Snow, 5-10kt winds, 26 degrees, and January along a major goose flyway. It's a prescription for a perfect goose hunt. Maybe.
My friend Rich has miraculously worked himself into a new goose hunting spot near the Pennsylvania border. As those things go, it's typical of central Maryland. He has a longstanding relationship with the guys who hunt there, and has been building a relationship with the landowner himself. That it's near Pennsylvania is significant, too. For the past three years, Pennsylvania has surpassed Maryland, including Maryland's Mighty Eastern Shore, for Canada Goose harvests. There are many reasons for that, and many more speculations. But it behooves us to focus some hunting attention on the area........when we can get a spot lined up.
This area - the northern end of Maryland's piedmont - is perfect for wintering geese. It's basically and endless series of rolling hills, large horse farms, luxury golf courses, scattered row crop operations, and verdant mansion "lawns" covering 10, 15, or 20 acres. The weather, predicted and realized, was just as perfect. 26 degrees, light snow, light wind, and heavy clouds. Let's do it! We had about 6 dozen decoys out (above). We had plenty of trustworthy guns, too.......
Vintage Rem 870, 1990s Rem 11-87, Moss 935, Franchi (model?)
We had a reasonable but rough blind (it seriously needs a roof), and four guys who could all call geese reasonably well...........
Definitely not the worst blind I've hunted
But on this perfect day for waterfowling, the birds simply did not fly. I suspect that large numbers of migratory geese never made the trip south this year. Maybe they will? My brother and I have been working on a theory that when the majority of ponds and lakes freeze up in Maryland and Virginia, migratory ducks and geese simply pass up the entire Chesapeake Bay and winter in North Carolina's Outer Banks, instead.
Another problem was that the geese we did see (less than 50) all knew exactly where they were going. A few circled, and none flared. But none ever set their wings for a landing. This, I believe, is the result of two separate problems. First, I believe the geese in the area have been in the area for weeks, if not months. They know the landscape well. Which leads me to the second problem - I would bet the geese are aware that this field is hunted. Based on the goose poop in the field, they still use it at night. But during the hunt, they seemed confident that they were making a good decision to fly right over our pretty impressive setup without too much of a look.
In the end, we didn't shoot. Any of us. It was the first time this season that this field did not produce at least one goose. I am starting to run out of "things I could do better" and just wonder if I need to be doing something totally different, for example, not hunting locally at all, and saving my money for an annual trip to Mexico or Canada to hunt birds. Ultimately, I wouldn't be able to stop myself from hunting locally even if I promised to do so, and that's one thing that stops me from feeling at all frustrated about this run of poor hunts. Oh well. Be back at it in another few days!