[This is my column in the Sept. 3 issue of The Commercial Review.]
I began hunting in 2010.
Let me rephrase that.
My brother John convinced me to become a waterfowl hunter in 2010.
That first season, I had only gone a couple of times, and every time out in the field I wasn’t able to fire a shot.
Nothing came our way.
It is about that same time my brother instilled in me the following phrase:
“A bad day of hunting is better than a good day of work.”
Previously I had just said that phrase to justify my frustration each time I did not come back with any birds.
After Wednesday, I can finally say I have completely bought into that phrase.
And also this:
There is no such thing as a bad day of hunting. If I am not able to come back with birds, I can learn from that experience and use it for future hunts.
For a couple years now I had been harassing a local friend about hunting geese that frequent his pond in rural Redkey.
We had talked back and forth about the habits of the Canada geese that spend hours on his pond.
When do they arrive? Where do they come from? How long do they stay? When do they leave, and which way do they fly away?
I would often get a text from him telling me there were geese on the pond. I could never do anything about them though — I was in Portland and by the time I got out to his property they would most likely be gone. Or, it was out of season and I couldn’t hunt anyway.
Also, it’s best to be on a pond or another body of water and wait for the geese to arrive. It is difficult to shoot geese that are already on the hunting spot.
That’s the situation I ran into Wednesday.
I had been preparing to hunt in Redkey for months.
I was doing my homework on the area, asking my friend more questions to learn the patterns of the geese that took solace on the pond to get an idea of when would be the best time to hunt.
When I hunted in Michigan with my brother, we would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to get to a spot near a wildlife refuge and hunt ducks and geese as they were leaving the refuge.
What I learned about Redkey, however, is that the geese weren’t on the pond in the morning. They show up sometime during the day, stay a number of hours and then leave before dusk.
Opening day of early goose season was Tuesday, and the earliest I would be able to hunt was Wednesday, so I planned accordingly.
I was going to take the afternoon off, head to Redkey, put a number of decoys both in the water and on the grass around the pond and wait for the geese to show up.
With my car loaded, I headed west on county road 400 South, got to my friend’s property and drove up the gravel driveway up to the pond. I got about 150 yards away and stopped my car.
There were geese already on the pond.
(I must note that I have rarely hunted without John, who is the best at preparing for hunts. He knows a lot more than I do.)
I called John, knowing he wasn’t at work, asking what would be the best thing to do.
By now my heart was racing. Adrenaline was pumping through my body.
I was going to get geese for the first time in almost three years.
I grabbed my backpack filled with ammunition — I’d rather have more than I need than not enough — loaded my shotgun, grabbed a couple decoys and made the trek through the field to the pond.
I was going to try to get as close as the geese would let me allow, and shoot if I got close enough.
If they flew away, I would quickly throw the decoys into the water, take shelter in some brush near the edge of the pond and try to call them back.
As I got to the edge of the pond, the geese knew I was there. By now they had mostly gotten out of the water on the north side and were standing at attention, not moving an inch, watching my every move.
They were not pleased by my presence.
I made my way along the east side of the pond — gun in one hand, decoys in the other — to see how close I could get to them.
The threshold for their intruder was about 70 yards. I got that close before they flew away.
So into the pond went the decoys, I tucked myself near the edge of the water and began honking on my goose call to get them to return.
No such luck.
Then I went to my car to grab my remaining decoys and set up my spread, hoping that more geese would stop on the pond on their way somewhere else.
I was sweating.
My heart was beginning to calm down.
No more geese came.
The only thing I got to shoot Wednesday was a selfie.
Sure, I came back empty handed my first day of the season.
That doesn’t mean it was a failure.
Now I know what to do differently the next time I hunt in Redkey.