Kenneth Kieser: Waterfowlers may be crazy

Kenneth Kieser
Going Outdoors
Goose and duck hunting challenges human sanity.

I spent a chilly morning with several hunting buddies during last year’s goose season. I left my warm bed at 4 a.m. while my wife gave me the same heart-warming sendoff, “You’re crazy!” before rolling over, grateful for more space. 

I stepped on a couple of dog toys while stumbling into our other bedroom where my hunting clothing was carefully laid out. Cold water splashed in my face to ensure not falling asleep and running over someone’s mailbox.  

I stopped by the all-night gas station for a stale doughnut and equally stale coffee while the clerk suspiciously looked over my camouflage waterfowling suit and black grease paint that was still noticeable under my COVID-19 facemask. He was closely watching as I walked to my pickup, possibly wondering what looney bin I escaped from.  

The drive was an adventure while closely watching the road and ditches for deer that for some unexplainable reason love to jump in front of my pickup or a speeding tractor-trailer that happened to arrive first. The latter means driving through a mess of deer all over the highway.  

I finally reached my destination of a trailer house that held three other sleepy-eyed hunters after a two-hour drive. Smelly black Labrador retrievers and the ever-present scent of cigarette smoke hanging in the air made breathing a challenge. I offered a friendly greeting that was answered with at least one grunt. 

“Want some breakfast?” someone asked. I said “Yes,” and he threw a rock-hard biscuit that bounced off my hands and hit a sleeping hunter just below his worry lines. “Good hands,” the biscuit thrower grumbled. “You could play for the Kansas City Chiefs.” 

The sleeping hunter rubbed the sore spot on his head and looked out the window. 

“Think it’s time to go to the blind,” he said while trying to chew on the biscuit. 

Our long trek began as we set out to provide duck or goose-meat nourishment for our families – meat our kids won’t eat that costs several thousand dollars a pound after you factored in all expenses. We slung our equipment and set out through brush and high grass, including a couple of long hills.  

All told sacks of goose decoys, folding chairs, a kit bag of snacks, ammunition and the ever-present thermos of coffee or tea, shotguns, and other necessities weighed about 400 pounds – or at least it seems that heavy. Older hunters use all-terrain vehicles to transport all this stuff, but they can afford these luxuries.  

Dawn was just breaking as we finished this journey that seemed easier only a few years ago. Eager Labrador retrievers occasionally bumped our legs during their full-speed runs. 

There was certainly more at stake than tripping over various forms of vegetation. An epic fall would have drawn hysterical laughter from the other hunters and become duck or goose blind lore for all our remaining years. Never – and I repeat never – do something that may be classified as stupid on a waterfowl hunt. You will never hear the end of it. 

We finally reached our hunting area. The makeshift blind was set in a productive spot – or at least that’s what my brother-in-law said before renting us the blind for $300 a day. We waded out in the lake the previous evening to set decoys in a spot that was better than the other million spots all over the lake – or at least that’s what we were determined to make the ducks and geese think. 

To define this type of hunt, imagine you were hunting humans and placing male or female mannequins in a field, then using calls to make human sounds with mouth calls designed to fool real but notably stupid people. That is how we fool ducks or geese; although most keep flying to other regions while the really stupid birds circle in for a closer look.  

Soon we sat in our folding chairs with shotguns loaded and calls in hand as we scanned the sky and waited for a flock of Canada geese. We were sitting on a lake shoreline inside wire panels covered with brush and grasses in the teeth of an unseasonably chilly breeze. Our collars were turned up while we sat and froze.  

After sitting three hours in this uncomfortable place, someone suggested, “Well, I guess the geese are not coming.” So we packed up our gear and started walking back up the heart-testing long hill full of vegetation with heavy equipment strapped over our shoulders. We had almost crested the hill top when a flight of 60 giant Canada geese flew over out of shooting range and made a perfect landing in our decoys.  

Someone suggested sneaking back down the hill but we decided to let it pass because of pure exhaustion.  

Now a psychiatrist might offer a reason for full-grown men willingly suffering this self-inflicted torture and perhaps they could find a scientific term for this behavior. Someone may even write a thesis for the Curious Human Behavior Journal.  

No doubt their bottom line might be:  

“They put their bodies and minds through extreme torture and return year after year to continue this punishment – and pay to do so. One must surmise that these tortured souls are chastising themselves for trespasses against social behaviors, their collective reasoning for continuing these irrational acts. This may even be self-retribution for sins of their fathers or some other unexplainable reason. The scientific community and most of humanity may conclude that this group is squirrel-cage nuts.”  

They are probably right. 

Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.

Kenneth L. Kieser