Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

The longer I live, the less important my birthday becomes to me.  Don't get me wrong, I would far prefer to keep having birthdays than the alternative.  In my head, I am still 20 years old, with endless energy and enthusiasm, but all to often my body reminds me that this just isn't the case.  Birthday gifts and parties only seem to remind me of the painfully obvious fact that I am just getting older.  I would just prefer the company of those friends and family that mean so much, no need to draw more attention to the day than necessary.   Well, I say that, but some presents are REALLY cool...

Roux and I were invited to accompany a good friend and his son on an early season goose hunt in New York (I have found having a good hunting dog all but guarantees hunt invites).  We would be hunting with another good friend, Craig Southard of Southern Tier Outfitters.  When I checked the dates, I found the second day fell on my birthday.  When it was made clear that I would be home in time for birthday dinner with the family, my permission to go was issued.  I couldn't wait, as I always enjoy my trips to the Empire State.

We arrived on Friday night, and quickly got our gear arranged and ready for a early wake-up call.  Saturday morning, we made a hour long trip to a cow pasture and pond which sat high on a hill overlooking a deep valley.  I can say without hesitation that this was the most beautiful place I have ever goose hunted, and that says something.  We busied ourselves setting and grassing our blinds and placing our decoys.  The farmer's cows provided some amusement and frustration, but we were able to finally move them out of harm's way.

Not a common problem

Soon the geese were flying, some coming over the hill behind us and dropping into the decoys, but most came from the valley.  This may have been one of the neatest things I have ever seen, watching geese flying down the valley, well below our set-up, and turn coming up the hill below us.  It is not often you get to look DOWN on geese flying into your spread!  Only at the very last minute would we sit up and fire, raining geese into the pasture.  Roux did a great job hauling back some of the biggest geese I have seen in quite some time.  In short order, we had 24 geese on the ground, a lot to be sure, but well short of New York's new 15 bird/man/day early season limit.  Still, it was plenty for us, and the birds appeared to be done flying anyway.  We made our way back to the hotel and after a great dinner and some adult refreshments, we were ready to hit the sack.

Roux knows how important it is to be well hidden!

Sunday morning (my birthday) rolled around much quicker than my aging body would have liked, but thankfully we were hunting only minutes from where we were staying.  We made the short drive to the field, pleasantly surprised to see the blinds already placed and hidden and the decoys sitting in the heavy fog shrouding a cut oat field.  The blinds were practically invisible in some standing alfalfa just off the oats...a perfect set up.  The fog was so thick that sunrise was barely detectable.  However, it did not deter the geese one bit.  They came generally in small flocks, heard long before they were seen.  They seemed to materialize out of the fog, only 60-70 yards out when finally visible.  They coasted right into the decoys, and were met with withering fire from the blinds.  VERY few birds actually made it out of the field unscathed, and our pile of birds quickly grew.

New York Geese are BIG!
A flock of four came in low off the right side of the decoys, and we fired, dropping all four.  Roux charged out to start cleaning up, and the first bird back to the blinds sported a leg band!  Normally, this would be when some game would be devised to allow claiming the prize, but my good friends all smiled and wished me "Happy Birthday!"  I was humbled by the generosity of the gesture.

A Little Birthday Bling!

We ended the day with 21 geese, making a total of 45 for my birthday weekend.  I reported the band, and found my bird was banded in 2010 along the St Lawrence River in southern Ontario.  What a great trip, a perfect birthday for sure.  Without a doubt, great friends and great dogs are what make this sport we call waterfowling what it is!

Until next time, remember,

Brown is Beautiful

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