Early goose hunt is hunters' first opportunity to take aim

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D.S. Pledger
Sunday, September 8, 2013

All summer long you see them. They parade through the front yards of river and lake properties, nibble grass on golf course fairways and make a general nuisance of themselves in ways we won't go into here. Yes, those big Canada geese have been out in full view for all to see as they carry on their noisy, extroverted lives.

But on the first of September, all that seems to change. That's when the two-week-early goose season begins, and for me at least, the ubiquitous honkers suddenly disappear off the face of the earth. In spite of that, for many years I'd venture out each September and spend hours staring at an empty sky.

Beside the lack of success, one of the things that weaned me from early goose hunting is all of the regulatory hoops one must jump through. In addition to the standard small-game hunting license, you must purchase a state and federal waterfowl stamp and a $3 early Canada-goose permit. You also need federal harvest information program (HIP) certification.

There is also something incongruous about hunting when we are barely out of August. In southern Wisconsin hardly a leaf is turned. The bugs are still to be reckoned with, and heat and humidity are high. Even when wearing the minimum of camouflage, any physical effort (such as walking) results in breaking into a sweat.

In spite of the lack of logic to it, for many years I'd eagerly await a chance at a late summer goose. I'd drive a mile and a half to a spot where plenty of neighborhood honkers were flying last fall, hoping to find a few. The pond where several geese raised their families last spring seemed like a good bet, too, but it was always barren of birds.

The walk through the long grass and weeds to the pile of stumps and brush which served as a blind along the edge of the field I usually hunted was not without hazard. One year I unwittingly blundered into the web of one of those huge, ferocious black and yellow garden spiders. When I finally saw it, the arachnid was scurrying up my shirt towards my face. The blood-curdling screech that involuntarily came out as I brushed it off would certainly have alerted every goose in the neighborhood—if, indeed, there had been any around to hear it.

After getting to my blind I'd be perspiring heavily and soon the mosquitoes would start to visit. I hosed myself down with DEET lotion but discovered that there's something in the stuff that melts the finish on gunstocks, which forced me to go to a less effective brand.

I'd watch the flocks of blackbirds wheeling around in the sky as I listened for that mournful, wild cry of geese heading my way from Lake Koshkonong. The only bird song, though, would be the warbling of a robin picking currants from a nearby bush.

As the sun gradually neared the horizon, everything was bathed in a warm, golden light. Still no geese, but along the edge of the woods a couple of deer might come out to graze, etched against the greenery in their red summer coats, reminding me that bow season was almost upon me. Then, as the horned owls began warming up, shooting hours ended, and it was time to leave.

Skunked again. Sometimes I wonder why I even pursued early goose for so many years.

Perhaps it's because it comes at the very beginning of the fall hunting season. The general opener was still a week or two off, but somehow the idea of putting on camouflage, sliding my shotgun into its case, and heading out the door to actually go hunting after all the months of waiting was irresistible.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net.

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