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My writing plans this week were to be about an upcoming safari in Africa in mid-May. However, these plans were dashed by the announcement from our new president banning travel to and from South Africa. Having had Covid and having my entire family suffer from this terrible pandemic I understand the concerns expressed. Unfortunately, I also understand those whose livelihoods are based on tourism from Americans, as well as other countries. There are other concerns that will be a reality in time if the travel bans are not lifted as soon as it’s safe. The people, and I mean not just those who own the concessions (farms or ranches), but a great many other people including professional hunters, trackers, skinners, cooks and housekeepers depend upon that tourism. The dollars spent in those countries make conservation of African game a necessity. In plain terms the animals have a value and are worth protecting. Those fees also pay for wardens and others to protect the animals from poachers. But as I said I understand the concerns as South Africa has its own new strain of Covid. It’s amazing that while I was typing this story it was announced on the news that the South Africa strain was discovered in a patient in South Carolina this week, so it is already beginning to show up in the states. Currently my black bear hunt is also up in the air as there is a travel ban to Canada. Even if the ban is lifted talk is that you will have to be quarantined for 14 days before you can leave Canada to return to the states. It will not help the Canadian tourism if those who hunt and fish in Canada still refuse to travel to the country with those restrictions in place. I mean you cannot justify to yourself to fish for three days and yet stay in isolation for fourteen days before you can cross the border. I understand both governments’ concerns and I know that they are thinking of the welfare of each country’s citizens. These businesses like those here in our own country cannot go on forever and not be allowed to do business. But that’s enough about that, you just caught me frustrated about not being able to take my wife to Africa for my final safari.
Since I cannot write about those things that were front and center in my brain I will instead pick another subject that is here now. While we could have been hunting light geese until February 6 as a part of our regular goose season, the light goose conservation order begins on February, 7. The light goose conservation order is limited to snow, blue, and Ross geese. Special regulations are in effect during that season, which runs until April 30. This includes extended shooting times, such as one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. You can also remove the magazine restrictions which means you can have more than three shells in your shotgun. The shells must be non-toxic shot. You can also use electronic calls. A conservation order permit is required and there is no daily limit, but as always be sure and check the regulations before you venture out to hunt.
I am sure that we will be putting out snow goose decoys once the snow on the ground has left. By far the most economical decoys to purchase if you are thinking about getting into the sport are the Texas rags. These are simply a triangle folded piece of plastic that are fastened to a stake at the top and bottom with an opening in the front which allows them to catch the wind and expand and move with the wind. I have no idea how many decoys that it takes for a good spread, but the more the better as far as luring in large numbers of geese. We will have a mixture of decoys that includes some full bodies some rags and some shell decoys. I would suppose by combining each of our decoys we will be in the neighborhood of 500+ decoys.
When placing the decoys have the majority facing into the wind. The predominant wind in the spring is from the south meaning your decoys will be facing the direction migrating geese will be coming from. As geese and other waterfowl tend to land into the wind then you will be facing the north as approaching geese will circle your spread and land into the wind. Rag decoys on stakes often will turn with the wind much like a wind sock at an airport, but the other decoys such as shells and full bodies really need to be turned if the wind shifts from another direction making it more realistic as that is how real geese would be sitting and feeding. My personal best day we had a slight breeze from the north and after turning all our decoys to face that direction, we hammered snow geese still migrating from the south, but no longer had to circle our decoys and instead dropped right into our spread. It was an unbelievable hunt as we often had more than one group coming into our spread at a time! It takes a little experimenting to find which style of spread will work best, but normally we do a large “C” with us sitting in the center where the most decoys are and two wings of decoys heading out from the main body.
As far as what to wear when hunting, I have seen some very good as far as realistic camouflage clothing, but all of it stuck out like a sore thumb in the cornfields we hunt. Normally, the problem is that the camouflage is too dark when compared to the faded cornstalks. So as a way of avoiding being seen we wear white clothing. I’m not talking about that white dress shirt that you wear to church, but rather an old white sweatshirt and a hooded one is even better as it can still be cool when hunting and the hood also helps in hiding your face and head. You can get by with camouflage pants as your legs are easier to hide below the rows of corn stubble. Some of us will also wear white gloves and a white facemask. I don’t know if it is really needed, but I do just for the satisfaction in knowing it wasn’t me that spooked the birds. The facemask also allows you to look up from time to time and see where circling birds are at and if they are getting close enough to take.
No one can sit comfortably very long on their butt in a cornfield no matter how young you are, so we have chairs we use. These are the stiffer plastic white chairs that you see on the patio or in the back yard. They are light weight and the stiff backs provide plenty of support. They have also been modified making them somewhat limited to be used for hunting in that we have cut the legs off. We might leave a couple inches of leg to get your bottom off the cold ground, but normally the legs will still go down into the ground. The legs are cut off so that you sit lower to the ground and have a less visible profile to approaching geese.
It can be a long day if the geese are not cooperating, but the sights and sounds on a migration day make it well worth it even if you do not take any geese. I will warn you it can be addictive!