Mike Wilson: We searched for 20 minutes

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

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We looked everywhere. For a good 20 minutes and I truly mean a good 20 minutes, we looked up and down. All in all, this reminded me why I was a retired dove hunter when friends originally came calling.

I pretty much retired from dove hunting when the state opened up the “resident goose season” several years ago after reflecting that a single goose probably has as much meat as five or six limits of doves. Yes, I somewhat enjoyed the social aspects of those opening day affairs, but not the attendant mosquito bites and sunburns or the increasingly exorbitant fees demanded by the local “dove farmers.” I needed a pastime that involved cooler temperatures, larger shot, and larger, noisier birds, and the state kindly obliged. No plugs, shooting until after sunset, electronic calls ok, liberal limits: what’s not to like?

My friends and I just recently enjoyed our most successful field hunt for geese ever, the four of us bagging 13 in all. We well might have taken home only an even dozen if not for the fortitude and industry of Brother Wayne…

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The forecast was perfect, with cool northeasterly winds that were bound to stir the geese up. There was still just a bit of grain on the field, which had been cut about a week earlier. We drank the DC’s coffee and consumed the obligatory sausage and egg biscuits and then turned to setting out the decoys, which included six super magnum (42”) shells on motion stakes among the regular ones. The breeze was just enough to generate a perfectly enticing wiggle in the big boys. We set up looking toward the west with our backs to a long hedgerow with numerous trees so we could shoot out of the shadows.

Not long after sunrise the first wave came in loudly and very devoted to the decoy spread. I called the shot and it seemed that geese were falling everywhere. The men started out to pick up the fallen birds, but when I hit the comeback call, the flock — amazingly — turned and came back for another pass! Reload! Cover up! We downed several more and then things got quieter, so we went out to collect them. The (for us) unprecedented pile had nine geese!

After a very brief lull in the action, we could hear yet another smaller flock headed our way. When I called the shot, the bossman, to my right, fired his Browning A-5, and I heard something crash loudly into the vegetation between and slightly behind us. We picked up three more geese and then started looking for the one that had fallen in the briar patch.

All of us combed that area for probably twenty minutes with no luck at all, but we were fully convinced that it had fallen stone dead right there. It finally occurred to the bossman to look up, and there it was, firmly wedged about 18 feet up in a tree with its head stuck in one fork and its plainly broken wing in another. We knew if we tried to dislodge it by shooting it that we would only ruin the breast and probably not even budge it. The DC’s chain saw was a 45-minute round trip away.

Suddenly Brother Wayne — actually the eldest of us but perhaps in the best shape — started climbing the slightly larger tree next to the goose tree. When he was about halfway up, he asked for a stick to poke the goose. The best one we could find lacked about a foot of reaching the doggone bird! Then the DC had a sudden inspiration: why not wake up his cousin who lived in the house next to the field and ask to borrow a pole?

Since young people may be reading this, we will not recount the beginning of the conversation with the cousin when he opened the door; suffice it to say that the DC eventually returned grinning with a long aluminum pole saw, and in very short order Wayne, who had remained precariously perched on a questionable limb all that time, triumphantly poked the goose free. It hit the ground with a resounding “whump” that the bossman managed to capture with a cell phone video that he later entitled “No Goose Left Behind.”

We are indeed fortunate to have good men like Brother Wayne who will step up when the going gets tough. In my own after-action contemplation, I more or less concluded that my own vertical recovery limit in such a scenario would more likely be some seven feet — the height at which I can touch the goose with the tip of my barrel. At this age, I more than ever appreciate having my feet on the ground at all times…

MIKE WILSON is a former Hampden-Sydney Spanish professor and 13-year resident of Prince Edward County, who now calls North Carolina home. He can be reached at jmwilson@catawba.edu.