Duck, Duck, Goose……Hunting!

Hunting season has arrived! Bill Hoffman joins the Pintail Waterfowl Prostaff and enjoys a weekend chasing Michigan's Goose population.

This year Labor Day weekend not only brought upon us the proverbial end of summer but it also was the start of hunting season.

Saturday September 1st was the opening day of Michigan’s early Goose Season. The season runs through September 15th and the daily bag limit is five geese a day per hunter. This Saturday found me and a group of my close hunting partners ready before daylight in a local wheat field ambushed and ready to start at first light. I have been scouting the area, tracking the migrations and preparing for this hunt for almost 2 months now.

It was a pleasure to be joined in the field with the owner of Pintail Waterfowl Ryan Van Luven. Pintalwaterfowl.com is a Michigan company who specialize in all things waterfowl hunting. From calls, lanyards and dog supplies to custom stickers, graphics and ammo boxes.

You can check them out at http://www.pintailwaterfowl.com/

They are also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pintailwaterfowl?ref=ts

I am proud to be the newest member of the Pintail Waterfowl Prostaff.

The six of us met up at 4:45 am and got the decoys set and the layout blinds hidden. The layout blinds allow us to lay right in the middle of the field amongst the decoys and literally vanish. We covered our blinds with a mix of rag weed and hay that was abundant in the field. Legal shooting began at 6:28 am and we were ready!

The first flock of geese came into our set up at 7:07. I would estimate the flock at about 15 birds. They had just been shot at in an adjoining field 400 yards to the south and were exiting in a hurry over our set. This is not the perfect situation. We would prefer the birds lock their wings and glide into our decoys rather than just fly by. With the exited yell of “Take ‘em Boys!” We all rose, popped up put of the blinds and harvested 4 of the 15 in the flock.

The morning went on and the birds just kept coming. Flock after flock came into both us and the other hunters in the area. We ended the day at 10 am and had a great time. This was a great start to the season and we enjoyed the 13 geese in our bag.

I would have to say the highlight of the day was watching Van Luven and another hunter chase down a goose that was only winged. They both seemed to be reliving their high school football days. Eventually after the hilarity of missed grabs, dives and tackles Van Luven was able to snag the gander. Both guys returned to the blind covered in grass stains and out of breath, but they had the goose.

The most amazing thing of the entire hunt is the number of Mallards that came into the decoys. If duck season was open we would have easily harvested a limit. In the 4 hours we hunted we had over 200 ducks come into the decoys. It was so cool to sit there and just watch them pour into to us, over and over. Normally this time of the year will not feature such large groups of ducks. I am no biologist but my guess it is due to the dry year we have had. Many of the small ponds, swamps and puddles are nonexistent this year which has forced the ducks onto larger water sources and into larger groups. If they stay bunched up over the next few weeks the October 6th duck opener will be just as exciting as the goose opener.

Sunday morning we headed out again and saw less action only harvesting 6 birds. However we were lucky enough to take a banded goose. Geese are banded when they are young by various agencies on their legs. Upon calling in the band and providing the tracking number we learned this goose was banded in 2007 as a chick about 55 miles away. I have two other bands in my career and both of those birds came from the eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, of the 58 million birds that have been banded since the program began, only 3.1 million have been reported as harvested. It is roughly estimated that based on the total population 1 in every 1,200 geese has been banded. That goes to show the rarity of getting one of these trophies.

The birds that we did take on Sunday cooperated perfectly and landed right in our decoy spread. There is something amazing about popping out of the blind when the birds are right on top of you with their landing gear down.

Ending the hunts with 19 birds made all the scouting trips and hard set up work worth it. Goose breast is an amazing meal and our plan is to combine our meat and have hunter sausage sticks made. These sticks will be enjoyed through the rest of waterfowl season and into deer season.

The next few months are my favorite time of the year. Goose, deer and duck hunting will be enjoyed along with fall, football and cider. Spend some time outdoors, it’s a wild place to be.

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