Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
I blinked, and a month just passed me. I guess this is the time of year everyone experiences the same. For me, I’ve not only been busy with Thrill of the Hunt, but hunting season is in full throttle. It’s been an interesting season thus far, so let me recap.
First, I’d like to mention, that on the Friday of goose hunting, Kyle was in Indiana for Nationals Marching Band Competition. He also chose not to hunt this year. Why? I’m not sure. He says it’s because he’s too busy with band, but truth be told, I believe he’s just not into hunting. There isn’t anything wrong with that. I too took a sabbatical in my late teens and twenties. Between colorguard, winterguard, indoor drumline (senior year), work, college and becoming an independent adult, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time to add hunting. I almost wished I didn’t, but then again I don’t regret it. Although, I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to hunt with Ryan before he passed. I mean Ryan came along when I started hunting, but he wasn’t old enough. At least, I was able to be apart of Kyle’s hunting origins. Perhaps, Kyle’s a lot like me with respect to hunting, growing an interest and appreciation for it later in life. Whatever he decides I’m on board, but I truly missed him.
Now let me recap last month’s hunting adventures, starting with goose hunting.
Friday, November 13th – Goose Hunting in Pymatuning State Park (about 60 miles south of Erie, Pennsylvania)
This year was the first in about twenty years that dad was issued his goose blinds in Pymatuning! Let me tell you, he was really excited, as was I.
I’m no stranger to Pymatuning State Park. My parents had good friends, (two of the brothers who joined us on our hunt), had a cabin in that area. We’d go camping in the summer, and feed bread to the carp at the Spillway on the Pymatuning Reservoir. Yes, there are so many carp, the ducks actually walk on their heads.
So what does it mean to get a goose blind? It means that dad was allowed to go goose hunting on his assigned day and bring four other guests. Naturally, I was his number one choice! The other two who joined us were Dave and Dean Shober.
The rules are very clear. Like what? We’re only allowed to hunt from sunrise, which was at 6:34 am till 12:30 pm, and checking out by 1:30 pm. They clearly listed the rules as we walked in to get registered, as well as reiterated once we drew our blind number. I can’t remember all the rules, but we weren’t allowed to shoot more than thirty to fifty yards away. They encouraged waiting till the geese or ducks landed (not always practical). We weren’t permitted to sky blast as they called it. Of course, we were only allowed to use ten steel shot shells per person (total of forty shots out of one blind) and one goose or duck per person. Do they count? You bet they do!
Now for the fun part, the events of the day. We leave mom and dad’s house around 1:00 am to arrive really early, about 4:00 am or so. Registration wasn’t until 5:00 am (one and a half hours before sunrise). Then, walking in, the first thing they do is ask for your Pennsylvania hunting license, goose stamp (an actual stamp purchased at the post office, which had to be signed) and the migratory bird license (another purchase). All this to shoot one goose? Yep. Did we have everything required? Yes, kinda.
In fact, I decided to be in charge of packing the required paperwork for me and dad. The Shober brothers went in line first. Everything checked out. Done. Now dad and I were up, with a minor problem. We didn’t have our hunting licenses. Really? Kinda. You see, I grabbed the doe tags thinking we just needed to prove we had a license, after all we couldn’t have our doe tags without having a license. Boy I was wrong. Apparently, those are tags and not the actual license. The license was at the top of all the tags with a bar code on it. Seriously? In all the years I’ve been hunting, and been around hunting (my entire life) I never knew that. I thought the tag was the license. Nope. Apparently, they needed to punch a stamp in the actual license. Oops.
Of course, the game commissioner had to pull us aside and look up our information and such. Obviously, we had our Pennsylvania hunting license, or we couldn’t have presented our doe tags, but whatever. Eventually, after much lecture and warning, he graciously let us hunt, since we were legit and we drove a large distance to hunt. Dave said, “Once I heard you had no license I was ready to get back in the truck and go home, thinking they would never allow us to hunt. Then, both of you didn’t bring your license! I thought there’s no way!” Ye of little faith.
Did you know the entire time, dad never threw me under the bus? Ever. He even stood up for me and concurred with my logic.
While we piled back in the truck to head to our blind (#18) I told the guys not to bring it up because it was my fault. Dave said, “That doesn’t matter, it’s still Ron’s fault and he’s never gonna live this down.” as the guys laughed, ready to give a life long torment to dad.
Now to the bat cave. Not really, but to our blind. We followed the map, and parked in the designated area, but no one really knew the actual location of our assigned blind. Plus, it was around 5:30 am, still very dark. In front of the truck sat a field. The Shober’s thought we might need to hike back in there to get to our blind, but one knew for sure, until a stranger spoke up. Another hunter must’ve overheard our conversation and pointed us in the right direction, which was the complete opposite of where we were heading. Can you imagine, four hunters, dressed in total camouflage, walking around with large geese decoys, totting shot guns, in a mystery field of tall grass, in the pitch black? Now that would have made for a GREAT story!
As we approached our blind, all four of us stopped to stare in disbelief. We were expecting a small space among the corn field with four tiny stools. Nope. Instead, we landed ourselves the Taj Mahal, the luxury blind! It was a well built enclosed structure complete with seats for everyone, shelves to set drinks and food, notches for the shot guns to lean safely, four half walls and a swing door. The front structures had panels to remove in case additional visuals were needed, and the roof retracted back to accommodate sky shots. Perfect!
When we were getting ready, Dave pulled out this light that wraps around his head, similar to the ones dad and I have. He showed me his features including high and low beams and some read flashing lights. Wow! He had the Lexus of head lamps! Me and dad? Ours was a very simple on/off light that did tilt (although dad figured that out a week later after we basically had to wear the headlamps between our eyes to get the right angle). Boy did that spark comments between the guys. Dave kept asking dad to turn on his low beams, knowing dad didn’t have that option. They were cracking me up!
Then, let’s discuss placing the decoys. First of all, it was pitch black when we initially placed them. The guys had me count out about fifty feet from our post to give us a general idea of distance. After what should have been a simple activity, seemed to be a chaotic dance ritual. Did I mention, Dave kept high beaming dad when talking to him? I was dying! Then, after playing musical chairs inside the blind, we got situated. As soon as we could see our decoys, Dean decided to rearrange furniture again. He also gave us a dissertation on his reasoning behind the placement. Too much! Personally, I didn’t care, I was just having fun laughing at the guys acting like kids. Dean did give some some fun facts, like geese land flying into the wind and take off the same. The wind was actually at our backs that day.
Now onto the face mask. A few times, the geese were headed our way and we thought they were going to land and mingle with our decoys. We all ducked behind the blind, concealing ourselves. Can you image watching a bunch of grown men, dressed head to toe in camouflage, scurrying to hide from flying geese? Then, what came next almost made me fall off my seat laughing. Dave places this camouflage mesh face mask over his face, tucked under his hat, to peek out over the wall. He announced, “I don’t see any geese.” What? There was an entire flock flying our way. Dean decided to inspect the situation. He pulled his camouflage hat low over his face and creeped up to look over the wall. He said, “There right there Dave!” I couldn’t handle it! They were like Laurel and Hardy! Even dad busted out laughing. This didn’t just happen once, but a few times.
I felt like I was in a hen house with all the chattering going on. What were they talking about? You name it. They were telling past and present stories of deer hunting, geese hunting, fishing, and all things guys. On our way up to Pymatuning, we actually saw a driver on route 30 clip the hindquarter of a doe. Dad tried not to hit it, but as soon as he was finally able to stop completely, Dave who was sitting in the passenger side, saw the deer’s head moving around not going anywhere. To evaluate the situation, dad put the truck in reverse. We felt the truck lift and drop as we drove back over the deer. Yikes! I was expecting the worse, but as soon as that happened, the deer got up and ran off. Dad had it pinned under the truck! Only later did that become part of the taunting with respect to the doe tags. “Ron should have tagged the doe since he brought his doe tags to geese hunt.” and “Since Ron brought his doe tags, we should go deer hunting.” I simply shook my head, laughing along with them.
At one point, the guys noticed another blind up the hill removed their decoys all together. So our crew chose to follow suite thinking they had some goose insider. Again, we had to leave our blind, which according to the rules, was only permitted if absolutely necessary. I turned around to find dad holding two decoys, one under each arm like he was flying. He was flapping his wings and cracking himself up. He was like a little kid having fun with his friends.
It was a really windy and cold day, but one worth it. I was torn between going to watch Kyle and go goose hunting with dad. I would have won with either decision. Did we eventually fill our tags and get our geese? Nope. Did anyone take a shot? Nope. Did the geese even come remotely close? Nope. Did we have a great time? You bet! I can’t wait to go again! I bet Kyle would enjoy himself if he came.