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Goose hunt on the North Platte River

February 19, 2011

One of husband’s colleagues is an admitted hunting addict. He owns a piece of property along the North Platte River with a waterfowl blind dug into the sandy bank. He graciously invited husband to come out to the blind several times this past waterfowl hunting season.

All I’d gotten to experience of this adventure was the eating of the meat. Husband told me about the blind setup, but I couldn’t quite picture it.

On the last weekend of Canada goose season, husband got a phone call. (Hooray for cell phones!) Hunting was really good that day. Everyone in the six-man blind was close to limiting out. Did he want to come out and hunt?

Husband eagerly accepted the invitation, and I tagged along to witness my first goose hunt.

As I followed the guys out to the riverbank blind, I came over a small hill and was momentarily confused. Geese were everywhere! Floating in a small pond, drifting in the river, scattered along the riverbank, flicking their wings.

Then I realized my error. Those were DECOYS!

I had always pictured just a handful of decoys, but there had to be more than a hundred out there that day. Most were stationary, but others had a lot of movement in the brisk wind. Some bobbed in the water, some rocked on metal poles, others had fluttering fabric capes to simulate wing movement.

Fake, but had me fooled for a moment.

The blind was a long pit dug into the sandy soil. It was stabilized with cinder blocks and and had steps to get down into it. It was almost deep enough to hide a standing person, but not quite.

The blind was covered by a plywood frame. There were six “stations” in the blind, each with a chair (most were office chairs with the wheels removed) and a “hatch” up above. The hatch could be covered by a piece of plywood that slid into place. That piece of plywood had a hole in it shielded by a chicken wire cover woven with dry grass.

Here is a view of the blind from outside:

The man in the photo is standing on the floor of the blind. The dog is standing on the steps.

Here is a view of the blind from inside:

Husband sitting in the blind loading a gun. The cover is not yet in "hunting position."

Once everyone was in the blind and had their guns loaded and the covers were slid into place, the watching began.

In a short time, someone spotted some geese in the distance and called out their location. (They have much better vision than I do. I have no idea how they could find those little blobs in the sky and identify them as geese.)

The experienced hunters in the group raised a ruckus with their goose calls. Between the mass of fake geese and the din of fake goose calls, the small group of Canada geese was convinced.

They came closer, closer, closer, their wings locked into a glide for landing.

When they were practically overhead, someone hollered “get ’em!”

The plywood covers got shoved forward and the hunters jumped up with their guns.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

One goose spiraled into the river with a splash. Another lost altitude, lost altitude, lost altitude as it attempted to fly away beyond the trees. The hunters kept a sharp eye on where it had gone.

A black Labrador retriever was sent out into the cold river to fetch the goose that had splashed down.

A hunter took another dog across the river to find the wounded goose. (It was a successful search.)

When he crossed the river to track a wounded goose, this guy discovered a hole in his waders. Brrrr! Goosed by the river!

This process repeated a couple of times until everyone hit the maximum number of geese they could legally harvest in a day.

Because the action had been so fast and furious, a few people decided to stay behind and practice calling in geese, just for fun. Everyone unloaded their guns, in case a game warden were to come around. One guy pulled out his video camera.

Alas, the weather began to change and the geese flew high and fast, ignoring the hunters’ calls.

View out the side of the blind of approaching storm clouds.

Although the wind made for a near-brutal windchill, we were pretty cozy there in the blind, beneath the wind with propane heaters at our feet. Some odd little “snowballs” fell. (They were not ice balls. They were light enough to blow around like styrofoam.)

View of "snowballs" out the front of the blind.

We watched a hawk gliding around. The video camera wasn’t getting any goose action, so we used it to watch a video of wigeons from a previous day, and a video of the bald eagle that later chased the wigeons.

Really, half of hunting is having an excuse to hang around outside and observe.

With weather worsening to the south and one member of the hunting party needing to drive back to Sidney, we called it a day.

In the freezing-cold wind, husband and I helped pull up some of the decoys. Back at “base,” the geese were dressed. Rather than cleaning the whole goose, only select parts were harvested: the breast, the legs and the gizzards.

Husband and I went home with a bag of choice goose breast meat.

We have eaten goose meat several times as a slow-cooked barbecue sandwich.

On Valentine’s Day, we tried something a little different.

We made goose vindaloo with a Penzeys mix and served it with jasmine rice and Madhur Jaffrey stir fried cabbage with fennel. Complimented it with some Argentinian malbec.

GOOSE VINDALOO! Divine!

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Shane Coop permalink
    February 20, 2011 7:58 am

    Those same little, odd, Styrofoam-like snowballs were falling this morning as well.

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink*
      February 20, 2011 11:02 am

      We need to coin a term here, Shane. How about “snowrofoam”?

  2. February 23, 2011 4:55 pm

    I’m always happy to read your posts. Always worthwhile and informative. Enjoy anything about food and wine–who wouldn’t!

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