Doing it for the Ducks – A Late Season DU Goose Hunt

The last weekend of goose season is always a special one. For one, it always falls on – or at least the weekend of – my birthday. It also just happens to always be pretty hot in terms of feathered flying jumbo jet traffic in the airspace surrounding my favorite local watering hole.

While this favored haunt had been a bit lackluster due to drought and water levels, two full days of heavy rain the week leading up to this finale would make the Taj Mahal blind, in its inaugural season, truly huntable for the first time since early teal, while adding a couple acres of surface water back to the mud flat. With bird numbers in the area seemingly high, the setup for an epic weekend could not have been better.

To further add to the excitement of this grand finale, we had the unique honor of being asked to fulfill an obligation for our JoCo DU Chapter to a group who was generous enough to bid on an auction item at a previous year’s banquet – a local goose hunt with our chapter committee members, followed by a wine tasting at a local winery for the group and their wives. While this would add a bit of pressure to our Saturday, it also created an element of excitement.

With all appropriate and necessary details and arrangements communicated via emails traded out over the days leading up to the hunt, Adam and I met our party bright and early Saturday morning, exchanged greetings, and made our way to our destination.

Adam firing up breakfast burritos for our Ducks Unlimited guests

Adam firing up breakfast burritos for our Ducks Unlimited guests

Adam and I had agreed that if ever there was an excuse to go all-out, trailer-full-of-decoys and all, this was it. In the event we did not see a goose, dang it, we’d in the very least impress our guests with our spread alone, let them know we tried. We carefully and strategically deployed something in the neighborhood of 9-10 dozen or more of our finest faux-geese, encouraging our guests to get comfortable and acclimated for what was, unbeknownst to any of us, about to become as fine a goose hunt as one might possibly hope to to bid on at a DU auction.

The hunt started off with Adam’s (quite possibly, among those in the know) famous breakfast burritos – to be enjoyed while we watched some early mallards work the breaking dawn. Our guests assured us that this was already a success; simply getting out, enjoying a morning afield with friends, a breakfast fit for a king in a comfy blind, and a little mallard-watching at sunrise… these were definitely “our kind of guys” – they “got” what it was all about. Which immediately eased a bit of the pressure that comes with doing this kind of thing. But it also makes you want to get them into some birds all the more.

IMG_0559-bAnd it did not take much longer for that to happen, as the first group, off in the distance, interrupted our bird-watching-breakfast as they headed our way.

With our first birds in, the “skunk” officially off, and more birds moving in the distance, Adam and I both knew from experience here and sheer instincts that it was going to be one of those days. We were on a good one, and were able to relax, forget about the pressure of getting these guys on some birds, and focus on the finish. And we did just that.

IMG_0575-bFrom that point on, I don’t remember ever experiencing a dull moment, with plenty to appreciate between groups of geese. A lone, mature Pintail drake put on a spectacular show for us, making numerous passes, flaunting the fact that he was safely out of season.  Several groups of Mallards enjoyed our spread without suspicion. We even shook things up with a surprise group of snow geese, one of which decided to stick around. If there was a moment somewhere in  between, it was spent getting to know our guests and new friends, sharing stories abroad and afield.

I cannot imagine a better hunt for a group of guys that might not get out as much as we do. I do this every possible day I can to the tune of 40-50 hunts a season, and it was still “magical” to me – but I, admittedly, still get giddy every time they lock up, so that might not be saying much. I know Adam and I could not have conjured up a better day to share with a group of guys generous enough to support our favorite cause, Ducks Unlimited, where we invest a decent chunk of our time throughout the year ensuring that moments like these will still be accessible to our children and theirs.

Geese came, small groups, large groups, until the five of us had our three birds each. We took our time, shot one or two out of each group, and simply enjoyed our day. No hurry to get home, just a relaxed day with friends, new and old alike, and a perfect day in terms of birds in the air. With limits in hand, a blind lunch {set to rival our breakfast} of pepper-jack deer brats was served, all appropriate photo documentation concluded, we parted ways to get cleaned up and ready to meet our guests at the winery.

Greg at Davenport Winery explaining the wines available at our post-hunt wine tasting

Greg at Davenport Winery explaining the wines available at our post-hunt wine tasting

We met our group out at Davenport Winery, in Eudora, KS and had a blast. It was nice to meet our guests outside of the blind, meet their better halves, and enjoy looking back at the day’s hunt. Davenport had a most excellent selection of wines, and I can back that comment up by stating that we bought, as a group, multiple cases of wine before leaving!  Could not have planned a better finish to the day we had.

Many things to be thankful for here, but will limit it for now to both the group and the winery supporting DU; and for the opportunity to make some new friends in the blind. Oh, and am just a little thankful that the same group won the auction item at our annual event again last weekend – feels good to know they were not going to let that get away, and it should be a little less pressure next year. I will definitely be looking forward to it.

The entire photo session from this hunt can be found HERE.

~ benton

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