Since this is my blog I felt obligated to add my own comments to this post but my friend Michael Pearce has done such a perfect job describing and photographing it that no further comment is necessary. I’m grateful to Michael for allowing me to use his text and excellent photos.
My young friends/cousins, Isaac, 17, and Caleb, 14, spent a lot of time building “Duckingham Palace” with their grandfather last summer. It’s on land that’s been in their family for decades past, and will be in the future, as well.
Having waterfowl hunted the pond every way from laying on frozen ground to making a nice blind of livestock panels and grass, we agreed it was time for something that offered enough room to move about comfortably and with enough room for guests, like their parents and grandparents and, hopefully, someday children. I’d teased the boys long enough with stories of blinds with heaters and a nice camp stove for meals.
When they were done, we had all of that and more. What we didn’t have was good hunting from the new blind, at least compared to past years when we did very well on ducks and took the occasional goose.
Then, Tuesday happened. We pulled an all-day hunt, with warm donuts, delicious beef stew and snacks…and a far better goose hunt than we could have hoped for. The Canadas were big and worked like the flocks seen on hunting shows. We had sizable flocks hovering over the decoys like giant hummingbirds.
All of us had our jobs, on which the others depended for such success. Cade, my Lab, made some long retrieves, including one blind with hand signals of about 200 yards and another that required squeaking under a tight livestock fence with an uncooperative goose in his face.
We ended with 16 geese. Four had been our previous best.
The boys had both lacked one from their first-ever limit of six, yet they didn’t shoot when a flock slowly drifted by just three minutes after legal shooting time. That was my favorite part of the hunt.
Nobody except us would have known had they each taken a bird. Game wardens usually grant hunters several minutes of “grace time,” when it comes to legal hours. But to the boys, time to quit was time to quit, no matter if it was a second or an hour past. Many times we’d talked about how once bad habitats start, it’s very hard to get them stopped.
The guys will make many pounds of delicious pastrami, jerky and snack sticks from the meat. Parts of the birds they didn’t use were quickly returned to the prairie, where things like migrating eagles, hawks and coyotes can get nutrition in Mother Nature’s circle of life.
Isaac will head to K-State next fall to study wildlife-related fields. I’d like to think he’s better equipped because of all the time he’s spent waterfowl hunting. Caleb has probably matured more in just the past year than any young man I’ve met. We will do fine, together, and I can have total trust in him as per safety and holding up his end of a hunt.
Hopefully he’s got more cousins getting old enough to go. Isaac will obviously be the guest of honor when he comes home on breaks from school.
When that happens we’ll no doubt kick back in “The Palace,” and remember this week’s very special hunt.