Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
By mid-September, the Iowa landscape was drying up. My favorite teal marsh was down to a depth of about two inches; many smaller potholes were bone dry. And then, with just a week to go before the Canada goose opener, the rains came. Deluge would be a more appropriate description; anywhere from 6 to 7 ½-inches in four days depending on where you were in the northern Iowa. Like a dream come true, area marshes refilled overnight. In local cattle pastures and hay fields, there were even some areas of sheet water; something that wouldn’t have seemed possible just a few days earlier.
While exploring a pasture we were considering for Saturday’s opener, Carol and I hiked to a prominent hilltop for a better view of the surroundings. Much to our amazement [delight?] we spied a small area of sheet water near the edge of some recently baled alfalfa. Surrounded by hills, the tiny pond was only visible from the air and seemed like an ideal place to attempt decoying some geese. Since everything in the county was too wet to drive on, our goose trailer would have to be traded for whatever miscellaneous gear and decoys we could load on a two-wheel deer cart. It was a long haul in and our spread ended up only being 13 Real Geese silhouettes and 8 full bodied honkers.
September 21: Opening Day and legal shooting time finally arrived. Offering more of the same dreary stuff, the weather delivered a blend of heavy overcast with intermittent periods of mist and drizzle. The good news was that we never received the 80 percent chance of heavy thunderstorms that the weatherman had predicted.
Because of an abundance of temporary sheet water, small flocks of geese were widely scattered across the countryside. According to DNR Law Enforcement, hunting pressure was unusually light for the goose opener, most likely due to the forecasted severe thunderstorms. As a result, early morning goose traffic was slow. But when we got a 9 o’clock break in the drizzle, we could hear a few birds beginning to move around. We soon spotted a single goose headed in our general direction, and began calling. The bird turned, came straight on, and was soon hanging – legs down – four feet over the decoys. I told Carol to take the shot and our first goose of the season was on the ground.
We soon heard more geese coming from downwind. The 201 honkers finally came into view, a group of five passing at a distance. At first, it appeared as if the rapid flyers were going to keep going. But at the last minute, they finally heard the calling and I think spotted the decoys for the first time. Anyway, the flock made an abrupt U-turn and headed back into the breeze. Flying at some altitude, the approaching flock appeared to like what they saw and began whiffling down to the spread. It was an incredible sight, with some of the geese barrel rolling completely over on their backs as they “Maple Leafed” toward earth. Arriving at the decoys, the birds dropped their webs and noisily braked for a landing.
Carol’s 20 gauge barked; while my little 28 yipped. The survivors were still dropping back into the wind when three more geese arrived to take a serious look at the decoys. But the shooting was over. With a beautiful limit of Canada geese on the ground, we were wet but happy. Time had arrived to sip hot coffee, eat a cinnamon roll, and enjoy the show.