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SOB Extreme
By Bob Zettler
February 11, 2008

"Son-of-a_____!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

My five month old Beretta Extrema 2 just failed for the third time to eject a spent Winchester Expert HV 3" in #BB shotshell and we were covered up with Snow and Blue geese. Why does this happen to me?

Let's retrace the last 48 hours before we continue. The last several years I have had the pleasure to hunt with a couple of friends who are as fanatical about waterfowl hunting as I am but they have the luxury (most times) to hunt during the week and when I cannot - and most of the time it is within 90 miles or so of Sangamon County where I live. In addition, they have access to a lot of private lands where they have invested themselves in locating, meeting the owners and obtaining permission. Plus, they respect the landowners and will go out of their way to protect their interests by not driving on the fields, picking up all empties and trash, and most anything one should expect of others but do not always find…

It was two seasons ago when I started to Snow goose hunt with them right here in Illinois, something I never thought would be possible and now I look towards the Spring Conservation Season with as much anticipation as I do the opening of the regular waterfowl season in the fall of each year. We knock on a lot doors, drive many a mile to locate birds, watch their habits and set up early and leave late most days in order to maximize our efforts. Heck, we have even picked up mid-morning when things weren't going as planned, scouted, knocked on some new doors to obtain some permission, and THEN set up again for an afternoon hunt! And you know what; most times that extra effort has paid off!

Spring Snow goose hunting is not like a "Field of Dreams" where if you build it, they will come - no, not by a long shot. I won't belabor how you need to find the fields where they are feeding and get in there to hunt them the next day or basic knowledge that most everyone knows but I have to say that just simply because someone puts out a spread of decoys near some SOB's usually won't cut it like it does for Canada geese. So when I heard that the landowner and Todd had seen the birds in the field we were going to hunt on Saturday but that was Wednesday or Thursday BUT NOT Friday, I was concerned!

In addition, Rich and Todd become real popular this time of year, even more so than during the regular goose season, and they get friends they hadn't talked to in months wanting to go with them because we all know how good they are at what they do. So, as Saturday approached, I, the Ole Waterfowler Whore had to take a number as they had four other people going and they hate having even that many in the field! But as two of them were young men and the sons of the Father who hunts a lot with us, they would be leaving early and I could join them around Noon. Not too shabby as I like the afternoon hunts better than the morning the last several years and it would allow me to take care of some family business before I drove down there around 10 AM.

Got to bed early and went right to sleep - something I hadn't been able to do for nearly 10 days - and was awakened by a phone call at 4:30 AM from Rich who informed me I could go as the two sons who had sworn they would be there had just cancelled (something that happens a lot). However, as I now had family business to take care of I had to stick with the original plan. Que sera…

Man I was beat as it had been a long time since I had slept more than a couple of hours and now my mind was racing and wishing I could be there for the morning onslaught even though I knew the birds had not been in this particular field the day before but it was close to a number of places they roost and feed. Then Greg Masterson called me an hour later to let me know he was on his way north and could drop off my blind bag and the clothes I left behind when I closed out duck season with him at Horseshoe Lake in Alexander County, so I could forget sleeping any more…

Got my business taken care of early and set off to meet up with Rich and Todd only to discover I had left my cell phone at home - sound familiar? Turned around and as I entered home I realized I didn't have a clue where I left it only to have it start ringing - it was Rich! My good fortune but he asked me to bring him some Pepsi so now I went to the store where I also picked up a dozen donuts for the crew. Headed on and called before I got there and asked if they needed anything else to discover Todd could use some Diet Pepsi - he is a diabetic - and I said I would pick it up.

Arrived at the field and realized I forgotten the Diet Pepsi so I dropped off the donuts, Pepsi, a battery pack for the sound system since Todd's was running low, and some other items I fail to recall. Headed towards the nearest town about 10 miles away and called them to see if anyone else needed anything and learned Todd was going to need lunch so I took his order. Rolled into town and bought the soda from a convenience store, and, you guessed it, found a McDonald's to get Todd some lunch. If this kept up I was going to need a shopping cart to get into the field!!!

But I digress as usual.

Finally made it there by Noon and grabbed my gun, blind bag, Oxbow's mat and all the goodies my brethren requested and headed out to kill some SOB's! They had a spread of maybe 700 Texas rags, just under a 100 decoy shells, an assortment of windsocks and two speaker systems all arranged nicely for the morning's winds by the four hunters. As usual, it looked great and they already had seven birds down but as they say, they coulda, shoulda, woulda had a lot more IF they had taken the shots. Here they would have a single, a pair, or a couple more, and it seemed every time they had these close birds almost landing, there would be a horde of them right behind that just might do it! And you guessed it; they never got a shot at any of them!

At least they had seven and we all agreed that even if we had the same situation in the afternoon, we would now take the shots - that is, unless someone changed their mind(s)…

Oh, I forgot to mention that I had heard Todd was limited that morning and only had a couple of shotshells left for his 10-guage, so I brought him my backup Mossberg 835. The cheap, American made, old, cranky pump that many have nothing but criticism for yet some secretly covet. And as he didn't have any 12 gauge shells, I passed him a couple of baggies - Winchesters that is! And, since Rich's Remington 870 broke back in January, he was still using my Benelli SBE and enjoying it while I had my trusty new Beretta Extrema 2!

The temps were fairly moderate and the winds were out of the west so we were set up on the east, south-east side of the spread. We refashioned it into somewhat an "X" with a nice hole in the middle right behind us with the windsocks (hopefully) leading the decoying birds from our edge. Oh, we also had three kites but they were having problems keeping them up - the kites that is - and we had to keep re-launching them. Todd had built a powerful and solid sound system that was a marine CD/Radio and he had FOUR loudspeakers at the end of 30' or 40' cables. It really drew the power and his power pack was running low when I got there. That is why I brought mine as I had also bought packages of batteries in size AA, C and D just in case as, I did not know what he needed before I left home, so I had covered all that I could! Heck, I even had a couple of 6V Robo Duck batteries too!

As there were now five of us and only one person was using a layout blind - the rest of us simply laid down in the decoys and mud - we spread out to cover that eastern edge in hopes of more birds. Now these guys know their quarry and several decided to take a nap since we had reset the decoys for shifting winds in the late afternoon and a possible decision to leave the spread out overnight since the temps were suppose to drop to the single digits on Sunday. As I had rested and was excited to be out on our first Spring SOB hunt, I was ready to harv…I mean kill as many as I could when they arrived!

Now I still had several outstanding issues. One, I had to pick up my daughter from work and that was at least an hour drive away, and then I had to meet Greg so I could get my stuff that he was so kind to bring to me from his trip to the Calling contest in Iowa. He had said he would drop it off on his way home that night so I didn't think there would be an issue. And, I was ready for the SOB's as I was wearing my single vision glasses, had a face mask on, my white jacket and an unplugged shotgun! Now, the afternoon action usually doesn't begin until after 3 PM but you never know and around 1 PM Greg called to say he was on his way! Criminy!!! I needed that blind bag as it held ALL my choke tubes for ALL my shotguns and he was going to be through my HOME area long before I would be home. What to do, what to do?

You know cell phones can be a great tool and emergency aid but sometimes they can be a pain in the ___! So now I have to figure out how I can get my stuff without leaving the field during the prime hunting hours. I figured it would take him anywhere between 2 to 3 hours to get to Springfield and who could I get to pick them up from him. I couldn't ask Todd or Rich, as they were with me. My daughter was at work and had no transportation. Other friends were well off the beaten track too, so who can I get since it would kill me to leave just when it was getting good…

Maybe I can have Greg drop them off at my Ex-wife's house! Wait, her husband doesn't care for me and she now dislikes hunting - she believes it was the ruin of our marriage and I know it was my salvation (heh, heh). But that would involve giving him directions to her house and he had been driving since 2:30 AM (and I bet he had partied before he left too) and that is a lot to ask. Let's just hope he takes his time and I can meet him way south of Springfield where I could easily make it after the shooting hour is over. Let us pray!

Well, the birds start to show and I mean show up just before 3 PM and the wackage began! One big thing kills me about hunting SOB's in the Spring and that is all anyone does is lay there in wait with the sound system and decoy spread doing all the work. And you know, while I am no Snow goose caller I usually try and assist, but lying there with your buddies till someone calls the shot is hard on me. Does that feel the same way to anyone else?

The birds started to drop in and I mean we were letting them decoy in close before either someone called the shot or someone shot and then everyone joined in as appropriate. I had made a commitment to not shoot unless the shot was called and definitely not shoot even if I had birds right there above me when there was a large group coming up behind them as I had made several errors in judgment Canada goose hunting with these guys back in January and needed to make up for that. I do not connect on the first couple of opportunities but finally do on a substantial group with one falling stoned right in front of me about 15 yards away followed by another 25 yards away. We finally go out to bring the birds in after a break in the action and to retrieve a couple of cripples and I discover my two are both Eagle Heads and the one is a very mature one. Halleluiah, I finally killed my bird here in Illinois - hello Taxidermist!

Now, my cell rings and its Greg. He is in Lincoln and needs to know where to meet and drop my gear as he needs to get going home. My first thought is to have him drop it off at my Ex's home and she had already approved (what a woman!) but as I begin to give him some simple directions, I realize this is a lot to ask and so I suggest the unthinkable! No, I am not going to quit hunting and head out just when we have birds all over and around us as we talk. Nope, so sir! I will call my Ex to see if she would meet with my friend and grab my "hunting" gear!!! And you know what, she agreed! The stars sure have aligned for me and now all I have to do is let Greg know, even as were have SOB's decoying in! WTH? No signal and then I'm going to voice mail. Why has Verizon forsaken me!!! I try a dozen or more times to no avail all the while we have geese on top of us and I am calling out on my phone - something you don't see too often! Hell, if I can't get a line out maybe I can text message Greg! Right….

Whoa Nelly! He responds back and I text him back all the while scrunched down barely able to see the cell screen in the bright sunlight while these SOB's are getting shot around me. He agrees. She agrees. And I am in heaven and can go back to killing SOB's!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
A little while later after another volley he Texts me back and says she has my gear and I cannot believe my good fortune! With sunset approaching and the birds no longer coming to us or even flying on the horizon, we decide to call it and go look for the three we dropped but made it to the east, south and extreme north. And, as we are leaving the spread out, there is little to pickup and all we have to do is head out to our vehicles in the dramatically stronger winds. Hopefully, the Texas rags will not get too tore up overnight…



We look and look for the two to the south and east but fail to find them, so Rich, Brett and I head up and across the road to the north to look for the Snow we saw go down over there. It landed alongside the road leading to the farm house there so we first knock on their door to let them know what we want to do and that we are not DEA agents looking for a Meth lab but they are not home. It is now dark, very dark and as we scour the fields Brett spots the Snow just as it shakily takes to the air and heads back towards the house in the increasing wind. We have to let that one go and we head to our respective homes but not before taking some pictures of our bounty for the day. We harvested 24 and lost three of those. Amazingly, the majority was Eagle Heads, something none of us could ever recall having happened before but we were all pleased as punch and I know that at least two of them are headed to a Taxidermist!



Now, I thought my day and night was almost over as all I had to do was pickup my daughter and then get supper for my son and me. As I approached Springfield, I called her only to discover she now had a ride (thanks for telling me sooner) and was about to get Subway when my son called with a potential medical emergency! As I asked questions and called his Mother, I sped towards home not knowing if we needed an ambulance or if we should go to his doctor at Urgent care first or the ER. When I arrived home, we decided to head to Urgent Care and it turned out it wasn't as bad as I feared, so we picked up Subway and was home around 10:30. What a day and night and since we were going to meet around 6 AM the next morning, I needed to get to bed!

That alarm went off way too early and I dragged myself to the shower and headed out but not before I picked up a dozen of fresh Krispy Kreme donuts to start off the day. I called to say I was running a little behind and Rich asked if I could pick him up on the way which was no problem. However, it turns out that he had gotten very sick overnight and was in pretty bad shape. No, not from booze but from the flu or some other virus and as we parked my van (Todd and a new guy, Blake, was already there) Rich asked if he could wait in the car for awhile - something he had never asked before and maybe never will again as he is a die hard hunter! It was no problem and I headed out towards the decoys.

Did I mention the wind? It was picking up the night before and the temps were dropping from the 40's we had Saturday afternoon but it was now 11 DEGREES and the winds were constant at 23+ MPH!!! It sounded like a used car lot as I fought the wind toward the decoy spread, you know, the ones with all the pennants/attention getting flags draped all above the parked cars. And as the light broke in the east, we could see the damage wrought by the overnight winds and the cut corn stalks the stakes were stuck in the now frozen ground by. It was no longer mud as it was ALL frozen but we were hunting SOB's even though it was at least -10 degrees with the wind chill!!! Are we crazy or what?

So for the morning polar bear stake out began as the winds bounced around in the 20 to 30 MPH range with gusts up to 37 MPH! You wouldn't think these SOB's would still be around let alone be out feeding but here they came and just after sunrise too!

I think we were all glad to be lying on the ground even though it was rock solid because the wind was wrecking havoc on not only the Texas rags but any exposed skin with wind chills well below zero. And we had all three of our kites up as the geese approached from the south so even with 20% of our decoys in tatters, the spread still looked pretty inviting!

Now as the first group approached fighting their way into the wind with cupped wings and stalling out at several levels as they dropped closer and closer, we lay with guns ready and a frozen smile on our faces. Well, that first group decided to slide off to the west at about 120 yards out but maybe they would circle around and be right for all of us! Nope. Well, maybe the next group will do it because here they come just as the first group but they too slid off to the side and went on without trying to land.

A couple of times we had one or two right there but when you have another 50 to 100 birds right behind them locked up and dropping toward us, you are faced with a dilemma of biblical proportions - shoot the singles or wait for the group. Now the day before this had been discussed well into the night and it was felt that with all the birds we saw, then taking the singles, pairs or the like instead of waiting on the chance the group behind will "get right" was the preferred choice for Sunday. However, agreeing to this and performing are sometimes two different things!

I have made too many mistakes in my days where I took too long a shot or shot when I should have waited that I had made the commitment in January to wait till someone calls the shot. Call me a coward or call me wishy-washy, but as I am a guest most times, or a limited partner, I try and defer to the host or leader of the hunt. Yes, I will provide my input, observations and suggestions but I will usually err on the side of caution and those I am hunting with 90% of the time.

And you know what, I have been hunting with Todd and Rich now for three of four years and know their stance on this, ethics, and the like, so I feel very comfortable deferring to them as I know I can be a part of any decision and not just a spectator - and to me that is important. Yes, they bring a lot to the table what with decoys, access, experience and the like but I too try and bring my share to the table too! Here there are four hunters this time and we had hunted together either as a group or with each other outside this enclave so there was understanding and shared experiences between us. And, since both Rich and Todd had gun issues and I had several, I had loaned them the shotguns they were using that day and even some shells. That might not seem like much but try hunting geese with rocks! Again, Rich and Todd brought their decoys (a few were mine), their electronic callers and access, while Blake brought something in the form of being a workhorse! He carried more than his share of gear and made more trips to help us all out. Did everyone provide 25% of the effort that went into the hunt this weekend? Maybe that isn't the question to ask as too often that is the difference between a successful and failed marriage - when one or both spouses focus on all things being equal instead of shared. Like I tell my kids, a relationship is seldom equal and if you are looking for that then you won't be as happy as if you look to share as a willing participant and not a spectator. One day you might be providing 60% of what goes into something and the next time maybe 20% but as long as you all share and strive for balance things and life in general seem to work out…

But, once again, I digress as usual.
 

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So here we are lying on the near frozen tundra watching wave after wave of SOB's come to our spread and electronic calling only to watch them slide off to the side - what are we doing wrong? Yes, we have taken a couple of birds but we should have had a couple dozen by now with all the birds who came to us but slid off when they were 120+ yards off. Yes, we did try and adapt by Blake and I setting up about 75 yards out in front of the spread and that was when two birds dropped right on top of Todd and he killed them - of course we marched right back and they started doing it again.

Most of you probably already guess the difference and our issue and that had to be the popping Texas Rags that were now, literally rags! They had been so torn up by the high winds and the cut corn stalks they had been placed near the day before that the noise level was louder that our 150 Watt sound system!!! As these geese would drop to feed alongside their relatives stoically resting on poles, stakes and strings (decoys), they were met with a barrage of not shotshells but the rat-a-tat-tat staccato of 600 ragged Texas Rags! Looking back, I have to laugh as these birds shied from these rags but there were times after we fixed them those birds would still come in after we had shot at birds in front of them. Amazing, simply amazing.

During this time, Rich would call me from my van to see how we did, offer suggestions of where to move to, and the like - kind of made me wonder why I brought a my Cell with me as he was doing so from the relative luxury of my warm, comfy van! Yet, he primarily came along even though he was sicker than a dog not to armchair quarterback from afar but as he was the person the farmer had given permission to hunt his lands, he felt it was only right to be there even though he couldn't be out there with us. So maybe he wasn't a Wuss after all…

By 10:30 AM we had three on the ground when they had 7 the day before and we decided to begin working on the decoys to cull the noisy torn ones and get some lunch. We were at a McDonald's just after 11 AM and in time for lunch where we could digest the mornings "action" and set a game plan for the rest of the day. This was one of the few times I went on for lunch but my God it was cold out there and I was hungry - donuts be damned! My eyes began to get heavy as we were about to leave but Rich and I decided to drive around and see if we had any competition (we didn't) and just where all the geese were as they weren't flying the same routes or patterns they did on Saturday. It wasn't long before we saw geese and I mean a ton or more of them! I am not good at estimating numbers or length (wink, wink) but we had to have seen over 50,000 birds stretched out over an area 12 miles long and 8 miles wide. There was one "group" of birds that stretched over four or more fields and over 1.5 miles long (see picture). It was a drive that was worth the time to take and we arrived back at the field by 1 PM where I promptly fell asleep in the van as did Rich - again.



Finally, around 2:15 PM, I awoke somewhat refreshed and we decided to hit the field for the last hours of the day. Todd and Blake had done some more culling of decoys and reset what they could given the frozen ground. With this and a slightly decreased wind to deal with, we were set and all we needed was geese! Now we did have some issues earlier as Rich's electronic caller had lost its charge and Todd's did too but I had brought that spare battery pack and that should hopefully last the rest of the day. Again, all we needed was geese…

The wait was on and we could see all those geese Rich and I had scouted still in the south a couple of miles but nothing was coming our way so we waited some more…

After we had been there maybe an hour, I was getting silently discouraged and thought that with the colder temps and high winds, we might have seen all the action already which was very depressing. And as we concentrated our attention on the masses of SOB's just a couple of miles away flying east and west, we were taken by surprise when all of a sudden a huge group dropped right on top of us in a tornado from behind us and the north!!!

You all know the expression Buck Fever, where your heart starts to race, your hands tremble and you just start to fall apart - right? Well, this was a close second as I am lying there trying to hide my face and glasses and still see this cauldron of SOB's locked, dipsy-doodling and dropping right on top of us. There must have been 300 or more birds stretched out from our right to our left and piling up more and more on top of us as they fought that wind to drop into that hole in the decoy spread just 20 yards behind us. These birds wanted it more than the Paparazzi want Britney running into Paris Hilton's car as she is making out with Kevin!!! We got these birds BUT we had made the decision to shoot if there was even a single or pair that were right IF someone made the call and we had the pair…

Yet, we agreed to wait and most of us were glad we did for these birds did it and we all rose to shoot out share with unplugged shotguns (three of them mine) and the carnage began before they could scream out of there with the wind. WTH!!!!!!!! My new Beretta Extrema 2 had a shell stuck and I only got one shot! Must be the Winchester shells. Quick, reload my one expended shell as there is another tornado coming. Once again we did it right and once again I get one shot off before the empty gets stuck in the port. I cannot believe my luck, or lack of, as my partners are dropping birds and I am getting one shot off before all the birds frantically whip off to the left side (I am on the right). This happens four, count them, four times in a row within a space of less than 20 minutes when we have had four or five tornados of SOB's right on top of ALL of us and my gun is NOT EJECTING the spent shells!!!

I am screaming bloody murder now as the guys are reloading and going out to retrieve a bunch of birds all around us and I am reduced to a one-shot wonder FIVE MONTH OLD BERETTA EXTREMA 2 that for all intents and purposes is a POS!!! Finally, the excitement runs down and Todd hears my plight and comes over to check my weapon. He sees that the ejector is gone, fini, no longer there, absent with out leave, and offers to loan me back my old, cranky, dirty American made Mossberg 835 that he has been waxing birds with all weekend! What a guy and he takes my one-shot wonder and will use it so I can at least get the chance I had provided him and Rich with.

It wasn't but a few minutes before we had a group come on and as one departs after getting hit I turn its way and fire a Hail Mary shot at it when it was at least 65 yards away and amazingly it whirly-birds down as if smoted by God himself! Now that's what I am talking about!!!! As Rich is out retrieving far away birds, it is up to the three of us to do our duty and pretty soon a pair comes in and we connect with one and the other gets out there at least 60 yards away and I wax this one too! No way Jose but I have witnesses and am ecstatic but not before I three-peat and do the same on a THIRD goose at well over 60 yards stoning him as if he ran into a Heavy-Shot wall! Come to think of it, he did, as I had thrown in my Remington Wingmaster HD 3" #4's in and this old, cranky, no-frills Mossberg 835 which seems to pattern these shotshells quite well. Quite well indeed!

Pretty soon the guys start kidding me that they will take the close birds and only let me shoot at the ones beyond marginal range - yuck, yuck! After what I had been through missing out on the five biggest tornados of the season with a broken gun, it was at least payback when my long (lucky) shots pulverized the birds and made the day even more memorable by washing the bad taste out of my mouth. Dark Cloud? Sure, it reared its ugly head again but so many times this past year I have been able to find a silver lining and those three shots wiped the slate almost clean for me as I will still always have my three friends who will attest to the shots and my memory of seeing all those SOB's locked up and right on top of me which many people never even have the chance to see, let alone so many times in one afternoon and right here in Illinois and not a 1,000 miles away in North Dakota or Texas…



Must of the rest of the day is but a blur now but everyone had smiles on their faces - that is until we had to pickup! We had 21 birds on the ground combined with the 24 the day before and that is an average of 5+ per hunter as Rich wasn't even out there Sunday Morning and I wasn't there on Saturday morning. And those are great numbers when you consider the conditions on Sunday and these were ALL decoying birds! Everyone brought something to the table and we all left with more than we brought, a lot more.
 

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WOW. That is the LONGEST post I have ever seen. I did not read the whole thing because I only have about a 5 minute attention span, but I do know one thing.

If you want to get rid of your problems with your Extrema 2... Get a Super Black Eagle 2! :thumbsup:

Looks like you shot quite a few birds though! :eek:

MM
 
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