Two great days after five years of waiting

For more than five years two friends and I had been trying to get schedules to align for some duck and goose hunting in south-central Kansas. My schedule, of course, wasn’t much of a problem because I do both a time or three dozen most years.

It took five years for it to happen, but a long-awaited goose hunt for Wayne Simien, Jr., Michael Pearce, Bill Mills and Wayne Simien, Sr. went well.

On Sunday my friends finally made it down from northeast Kansas for not one, but two days.

They were Wayne Simien, Jr. and his father, Wayne, Sr.

Back in my college days, summer jobs allowed me to form a very close friendship with the woman who is now Margaret Simien – Sr.’s wife, and Jr.’s mother.

I got to know the Waynes several years ago while writing a Father’s Day story on the very tight bond they’d formed through a deep dedication to fishing, and how they both worked to enjoy their rare times afloat while Wayne, Jr. was working his way towards basketball All-American status at KU.

Sr. and I talk on the phone a few times a year, while Jr. and I mostly use texts and e-mails to communicate several times a month. As well as rooting for KU sports, and rooting for whoever is playing the Missouri Tigers, talks and texts have often been on trying to get together for a waterfowl hunt. It took at least five years of trying, but we eventually succeeded.

A week ago my confidence was pretty high that we’d do well. Our duck season had been pretty solid, with a lot of limits for up to five people together. A landowner was kind enough to keep other hunters out of a cropfield near El Dorado so Canada goose numbers would build for our planned hunt with the Simiens.

But just prior to  the two days my confidence took a quick dive when Mother Nature threw out some serious problems. We normally don’t do well on ducks when temperatures get down to single digits, like early Monday morning. Though my friends pump to keep water open on their ponds, local ducks often head to area rivers. But Monday morning the Simiens, Andy Fanter and Bob Snyder totalled 17 ducks. Not great, but pretty good.

(I wasn’t shooting because I was whipping up breakfast burritos over a camp stove in the concrete blind. Good thing –  the guys fired nine shots into the first flock of mallards and got nine ducks…I’d surely have messed up that average.)

Monday the landowner with the goose field also sent word that virtually no geese had used the field that morning, and we feared they’d moved on. Tuesday’s forecast also predicted virtually no wind, which means birds have to work harder to land and our decoys would be standing motionless.

Former All-American KU basketball player Wayne Simien shot ducks and geese about as well as he did jump shots while playing for the Jayhawks or Miami Heat.

The forecast was spot-on for wind. My forecast of being lucky to get two birds under such conditions was way off.

Early the birds were very skittish. Bill Mills, the best shot of the bunch, scratched down two Canadas on long shots. My fear the Simiens might head home without a goose ended at about 9 a.m. when flocks of big Canadas started working us pretty well. Wayne, Jr. downed a triple from a flock of four birds. His dad made the shot of the day on the other bird as it offered a fast target at long range.

We didn’t get our collective limit of 12 for the four of us. I was probably the poor shot that let us down, but the Simiens took home 11 geese from the morning.

Better than the birds, were the memories we all took away from the long-awaited two days. There was laughter probably louder than some of  the gun shots a few times. We shared a true feast on duck and goose Monday evening.   Both of the Simiens shot their first geese on the trip and had probably the best duck hunt of their lives. Plans were made for the future.

After he and his father had both made nice shots of passing geese from the same flock, I asked Wayne, Jr. if it would take another five years to get them back for more hunting. His wide smile seemed to say they’d  be back next year, at the latest.