Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Magellan Hits...a Goose Field???

Before Magellan made the snow goose hunt with Sam, he hunted a bit north of Vicksburg with Sam Pierce, Brian Vickers, and Michael Stennet.  According to the journal entry, there were plenty of birds high, but the high winds and below freezing temps kept them from landing.  They managed a hen shoveler and hen mallard:

 After that, he hunted with Sam Pierce and Ryan Provance just south of Vicksburg.  Again, the journal reads "froze out", so I'm going to have to get some explanation on this photo:

After a couple of hard hunts, Sam decides to do something a bit unorthodox - hunt a cork mallard in a dry field for snow geese.  Below is the account:

DATE: 1/13/2011
WEATHER: 17 degrees, clear, North wind at 6 mph
FRIENDS: Keith Upchurch, Cotton Eastwood, A. Bennett, Sam Pierce and 7 others
KILLS: 62 total, mix of snows, blues, Ross'

After poor hunting the previous few days, we decided to switch species.  Cold weather had the entire Mississippi delta locked up with ice, and without a deep brake to hunt, we knew things weren't going to change anytime soon.  There were 3 large flocks of snow geese using a field near Money, MS, and Chuck had been patterning them over the past few weeks.  All 3 flocks were huge, numbering well over 150,000 geese combined.  We felt confident that setting up on the ridge of the wheat field these 3 flocks had been frequenting would give us a chance at a good shoot.  All 3 flocks were roosting within one mile of this field. We planned to set out a spread of exactly 1,000 decoys composed of rags, socks, and shells.  Now, this is no easy feat. Especially when it’s 16 degrees and a hammer is needed to stake each sock in the frozen ground. But, by the headlights of our trucks, urged on by the honking and cackling of 150,000 geese as a background beat, 10 men made short work of this spread. We strategically placed ourselves throughout the spread in pairs.  Three dogs were on this adventure with us: my young dog Cowboy, Chuck’s dog Luke, and another small black female lab.  As we settled in to our respective spots we covered our bodies with white sheets. Strips of these sheets were used in a bandana-like fashion to cover our faces. We lay on the frozen ground quietly talking with anticipation and speculating about what was about to take place. I was on the east side of the spread, at the crest of the slight ridge in the field. Magellan had taken his place about 15 feet directly in front of me. In the dawn’s light, he was but a small dark spot among the 1,000 white strangers posed around him.

The smallest flock was roosted to the north and was the first to come off roost. Due to the north wind, this flock was not expected to decoy well. As they neared, the calling fired up. The flock of over 20,000 geese overhead soon drowned our honking out. Even though we were not expecting a great showing from this particular flock, we still managed to turn several singles, which were downed and retrieved in short time. Soon after, the second flock to the west came off roost. This flock made short work of closing the distance between us. This flock was expected to decoy better than the first. The majority of the flock stayed wide as they swung over our heads and downwind. A small group of 10 broke off and locked up on the east side of the spread. Keith, Asa, and I took 6 of the 10. Most of the geese circled wide and stayed out of range. Coaxed by our calls and our enormous spread, we occasionally pulled groups of 10-15 within range and were able to pick up a total of 22 out of this group before they became wise enough to look for another spot to feed.  After several minutes of retrieving, we heard the southeastern flock begin to rise. This was the largest flock, numbering well over 100,000 birds and also was also the closest. Even from a half-mile away there was still a thunderous roar as this flock unearthed itself from the roost. I will never forget the sight and sound of this flock coming up over the tree line. The sky darkened and the sound was deafening. Due to their position relative to the wind, these geese were expected to decoy beautifully. They did not disappoint. Shifting to a downwind approach as soon as the lead group saw the spread, they began to circle. In a matter of minutes there were well over 50,000 geese forming a tornado over our heads. Soon a few began to pitch down into our spread. One Ross goose pitched down directly in front of us… I mean it landed within 10 feet of Keith. The birds continued to pitch in, and the flock as a whole was setting up for a final approach.  Someone from the back called the shot, “Get ‘em boys!” Ten guns came to life as one, spouting fire and lead and geese began to fall from the sky.  As I finished up my third shot, I looked around to watch the show. Geese were falling from the sky over the entire spread. It was literally raining geese. 27 geese were downed during the initial volley. Five more were picked off as they attempted to make a hasty getaway. A few smaller groups returned over the next hour, offering chances at singles and doubles. By the end of the morning we had bagged 62 geese. As we all gathered around to recall the more exciting moments of the morning, I overheard someone say “Well, I guess now we gotta pick up all these decoys”.

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