Goose decoys looked good on the three hundred and eighty yard walk towards them! Although spitting snow from a strong Northeastern wind, moisture in the form of snow cover was not present on the decoys. My cellmates confined to the metal state of the art pit buried in the field numbered two making only three of the available seven holes in use. Both JJ Sykes and I were in our fast-maturing sixty-fifth year of age while Kevin Barnai was yet to touch thirty at twenty-nine! No time was wasted in badgering Kevin, a Springfield Attorney, with lawyer jokes and stories intended to besmirch the legal profession. I would plead “nolo contendere” to my overall prosecution of the actors in our system of jurisprudence!
The morning progressed with little activity other than conversation when Kevin with younger ears and eyes spied a group of Honkers locked on our position from the Southwest. Both JJ and Kevin worked the approaching group accordingly until within shooting distance. Although shooting to our rear, two of the approaching birds collapsed from the collision with our shotgun’s pattern. We were on the board and although lamenting the fact that it should have been more, the strong wind made the rapidly evading remainder of the flock tough targets!
Later, a lone goose evidently tiring of his long distance flying history dropped from the sky in the Maple Leaf Manner, mesmerizing the pit blinds’ inhabitants, but the bird was relieved of his misery in one quick volley! Conversation in the blind rapidly morphed into a more jubilant nature with a more opportunistic tone.
Watching JJ and Kevin make great long range shots further added to our totals. A group of four approached after shifting into the heavy wind, we held and held as the floating glide of the birds tested our patience, but the seemingly endless wait was rewarded with Canada Geese falling from the sky after the report of our shotguns’ blasts! Only one would fly off into the horizon!
Hours and hours of work in the sport of water fowling where rewarded this date with a hunt blessed with moving Canada Geese, probably new to our area and unfamiliar with our pseudo spread of Big Foots and David Smith Decoys. The sheer volume of decoys utilized on this set-up made removing and replacing for each hunt a task we were unwilling to entertain – what effect did this make on the overall success of the pit? The surrounding fields had been chiseled or already had Anhydrous Ammonia knifed into the ground making ground cover less than the rows of cornstalks in the fields of my youth where Canada Geese would feast on the percentage of loss from the shelling corn harvest. With the almost perfection of the modern harvest and the fact that prices and availability of the Anhydrous was skyrocketing, made farmers apply now rather than wait till next spring. One would think a dark soiled mud field was definitely less appealing to a passing flock of Geese. Freeze Up, weather patterns and migration patterns were all in our discussions within the blind.
The success this date more than offset the long hours spent in the pit in the pursuit of the elusive Geese of the Canada variety. The weakening eyes and ears of this ageing hunter do not permit super long distance identification of approaching birds but still allow strength enough to put a proper swing through on birds approaching landing status. The blazing heaters within the pit keep the cold temperatures at bay and good conversation make the long vigil watching the sky entertaining.
Memories flooded back to my first Canada taken on Buzzard Bar just above the mouth of the Little Wabash River on the Wabash River in Southern Indiana. The long slow glide of the birds as they approached after a long curve getting into the wind is still a vivid memory. One must hold then as now so as to allow the approaching birds to get closer, closer, and closer before mounting your shotgun!
The day’s success reminded me of the many memories over the years spent in the Duck Blind, Goose Pit, Boat Blind and Turkey Woods hunting with the founder of this magazine and my close friend, Harry Canterbury. Now those recollections have become memories that will probably never again be actions as Harry lies in a hospital bed after a stroke suffered in December 2021. The fabric of life often takes differing patterns and wear but my time over the years with Harry brought zeal to life and no regrets but only that the long slow glide of Life, like the approaching Birds will come to an end.