If you’re tired of sitting in a stand or blind, and want to get out, walk around and have some action, this is the month for you.
“Look at ’EM ALL!” Pelayo whacked my shoulder and pointed through the passenger window. I turned, and my eyes bugged.“Whoo-boy!” I gasped. “But you sure they ain’t…….?”
“That’s GEESE man!” he gasped. “GEESE!”
“HUNDREDS of the suckers!” Chris raved from the back seat. For a second, I took them for ibis (bec-croche) or egrets. They wee so damn close to the road! But no. I slowed down to survey the scene — geese indeed, spreading out for a couple hundred yards across a muddy rice field, taunting us, mocking us. They seemed to be snickering.
And who could blame them? Two mornings we’d sat in blinds surrounded by immense decoy spreads with expert callers blowing themselves hoarse. Geese passed overhead by the THOUSANDS — and ALL MORNING LONG!! You couldn’t look up without seeing at least one flock overhead. For four hours, their honks were a constant background noise.
We didn’t fire a shot. It was unnerving, humiliating, infuriating.
These geese seemed to know that. Maybe they were the very ones who passed overhead, laughing at us.
“What fools!” they seemed to say. “Sure, in early November a few of us might fall for that decoy and call stunt. But by now, the very SIGHT of decoys makes us veer or climb to the stratosphere — not always to the stratosphere now. Often we like to glide over these bozos, JUST out of range — JUST beyond reach, tempting them, titillating them, kinda like the girls at the Gold Club.
“This way — again like the gals at the Gold Club — we can watch these bozos throw away their money. Those shells ain’t cheap nowadays. It’s fun to watch these idiots blasting away at us. ‘Well, that’s about $15 worth,’ we look at each other and laugh. Sometimes — again like the gals at the Gold Club — we get our bellies tickled. That’s all their shot — even those 3 1/2-inch magnums — does at 100 yards. What saps!”
We watched them for a few seconds, mesmerized by the scene.
“Let’s get ’em!” Chris was the first to recover from his trance. “Let’s creep the suckers! Like we used too. Hell, that was 10 TIMES more FUN, more exciting and more sporting than this sitting in a blind crap with guides! Hell, that ain’t SPORT!”
Chris had a point. We used to creep geese often, usually at the mouth of the river. And you talk about a KICK! We mourned when sanctimonious, hypocritical busybodies had it outlawed for years.
“Yeah right!” Pelayo used to snort. “We ride around scouting, find them, figure out the stalk approach, then crawl on our freakin’ bellies through stinking slop for 300 yards, finally close the distance jump up and blast away, usually getting two or three, but whooping and high-fiving like lunatics after the effort.
“Then the guys who ride to blind on an ATV sit there with electronic callers or someone else doing the calling for them, with decoys already out — guys whose entire “hunt” consists of occasionally pulling the trigger — THESE guys lecture US on what qualifies as bona-fide hunting and sportsmanship! Gimme a freakin’ BREAK!!”
“This ain’t Pass-A-Loutre,” I reminded them. “Or Mud Grass Island. We can’t jump out and start stalking and blasting. They’ll have the heat on us like white on rice. Won’t be easy to play dumb out here. Not with all these fences. This is all private.”
“Yeah but these fields belong to that little rotund fellow who came by the camp last night,” Chris said. “Perry’s friend. That Dudley guy who said the geese tore up his fields. He said he used those carbide guns for a while, but the geese got used to them. You really think he’d mind if we blasted some geese in his fields?”
“Probably not,” Pelayo rasped. “Besides, the guy owes us. He polished off half my bottle of Bacardi last night. Asked me the first time, then every time I turned around he was pouring another Cuba-Libre. He cleaned me out!”
“Same here,” Chris laughed. “I put my hogshead cheese out on the kitchen table last night and sliced off ONE little piece, ate it on a Dorito. I come back and half’s gone! I look over, and that little hippo was stuffing what looked life half-a-pound into his fat face, making low snorting sounds as he snorked it down! He put it on a chunk of french bread. He snorked down most of the rest then started on my salami.
“I say we creep em. I say we make something out of this trip. Shoot man, every time we come out this way the trip’s a complete bust. The wives are getting suspicious, too. Who can blame them? Lately we never get home from these Southwest Louisiana trips with anything. No ducks. No geese. Just hangovers. I say let’s creep ’em!”
I was already pulling over onto a little dead-end road near a ditch.
The set-up looked ideal. It was too good to pass up. A brushy ditch weaved from the road to an unmowed section of field that looked to be no more than 30 yards from a big concentration of geese.
“Check ’em out,” Chris pointed.
Ah yes, a flight of about a dozen were making a descent amongst their feeding brethren. Another flock was lighting 50 yards farther out. Now the din of honks was heavenly, mainly because this time they didn’t sound like taunts.
These suckers would be laughing out of the other sides of their beaks — some of them anyway, if things went right.
The ditch had a little water, but by slogging along some briars on its very edge we never went over our knee boots, and started cutting the distance. The honks were getting louder as we trudged along, my heart was beating faster, my mouth getting dryer. We crept along for about 200 yards, hunched over, low to the ground. Finally we couldn’t stand it. The din was almost deafening. We couldn’t believe we were actually pulling it off! It had been years!
Chris looked over with wide eyes, stifling an excited laugh. Pelayo had the look of a leopard about to pounce. And why not? Here we were: GENUINE hunters, playing out our primal role to the letter! Nothing like stalking to get the predatory juices REALLY flowing. For two months, we’d SAT in duck blinds, goose blinds, deer stands, usually bored stiff. Little shooting resulted. I’d almost forgotten what bona-fide HUNTING was like.
Now I remembered. I could feel the rush through my veins. I could see the thrill on the faces around me. I could feel my heart in my throat and ears as it thundered in my rib cage. Finally it was too much. I had to take a peak. I started raising my head over the briars and stubble, and Pelayo grabbed my shoulder in a death grip.
“NO!” he gasped into my ear, spraying me with spittle. “Closer!”
But I was already peeking over the top.
What a SIGHT! They were about 70 yards away, j-u-s-t out of range for our No. 2 magnums. But a heart-stopping sight nonetheless. Mostly blues, a few snows (same species they say). One flapped its wings, another bent down to peck the ground, three more were landing. Didn’t look like any sentries had seen me either. My knees were actually knocking as I slid down from my crouch.
Back down at the bottom of the ditch, Chris and Pelayo were making excited signals to each other. Chris jerking his chin up and down while mouthing what looked like, “LET’S SHOOT!!” And Pelayo nodding energetically, baring his teeth in a ferocious grimace while gripping Chris’ arm and mouthing what looked like, “NO! CLOSER!”
Pelayo won out, and we plastered ourselves to the mud for the last stretch. I was on point, and just as my elbow went over some briars, a rabbit shot out. I jerked back instinctively, bumping into Chris. I looked back, and he was smiling. Probably thinking the same thing as I: A little rabbit-jumping — another rollicking sport from our younger years — might hit the spot after the goose hunt.
I started crawling again when movement overhead jerked my head up — some geese were directly overhead! They were circling in to land — and that last circle put them right OVER the ditch, no more than 20 yards above us! They veered sharply, honking wildly, climbing and backpedaling furiously!
The gig was UP! They saw us and sounded the alarm! Now it sounded like we were inside a jet engine! A deafening roar as thousands of geese took wing! No sound in the world like it, even from a quarter mile away. And we were 40 yards away! Time stood still as I raised the gun.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! Chris and Pelayo beat me to the draw. They emptied their guns into the flapping madness as I fumbled with the safety. Geese were falling as I finally slapped the trigger, not really aiming, kinda like when a huge flock of teal roars in. I know you’re SUPPOSED to aim — but tell it to my nervous system.
BLAM-BLAM..BLAM! I shot crazily into the wall of feathers. My blood lust was raging!
“FIVE!” I could hear Pelayo screeching behind me. “GOT FIVE! Another falling back there!”
He was already racing out to retrieve.
“Got three!” Chris yelled from my left.
Who knows who got what? All I know is that we slogged out into the field with knees knocking, with mouths parched with giddy grins on our faces, and retrieved six geese. Then our whooping was louder than the geese’s. Our high-fives blistered my palms. We were pumped, when BLAM! A shot startles me and I look over at Pelayo, who’s running along the edge of the ditch. Suddenly he stops, bends down and hoists a jerking rabbit.
“Rabbits anyone!” he whoops.
“Later,” Chris counseled. “Let’s get out of here before our luck runs out.”
Good idea, I thought.
We get back to the camp, and who’s snorking down my tortilla chips, sucking down Pelayo’s beer and shooting the breeze with Perry, but Dudley himself.
“Ain’t that your field at the second intersection up the road?” Chris asked as he dug into the remnants of my Doritos.
“Sho’ is,” Dudley replied with a mouthful of masticated chips. “Why?”
“We’re thinking of trying to kick up a few rabbits before we head home this evening. That field looked ideal, plenty low briars along the ditch banks. We were wonderin….”
“Sure,” Dudley nodded. “Knock yourselves out! My brud-n-law usually brings his beagles out here this time a year. Ain’t heard from him though. Nobody’s hunted the area yet. Bet there’s plenty rabbits. And while you’re at it scare off them damn geese that been tearing up my fields. Gonna have to drain one of them and replant it for rice. Dem geese cleaned it out!”
“We’ll see what we can do, Dudley,” Pelayo said without missing a beat. “We’ll see.”
Ten minutes later, I approached a low section of briars, gun at the ready, finger on the safety. These briars had rabbit written all over them. Pelayo was on my right, Chris on my left. We’d take turns playing dog. I was first. I stomped in howling like a beagle, kicking all around me…..nothing. I stood there for a second.
“I can’t believe…..”
“THERE!” Chris yelled and raised his gun. But he aimed BEHIND us? I turned around just as Chris shot — BLAM! The rabbit was still going.
“BLAM!” Pelayo tumbled him. “Yeah you RIGHT!” he howled as he loped over to retrieve it.
Then I heard rustling in front. YEP! There’s that little ball of brown fur shooting through the briar tunnels! I raised the gun…..he’ll be in the clearing in a second…sure enough — he emerged and BLAM! I tumbled him on the first shot.
Then I see Chris jerk left and aim … BLAM! Another rabbit tumbling. This one shot out from behind us too. Sneaky little suckers.
I was just stuffing the rabbit in my pouch when the “screanch-screanch-screanch!” of a snipe sounded up ahead. I watched him getting his altitude and straightening his flight pattern when — BLAM! — Pelayo folded him. He looked over beaming, then trotted out to retrieve.
Five more snipe took off as Pelayo raced over. They flew out a bit, then turned against the wind and started flying back over us, as they’ll do sometimes. We crouched as they approached, then stood and blasted away at easy overhead shots. Two fell. Ten minutes later, Pelayo stomped into a briar patch, and another rabbit shot out. Chris and I converged on him.
We were in bliss, our youths relived. Here were our favorite sports — stomping up rabbits and snipe at places like the Bonnet Care Spillway and assorted West Bank and River Parish pastures. Those were the days!
Here we were finally going after the game, finally hunting. We had more fun in one afternoon of GENUINE hunting than in the previous two months of waiting in blinds and stands. I’m not kidding.
All these are active, gregarious, action-packed sports, where you burn energy, smell powder, feel the gun recoil — hunting in the genuine sense of the word, as opposed to the boring vigils in stands and blinds we’ve maintained for two months — and this year, too often for NAUGHT.
Signed copies of Humberto Fontova’s new book, The Hellpig Hunt, are available at a discounted price on louisianasportsman.com or by calling (800) 538-4355.
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