Michael Pearce

Closing of the seasons as good as the opening

Jacob Holem, left, and Kai Wernli with seven geese shot the last few hours of the 2014-15 goose season.
Jacob Holem, left, and Kai Wernli with seven geese shot the last few hours of the 2014-15 goose season. The Wichita Eagle

Where seconds before there had been a running boy and a running goose, arose a cloud of dust with first a pair of boots rolling across the top, followed by a pair of wings doing the same. When the dust blew away the 12-year-old kid was firmly atop the goose with a knee on each wing and his hands keeping the potentially pinching head of the bird away.

It was probably the hardest I laughed at a hunting event all season. Sunday was a good afternoon.

I was fortunate enough to open the 2014-15 hunting seasons with a child. My 12-year-old buddy, Jake, was on his Sept. 1 first dove hunt at a youth-only sunflower patch at the Elk City Wildlife Area. I watched as he did very well.

I was fortunately enough to end the seasons on Sunday with two kids. One was Jake, the other his good friend Kai Wernli.

The day was the last of the main furbearer season and the finale for goose season, too. We did both.

Thursday evening Jake and I had set about two dozen traps along creek and river bottoms near El Dorado, mostly targeting racoons. The landowner was complaining about damage to crops, and wanted the high population on his property lowered to give quail and hen turkeys better chances at hatching eggs and raising broods. We took 11 over the next three days, including three when Kai was along on Sunday.

We had special plans for a finale for the hunting seasons that afternoon.

For two weeks Canada geese had been landing at the east end of a huge soybean field. Their location was far from any of our pit blinds and I didn’t think there was enough cover for lay-out blinds. But, there was a finger of Johnson grass and scrubby trees in the field. With the right east wind I thought the spot might work. As fortune had it, we had an east wind Sunday afternoon.

Largely at the boy’s insistence, we had about four dozen decoys set by 1:30 p.m., probably two hours ahead of schedule. Kai and Jake cut notches in a big cedar tree where we could back in and hide, both from the birds and the cold wind.

For a change, the geese followed our plans about perfectly.

I just sat back and let the boys do most of the shooting. They whiffed totally on the first flock of about 20 that passed within 25 yards, but got the hang of things as the day wore on. We ended the hunt with seven big geese.

Kai dropped one huge Canada that weighed 12 lbs. 13. oz. on good, digital scales. That’s probably the largest goose I’ve accurately weighed in five years or more. He also had the flying tackle on another bird someone had downed.

Jake made the sweetest shot of the day, timing everything perfectly to fold a big bird as neatly as a laundered pair of socks with his 20 gauge.

Legal shooting time ended at 6:05 p.m., so I headed for the truck a few minutes early and the boys started gathering in the gear and decoys.

As I walked into the wind I could hear the distant honks of geese heading to roost, and four mallards worked over the nearby Walnut River. Turkeys were calling from a grove of Sycamores and a covey of quail were whistling and gathering where I’d flushed them while retrieving a goose. Deer tracks heavily pocked the trail I was walking. Even with the distance and the wind I could hear Jake and Kai laughing, loudly, at something.

One season had just ended, but the one coming certainly carries plenty of hope and anticipation.

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