As five geese slowly paddled their way around the corner of a small tidal flat, I wondered how we were going to mess this up.
I was shocked they were there in the first place. We hadn’t seen them land, so I wasn’t convinced they had seen our decoys and the sounds I made on my $24 “Double Nasty 2 Canada Hammer” goose call sounded like a 5th grader’s first day with a clarinet.
I threw up a few more E flats but the geese were content to stay put. Ryan and I would not be described as patient hunters. We hunted deer every weekend of November and managed to take a few bucks, but had relied on stealth, not so much patience. Being new to the art of the duck and goose hunt, we have previously spooked geese, mallards, harlequins and widgeons because each time the temptation to stalk was greater than the ability to stay put.
One started to honk a bit, to which I replied but with the Double Nasty not bringing them closer, we decided to move.
We made our way through the woods quiet enough and were about to work through the last section of woods when we saw a group of mallards guarding the beach just to the north of the spit with the geese. Mallards and geese. With no prior evidence to suggest we would be successful, we had a quick conversation about who wanted what. It was like we were discussing a foregone conclusion with, as previously stated, nothing in our history of stalking waterfowl to suggest we’d get either, or even a shot. But without illogical enthusiasm and irrational confidence, the disappointing early stages of learning something new would probably drive most people from most things.
Ryan went the way of the mallards while I retraced my steps and began a stalk on the geese. We’d be on opposite sides of a spit and be patient. I wouldn’t swing right, he wouldn’t swing left.
From the woods I could see two of the geese, one which still let out a honk every few minutes. I had long since stopped even contemplating another melody on the Double Nasty, especially now since I wanted the geese in the air, but not while I was 20 feet deep in the brush. They could call to the motionless decoys all they wanted. There would be no reply.
I cleared the last root wad and found myself under the last branches of a sprawling spruce, staring at the three other geese that were 20 yards from me. I was five feet from a shooting window but there was no way I’d get clear for a shot without them spooking, taking off and being out of range by the time I put the bead on one. So, I laid there, pinned. I waited for word in the form of a shot gun crack from the other side of the spit.
The geese, now nervous but not spooked, entered the water and put a little distance between the shore and themselves. There was new honking then a blast.
I emerged from underneath my spruce tree cover, looked north and saw my five geese and a dozen more I hadn’t seen float away. There was lots of chatter as they flew.
I imagined one goose saying to the other, “Nice work Jerry, you called in two.”
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.