The long, warm afternoons of spring have been stirring a change within me. Thoughts of strutting long-beards, shed antlers, spring chinook and spawning bass are sparring with remembrances of this past waterfowl season. Waterfowl is my first love, and even in the midst of spring, I'm drawn back to the sights, sounds, and smells of the goose blind.
On the last weekend of the season, I had the pleasure of hunting with Sitka Athletes Dave Smith, Brad Cochran, Matt Brimmer and Super Athlete (my brother in law and Sitka Marketing Leader) David Brinker. We were hunting on the legendary Sauvie Island, which is in the Northwest Oregon permit zone. This permit zone is the most highly regulated goose hunting area in the world. The reason? There are seven different sub-species of Canada geese, from the Mallard-sized Cackler to the 10+ pound Western (commonly known as the honker). Due to low numbers, the Dusky Canada goose sub-species is protected. That means we are required to take a test to prove we can tell the differences between all the sub-species in flight. And we have to go to a "goose check station" after hunting, where a biologist takes measurements and records information on which sub-species were shot that day.
We got an early start to ensure that our feathered quarry wouldn't beat us to the field. Once the blinds were brushed and the Dave Smith Decoys set out, we settled in to wait. Would they come? Would they want to be in our field? The first few flocks to fly over showed little interest in our spread, likely a result of being hunted for six months. It was sunny with almost no wind, tough conditions for decoying educated birds. Soon, another flock was on the horizon. A few notes from our calls grabbed their attention and the DSD's did the rest of the work. The familiar smell of burnt powder drifted on the slight breeze as we handed out high fives. This scenario repeated itself a few more times.
The next flock was huge - 500 or so birds. Even though it was the last weekend of the season, they fully committed to our spread. As I watched them, I noticed things were different. They weren't as obsessed with feeding, but rather in establishing mates before heading North again. With any luck we'll be here to greet them when they return next Fall.
The late morning sun was warm and we were just a few birds short of our limit. I began to accept the fact that goose season was rapidly coming to a close. With a birthday party to attend, and very few geese in the air, we decided to wrap it up. I'm sad it's over, but at the same time, I'm already excited for next season.