It is beginning to feel a bit like the Bill Murray flick,"Groundhog Day!" We have been stuck in this warm weather pattern for what seems like most of the season. The birds in large part are completely neglecting a morning feed. They opt instead to feed in the closing minutes of what is left of legal light, more often than not flying just after time runs out. So with that in mind we did what we always do. We hit a loaf pond, with ideas on setting an ambush to catch them by surprise.
The gray morning minutes were filled with anticipation. This group of guys was heavy with excitement and light on experience. So when the first sound of wings overhead broke the silence, things got tense. The tension was near immediately assuaged by graceful fly-by of a pair. They eased their way down into the landing zone and were met by a wave of shots. This pair obviously had trained in dog fighting tactics, because they managed to make our hunters look foolish. A few dumbfounded looks were traded in the blind and then it was back to business.
As the early gray faded and gave way to a bright morning, the skies went quiet and the wind went still. Dustin did his best MacGyver impression and fashioned a makeshift jerk string from a few decoy ring bases and a bungee cord that held our blind grass in bundles. Once that was completed we were ready for the big finish that was about to come.
Around 9:30 we started to see new life in the air. As each flock made their fly-over we steadily picked away at the groups who couldn't resist the sultry sweet talk of Dustin and I on the calls. Of the several flocks that were coaxed into range, there are two moments that stand out above the fray.
First: A lone bird was heard honking in the distance off to the west. Dustin was the first to pick it out as it made its way toward us. Those two made quite a duet as they played the classic game of You Honk, I Honk. As this giant canada grew closer, Dustin could be heard telling the guys to get ready. Then the sound of safeties could be heard as they switched to fire. Just a few more wing beats and Dustin yelled take'em. From out of nowhere, Coach (aka: Ben's Dad) rose up and cracked off that first shot before the rest of the guys could even react. That goose folded up so violently that it caught the rest of us off guard. Mostly because Coach could most often be heard fast asleep in his comfy Zero Gravity layout blind. He showed us just how quick a motivated old fart can move when he is determined. (LOL I bet he will will get a kick that I call him an old fart.)
Second: Last week we had some brand new first time waterfowl hunters in the blind. We had a solid flock of around 25 read the script, line it up and then back flap their way into floating amongst the decoys. If you read the previous journal entry you know how that flock played out. This week we had an eerily similar flock find its way into our decoys. They broke off of a larger flock from the south east. They wasted no time on their descent. One solid swing to get set up for landing and then they glided in for a watery touchdown floating amongst the fakes. Dustin and I were there having flashbacks to last weekend with our fingers crossed. We hollered shoot them and it was a beautiful display of shooting. The guys all shot pump actions and with each round of shots you could see the geese drop away from the flock. When the guns were empty and the feathers had settled, they had managed to drop 12 birds from that flock.
If you would like to listen to a post hunt recap of this hunt, Ben recorded an episode of The Fowl Front Watefowl Podcast from the comforts of our cabin. Hope you enjoy the conversation. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/big-honkers-in-the-flint-hills-sky-panda-hunt-review/id1358111889?i=1000459735438
This week saw volatile weather in the forecast. We had a three day pattern that saw cold damp conditions followed by a weekend filled with crazy wind and warmth. Our clients were fairly local to us so we made the call to ask if there was any chance they could come a day early as the weather was supposed to remain the same as opposed to the massive swing back to the warmer side of things on their originally scheduled hunt. After a short back and forth, things were set in motion to have a Friday morning hunt.
We were slated to have dense fog throughout the morning that would later become light drizzle. (picture perfect waterfowl weather) Our plan was fairly simple, the scout showed that the birds were feeding heavily in two adjacent fields that were maybe a mile apart. Smack dab between them was a cattle pond. Birds were bouncing between feeds fairly regularly each day. Friday came and we opted for a water set. Planning to ambush birds as they traded between feed fields. (this would turn out to be the right call)
The early morning started out promising, with a pair of mallards giving it up right after first light. Then another single dropped in like a ninja in the shadows. All three met the business end of our group firing line. Ten minutes in and we had three mallards on the straps. Then things went pretty quiet until around 8:30. I could see the clients were starting to lose confidence. We assured them this was pretty well in line with what the scout said would happen. They were first time waterfowl hunters so they were not all that convinced.
Then the all to familiar sound of a distant honk broke through the fog. Their faces lit up and you could feel the excitement fill the blind. The distant honks drew closer, approaching from the East. The fog concealed their exact location, but we knew they were coming. The birds caught the south east wind and slid to the north setting themselves up for a graceful touch down in our decoy runway. Then like a magic trick they emerged from the fog. Their wings were cupped and they were about to meet their end. Just when they got into range we hollered Take'em. The guys jumped up and unleashed a fury of steel. not a single gun was left standing with a shell in the tube. Their faces were beaming and all their doubt had washed away.
They next 45 minutes would keep their barrels warm and their adrenaline pumping. when it was all said and done we were sitting at 17 birds for the morning. Dustin and I were happy with the hunt thus far but knew there would be a few more chances. We patiently waited for the next opportunity. Just as doubt began to creep back into our clients, we had an epic flock grace our spread.
25 of the largest honkers you ever saw crested the horizon and made their approach. They approached from the north, on a perfect line for us. This was the exclamation point flock that we were hoping for. A few honks from Dustin and I and they were lined up and fully committed to land. You could practically hear our clients confidence build. They were silently counting up the birds that were sure to rain out of this approaching flock. The geese gave it up... no hesitation, straight to landing gear down and back flapping over the water. Of the 25 that came in, all but three landed before we yelled, "Cut'em." the guys burned their barrels down on this group. When the dust settled, only two birds were left floating on the water to be added to the already heavy straps. After incessant ribbing, a healthy dose of shit talk, and an abundance of laughs it was clear this would be a flock that would live on in our conversations for the foreseeable future.