15 Below Goose Hunt
If you’re an extreme waterfowler, you have to be a little nuts. I’ve experienced and read about more stories of guys doing crazy things, all in the pursuit of some birds. I’ve heard of guys braving high waves and nasty tides in the Pacific Northwest in layout boats with many “close calls”. I’ve heard of southern boys swatting snakes coming into their boats with their shotguns. I’ve been in lightening storms so strong we didn’t dare get out of the blind and had to sit through a thunderstorm. And was the case this past weekend, as we ventured out into a corn field in 15 below zero temperatures coupled with 25-30 mph winds causing wind chills to dip down to 50 below. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, that’s cold.
It started a few days before as we prepared for the arrival of relatives to my family’s house. My brother hadn’t gotten much of a chance to waterfowl hunt this past fall, so I wanted to put him on a lot of birds. I scouted an area I’m quite familiar with and it was holding a good couple thousand canadas. After a call to the landowner, we were set to go for the weekend. The only real question was, would anyone want to go?
Well that didn’t last too long as my brother volunteered as well as my good friend Jon Mitzel from Bismarck, and his friend, Jason Fowler. So with 4 takers, it was going to happen.
We drove down the highway with the trailer packed, ready to setup. The birds weren’t moving until late morning or early afternoon, so we took our sweet time getting there. By the time we got to the field, there was a few flocks already starting to come off the roost. With the extreme weather, I think the birds wanted to get into the field and start melting and thrashing a meal before the snow cover got even harder. In the sky, some flocks were thinking otherwise as they migrated south for greener pastures.
We hoped out and setup a modest spread of only around 4-5 dozen fullbodies, laid on top of the snow without bases to simulate loafing geese in the snow. With just a couple shovels, we had our blinds dug into the snow in minutes. With snow covers and a shovel, we made our blinds literally disappear in the 1-2 foot snow cover. After all the gear was in the blinds, I pulled out of the field to the road to park the vehicle. By the time I got within 100 yards of the spread, there was already a pair of geese locked up and landing in the spread. With a couple shots, we were already on the board and I wasn’t in the spread yet. Given the cold temperatures, I don’t think anyone wanted to sit any longer then we had to. When I got to the blind, I looked at my brother and couldn’t believe what I saw. He was laughing because his eyelashes were freezing up, causing shooting to be difficult. If you’ve ever been out in really cold weather, you know how this feels.
For the next 20 minutes, flocks came off consistently. Almost every small flock locked up at a distance and dropped on down. There’s few things that beat watching large canadas glide into a spread. And if it weren’t for the weather, I would’ve stayed out there all day taking pictures. But in reality, neither my body nor my camera would allow that so we each took our 3 geese and I was up and out of the blind to get the vehicle. Thank goodness the hunt only took a half hour, not even enough time to feel the cold on my hands. But I had to walk against the wind on the 400-yard walk. The wind cut through my face mask like a fillet knife cutting into butter; you just have to take it.
After a quick pickup, we were back on the road home. My face felt hot as it was literally thawing out from the cold. My brother and I chuckled at the hunt and how ridiculous the elements were, but at the same time we both admitted we’d do it all over again (and I did the following morning). My wife was quick to remind me on the phone of how “nuts” we were for hunting in that weather, but at the same time she’s seen it all too often before. She married an avid waterfowler, so who’s really nuts?
Chris Hustad is the owner/editor of DuckHuntingChat.com.