Only a Waterfowler
I looked at the clock and had a decision to make. It was 3:30pm, my meeting was just cut short, and I had a twenty-minute ride home. I think to myself, “If I run inside, grab my waders, load the goose floaters, grab my gun, find the shotgun shells, grab my calls, load up my dog, Buck…yeah, I can make it!” With that, the decision was made, and my hunt was on!
There is a large farm swamp by my house that has historically been a roost pond for a decent sized flock of geese. I was energized at the thought of shooting! As I drove down the old dirt road towards the swamp, my head was spinning at the thought of ditching my responsibilities for the opportunity to hunt the last night of the early season. I pulled into the farm and nodded to the field hunters who shared my idea for one more hunt!
Buck and I unloaded and took the 300-yard hike through mucky black sludge. The smell made my mouth water. That heavenly scent only a waterfowler could love. Seven floaters, leaky waders, and that hike were all that stood in the way of our hunt.
We made it to our spot. It’s a downed log just wide enough for the dog to sit on and a big stump for me to lean against. I pointed and told him, “Place.” He swam over and crawled on top. I took a look at the wind direction and set my decoys. Now, the waiting game!
My head was still spinning about the work I left home. I thought to myself, “Man, maybe this wasn’t the best idea. I have so much to do this week. I’ve got to email that guy. I should have grabbed some food. I wish these waders weren’t leaky…why didn’t I patch them up like I said I would!” My mind was wandering and I wasn’t in the moment. After about a half hour of being still, working the goose call at passing flocks, my head cleared, and my eyes began to notice the beauty around me. I wiped my sweaty brow, gave Buck a scratch, and told him he was being a good boy for awkwardly sitting on that slippery log. He looked at me funny, and I smiled. I noticed the clouds and how the evening sun was hitting the trees. The colors are starting to change and the late day sun was hitting them perfectly. My stress melted!
Around 6:00pm the first flock came in. It was a big flock, the kind you dream about. I leaned over and called to them. I watched their reflections in the water as they circled the decoys. I softly told Buck to sit and mark. He was so intense! His eyes were fixed on the birds working the decoys. My eyes left him and picked out one bird that was dangerously close. He was mine! Boom! My Remington 870 ripped a shot full of BBs across the sky, and down he went! “Buck”, I yelled, almost too loud, too excited! My buddy tore off after the downed goose and made a short, but beautiful retrieve.
I think to myself, as he delivers the big bird to my side, “Boy, look how far we’ve both come.” I gave Buck the “Place” command, load another shell into the gun, and proudly praise him for a job well done.
Time passed, my mind was clear, and flocks worked the surrounding ponds and swamps. I decided to call it a night a little early. We had our bird and I had to haul all the gear by myself. Not to mention my stomach was growling!
I grabbed our prized goose and made my way towards the decoys. I let Buck swim freely and enjoy the sights and smells of the swamp. Just then, I noticed a silent flock of geese were cupped and close. I dropped the decoys and instinctively raised my gun. Boom! Down goes another one. I quickly looked around for Buck and was proud to see him on the water’s edge, sitting, shaking, and waiting anxiously for his release. “Buck”, I yelled! On his way back with the goose, another small flock came over the trees. Boom, Boom, and just like that, Buck and I had three geese. After delivering the second goose, I lined him up for his final retrieve and sent him. He was off his line and heading straight towards a low stump. In his defense, it could have been the goose. I whistled to him, let him tread water for a second, and commanded, “Over.” His cast was perfect but my depth perception was not. With another whistle and the “Back” command, he was on the bird.
My heart was full on that ride home. Four years ago I started a journey with a little yellow ball of fur. I promised him that he would be the best gun dog a guy could ask for. The bond we share is so strong. It’s a bond that only a few people are fortunate enough to understand. If you’re reading this and haven’t had the pleasure of training and owning a gun dog, I encourage you to do so. It’s a decision that comes with countless hours of hard work, frustrations and setbacks, giant leaps forward, and a friendship that will last an eternity.
Remember to enjoy every minute with your gun dog! Be present and cherish the memories you will share with them. Their lives are short, but their love and memory will last forever.
Best of luck this hunting season,
Bob & Buck