January 24, 2015
Sometime in early December, Jessica asked me, “Daddy, what do you want for Christmas?”
My answer was as fast as a knee-jerk reflex reaction, “I want you to go goose hunting with me.”
Her answer was almost as quick, “Okay, I’ll go.”
Just so happened, she got an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Youth Sports Pac as a stocking stuffer. It’s the best deal around for youth hunters (12-17 yrs old) as you get all of the following: hunting/fishing/shellfish licenses, deer/elk/bear/cougar/turkey/salmon/steelhead/sturgeon tags, and upland/migratory bird validations all for an incredible deal of $55. That is a smokin’ hot deal as it would cost you over 3x as much if you bought all those items individually.
So, I began planning our special day. Like most parents taking their kids hunting for the first time, they want it to be a positive and memorable experience. Jeanine’s usual warning was, “don’t burn her out, no commando all day hunting trip.” I knew better than to do that. This hunt would have to be close to home, lots of opportunities to see birds in the immediate vicinity, decent weather where we wouldn’t worry about freezing or getting drenched, and most important was to bring lots of snacks and good food. Of course there was the whole new experience of hunting with a shotgun at flying birds so, there was a whole new set of skills to learn, develop and gain confidence using them.
With club volleyball starting-up in the midst of waterfowl season it was going to be a challenge to line up a hunt with weather conditions and a place with lots of birds. But, I got lucky. It appeared that the team was not able to get into a tournament and that created an opening on the busy calendar. It also happened to be the last weekend of waterfowl season in the area and it was now or never. I reminded Jessy about her Christmas gift to me and she said she still wanted to go. Our daddy daughter date was set.
The Friday before our hunt, I had Jessy practice on some clay birds after work. I lay out clay birds on the ground at 25 yards and had her shoot at them just to get a feel for the recoil of the 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun. I brought a smaller 20 gauge shotgun for her to use but, she opted to stick with the 12 gauge. We launched some clay birds going away and then crossing shots and I felt comfortable that we would at least scare some birds out of the fields. After all, that was one of the mandatory conditions I agreed to when the rancher gave me permission, I had to scare the birds off the fields. The rancher, jokingly, also wanted me not to obey the bag limit as 4 birds per person wasn’t going to do much good for him. I told him I probably couldn’t help him there. I thought we’d be lucky to get a limit of birds but, we’ll sure try our best to scare them out of there.
Friday night I prepped for the next morning’s hunt by packing lunches, snacks and drinks for us to take. The truck was loaded with decoys, cart, guns, ammo, calls, face masks, head lamps, rain gear, boots, chemical hand warmer packets, gloves and a backpack to carry all that hunting gear. We were packed and ready to roll out the garage early Saturday morning. Looking at my watch, that was only five hours away. I spent way too much time getting ready for our special date but, I wanted to be sure it went smooth.
We left home at 5:30am and met up with my goose hunting partner Michael Burrell and his daughter Corrine. We were going on a double daddy daughter date and were only 30 minutes away from our hunting blind. It was slightly foggy but, you could see the stars through misty openings in the sky. It was going to be a beautiful morning once the sun climbed over the eastern hills. When we got to our spot, we loaded up the cart with all the decoy bags and hauled them out into the field. After about 30 minutes of setting up decoys we got into our blind and waited for the first geese to arrive. As we listened intently for the telltale sound of distant honking we could hear the whistling wings of ducks breaking the sound barrier overhead as they worked over us in search of open water in the field. Mallards quacked, widgeon wheezed, and teal screamed like jets as they flew by us. These were the very things I tried to describe to Jessy upon my return home from many an early morning waterfowl hunting trip. She never had the opportunity to witness firsthand these wondrous moments of nature that keep me returning to the fields and marshes year after year. Now she knows.
As the sun peeked over the ridge, it cast its golden rays about us and pushed out the thinly veiled fog that blanketed portions of the field. Watching Nat Geo HD on TV couldn’t compare to what we were seeing up close and personal. We had geese flying in and around our decoys for several hours and the two girls managed to claim a few each. It was better than I expected and we called it quits at 10:34 a.m. Of course, as we packed up our decoys more geese came in to take a look at us. I explained to Jessica, that’s how it always goes. If you want birds to come all you need to do is walk out into your decoy spread and make adjustments, look for ejected shotgun shells and wads, take a potty break or unload your gun. They all work to bring birds in.
It was a great way to end the goose season. I kept my promise to the rancher as we scared geese off the field. I kept my promise to my wife, we stayed warm and dry, we ate well, and we didn’t do a commando all day hunt. The result was a beautiful day of goose hunting and when asked if she would go again, Jessica said, “Yes I had fun and I’d go again.” Now that was a great Christmas present and a terrific daddy daughter date.