Usually we guesstimate numbers of geese in a sizable flock. But I know Sunday one particular flock held an even 60 small Canada geese and three white-fronted geese.
I know because they were floating in front of me, spread well enough for a good count. All were within 30 yards.
Though that’s easy shotgun range I couldn’t shoot. I already had limits of both species, and was spending the rest of Sunday morning enjoying one of the best waterfowl shows I’ve ever seen.
And to think, I almost didn’t go afield that last day of goose season.
For weeks I’d planned on taking a landowner’s friend on his property in Butler County. He backed-out too late on Saturday for me to make new plans.
It wasn’t until about 8 a.m. Sunday that I decided I’d go hunt a local pond on Sunday, as much to spend a few hours afield with Hank as any realistic hope of getting geese.
I’d scouted the pond Friday and saw no goose tracks or droppings.
The last of 18 floating decoys and 36 shell decoys weren’t out until about 9:30 a.m. Twenty minutes later I was surprised and delighted to see a small flock of big Canadas heading my way, battling the howling wind.
My first shot was miss. My second dropped a big goose on the opposite shoreline.
I gave Hank the OK to be off on the retrieve.
He was half-way across the pond when a flock of about 30 Canadas came in sight from the east. About half set their wings and coasted towards the decoys.
Checking, Hank had made it ashore and had flattened so he wouldn’t spook the approaching birds.
Two fell after three shots. I gave Hank a hand-signal to fetch the first bird, then let him grab a gimme floating near shore. He loved trailing the third bird 100 yards out into a bordering pasture and making that retrieve, too.
Limited-out on Canadas, I decided to just sit back, sip some coffee, eat some snacks and see if anything else was flying.
(I quickly learned that at least one Lab prefers Girl Scout shortbread cookies dunked in creamed coffee compared to dry.)
I’d left the gun loaded on remote chance I’d see a snow or white-fronted goose. In about 13 years of hunting the pond we’d taken only one of each species.
Soon I’d find this wasn’t just another weekend. One time I looked north and saw a scene that reminded me of Quivira’s Big Salt Marsh as many thousand geese lifted into the air from a distant crop field.
I’m guessing I’d found myself in the middle of a major migration. Others did, too. Most goose hunters I talked to did very well in south-central Kansas that day.
Looking out from a lay-out blind, another flock of Canadas was only minutes away at the pond I was hunting, with eight or ten landing at the edge of the decoys before flying off.
To my huge surprise, the next flock along was about a dozen whitefronts, squealing their familiar series of high-pitched honks.
Somehow two fell at one shot, filling my limit of those, too.
We enjoyed five more flocks coming to the decoys, all with birds down on the water.
One flock had a sandhill crane trailing behind, the first I’ve seen up close in Harvey County.
The 60 small Canadas and few whitefronts dropped from an estimated 400 birds milling above the pond. They came when I’d already gathered, and stacked my shell decoys in a big blob on the shore.
At the time I was just laying on the short grass pasture, a dog the color and size of an angus calf, every bit as visible, too.
In between flocks I worked to gather the rest of my rig. At one time I had just the floating decoys sitting on land, and a small flock of Canadas lit amid them, too.
It was about noon when we finished the last of the coffee and cookies, and I brought the truck to the pond’s edge for loading.
After clearing three gates, a barn lot and farm yard, I looked back and watched about 200 geese landing on the pond.
It’s always kind of sad to see five month’s of hunting seasons end, but this one certainly sent me out with a smile.