Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blastin' Varmints

So I had a new experience this Sunday when I went goose hunting for the first time. My oddessy began about five years ago when I first went out to shoot sporting clays. At first I wasn't very good hitting only about 24 out of 100 targets. Inspite of my less than expert marksmanship, it was a hellofa good time!

In sporting clays the shooter walks through the woods to 10 different stations. Each station is set up with a different sort of shooting challenge. Some targets are thrown out one at time in front of the shooter, while others are thrown out in doubles. Still other targets are thrown out to resemble a rabbit running on the ground with the second in the pair thrown immediately thereafter into the air. The possibilities are endless, and the challenge can be quite great.

Obviously it is just good fun to go out and shoot at stuff. Maybe the little boy never fully retreats in the man, but just going through the challenge of aiming at the target, pulling the trigger and feeling the recoil of the gun against your shoulder is a great thrill. Of course, the smell of gun powder in the morning ain't half bad either.

So it was a natural progression to go from renting guns to buying our own. My first shotgun was a Browning Citori 525. A beautiful gun, it's an over under which refers to the arrangement of the barrels, with a walnut stock it also has a marvelous woodgrain stock. Happiness, indeed, is a warm gun.

The next step in the journey was to go out pheasant hunting which we did about two years ago.

It may sound crazy, but hunting is a terrific way to enjoy nature. When we hunt pheasants most of our time is spent walking through fields and woods waiting for the hound to roust the birds. When they do, we usually hit them, but this isn't always the case. So the thrill is definately in the moment of taking the shot, but the beauty, as with most things, is in the process.

Goose hunting this weekend only served to emphasize this fact. Last spring we leased two fields for hunting from local farmers, and then this summer we dug our pits and put in a reinforced wood shelter. In the pit we're about 7 feet in the ground, with a plywood partial roof over our heads that is camoflaged with corn stalks from the surrounding field.

The challenge with Goose hunting is calling the birds into your field, and I'll tell you up front, we were unsuccessful this Sunday. Having arrived at the field before sunrise we set up our decoys and got into the pit to begin our vigil. This is when I began to learn a little about nature.

Did you know Geese are the late risers of the avian world? I didn't, but this is one of the things you realize when you have nothing better to do than scan the skys and take time to learn about the world around you. We first saw song birds, then smaller waterfowl, and finally around 8a.m. the geese appeared. Flock after flock, perhaps 1,000 birds in all took to the sky to fly to the river near our sight.

The weird thing was they all came from different directions, but at some point seemed to navigate to the same spot and then take a final glide path to the river. This didn't happen all at once, but over the course of a couple of hours, so it wasn't that they were following each other, something was guiding them. The really weird thing is that the previous week the same thing happened, but they followed a different route to the same river. Maybe some big Goose boss decides these things and sends out a decree.

Sadly, both days we were unable to get any Geese close enough to really have a reasonable shot at; although I did at some point take some shots just to be able to shoot my gun! The problem right now, I'm told, is that we haven't had any real cold weather so there is still "green stuff" for them to eat. After we have some frosts, they'll come to our field to scavenge for corn. Heh, that's when we'll get them in our sights.

Still, until then, I'm learning things about the outdoors that are new and fascinating to me. Watching the skies, observing the birds, these are things that I never would have otherwise done.

Hunting: It really brings out an appreciation of the natural world, and of course, a desire to kill it.

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