I slapped the doors open and sat up. The vivid January sunset set the sky on fire with a warm pinky-purple glow. We had geese to retrieve. 40+ decoys to pack away. I didn’t want to move. I just sat there. Soaking up the moment.
It shouldn’t have worked.
Dusty called me the night before. He was fishing and watched flock after flock of Canada geese land on the ice. What was open water the day before was now locked up. They landed anyway. Befuddled and noisy. Their ruckus pulling flocks of 20-30 birds from the sky to join the party.
The next evening we hiked out our layout blinds and sleds full of field decoys. Dusty lead the way chipping at the ice with a spud. The ice was vocal and pissed-off about having to support the first footsteps of the year.
We covered the blinds with white sheets and packed them in with snow. An ugly pile of zip-ties, canvas and cotton. I surveyed the scene. No goose in their right mind should land on this set-up.
Geese were at a distance moments later. A few flocks worked the decoys but flared. From the bay behind us we heard the honking quickly getting louder.
A group of birds, 12 maybe 15, cut behind us. They pin-wheeled and crossed from left to right. Dusty called the shot. My Benelli barked twice dropping two geese. Just 30 minutes in and we had birds down.
Ducks, swans and geese worked over the rig for the next hour and a half. Finally, with about 20 minutes of shooting time left, the geese starting landing short of the decoys. Flock after flock stacked up. They wanted down. Right. Now.
Two big geese hung like kites over Dusty’s blind. The doors flew open. The geese flared behind us. He spun to his knees, drew a bead and….click.
Nothing….snow jammed the action.
The geese were undeterred. Desperate to have their water back. Two more flocks locked their wings and coasted toward the blinds.
Adrenaline coursed through my blood. The air tasted thicker. Each breath more controlled and shallower than the last.
By the time I got my gun to my shoulder, the flock had flared over Dusty’s head. I didn’t have a safe shot. I lowered my gun. And I wasn’t even disappointed. It worked.