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The Single – A Goose Hunting Tale
By Andy Aughenbaugh
Oct 22, 2007 – 11:11:14 AM
Bluegills nip at the apple core I have tossed in the river. I watch as they pick at their meal. Sitting in the camouflage painted 10-foot single kayak hidden in the branches of a fallen tree, I wait for returning geese. The September resident geese should be returning from their morning meal at any time. I sit guarding over my four decoys as they sway to the river’s lazy current.
Goose hunting is usually a group endeavor but today I had a solo experience that ranked above the normal calling clatter, big spreads and shot volleys. Hunting alone offers a oneness that brings a unique quality to a lazy river four decoy spread.
I’m a better waterfowler thanks to a conversation with Mike Jordon of ATSKO, where he explained the importance of eliminating the blue glow of my hunting cloths caused by UV brighteners. Here is a biological fact. Like all birds, waterfowl have a fourth cone in their eyes used for detecting UV. They use this UV vision for navigation and feeding?but more importantly for spotting us hunters. This 4th cone is used to identify any blue glowing unnaturals? like a hiding hunter.
Most waterfowl hunters are unaware of this bit of goose biology but once you understand how a goose sees you, can eliminate a lot of flares. Blue is bad. Geese recognize us as blue predators. Think about it. All humans along the flyways wash their cloths in detergent that adds whitening dyes to their cloths. This dye fluoresces as bright blue to any animals with UV vision. Waterfowl, as well as deer see people as blue blobs. Now, armed with the biology, I felt confident in my set up.
The kayak resembled a log caught among the drift of the river. My view allowed me to have the best seat in the house.
My hunting cloths were washed in Sports-Wash and treated with UV-Killer from ATSKO. The hanging branches of the tree I’ve slipped under break-up my Kayak’s shape. I’m ready. All I need now are the geese to show.
The summer’s heat remained during the first week of September but the latest cold front passing yesterday has brought the changing of the seasons I’ve been waiting for. While September goose hunting is untraditional in this weather, the coolness of the coming fall I smell the cusp of fall in this morning’s air.
Mesmerized by the bluegills feeding on the apple core, my mind jumps when I hear the lonely pleading of a passing goose. My hands reach for the call around my neck and simultaneously my eyes search the sky for the lonely single.
High above the tree line flying perpendicular with the river he passes overhead. He makes a lone honk. Cupping my hands at the end of my call, I take a short breath and respond with a honk of my own. He again calls out in search of his kind. I return his plead with a single honk followed by several clucks.
His head turns and looks down toward the river and spots four of his “plastic” friends swimming in the river. He banks into the wind for a closer look. He again lets out a single honk. I continue with my “come join us” clucks. Staying just above the tree line the single goose surveys the situation. I continue to add sound to the impostures floating and swimming in the river.
Taking one last look, he turns and continues on his way, not stopping to join the others on the river. Like an aggressive beggar, I let out a series of faster clucks and one or two come back pleading notes. I watch him fade behind the tree tops.
But, the game is not over. Two minutes later, I again hear his single honk plead to join his cohorts on the river. I return his advances with a few long single honks filled with aggressive, gaining in speed, clucks.
He now flies over and parallel with the river dropping lower from the sky and inside the tree tops. Passing over the decoys, he keeps traveling. Looking as if he is not going to stop and join the party, I again pick up the pace of the clucks, pleading for him to grace us with his presence.
Liking what he hears, the lone goose banks hard and returns for another look. I slow my calling, just a few clucks to keep his attention. Lowering the volume, I murmur and growl into the call.
Committed now, he approaches for a good look making plans for a landing. He passes the decoys on the edge of my shooting zone. I refrain from firing on this pass. “One more pass, and he’ll drop in” I tell myself. Once he passes the drop zone, I pick up the clucks and honks, “Please come back” I call out in goose language.
The wind direction is wrong on the next pass, and I know that he is swinging wide to get the wind right and drop in on the party. I continue to increase the speed of my pleading clucks on his swing. I watch as he first turns his head to look over the landing strip on last time.
With enough room to make his final approach, he turns up river and quickly descends. The decoys are facing up river fighting the current. They slowly swing back and fro from the currents push. I have arranged them in a straight line. They are swimming up river in a straight formation. The lone goose likes what he sees and hears. Wings cupped and only a foot of air between his feet and water, he makes his way to drop in line at the rear of the formation.
The clucks, honks and growls stop. The next sound heard is the single roar of a 3″ Hevi-shot loaded with #4 size pellets leaving my Browning 12 gauge BPS. In response to the bark, the goose falls to the water and floats motionless.
I push off the log from which the kayak is moored and paddle out. The wake pushes the apple core into the faster river current and away from the slack water and feeding bluegills. With a few strokes of the kayak paddle and I collect my prize goose.
I reflect in my success of calling in the lone traveler. I, a lone hunter, successfully found the location to hunt, set the decoys, hid well enough not to be seen by the keen and seasoned goose eye, and talked the lone goose into joining my party, and with one single shot dispatched the bird supplying a meal for my family.
I return to my hide, add my latest kill to the other geese taken earlier in the morning. I could wait for the rest of the geese to return to the river, but I’m content with the morning’s three and begin the long paddle down river and home.