Monday, January 5, 2009

Northern Maryland Goose Hunt

Layout blinds - the ultimate in fashion...and comfort!
We've locked up a small field in the lower Susquehanna River drainage near the Maryland / Pennsylvania border. The area doesn't get a lot of hunting pressure, so our success is limited to the number of geese in the area, minus the dumb mistakes we made. On this hunt, both factors kicked us in the rear. We were hunting in advance of a cold front - normally a very wise move, since birds (and most wildlife) feed heavily in advance of a cold front. Unfortunately, the best hunts are about 12-18 hours ahead of a cold front, and we were only about 2 hours ahead of the front for this hunt. Most of our geese flew south (or east, or somewhere) the night before our hunt. Smaller numbers of birds never helps your odds.

Small setup by 2008 standards - 3 dozen flocked bigfoot decoys and 2 dozen flocked shells
We got set up with plenty of time to spare, and we knew, laying there in the dark, that the 33 degree air was the warmest that it would be all day. I tended to my layout blind, trying to incorporate as much corn stubble as possible into the 10,000 loops covering the blind.

The view from a layout.
Everything about hunting from a layout blind is tricky. Shelter is minimal, visibility is poor, and the shooting is challenging. Calling is done on your back, and you must balance stealth with safety (mainly, not shooting off your own foot). So, we got setup and the sun was immediately too bright, putting a brilliant sheen on the decoys - again, not ideal. We quickly noticed that the few flocks of geese moving in the area were smaller, and farther between than they'd been the previous several days.

Setting up in the headlights of two trucks - common sight on a Maryland January morning.

A thick black line of clouds appeared on the horizon and headed our way, bringing wind and snow (perfect for convincing geese to set down). Unfortunately, these ideal conditions - the cold front itself - only lasted about 10 minutes before giving way to an even BRIGHTER sun, frigid temperatures, and 35kt winds that were "hanging birds up" in the air over our decoys. Not convinced to drop in vertically, and with too much wind to glide in gradually and safely, the birds chose to hover in the wind over top of us, like kites on strings. The wind began knocking over decoys (a guarantee of failure when hunting waterfowl), and then our hunt was predictably doomed by the awakening of the resident geese on a nearby pond, who were calling to all the migratory geese in the area. It was disappointing, but it was also my first hunt in about a month, and it was really great to get out and clear my head. With more hunts on the calendar, and the weather only growing colder, things look like they will improve for us in the Mid-Atlantic!

Sunrise, looking toward the Chesapeake Bay


tugboatdude said...

Nice pictures dude.Don't worry after I get the boat back in the next few days I will find some birds.If I don't then we find out where they are and go get 'em.No worries just make sure you have fun at work,hahahha

Anonymous said...

At least you were out there!

I got out for my first waterfowl hunt of the year on Sunday... and promptly dunked myself up to my chin in frigid water. Three hypothermic hours later, I was back at the truck with one duck, waterlogged ammo, and no dry shirts.

I love duck hunting!

Jon Roth said...

Great photos! Sounds like one of those wonderfully frustrating duck/goose hunting days that we all have from time to time. Good attitude though - just glad to be out there doing it!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.......
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