- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005


It wasn’t bad enough that the brightly lit time-and-temperature sign at a local bank displayed a brain-numbing 16 degrees (zero when wind chills were factored in), but when I arrived at Mike Guy’s house down in St. Mary’s County, he asked me if I was ready to crawl into a “laydown” blind.

He meant for me to lie flat on my back and stare through mesh netting into a soon-to-be bright, sunny sky, waiting for a Canada goose or two that might be fooled by a contraption that looked like a thin sleeping bag with hands full of straw inserted into special loops or scattered all over it.

So I went along with the plan. Somehow my aching bones managed to get inside the Avery Power Hunter Laydown Blind bought by Guy through Cabela’s mail-order catalog. After I was flat on my back, my host gently spread ever more straw over the camouflaged cloth that covered my body, suggesting my bulk required it.

“I think that’s finally got it,” said the younger of the two brothers who, with their dad, run the Guy Bros. Marine shop on Route 234 in Clements. Mike eventually slipped into his own blind he had placed a few feet from me.

A fireball sun slowly climbed over the trees to the East. Large, full-bodied decoys stood all around us. When seen from high above they would look like real geese feeding on surprisingly green pasture grass on the Guys’ family farm.

So we lay there in the bone-chilling cold, dressed in thick layers of wool and goose-down garments. The wind picked up speed as the sun rose higher, but Mike chatted as if he were reclining on the family sofa.

“This is neat, isn’t it?” he began, and I only grunted. “Wonder if the geese can tell that we’re under this stuff here in the middle of the decoys? They couldn’t tell the other day when my brother-in-law, Wally, and I hunted here. They wanted to land right on top of us.”

More grunts from my throat. Then he shushed me.

“I hear something,” Mike said. Sure enough, somewhere in the distance the faint honkings of geese broke the morning silence. “There they are — can you see ‘em? Twelve geese, way up, right over the barn in front of us,” he whispered.

All I could see were the tiny holes that had been punched through the upper part of the ground blind, the portion that could be thrown back so you could really see what was happening. But for now, all I saw were little holes, stalks of straw and a bit of sky.

“They’re coming straight at us,” Mike said softly. The two of us started using our goose calls, answering the honks of the northern migrants.

“They’re really looking us over,” whispered Mike. “Get ready. I think they’re going to do it. They’re coming down.”

I slowly reached for the 12-gauge shotgun that rested by my right leg. I was ready to throw back the head cover, simultaneously flipping the body material to the side, my gun coming up to my shoulder and, well, you know what would happen next.

But without warning, the geese nearly did a somersault, executing an aerial flip of sorts that would have got them pure 10s in the Olympics. They beat a hasty retreat, rapidly gaining altitude.

“Doggone it,” said Mike. “I thought we had those birds.”

I asked, “Wonder what went wrong?” Mike looked toward my ground blind and started laughing. “I think they saw your belly sticking up into the air. In fact, I’m sure that’s what they saw. They knew that nothing that big would grow in this field, so they got out of here.”

Like an overstuffed walrus, I rolled out of the contraption and managed to get my creaky bones into gear. Getting up was a challenge.

Five minutes later, I occupied a small, comfortable hedgerow blind some 60 yards away, sitting on an overturned five-gallon bucket, quite satisfied with my decision, busily calling to another gaggle of geese that approached behind us.

Mike quickly crawled back into his ground blind that from a distance looked no different than the green-and-brown field.

Inexplicably, one of the big birds above us decided to leave her group. She slowly descended toward the decoys as we “chatted” with her on our wooden calls. She looked us over, locked her wings and became silent. When she quieted, so did we, knowing better than to overdo the honking.

Mike bagged the goose with a fine, clean shot. I didn’t mind because she was closer to him than me.

After that, the skies took on an empty look. It was the end of the day’s goose traffic. They must have figured it was too pretty a day to waste looking for food, so they probably stayed in the open waters of the nearby Potomac River.

Have you ever had the feeling that some mornings it simply doesn’t pay to get up?

(The season for migratory Canada geese is over in Maryland and Virginia, but hunters in both states’ western counties and Southern Maryland areas west of Route 301 and Route 3 can continue to hunt geese until Feb.15. Wildlife managers figure the geese in those areas to be nuisance resident geese, not migratory birds.)

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

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