Stendel David bw.jpg

Stendel

Many hunters know how easy it is for an everyday hunting expedition to develop unexpected incidents that seem to burn their places into our memories.

One of those experiences I don’t mention too often because many tell me it’s hard to believe.

It was the first week of early goose season in northwest Lower Michigan. I, with two hunting buddies, Dan and Dick, set our decoys out early to hunt the fields of Dan’s friend, Frank. We had been out three days earlier and rolled four of the huge, tire-shaped bales of freshly cut hay together forming a square, “cubby-hole” blind to hide in with enough room for the three of us and all our gear.

Before season, Dan and I scouted the fields from his truck, trying to pinpoint the times those geese made their way toward the local farmers’ cornfields. The geese and ducks both, came every morning from the local lakes and river flats, heading straight toward the neighboring farmer’s corn fields. They flew over Frank’s fields to get to their feeding grounds — usually not much higher than the treetops on the edge of the field.

But that morning, the three of us sat waiting for those geese to come flying into our spread. Unfortunately, that never happened. So we gave it until about 10:30 a.m. and then decided to call it, with the idea that we’d try again that evening.

We rounded up everything. Dick told us he was running into town to gather with his daily regular coffee lovers at their morning watering hole. Dan and I were heading straight home.

We got to the road and spotted a flock of geese, resting and feeding in a field alongside the road. We coasted by and counted 30-plus comfortable birds showing no worry of danger.

That’s when I decided to practice up on stalking tactics.

We turned around at a nearby railroad track. I stepped out of the truck, got out my shotgun and loaded up. Dan coasted slowly back toward those geese; I walked along on the opposite side the truck, keeping out of sight.

We got to a line of trees that separated the edge of the field from the road shoulder and I dove into the gully full of tall weeds and started crawling on my belly. I made my way to the field to hide behind four rotten hay bales, next to some tall, young popular trees to give me even more cover.

In “post” position, I sneaked a peek at the geese. Again, the majority were resting, some were still feeding, one sentry glanced around, now and then, for safety reasons. I kept my eye on him, in general.

The sentry would stick his neck out for a minute or so, making sure all was well and then go back to feeding. He continued to do so over and over. In a matter of minutes, I got the timing of his movements. As I kept my eyes on the whole flock, I tried to get to a better position.

Once there, I turned my attention back to the sentry’s activities. Head up, then back to feeding. Back and forth, time and time again. It was time to try my luck.

I figured the next time the sentry dropped his head to the ground, I’d try an ambush. It was only a split second later when it happened. Immediately, I stood up and put my sights on that sentry’s head. But, before I got the bead on him, I noticed many more heads popping up as well. Some started honking, until they all began lift-off.

I put the bead on that sentry, shot, and saw it fall right over backwards — as did the goose on the left side and another one on the right. The bird on the left began limping its way toward the thick weeds, attempting to find cover, since it wasn’t going any other place.

That’s when I realized the rest of those geese that lifted off into the air had come circling around until they were straight above me. I racked another shell into the chamber and aimed at the flock.

Then it occurred to me: why shoot again? I already had enough. More than I intended, actually. So I just let the rest of the flock go.

As I went out to retrieve my geese, I was feeling pretty proud of my patience and the tactics I used to end up with three birds. A memory to share with anyone — whether they believe it or not.

When Dan came driving up the road and pulled over to park at the entrance of the field, I picked up that sentry to show him I got one. But then I picked up the second one and his facial expressions sort of made me laugh. He got out of the truck, opened the back and started rearranging our decoys to fit the geese in. I put my gun in its case and set it behind the cab seat. Then I headed back out into the field.

“Where are you going?” Dan asked.

“I left something laying out there. I’ll be back in a minute,” I told him.

When I got to where that last goose was laying, I looked back to see if Dan was watching. It was about 40 yards out to the last bird, but when I picked it up to show him, he looked even more flabbergasted.

Now, I know that I’m the only one that actually saw what took place. And, although I do have Dan to back me up on the number of times I shot and the results I got, nobody has to believe me. I figure it this way: the Lord knows how it all went down, step by step. If I have Him to back up my story, I don’t need anyone else.

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