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Gift From Above

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December 24, 2013

Gift From Above

By Phil Bourjaily

Every once in a while in the field you receive what can only be explained as gift from above: a bird or animal appears out of nowhere and gives itself to you. My last one came the other day while I was out goose hunting.

It was a sunny afternoon, without quite as much wind as the weather man promised. In those conditions a layout blind in a snowy field looks like a refrigerator on its side and casts a huge shadow that spells danger to birds overhead.

After the first four or five flocks steered clear of my decoys I accepted the idea that I wasn’t going to shoot a thing that day. Then I heard a single goose honking, low and coming from directly behind me. I scrunched down lower in my blind to hide. When the goose came over I saw it wasn’t alone: it was flying with a flock of 25 mallards. I have seen single ducks with flocks of geese before, but I have never seen a lone goose flying with ducks. Who knows why this goose was hanging out with the mallards, but it was, and if it hadn’t been honking to announce their arrival they would have taken me completely by surprise.

I didn’t know whether to reach for a duck call or a goose call as they passed over the blind. Before I could do anything and scare them away, the whole group spun 180 degrees and dropped into my decoy spread. I shot the goose as it backpedaled in the landing hole at 15 yards, then killed two ducks as they climbed out of the decoys. 

I couldn’t believe what had happened. I’m still not sure it did happen, but the proof is in my freezer. Two ducks and a goose aren’t enough to count as a Christmas miracle but they are a small blessing, and one that makes me stop and think this time of year about the many larger blessings I have received in life as well.

Comments (12)

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from .30-06Hunter wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

That's awesome! You know my best days in the woods have always been the days I have slowed down to give thanks to The Lord for creating such beautiful places and animals. Anyway in the woods will surprise you with a blessing if you slow down and let the world show you it's many lessons. Now I just need to remind myself to relate this to everyday life and not just a day in the woods.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Well, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY Have a happy and safe NEW YEAR.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jjas wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Merry Xmas to Mr. Bourjaily and Mr. Petzal. Thanks for the great columns over the past year and I look forward to the columns in 2014.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

This is a true story, hard as it is to believe. And stranger things have happened to me in that place. So eerie is it that I don't go up there any more. But I guess that's also because it's where my moose camp was and I don't hunt them any more.

Anyway, it was about ten years ago. I wasn't camped but just up there to hunt for the day (a VERY long drive for a day trip!). Some years before I had stumbled onto an abandoned road when hiking back in the bush. Lots of game in there and the road seemed in good shape but no sign of ANY traffic on it for many years. Not even an ATV! Clearly abandoned for some reason. I wanted to learn why but always ran out of time before I could follow it long enough to find the answer and get out before dark. Anyway, on this day I had really pushed the envelope walking the road and was running way late on my retreat. I came to the spot where flagging marked where I had to start bushwhacking back through a cedar swamp to find the trail to my truck. It was almost dark and I was getting nervous. Daylight was disappearing fast. I needed to hurry but was running low on energy. Still had a half sandwich in my pack but that had to be saved for last resorts in case I got stuck overnight. I decided to cross-sling my rifle across my body and free up my hands. That allows me to swing my arms while walking and conserve about a third of the energy. I looked at my 760 pump and thought perhaps I should snap off the scope (it has a detachable B&L base) and put it in my pack. Then I said to myself out loud (as a way of checking for hypothermia), "Maybe I should keep the scope on a little bit longer. If I spot a grouse, I can take his head off and then I'll be free to eat the sandwich." At that VERY moment I heard it coming. A ruff grouse flying through the treetops (which they almost never do!). It kept coming, and coming, and then it wheeled around and landed in a defoliated birch tree not fifteen yards away. There it was, perfectly outlined in the failing light of twilight sky, perched perfectly still, neck outstretched. So I shot its head off, put it in my daypack, and ate the sandwich. I got back to the truck just fine.

I had another more harrowing episode up there the following year when I survived a sudden blizzard on the last day of season ... thanks to another gift from above. Quite literally. I think I have told that story on here before though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Good things come to he who waits! We also had a great snow goose hunt yesterday with near limits and two dogs too tired to hunt today. Three straight days of long retrieves and cold water make the rug in front of the woodstove most appealing to the big dawg...

Merry Christmas, Phil!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from PbHead wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Merry Christmas Phil and the same to all the Gun Nuts.

Oh, by the way, nice shooting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckcreekdick wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

A couple of years ago on a primitive muzzleloader hunt, a group of far away buck whitetails walked directly under the tree I was perched in. Oh, there were tracks around but it was not like I had done real scouting. I picked the buck I wanted and shot him between the shoulder blades as he walked under my branch. American Indians had it right when they say that the game animal offers himself up to you. I gave suitable thanks to the gods of the hunt.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bhartman wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Phil as one of your students and friends you know i love hearing stories like these!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

WAM, what's a limit on snows out there in Bill Gates Land? Twenty a day here and as many as you want shove in your warehouse for possession. I see why your dogs might be too pooped to poop!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kudukid wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

Amen!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

LOVE IT!!! :-) These are the sorts of experiences we remember always---Couldn't have contrived or set it up better even if we knew how.... Thanks for sharing!

RandyMI

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 15 weeks 6 days ago

It's funny how famine can turn to feast in the blink of an eye, but isn't that how hunting is most of the time. I found out a long time ago not to ask why, just say thank you Lord.
Merry Christmas PB!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from .30-06Hunter wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

That's awesome! You know my best days in the woods have always been the days I have slowed down to give thanks to The Lord for creating such beautiful places and animals. Anyway in the woods will surprise you with a blessing if you slow down and let the world show you it's many lessons. Now I just need to remind myself to relate this to everyday life and not just a day in the woods.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Well, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY Have a happy and safe NEW YEAR.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jjas wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Merry Xmas to Mr. Bourjaily and Mr. Petzal. Thanks for the great columns over the past year and I look forward to the columns in 2014.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

This is a true story, hard as it is to believe. And stranger things have happened to me in that place. So eerie is it that I don't go up there any more. But I guess that's also because it's where my moose camp was and I don't hunt them any more.

Anyway, it was about ten years ago. I wasn't camped but just up there to hunt for the day (a VERY long drive for a day trip!). Some years before I had stumbled onto an abandoned road when hiking back in the bush. Lots of game in there and the road seemed in good shape but no sign of ANY traffic on it for many years. Not even an ATV! Clearly abandoned for some reason. I wanted to learn why but always ran out of time before I could follow it long enough to find the answer and get out before dark. Anyway, on this day I had really pushed the envelope walking the road and was running way late on my retreat. I came to the spot where flagging marked where I had to start bushwhacking back through a cedar swamp to find the trail to my truck. It was almost dark and I was getting nervous. Daylight was disappearing fast. I needed to hurry but was running low on energy. Still had a half sandwich in my pack but that had to be saved for last resorts in case I got stuck overnight. I decided to cross-sling my rifle across my body and free up my hands. That allows me to swing my arms while walking and conserve about a third of the energy. I looked at my 760 pump and thought perhaps I should snap off the scope (it has a detachable B&L base) and put it in my pack. Then I said to myself out loud (as a way of checking for hypothermia), "Maybe I should keep the scope on a little bit longer. If I spot a grouse, I can take his head off and then I'll be free to eat the sandwich." At that VERY moment I heard it coming. A ruff grouse flying through the treetops (which they almost never do!). It kept coming, and coming, and then it wheeled around and landed in a defoliated birch tree not fifteen yards away. There it was, perfectly outlined in the failing light of twilight sky, perched perfectly still, neck outstretched. So I shot its head off, put it in my daypack, and ate the sandwich. I got back to the truck just fine.

I had another more harrowing episode up there the following year when I survived a sudden blizzard on the last day of season ... thanks to another gift from above. Quite literally. I think I have told that story on here before though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Good things come to he who waits! We also had a great snow goose hunt yesterday with near limits and two dogs too tired to hunt today. Three straight days of long retrieves and cold water make the rug in front of the woodstove most appealing to the big dawg...

Merry Christmas, Phil!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from PbHead wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Merry Christmas Phil and the same to all the Gun Nuts.

Oh, by the way, nice shooting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bhartman wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Phil as one of your students and friends you know i love hearing stories like these!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

LOVE IT!!! :-) These are the sorts of experiences we remember always---Couldn't have contrived or set it up better even if we knew how.... Thanks for sharing!

RandyMI

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckcreekdick wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

A couple of years ago on a primitive muzzleloader hunt, a group of far away buck whitetails walked directly under the tree I was perched in. Oh, there were tracks around but it was not like I had done real scouting. I picked the buck I wanted and shot him between the shoulder blades as he walked under my branch. American Indians had it right when they say that the game animal offers himself up to you. I gave suitable thanks to the gods of the hunt.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

WAM, what's a limit on snows out there in Bill Gates Land? Twenty a day here and as many as you want shove in your warehouse for possession. I see why your dogs might be too pooped to poop!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kudukid wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

Amen!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 15 weeks 6 days ago

It's funny how famine can turn to feast in the blink of an eye, but isn't that how hunting is most of the time. I found out a long time ago not to ask why, just say thank you Lord.
Merry Christmas PB!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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