Opinion: Hunting eight Canada geese in August could be a blast
I usually like to spoil myself on my birthday.
Last year, I walked into Cabela's and bought myself a Remington 870 Wingmaster that shot a ton of ducks, geese and pheasants last season.
It was my first-ever gun I bought completely alone and now couples with my 870 Express -- which was my lone gun since I was about 10 -- for my only two shotguns.
Hopefully, come August 21 this year -- my 24th birthday -- my exactly one-year-old, pump-action Wingmaster will be next to me while I'm waiting for Canada geese to fly unsuspectingly into my decoy spread during the proposed special goose take that could run Aug.14-22.
I've never hunted on my birthday, and the idea of the special occasion this year is pretty exciting.
The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department has proposed a special Canada goose take that will be discussed at a public discussion next week at Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park.
If approved, the limit would be eight Canada geese daily. Yes, that's right. Eight honkers daily, with a possession limit of 32.
This past waterfowl season, I was excited that the duck limit was increased from five to six, but to shoot eight honkers in one hunt would be a unique experience.
The reason the GF&P has proposed this special take is because Canada geese numbers are at an estimated 137,000, which is 47,000 more than the target population.
I'll gladly do a good deed by eliminating some resident geese, and happily do it on my birthday.
Last year, on opening day of the early-goose season -- which, for this year, the GF&P is also discussing raising the limit to eight birds from the previous five -- I enjoyed a hunt in a wheat field east of Mitchell.
I had gotten permission from the farmer the afternoon before on my way back from Sioux Falls after watching Avon stomp Hanson at Howard Wood Stadium.
Friday nights get rather crazy for our sports staff in the fall, and that Friday was no different. After filing my story, I fielded calls from our area towns all night, and we didn't leave the office until around 1 a.m.
The alarm came too early Saturday, but I still managed to roll out of bed.
In the dark, with a light breeze and a nearly full moon, I walked about one-and-a-half miles with eight full-body flocked Canada goose decoys, 24 carry-lite shells and my 870 Wingmaster.
When I got to the field, I spent about 45 minutes setting up my spread and threw together a make-shift blind from some tall grass.
As shooting time began, the flocks of mallards came.
By sunrise, if it were in-season, I could have had my limit of ducks, but I hadn't heard or seen any geese, which was rather surprising.
I had scouted it for about two weeks before, and nearly every day I had driven past, there were always geese.
On about three hours of sleep and the what-seemed-like-forever walk, I was starting to doze off. My eyes would scan the bright-blue sky, slowly close and then burst open for another look over.
Just as I started to give up hope, three black specks flying over a cornfield seemed to be getting bigger and looked to be headed my way. I picked up my call and threw out a few honks.
Apparently, my brand-new, never-used full bodies worked, and so did my brand-new, never-been-fired-at-a-bird 870 Wingmaster.
Three shots and there were two dead Canada geese on the ground and the third -- a very young goose -- didn't understand what gunfire was.
I quickly reloaded and had three in the bag about an hour after shooting time.
The excitement of shooting my new gun and bagging three honkers started to wear off, and soon, the sleepiness and nodding off started again.
I decided it was time to pack up and get back home to catch a nap.
With three 15-pound geese over my shoulder, and all the decoys I could carry out to the field, the more than one mile walk was a disaster.
Huffing and puffing, I stopped for a breather nearly every 20 steps.
Even more tired than when I walked out to my spot, with the addition of about 45-pounds of feathers and meat, I'll never forget that hike.
And if that was the case with three last year, I don't know what I'm going to do with the possibility of eight this August and September.
But you better believe I'm going to try and find out.