Waterfowl wins duck/goose opener
“That’s why they call it hunting,” said Dave Manz, a former Buffalo City Court Judge who was getting ready to shake himself off like a Labrador retriever after doing what he was intended – retrieving a bird from the water. The only difference was that Manz was crawling out of his layout blind after a disappointing morning in a Niagara County field for the goose and duck opener.
Of all the different choices we had for this opener, this was what we chose. It’s sort of like rolling the dice or playing blackjack in the local casino. Every time out, you gamble for the most successful option – and at least the potential for a successful hunt.
The entire week before, these fields were being eyed up the Town of Lockport. More than 3,000 geese were working these fields, with an excellent mix of ducks landing in those same fields – the soybeans and corn nearby. It was an ideal situation … or so we thought. We had to play the cards that were dealt to us: weather and landowner permission.
The night before, the decoys were put into place, with the local weather forecasters predicting a north wind and light rain. We had permission to hunt next to where all the birds were landing, with a slightly elevated farmer's access lane a perfect spot to keep dry (at least drier than if we were laying in a low-lying winter wheat field in the mud). It was also better than doing anything to the local crops. That Friday, the weather was the final day of an Indian Summer that brought in near record-breaking temperatures and a chance to prepare for a pending storm by the name of Sandy.
As the first flock of ducks flew overhead, the anticipation was great. We kidded around that with the rain and wind in the forecast, it would be good to finish the hunt by 10 a.m. Little did we realize that those wishful thoughts would indeed be a premonition, but not in the way we had intended.
Numerous flocks of mallards flew overhead, with two making a quick swing to check out “floppy,” the motorized duck with the spinning wings. We managed to connect on one of the birds. At the same time, the geese started to fly all around us. Small groups of two, five, 10 and 50. Of all the birds that came near up and scoped us out, only two geese came close enough for a shot – and we were unsuccessful.
It seemed as though our elevated vantage point was spooking the birds. In addition, the wind switched from the northeast, causing a more difficult situation as to where the birds would land. One flock of 20 landed on the outside of our decoys – and outside of the range of our shotguns. Nothing was going our way. The hundreds of other birds that opted for greener pastures in the fields next door were off-limits for hunting – no permission with no chance of changing their mind. It’s like that sometimes.
By 10 a.m. we had one other goose to show for our efforts in addition to the mallard. As the rain came down harder, we decided to pull the plug on the morning. Lady luck was not our friend for this opening day. We’ll have to hope for better luck next time. Yes, that’s why they call it hunting.