Sunday, August 18, 2013
Adventures of CJ and Doyle --Katy Goose Hunting
We were gung ho. We were game. We flinched from no obstacle. We both developed a formidable unibrow.
We just didn't know what we were doing.
CJ asked me if I ever goose hunted.
"Naw, not much" which is hillbilly code for "No Ive never hunted for nor even laid eyes on a wild goose in my life."
He said he had a place we could hunt out near Katy in the great goose flyway. It wouldn't cost us a thing since the field is on the back of the place he buys pavers from.
"OK, Im all over it!"
Off to Academy I went to buy goose loads for my shotgun, get a license, and pick up a goose call.
"What kind you want?" the salesman asks.
"I dunno. That purty red one over there."
Without smiling he says, "That's a bicycle horn, the goose calls are over here."
I walked over staring at him as if he was an absolute dumbass for pointing me in the wrong direction like that and picked out a nice wooden call. It was called a GOOSE A FAR- model TR so we affectionately called it the goose farter from then on.
We loaded up way early before daylight the next weekend and took off into the cold pre dawn. Driving through town was quite peaceful at 4 am though that may have been cause my eyes were so blurry from the whiskey we drank last night as we packed for today. Then of course, neither of us could sleep.
We headed west on I-10 till we found a turn off into the pitch blackness. No moon. We drove around a bit and stopped at the end of a dirt road that was beginning to turn to mud. We parked and hopped out and marveled out the total quiet of the freezing muddy field. On one side was standing corn or bamboo or cabbage or some farm thing or other, and the other side was flat and kind of shiny when we passed our lights over it.
"Might be a little wet." CJ said, and probed the ground with his rubber boot. "You should've worn rubber boots."
"Ive seen worse." I said, playing my light over the inkiness surrounding us and wishing I had worn something other than tennis shoes.
We loaded up our shotguns, 6 or 7 boxes of shells each, game bags, flashlights large enough to land aircraft, the goose farter, little hunter folding chairs, camo makeup, double roll toilet paper, binoculars, a large thermos, and the biggest parka coats we owned. CJ also brought along a large trashbag full to the top with little white trash bags.
We looked like those human pack mules carrying supplies to the base camp of Mt Everest. It took about 20 minutes to get it all loaded. We clambered down an incline to a fence we had to cross. It was about 10 feet way. We then unloaded all that stuff in the mud and climbed through. Another 20 minutes of huffing and puffing little white clouds in the cold air.
At this point I had to have a cigarette. I lit up, grabbed all my stuff again and began to walk/slog through the wet mud that was beginning to look like liquid cement. My tennys were kinda wet by that point and I couldn't feel my toes. As CJ and I walked we noticed that we were getting deeper and deeper in the stuff nearly to the top of his brand new never been worn before rubber boots. We slurped to a halt as we looked around for a little high ground. There was a round bale of hay we were making for about 75 yards away. It looked like a safe dry zone. My hands were beginning to cramp and the cig was very close to burning my hunters beard.
CJ motioned that way. We were huffing and puffing even more by this time and so couldn't really talk anymore. I couldn't feel my feet below the ankles. I couldn't even see a trace of shoe anymore as I was wearing giant blocks of mud on both my feet.
"I tole you to wear rubber boots." CJ said between rapid breaths.
"You aint gonna start that bullshit are ya?" I hissed with all the breath I had left.
I stepped in front of him trying to get to a dry looking patch only to discover the only real quick sand in the field. I sank to my thigh in the freezing murky stuff. My other leg with the muddy foot had inexplicably found a perch and so was at the same level as my crotch. CJ snorted, and help extricate me from the mud hole. It closed back up like I had never stepped in it. That was when I realized it had eaten my tennis shoe. Still had my sock on so that was something.
We wheezed our way to the hay bale and set our loads down to catch our breath. I pushed my way between two large round bales and started setting up camp. I dug a small hole in the hay and deposited all my small stuff. CJ grabbed the bag of white trash bags and headed out to the ajoining field. We had borrowed a book from my buddy Jay that explained that geese loved white trash bags. Not sure why as I didn't read much further than that. It showed a photo of white bags all over the ground so we started throwing them everywhere just like that. We practically covered about 2 acres with them. It was just turning graylight when the first goose flew right about our head. CJ and I froze, looked at each other, and ran, slipped, slopped, and slogged back to our hay bale blind. My sock was hanging off my foot and kind of slapped the mud when I ran. We grabbed our shotguns and loaded them and laid them on top of the hay bale. I grabbed the camo glop and started putting war paint on.
"Do I need any of that crap?" CJ eyed me. "oh hell yeah, come ere." I smear a bit on his cheeks and drew an "I" on his forehead and just left it at that. It still makes me smile. I can be funny like that sometimes. After all he was always telling me he was Italian.
We could just see a little bit. I opened my thermos and poured us a cup of coffee. That's when the second goose flew over about 10' above our heads.
"We're spose to be huntin out here you know." CJ said looking at all points of the compass.
"Well, you point one out and I'll shoot at it. We got any snacks?" I began rummaging around in my coat pockets. I found a couple old french fries from last season, a pack of ketchup, and a pack of hot sauce. Though I tried my best the fries weren't really edible. So I gave them and the hot sauce to CJ. I sucked the ketchup pack flat. Breakfast out of the way, I noticed it was beginning to warm up and considered taking the parka off.
That's when we heard it.
A great sound of wind, of clouds moving, mixed with a giant chorus of out of tune bicycle horns. In the distance a huge raft of black and white dots was moving across the early morning sky. It looked like it was a mile wide expanse of solid geese moving slowly to another field.
We were frozen in hunters' disbelief. We knew there were a lot of geese out here but had no idea that every goose on earth would be present.
"Should I try the goose farter?" I asked scrabbling in my pockets for it.
"Why not!" CJ said, "How else are we going to move them over here?"
I shrugged, put the call up to my lips and let loose a mighty full chested woooshh. I took another breath and gave another wooooooshhh. I was feeling a little light headed.
"Funny sounding goose call, bro. I thought it would sound more, you know, like a goose. Maybe it's like a dog whistle and only geese can really hear it." By this time the great horde of geese looking like a lake in the sky was actually veering in our direction. They must have been 500 yards out and were beginning to blot out the light.
"Hey Bro you might try blowing through it the other way and see how it works." CJ nervously fiddled with his shotgun.
"Why, they're comin' ain't they?" I said with a sweep of my arm toward them. Amazingly they immediately veered right en masse to avoid us.
"I think they saw you man!" CJ ducked behind the hay bale. As did I.
"You think they can see that good? We are a long way out here. I think I will try blowing the call the way you said. I mean, hell, they are flyin out of the county."
I took a huge breath, reversed the goose farter, and let all my being out in that one breath of air.
BLAAAAAATTTT. Echoed across the muddy field. As one entity in the sky, they turned and started coming our way again. I made another BLAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT with as much emphasis as I could muster. They kept coming.
"It's working just like Jays book said it would!" CJ remarked joyfully. He poked his head up over the top of the hay bale. As one teeming mass they seemed to stop in mid air.
"Dang it CJ I'm telling you them dang geese can see a flea on a tick on a dogs butt from 1000 yards. Stay still, I got more camo grease on than you." I poked my camo face up slightly and blasted on the call again. They began to move our way again. By now their noise was growing and slightly intimidating.
"Alright now, stay down until I tell you." BLAAAAATTTT. They advanced slowly. BLAAAAA -A- A- A- A -ATTT. Hey I was gettin' good at this! They kept coming and seemed like they were right on top of us as loud as they were. CJ was staring at me with wide crazy eyes. The geese were so loud it seemed like they going to land on us. I swear the ground was vibrating.
Then CJ jumped up and started shooting. I was stunned for moment then I jumped up and started banging away too. The birds milled around in the air and seemed to fly straight up and over us. We reloaded and kept firing. Just sky blasting by this time. We were literally firing straight up in the air. The birds were right there and they kept on flying. We reloaded again, and continued firing at them as they went over and out of range.
"What the hell?" CJ gasped, "Are these shells defective?" he kicked a box of shells on the ground in disgust.
I was quiet for a moment.
"CJ you started shootin before the birds were even here! I think they were out of range the entire time!"
We were both sweatin' and shakin' by this time. Buck fever I guess. Or maybe goose fever.
We watched the birds circle just out of our range several times. With disgust, I gave up blowing on the dang goose farter and gave the thing to CJ. He sounded pretty good but couldn't convince them to come visit our lovely white trash bag spread again.
No more singles came by either. It began to get warm so we shucked our parkas and sweated some more. Typical Texas goose hunting.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see a low flying bird coming our way. I motion for CJ to get down. We crouch and then there it was. We hop up and blaze away at this duck that somehow managed to evade the bulk of our shot but still went down. I believe CJ hit it as we saw a bit of feather fly off as it went down behind a flood dam. I was closer so I went for it. CJ still embarrassed about running off all the geese didn't say much but watched me climb over the hill. It was an irrigation ditch and about 100 yards down it I saw a duck. I snuck up on it using my best quiet even though I was dragging a muddy sock on one cold numb foot. It saw me and I fired as it flew off down the canal.
Dang! I had to stop and slap at mosquitoes.
I walked, crawled and dragged a wet sock for another 300 yards. There it was again, boom! It flew off and landed way out there looking like a little dot as it landed. Bout a 1000 yards this time. Slap a few more mosquitoes.
Sheesh, I had freezing feet, and I was sweating from the exertion all at the same time. Still, I am a hunter, and I don't give up. Slap, slap, slap, slap.
It took about 45 minutes to get close this time. I slogged my way closer and closer for another shot. By this time I figure I'm about a mile from CJ and the hay bales. I see the duck again. Slap. He was way out there. I test the wind direction. I guesstimate how much I should elevate my shot. Slap. I consider running closer while shooting. Finally, I lay on my stomach and crawl. Slap, slap, slap. The duck can't see me, I know I will win this day.
Totally encrusted with mud at this point from my chin to my toes I approach the lip of the irrigation canal slowly but surely. I am focused! As cold as the mud is the sun is still burning my back! I raise my steely eyes over the edge of the canal and I suddenly see the duck 10 feet from me. Slap! He sees me too. He jumps straight up and flies toward me and passes right over my head by inches. I sit up and watch him depart. I couldn't even get a shot at him. He does not look back or even look tired for that matter. I see a dragon fly and shoot at it. It flies away unharmed too. I wave at a few mosquitoes. Really, I just sit for a moment and let them feast. I mean, somebody ought to come out ahead here.
About an hour later, exhausted, beaten, sweating, and ate up with mosquitoes I approach the last hill of the irrigation ditch near where CJ is hidden by the bale of hay. As I limped, dragged myself these last few feet I stumbled over a duck laying in the trail. It had to be the one that CJ had shot. In my rush earlier I hadn't seen it.
I was mad. At the world, at CJ, at myself. I scooped up the duck and carried it over the hill to my waiting hunting buddy.
"Hey you found my duck!" CJ exclaimed.
"Naw, yours got away, I shot this one way down the irrigation canal." I lied.
But he didn't buy it. He knew I was messing with him and waited the rest of the morning for me to admit it.
I never did and he never brought it up again. I thought about it several times but I was so embarrassed by my pitiful action that I just kept quiet. He and I hunted almost every weekend during the season and got smarter and luckier. Funny how those two go together. We managed to take several geese and by my figures we must have invested several hundred dollars per bird by the end. Still, we were never really great goose hunters. We did better deer hunting later on and had some tough fishing trips too, which I may detail in the future. To top it all off I was a terrible goose cook even though I tried repeatedly. I was beginning to wonder if that book we borrowed from Jay was full of lies!
Anyway, buddy, I've tried to make up for it by telling everybody this story. Some of which is absolutely true.
Next time I see you, beers on me.
dc -----DC Mach Inc.