Thursday, November 24, 2011

Maryland's 2011 Goose Opener - There's An Analogy in Here Somewhere

Northern Kent County, Maryland - 14 hours before
goose season begins
You know, let's just get right into it.  The one about "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."   In the last four November Goose Openers, I've killed exactly one duck, zero geese,  and done the calling for several other ducks and geese (maybe five birds total) for other hunters in the blind/pit with me.  The reasons for this pretty pitiful success are legion, but I'll spare you most of them.  The fact is, the cold weather is arriving later every year, and the geese are just not migrating out of Canada when it's 65 degrees and sunny in Quebec.  Why would they?

So, like a fool, I drove down to the farm that I lease on Maryland's eastern shore.  It's not just for the hunting.  Each year, the farm owner puts on a big opening night dinner for us, filled with local meat and oysters, good cigars, and better whiskey.  I try to attend every year because 1) I'm always looking for new people to hunt with, and I only know a few other "farm members" very well (this goal has been pretty successful); and 2) many of the other guys are wealthier than me, and thus have a ton of hunting opportunities I'd love for them to share with me (this goal has not been successful).   Last year, I made fun of two guys who came for the dinner and didn't stay the night to hunt on opening day.  Oops.

The geese and the ducks just aren't here yet.  The weather's been consistently in the 60s and 70s and nothing's doing.  But I recruited two hunters I knew, and two new "farm members" who happen to be young and fired up, and we concocted a plan to get on the water early (unlike last year's opening day) and at least scratch out a few local ducks.  We succeeded.

Unlike past years, we were sober when we hit the bunks around midnight, with a 4:30am wakeup call looming.  We somehow made it into the boat (up the shoreline, 2 miles across the farm) by 5:00am, and preparations began. We were all shocked again when we finished laying out decoys by 5:45am - a full 35 minutes before legal shooting time!  While we would have loved a cold, snowy morning, it was obvious that a bright blue, warm sunny day was just awhile away.

Unfortunately, the geese knew the forecast too, and we lost our pitiful 300 or so roosters to nearby mowed waterfront lawns and green cover crops by about 6:10am.  We didn't hear any ducks calling, but we certainly heard them moving.  Or at least we thought they were ducks.
Everybody do the coot scoot!

My bird for the day - he should have been 200 miles south 
After the sun was well up, a mallard passed just a bit too close for his own safety, and he was taken by our group. A little later, out of nowhere, a flock of wood ducks came straight in, just outside of range.  One last bird decided on the front row seats, and I took him with one shot.

And with that, it was all over.  No more ducks all morning.  No geese anywhere in the zip code.  Just done.   I could pretty much copy the same statement about warm weather, no ducks, no geese, etc.

But with that, it's okay to leave you with another analogy.  One of those about "a bad day hunting" and a "good day working" or "you can't kill 'em from the couch/bed/house/RV etc." Regardless, we got out, we got after them, and we even killed a few.  It was a lot of effort for a few birds, but that's what I've come to expect on the opening day of "November Goose" season.  Maybe next year if it's going to be warm and sunny, I'll go for the dinner and sleep through the hunt.  Because whether the geese like it or not, colder days are coming in just a few weeks.......and then I'll need a few days off from work and family duty for sure.

Chain drive duck boat.  Gotta love it. 


Downeast Duck Hunter said...

The northeast just got a healthy dose of snow and cold weather, I attached a note to a carrier goose that left the day before yesterday. Let me know when you get it.

Rory @ R-Dub Outdoors said...

we are just the opposite we hunt the warm weather before all of our lakes freeze up here in Washington state. we had a really good year for geese and ducks I hope the cold weather brings you some good hunting.

Eastern Shore Outdoors said...

It has been balmy here on the Eastern Shore. You could be hunting in shorts today on the last day of the first split. Yesterday, I did see some greenheads out, but only a smattering of geese. Locals report a mixed bag, with some getting skunked hunting last week and some getting their limit. As with real estate, it comes down to location, location, location

Kirk Mantay said...

DEDH - carrier goose indeed! besides the weather, the poor goose reproduction has been killing us. 7 year old Canadas are prettttty smart.

Rory - thanks for the wishes...wishing for cold weather is part of being in the wintering grounds!

PR - yeah they are hitting some fields and not others, and are in no hurry to move once they find a place they like. A lot of the farms around us (like Hopkins preserve) are run by guides, and they just aren't getting a lot of parties - which means the geese have a better chance of sitting in a great field with no hunting pressure.

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