- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

MECHANICSVILLE, Md.

“There’s a knot of geese coming across the trees,” said Ray Copsey, rainwater pouring over the bill of his camouflage cap. “Talk to ‘em, guys.”

A small, tightly bunched gaggle of Canadas drifted aimlessly with the wind, but when it heard the dulcet tones of two expensive factory-made calls — the honking, cajoling, grunting and hailing that sounded so reassuring to a waterfowler — it turned into the stiff, oncoming breezes and prepared to settle down amid a stool of lifelike decoys.

As the geese came ever closer, host Copsey rose to his feet from his hiding spot inside a stand of pines that lined one side of a chopped cornfield and shouted, “Take ‘em!”

Jim Rice, Clyde Coffey, Tadd “Tadpole” Soderberg, Fred Passarelli and I followed Copsey’s lead and squeezed off a couple of loads of steel-shot.

Three geese stayed on the field, but the rest beat a hasty retreat across Copsey’s farm pond, over the trees and to destinations unknown.

“That was some pretty poor shooting,” said Copsey, who smiled all along knowing there would be ample time for redemption this day.

“Yeah, you’re right, Ray,” I told the St. Mary’s County farmer. “It’s a good thing I didn’t miss. I believe I dropped all three of those geese.”

With a laugh, Passarelli shook his bearded face and said, “You’re lucky if you even scratched one of those birds.”

The rest of the hunters nodded in agreement. I suppose the fellows simply didn’t appreciate my fancy shooting with a new magnum 12-gauge, 3-inch-chambered shotgun that my wife doesn’t yet know about.

Meanwhile, our duo of callers, Rice and Coffey, continued making wonderful “music,” but the wind, that darned wind, blew the large birds into every direction but ours. So we sat on small collapsible chairs and upturned 5-gallon buckets, hiding inside the trees, waiting for the breeze to change direction.

I had rainwater dripping from the pine boughs into my thermos bottle’s coffee cup. Water ran down my neck, creeping across my back, and it surely didn’t feel good. However, Rice made everything better when he handed me a piece of venison sausage to chew on.

Luckily, the temperature was tolerable, and soon the wind changed a bit. Even the rain stopped. Now we could outwait the geese that — from the cacophony of honks we heard — had taken up residence in one of Copsey’s more distant fields.

“They’ll leave eventually,” he said, “and then we’ll see some action.”

No sooner had he finished speaking than two geese sailed quietly across the trees from behind us and Copsey — or was it Rice? — dropped both with magnum loads of steel shot. That pretty soon was followed by six others that came in from the side, and Coffey warned us to get ready. We jumped up, and when it was over four of those Canadas stayed behind.

There would be roast goose dinners when night fell over Southern Maryland. We were happy as clams, but Copsey wouldn’t quit until every man in our sextet had his daily limit of two. That happened long before 11 a.m.

Incidentally, St. Mary’s County’s goose population has become the talk of the state among waterfowlers. Gone are the days when we yearned to drive over to the Eastern Shore because that’s where the big birds were. Now that is only partially true. St. Mary’s and portions of Calvert and Charles counties have seen unusually large numbers of migratory Canada geese in recent years.

Something of a population shift has taken place and the Southern Maryland counties where hunting continues to be a time-honored tradition are the beneficiaries of this good fortune.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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