Different Decoys

In December of 1956 we left West University (a Houston suburb) well before first light for the 30 minute drive to a rice field on the Katy Paririe that we had permission to hunt on. Spending over an hour spreading out our decoys, Wes Reynolds and I were now laying along the edge of a levee in an 800 acre, harvested rice field with a mud road bisecting it. Wes, was a friend and neighbor and had been hunting with my Dad and I for several years. In the far northwest corner of the rice field, probably five thousand Geese had roosted the previous night and provided a serious impediment to our decoying efforts.
On the Katy prairie it was cold, with low hanging clouds and a steady north wind blowing, providing us with a day made for Goose hunting. The early morning quiet was broken by the sounds of Geese squawking in the distance and we were doing our best to imitate these sounds and coax the six young Snow Geese to “come on in” and land with the large gaggle of geese, really our decoys, already on the ground, on this side of the large rice field.

Not your normal Goose decoy spread that you see now days with hundreds of large full body, plastic and foam ones, Geese “flying”, wings spinning rapidly, hunters dressed in white overalls packing 10 Gauge, 3 ½” magnum shotguns; but newspapers, old diapers, piles of mud with goose feathers stuck into them and hunters with “early” camo parkas and green waders packing, 12 gauge, pump shotguns with 2 ¾” paper shells. But it worked!

Setting out the decoys wasn’t rocket science. Spread the diapers over clumps of rice, wrap a full sheet of newspaper so it looks like a Goose head and attach a glob of mud to each in order to hold them so the wind won’t blow them away. The “mud” decoys were the easiest, just make a pile of mud and stick Goose feathers into in, not like a porcupine, but slicked back like a Goose.

Young Geese make mistakes, and these six did, setting their wings and “falling”, looking like leaves drifting down from a tall tree, right into the decoys and bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, four geese tumble to the ground. We pick them up and unceremoniously propped the Goose’s heads up with rice stalks and added them to the decoy spread.

Later in the morning, with two Specklebellys down and added to the spread, Wes and I noticed the large gaggle of Geese in the northwest corner of the field become agitated, some starting to take off, some up and circling and a noisy cacophony of Goose sounds filling the air. We snuggled down behind the levee and waited, and soon were rewarded with the sight of thousands of Geese taking the air, and heading right toward us!

Over the noise of the Geese, I whispered to Wes, “Wait until the leaders have flown past, pick out a bird and shoot him before you get on the next one.” The noise of the approaching Geese and the numbers of them were astounding to us as closer and closer they came. The leaders passing over us, the sound deafening, I shouted, “Take ‘em,” and we both stood and shouldered our shotguns, We both had two additional shells stuck between the fingers of our left hands, and let go on the Geese.

Picking out a huge Canadian, not over fifteen yards away from me, bigger than any goose I had ever seen, swinging, putting the barrel of the shotgun about 24 inches in front of the giant Goose’s bill and bam, the giant kept flying, quickly shucking another shell into the chamber of the full choked, Winchester, 12 Gauge, Model 12, bam again, nothing. Shortening my lead on the giant, bam again, nothing. Quickly reloading the two “back up” shells, the giant being long gone, I acquired new targets, two Snows stretching out for altitude and dropped them cleanly, probably 40 yard shots.

Looking over toward my accomplice, who was standing there shaking, I said, “How many did you knock down?” Wes replied, “I shot five shells and never hit a bird. I got excited and shot into the flock on my first three, reloaded and just kinda’ shot at another one. Nothing!”

As we picked up our “decoys”, the diapers, newspapers and goose feathers, I remarked, “Eight birds isn’t bad, but you should have seen the one I took three shots at and missed. It was twice as big as the rest of the Geese. I first thought it was a Swan, but it had distinctive Canadian Goose markings. I don’t know how I could have missed it?”

Driving home, we thought our eight Goose day should have counted at least a dozen, but when we got home, my Dad almost lectured us, saying, “Boys, whenever you can go out, on your own and get eight, nice Geese, be thankful of that, and I don’t want to hear anymore grumbling about it!” I said, “But Dad, I really messed up not getting that giant Goose and I still don’t know how I missed three shots at fifteen yards.” My Dad replied, “Boy, that’s easy, at fifteen yards the pattern of your shotgun has probably a six inch diameter and the shot string length is probably ten inches at the most. It’s easy, you led the Goose too much!”

Later that day, Wes and I were talking with a neighbor Dave Miller, who hunted with us regularly. He told us, “The giant Canadian that you missed was a Canadian Goose alright, a Canadensis Maxima, the largest of the species and supposedly extinct since1922! However, several sightings of the giants have been reported during the past few years.”

Thinking out loud I replied, “Missing those three shots wasn’t so bad after all.”