- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2003

CLEMENTS, Md. — There was no moon, no stars, no way of easily finding the long lane that led to the lush winter wheat fields of the St. Mary’s County farm I’d been invited to for a morning of goose hunting. Eventually, however, I managed and then sat waiting by the side of a barn in the blackness of the pre-dawn hour.

I could hear the sounds of Canada geese, cackling and honking in a farm pond a good distance away. It was good to know that the big birds were in the area.

Headlights suddenly appeared and my host, Mike Guy, one of the brothers in the Guy Brothers Marine boat store and repair facility in Clements, stopped to say, “Put your gear on top of the decoys. We’ll drive out to the blind and set up shop.”

Mind you, when Mike says he’ll set up shop it involves more than putting out a group of full-bodied goose fakes, known as “big-foot” decoys, some of which appeared to be feeding, others had white-and-black heads erect. Some were placed to the left in front of a hedgerow blind, some to the right, with a shooting alley open in the middle that, hopefully, the geese would set their wings to — kind of like a plane approaching an available landing strip.

The decoy rig all set, Mike now entered the blind, shined a light around it to make sure there were no “critters” inside, both of us recounting times when we’d surprise mice, skunks, even feisty raccoons rummaging through things left behind from previous outings.

That out of the way, the camouflage-dressed Guy cast a light onto a small propane tank and a gas grill, stuck the flashlight between his teeth and seconds later had a row of burning propane flames heating a flat metal plate. Daylight was still 20 minutes away. Mike slapped six large sausage patties onto the cooking surface and asked, “How do you like your eggs,” the words slithering out between the flashlight and his teeth.

“Looking up at me,” I answered, and Mike nodded in agreement of such an obviously sensible choice.

The noise of boots dragging through soft earth and wet grass were heard near the hunting blind. “Is breakfast ready?” someone asked. It was Francis Guy, Mike’s older brother, who opened the blind’s narrow door and entered, shotgun in hand.

With the first light of day increasingly visible, the three of us sat on bench seats, eating totally delicious sausage and egg sandwiches, me sipping coffee from a thermos and the Guy brothers — great goshamighty! — taking sips from a cold Pepsi. Their stomachs must be made of iron.

The food had just been devoured when Mike Guy looked out of a small opening in the blind and said, “Get ready. There’s a small bunch of geese coming off the pond from across the road.” He put a wooden call to his lips and did an admirable job of imitating the rapid come-hither sounds of a Canada goose. But they chose to ignore us, veering off, their long necks pointed to the nearby Potomac River.

Then Mike, who manned the lookout hole, hissed, “Here we go again. Get ready, about 20 geese are coming toward us and they’re looking.” They did — and left for other fields. This happened again and again, Mike agonizing over what might have gone wrong. Was it the decoys that properly faced the oncoming wind? Was there something on the ground, unseen by us, that spooked the wary birds?

As we quietly discussed every possibility that kept the geese from setting their wings to us, Francis Guy took a well-deserved nap. “Wake me when they’re close enough to shoot,” he told his brother, then shut his eyes.

So it went all morning long. Gaggle after gaggle flew toward us and suddenly changed course. One group of 12 geese flew directly at us, no more than 20 feet off the ground and easily within shooting distance, but a much larger flight of the big birds was directly behind them, a bit higher up but also coming in the same direction. “Let’s leave them alone,” suggested Mike. “I think it’s best if we don’t shoot at the small bunch when a hundred more are right behind them.”

There will be other days, days when geese believe our calls to be the real McCoy and they’ll be fooled, some of them destined to grace a dinner table. Yes, it will happen. No doubt about it.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].


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