Peter Brookes: Late summer is for hunting Canadas

When I think of the beginning of waterfowl season – before I even reflect on the timeless glory of hunting ducks and geese on the wing – I ponder the ungodly early morning wake up calls and the cold, sometimes nasty weather that comes with it.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Just before shutting off the light the night before a hunt, I slowly open one eye as I look with fear at the morning’s weather forecast, often feeling a shiver run up my spine as I spy the expected temperature at day break.

Yes, it’s always coldest before the dawn–or a winter goose hunt.

I grimace as I set the alarm on my smart phone because it’s sure to tell me that I have only a few hours of sleep between right now and when I’m rousted from my warm, toasty bed at O-dark thirty for the drive to the blind.

As I drift off to sleep counting geese with cupped wings as they gently drift downward toward my dreamland blind, I toss and turn, wondering if I have any hand warmers in my blind bag to keep my digits from frostbite on tomorrow’s “dawn patrol.”

But here in Virginia you don’t have to wait until the middle of winter to blow the dust out of your goose calls, break out the camo and get up close and personal with some of our feathered waterfowl friends.

I’m talking about resident Canada geese.

You know those behemoth birds that are infamous for fowling, er, fouling the fairway of your favorite golf course and or the kid’s playground with an average of one pound of poop per day per adult goose.

That widely cited number is in dispute, by the way. Just Google it.

That less-than-pleasant poop problem aside, the honkers that don’t migrate north to Canada every year make their permanent home here. The upside is that it provides us with some terrific, temperate September hunting.

I’m a huge fan.

This is a waterfowl hunt that doesn’t require layers upon layers of clothes, an assortment of fleece gloves, hats and neck gaiters — and the iron constitution of polar explorer Richard Byrd.

When late summer rolls around, I start digging through my contact list for Outdoor Action with Teddy Carr (www.outdoor-action.biz) for an early season goose hunt.

Since it’s still summer, I meet Teddy (who has been guiding for 23 years) at the Occoquan Marina in Woodbridge in camouflaged visor, shorts, T-shirt and Crocs.

Even better, it’s 3 p.m., not 3 a.m.; it’s 80 degrees as opposed to 8 degrees; I had eight hours of shut-eye last night rather than a restless five hours; the drive for me is a mere 15 minutes in contrast to two hours to Maryland’s Eastern Shore; and, the daily limit is 10 geese vice two geese per hunter.

I mean can it get any better than this?! Well, yes it can.

We cast off and Teddy points his 20-foot skiff toward one of his many blinds on the Potomac River. This particular blind is on an island and my experience has been that this spot is “money” for geese this time of year.

As we motor in, we see the decoys filled with Canadas.

We land the boat, move ashore, move quietly across the island and load up. With a thumbs up from Teddy and a swoosh of arms over our heads, the honkers leap off the water and into the air.

It’s game on.

Awhile later, Teddy calls in some birds blowing some seductive sounds on his signature Grit Pack “http://(www.gpcalls.com)” target=”_blank”>(www.gpcalls.com) Big Hurt goose call. The birds like what they hear and head for the “dekes,” bobbing life-like in the water in front of the blind.

We do well with one exception: I notice one of the decoys is missing its (detachable) head. Ooops!

Naturally, I immediately blame one of my hunting “buds” for unleashing some 12-gauge BB shot at one of the floating (inanimate) fowl. A vicious volley of denials, counter-accusations, insults and lies fly back and forth across the blind.

Many of the utterances are unrepeatable here.

The raucous laughter and finger pointing surely cost us an engagement with another gaggle of geese, but none of us will ever forget the sight of that goose decoy head slowly floating past the blind in the soft Potomac River current.

Or ever – ever – admit to shooting it.

Dr. Peter Brookes has a home in Fort Valley and writes about the great outdoors right here whenever he can. Email: Brookesoutdoors@gmail.com.