Just ask any waterfowler about this past season and most of them will tell you about something weird that happened. It was just an odd year. Things happened this past season that haven’t occurred before and may not again.
For me, the weirdness started early on in Michigan’s regular Canada goose season. We set our spread of Hard Core decoys in a cut cornfield across from a popular golf course. The birds had been in the field the night before and as daylight broke, the wind was steady coming from the west. The birds were roosted on a pond two miles away straight east. Experience in this field told me that the birds would fly in from the pond, hit the field and then jump over to the golf course. They had been doing this ever since the course opened 12 years before.
With a straight west wind, we were set with blinds facing northeast on a slight slope. The birds should come in, set wings, and drop right on top of us for some excellent shooting. Like I said, we had done this before. Everyone was in high spirits as we had scouted the field and the geese hadn’t been shot up yet. We skipped this area during the early season.
When the first flock appeared on the horizon, it took minimal calling to have the zeroed in on our dekes. The nice thing about having a decent spread of quality dekes is they do a lot of the work for you.
When the birds were about 200 yards out, they looped to the south and circled. I’ve seen this happen a few times, especially with birds that had been shot at, so I wasn’t too concerned. But that’s when things got weird. The birds dropped in with the wind. They approached from the west, going against everything I’d ever learned and seen in waterfowl hunting. We were out of position and with birds dropping into our dekes from behind us. As soon as we made a move, they were gone and we were left to scratch our heads, not wanting to take the bad shots at tail feathers.
The next flock was on the horizon and we stayed put, thinking they’d drop in like normal. They did not. This flock circled north and dropped into the field from the north side. We managed to get a few on the outer edge of the flock, but that was it.
After a few adjustments, we ended up limiting out after moving the blinds and tweaking the decoy spread. But this wasn’t the end of weird things happening that season.
Another morning several weeks later, I was setting up on a different field, a fresh planting of alfalfa sitting between two cut corn fields. The geese had been hitting it hard for several days as there was a fresh growth of shoots coming up after the final cutting. I had several days’ worth of great photos from the trail cameras and knew exactly where I was going to set up. I set the Hard Cores out in what I call the “reverse-Y” formation. Basically, you make a long line of dekes in twos and threes and a shorter line splitting off to the opposite direction. You brush in your blinds where the lines converge. It can be a deadly set up for two hunters.
So there we were, sitting in the “Y,” well before sunrise. In the dark purple glow of breaking dawn, I heard the distinctive honk of a goose. This had to be a farm goose or something. It was way too early for geese to be flying. As the honking persisted, sure enough, there was one lone goose flying in from the east. I made some calls, but this goose seemed to have an agenda. He went over the spread and flew straight west of our field. There is a swamp just west of the field we were set up in and it often hold enough water for a few ducks and sometimes, a goose or two. I have a feeling this is where the loner went.
“Well that was odd,” I said to my wife who was hunting with me that morning. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
It was just the beginning to the unusual events of that morning.
As the sun rose higher, the first flock of the morning was soon inbound. They wanted to be in this field and the decoys were working. I blew a few greeting calls and a couple of feeding chuckles, and we readied for what should have been some solid shooting action.
From behind us, we heard a lone “honk.” The single goose from the morning was back. It flew past us, just out of shooting range and circled the incoming flock. The goose then flew northwest of our field, with the flock in tow.
There was no calling. There was no flagging. The geese were gone, led away by their scout goose.
Shrugging it off as another weird thing in an already weird season, we readied for the next flock which was already over the tree tops to the east. Again, they were coming to us on the string, when it happened again. The lone goose came in from behind us and led the flock off and away from our position.
Now it was on. I have never moved a spread of decoys or blinds so fast in my life as we did that morning to reset 50 yards to the northwest. I wanted to be in the area that goose was coming from and, if nothing else, get it within gun range. If I only got one goose that morning, it had to be that one.
The next flock came and so did our scout goose. This time, however, was his last flight. He met up with a load of Federal Premium Black Cloud and later that week, my Camp Chef smoker.
Other hunters I’ve spoken with from across the country have had similar tales of weird events. Perhaps it was just the year for it. As hunters, being able to adjust on the fly is the only way to adapt to what happens, especially when what is going on has never happened before and can’t be readily explained. We can have the best gear. We can prepare, scout and rely on experience all we want, but in the end, its hunting. It’s not easy.
Images by Derrek Sigler