On Being Goosed

On Sunday, we took a drive out into the Columbia Basin.  We went to see Buddy Morris, to continue work on the book we are putting together.  When I talked to him, arranging the time for our confab, he said, “Oh, great day for a drive!  You’ll see lots of Canada geese—all over.  They will have your mouth watering.  And I know a couple guys who would show you where to lay out in a field and freeze your a#@ to get some.”  I have heard such offers before.  We saw no geese on the drive.
You know about Canada geese, right?  Over recent decades, all over the country, Canada geese have transformed from magnificent delicious game birds to urban vermin.  At the same time, in more rural areas, we still awake on late fall mornings yearning to hear the honking of wild Canadas trying to decide if our decoy spreads are worthy.  We hunger for a wild goose hot from the oven, or some of the late Gus Mircos’ incredible goose breast medallions.
This juxtaposition of goose images got me digging for a decade-old email from Colorado buddy Gus.  We did morning shows together for a few years at KOA Radio in Denver.  Gus loved hunting and eating geese, and we shared many crisp mornings among his self-described “brilliantly-arranged decoy spreads,” and many afternoons chasing pheasants.  Gus lived north of Denver, in an area where the geese were both urban vermin and wild sport.  “Hey Jim,” he wrote.  “Just finished your column on Pheasant Farms…and just got the goose blind dug in yesterday.  Looking forward to popping a few next weekend…my part in ridding the area of sky carp.  Yummm.  Stay well!”
Morris’ offer, and reviewing Gus’ email, stirred a memory way back in my mind. About this time in 1990, editor and buddy Brad Johnson called to tell me of incredible wild goose hunting in Northeast Colorado.  This was Gus country, only a few years after tens of thousands of Canada geese had taken ownership of Denver’s parks and green places—never leaving town.  Brad was so excited that I was quickly seduced into an end-of-season wild goose adventure.
Our departure time got earlier each time we talked about the trip.  After a big snowstorm the day before our hunt, Brad called to move it to 3:30 a.m. (“Just to be on the safe side…”).  As we rolled north on I-25, Brad filled me in.  We would have breakfast with his buddy Ben and a couple guys from Ducks Unlimited, then head into the cornfield.
Breakfast—as always on such mornings—was perfect.  Everything seemed normal as we psyched ourselves for the thousands of geese that would pile into our decoys. Brad hummed happily to himself.  He and I would share a blind, while Ben and the DU guys would be in another. My first hint about the back story of the day came when the straight-faced young farmer said to Ben, “Boy, you shoulda seen ’em yesterday…the skies were filled!”  Brad and Ben smiled at each other.
The sun rose into a flawless blue sky, as we grew anxious in the pit.  Brad bragged on Ben’s ability to predict the best goose days…  And how he never missed…

As the sun climbed, Brad borrowed my binoculars to watch geese flapping on the distant Jackson Reservoir.  “Yup,” he’d say, “they’re getting ready..”  Each time I looked, those flapping wings were in the exact same spot.  “Anytime, now,”  He’d say.

10 a.m.  I looked again at the flapping “geese” on Jackson.  “Brad,” I ventured, “those things are starting to look pretty mechanical to me.. Like battery operated wings, or something..  And why would a goose come clear out here when metro Denver has all that greenery?” “Oh no, I’m sure they’re geese.  They’re all over up here.  Just be patient.”  Then he hummed and smiled.

At one point, I looked toward the other blind.  Ben and the DU guys were lolling in the decoys.  When they saw me watching, they waved us out.

11 a.m.  Brad talked me out of leaving the blind, and angrily motioned for them to return to theirs.  “Hmmm,” I thought, as unacceptable possibilities crept into the back of my mind.  Then, I thought, “Nah…”  We threw snowballs at the decoys and looked at flapping geese.

12:00 Noon.  More snowballs.  Brad confirmed with me that it was Noon, then climbed out of the blind.  Ben brought us lunches.  Brad and Ben agreed that I’d stayed in the blind ’til noon.  Brad hummed and smiled.  Ben frowned.

Finally, I GOT it.  There were no geese outside metro Denver.  Brad and Ben knew it.  With nothing else to do bet on until the Super Bowl, Brad had bet Ben that he could get me on the road before 4:00 a.m. and keep me standing in the middle of a cold empty cornfield until after Noon.

I know money was exchanged; Brad even bought my lunch.  “Look at it this way,” he said.  “Ben didn’t get a single goose, and you and I never missed a shot all day.  Perfect!”  He was humming and smiling.  I was pretty sure I’d been goosed.

Now I’m thinking maybe I need to know a little more before heading to the Basin for geese.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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