A hot time for early Canada geese

You can’t do everything during certain times of the year as it relates to hunting and fishing. But in the fall, once hunting seasons start to kick into gear, your outdoor opportunities expand considerably.

You must carefully select what works best for you and your schedule. Salmon are in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario salmon and trout fishing is still viable, Lake Erie walleye fishing has been going bonkers, and bass fishing has been good to very good as the fish start to bulk up for winter. And on the hunting front, the early nuisance goose season runs from Sept. 1-25 in most of upstate New York.

I don’t like to hunt ducks and/or geese when the weather is warm – it just doesn’t feel like the season. So when I was contacted by John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda to do some early goose hunting, I selected as close to the end of the season as possible. Sept. 23 was the date chosen, with a backup date of Sept. 24. Odds were that the weather would be cool.

Van Hoff agreed that there was a good chance we could have some inclement weather and possibly some flight birds coming down to mix in with the local populations. Someone forgot to tell good old Mother Nature, though. We had agreed upon the date in early September, when temperatures were cooler and precipitation was above normal.

Sept. 23 arrived with the temperatures hovering around 60 degrees and a heavy dew on the ground. I met Van Hoff, Kevin Schroeder of Lockport and Paul Sawicki of Angola at 5 a.m. in a farmer’s field in the town of Lockport. We immediately started setting out more than 100 decoys in an area where plenty of birds had been frequenting. It also hadn’t been hunted in a couple of weeks.

By the time we were set up, we were all sweating profusely. Luckily, scent is not an issue with waterfowl hunting. And with no wind in the forecast, we set up our layout blinds in the most cover and used a recently-planted field in which to place the decoys. Van Hoff paced out 30 yards from our blinds to set up a little group of decoys to help us gauge distance when the shooting would start. The larger groups of decoys would be to either side of us out front, giving the birds plenty of landing room within range of our shotguns.

Sawicki was the smart one – he brought along a Thermacell to help keep the mosquitos away. The handy gadget is invaluable for spring turkey hunting. I made sure I was seated next to him; it was buggy out in the middle of the field as we waited.

As the sun slowly started to peak over the horizon, the first flock of birds came into view. Van Hoff called and flagged to get their attention. Sawicki was on the “no call” list after the antics of an earlier hunt. Friendly bantering back and forth kept the conversations lively.

Just when things were working to perfection, the main flock decided to land well outside our decoy spread. That was when two birds decided to join us via Van Hoff’s invitation. Two birds down and most of the others were taking flight again. However, there were still a few birds on the ground.

Two more birds came in from a different direction and the shooting finally spooked the other grounded birds. One more bird was down but the other flew off. We had a bit more action that morning, taking another four birds before 8 a.m.

By 9 a.m., with the temperature already hovering around the 80-degree mark, it was time to pull the plug. Light jackets were off and we were in T-shirts as we collected the decoys, packing them all neatly back up and into the trailer. Of course, as soon as we made the move, we saw some birds that could be potential visitors. We didn’t care. The regular season would be opening on Oct. 28. We would be back.

It was time to go fishing.

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