Asheville – If you’ve hunted for very long you have learned that things don’t always go as planned. Another lesson, you get surprised sometimes. I’ve been a wing shooter for nearly half a century and along the way have learned to be prepared for unexpected events. Your dog points in the middle of a soybean field, and surprisingly a covey of quail erupts. Just as you put your gun down to get a drink of cold water, a flight of dove zips over your head. You learn to expect the unexpected.
Something different happened for my son and me on a November goose hunt. The unexpected happened unexpectedly. It’s one of those hunts we’ll be talking about for years. One that eclipses the unexpected results of a turkey hunt three years ago when we both bagged toms within a minute of each other. It is something we will talk about while I’m still on this earth, and hopefully, he will gladly remember and talk about it after I’m gone.
So here’s how it went down. A friend saw geese on an adjacent property and got me permission to hunt them. I went out to scout them the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Instead of flying into a cut cornfield they were rafting up on a pond at the back of a grassy field next to it and walking into the corn field. This was different and required a change of tactics.
My son and I woke early on Friday to be there before sunrise. The plan was to sneak up into the grass field and get within about forty yards of the pond. Then when the geese walked out toward the cornfield we would jump up and shoot as many as we could. I was pretty sure we’d only get one shot at them, with the geese flying to another field after our initial volley. So we might get two or three geese between us. Enough we figured. That was the plan.
When we got to the field, near a river, it was totally engulfed in thick fog. Visibility across the field might have been 100 yards. We loaded our shotguns and moved quietly toward the pond, closing to within 50 yards. We stood in the pre-dawn chill listening for geese honking on the pond. As the light began to creep in and still hearing nothing, my son used a fence line as cover to get closer to the pond. When he walked directly back to me I knew the answer: the geese weren’t there.
As daylight came to the landscape the fog settled in even more. Visibility was still restricted to 100 yards and even less looking up, maybe 40 yards. The one thing we clearly saw at our feet was the fresh goose droppings at our feet. All around us was evidence the geese had recently been there the day before. About fifteen minutes after sunrise, looking at the thick fog surrounding us, I told my son, “Geese won’t be flying in until this fog starts to lift, maybe 8:30 am. Let’s give it a few minutes and head home.” Then it happened.
With our guns slung on our shoulders, we stood relaxed in the middle of the grass field. I suddenly heard the whooshing of wind through the wings of birds. No honking. I looked up toward the sound and there, 30 yards above us, was a V of about 15 geese with their wings cupped to land. As I fumbled to get the shotgun off my shoulder I shouted, “There they are!”
We both chose birds and fired into the air. Three birds dropped to the ground, one about a yard in front of us. As I walked out to pick up the farthest bird my son said, “They’re circling”, and suddenly they were overhead again. Having reloaded I pick out a bird and fired; another bird on the ground. Four birds in total. The survivors flew away through the still thick fog.
I’d say from the time I heard the birds until the last one dropped was no more than two minutes. The adrenaline was pumping and we laughed out loud at the situation. There’s an old aviation axiom, “Flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of excitement”. I guess the same can be said for hunting. The unexpected happens when you least expect it. Those are the moments we strive for.