Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Rookie and Winter

I had another of my great clients, Dr. Keith Baird from Hastings, NE, and three of his hunting buddies, come and hunt on Wednesday the 23rd. They saw literally thousands of birds but managed to bag only 13 at the Church pond.

Their guide for the day was new to the snow goose dancing business.  There were several times the "rookie" guide got greedy and didn't call the shot. One in particular was a flock of 1500 that looked like an F4 tornado.  The point of the tornado was at 20 yards right over the decoys.  The rest of the flock was 'layered up' in a downward spiral.  The "rookie" opted to not call the shot in anticipation of putting a severe hurt on the 'fat' end of the tornado.  As tornadoes are want to do, it made a low level sweep over the spread and then receded back into the clouds.  Oops!  That wasn't the only bad call the "rookie" made that day.  So hard to find good help.

Thursday, the 24th, brought a day-long blizzard.  6-8 inches of snow and 45 mph winds.  During the height of the storm, I made the "rookie" go to the Church pond and pick up the spread of floaters. The forecast was for 5 degrees the next morning.   If we left them out, we would have had a total mess.  You can't believe how tangled 500 floaters can get with high winds and ice.  He labored all morning in the storm from a boat.  He wore ski goggles in order to see. The "rook" finally completed the job without falling out of the boat!  I was very thankful to get off that pond. Yes, I was the dumb "rookie".  Snow goose fever will do that to you.

I anticipate many of the geese will head back south for awhile.  They can't go north of here as all of South Dakota is still snow covered and frozen.

Currently it is 19 degrees and the forecast is calling for light snow.  We are supposed to start a warming trend on Tuesday.  That will give us time to rig the new floater spread and finish the new blind.

A "ROOKIE'S" work is never done!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Roller Coaster

Never did like the dumb things.  The thought of riding in something you have no control over is in my opinion more than slightly foolish.  Many say that 'sky jumping' is insane because you jump out of a perfectly good airplane.  That philosophy is flawed in its basic premise.  There is no such thing as a 'perfectly' good airplane!

We have been on the weather roller coaster for the past week.  Last Wednesday and Thursday we were near 70.  Sunday it was 66 degrees.  Yesterday the high was 31 with a low of 13 and strong north winds. Ahh, spring in Nebraska.

The cold of yesterday morning did allow us to drive vehicles into the field.  The field spread is now ready to use.  We took boats down to the other ponds.  All blinds are now ready with furniture, heaters and freshly filled propane bottles.  The ponds are almost open but of course have a new skim of ice from the recent cold snap.  Sunshine and a little wind will open them quickly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some Did Not Fly Away

As the last few decoys were being set in the water at the Church Pond today we started to see the first few 'scout' groups of snow geese.  Because the field is still too muddy to drive into with the trucks and decoy trailers, Petey and I decided we might as well hunt.  We were joined by my good friend Tab Newman and his son Parker.  Also in the group were two of Fairbury's finest, Lynn Culp and Logan Kunc.

The next couple of hours were quite productive as we bagged 15 birds. The new floater spread is great and the blind is well concealed as the birds finished well all day in spite of the east wind.  After a several hour lull we started to see a few birds again.  We decoyed one small bunch and 4 snows were doing the bicycle in the decoys.  The next flock to fall victim to "Central Flyway's Best" was a group of 150.  There were a few juveniles in this bunch.  As part of the flock pulled full flaps over the decoys we fired. Moments later 7 snows were floating belly up.

The total for the day was 26.  Not bad for as few birds as we saw. My puppy Molly had a great day as she retrieved 13 of the birds.  She is going to be a good one.  Petey's dog Gunner is Molly's brother and he is going to be something special.  Both dogs are from the breeder that I get all my dogs.   Snow goose season is great for puppies. They get to watch lots of birds and make multiple marked retrieves. 

Game on!

First shot of the season!

While we were putting out the Church pond floater spread this morning, we had a single snow (who clearly should be removed from the gene pool) dive right into the decoys with boat in the water and people all around.  A shot was fired.  Goose still flying.

Work Work Work

The past few days have been consumed with set-up projects: Getting blinds down to the ponds and camouflaging them; getting boats and motors ready and moved to the ponds; pulling all the decoys out of storage and staged at their respective locations; putting the stakes in the ground for the field spread; nervously watching the skies for the first sign of the "Greatest Spectacle in Waterfowling".

Petey and I are pleased to report that we have added a new pond to our hunt locations.  We have lusted for this pond since we started hunting in this area nearly 15 years ago.  The farm recently sold and we met with the new owner yesterday morning.  Our ability to obtain this property was in no small measure due to the wonderful relationships we have within the local community and our landowners.  We never forget that wherever we hunt we are in someone's home.

The plan for today is to set up the field spread and maybe even hunt for the last couple of hours this afternoon.

Will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Day of Set-up

Beautiful day today.  Temp was near 60 with little wind.  We have decided on the field we want for our field spread.  Plans are to put the decoys out on Saturday.  We have a crew of seven to help us.  The generosity of the locals is just amazing.  These people are what America is all about.  God bless them all. 

We put two ice eaters in Barber's pond today.  The ice was only 8" thick vs. last year's 20".  We should have open water in no time.

Word is the birds are staging in Arkansas.  Saw just two small bunches of snows today.  Did see a few flocks of dark geese moving.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Arrived in Fairbury

Arrived in Fairbury about 1:30 this afternoon.  I went right to my good friend Randy Sipek's farm.  First order of business was to unload my trailer.  When I exited my truck what was the first thing I heard?  One guess!  Yep, the yelping of snow geese.  The northward migration has started.  There are always a few early groups made up of the oldest birds.  They have made the journey many times and the breeding urge is driving them north. 

Hotwoods Ice Eater

On The road again

Hit the road around 5:00 this morning for Fairbury.  There is no doubt that my two oldest labs, Dani and AZ, know exactly where we are going.  They have been really fired up the last couple of days.  Molly, the puppy, isn't sure what is up but knows we are going hunting somewhere.   I have always loved sunrise over the North Platte Valley.  I will follow the river all the way to Ogalalla.

Petey is in Fairbury now and is taking boats down to the water spreads this morning.  We will probably get the "ice eaters" out tomorrow and start opening up the ponds.  (check out the video above) Last year we had 20 inches of ice on the ponds.  Not nearly that much this year. Will let you know how much tommorrow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Preparation for spring snow goose season

Those of you who have hunted with me know that hunting snow geese in the spring is my favorite type of waterfowl hunting. Not sure if it is because I can just push 'play' on the Fox Pro (I have been blowing the Ground's goose calls and Carlson duck calls for the past 3 1/2 months) or if it is because I love the sight of snows and blues decoying from the stratosphere. Might be because I love watching the dogs make long difficult retrieves look routine. I think it may be because the best hunting days are warm and sunny with light winds.

This will be my new puppy Molly's first snow goose season. She did just fine this fall and winter on mallards but the big Canadas were a bit much for her. I am looking forward to her learning about snow geese.

My partner in the snow goose business, Kris Peterson, is already in Fairbury getting things ready. I will leave for there tomorrow. My trailer has new axels and tires and is loaded to the brim with equipment.

I will be posting updates a couple times a week on how set-up is going and on when the birds arrive. We do have a few openings still available. Call me for information.

We will have four water spreads and one field spread this year. Stay tuned for the greatest spectacle in waterfowling!