January 11th marked the closing of Iowa’s South Goose Zone, and it went out with a bang. Actually, several bangs. But only one thud.
Julia Carol and I met friend and F&S Shotguns editor Phil Bourjaily at his home where, after changing into goose togs suitable for 52 degrees, mud, and remnants of snow, we were guided to a hilltop just five minutes from the driveway. With geese already overhead, we set about 100 mixed full-body decoys a short distance downwind of three well-camouflaged, if I do say so myself, layout blinds.
As Bourjaily had predicted, we saw geese. Lots and lots and lots of geese. In fact, during the four-hour hunt, I can’t think of a single two-minute span when we weren’t seeing geese. Thousands upon thousands of Canadas came in waves. Multiple waves. However, with the exception of two–one of which Bourjaily crumpled decisively, shown here–they all ignored us. Completely. “Not good for one’s self-esteem,” I think is how our Bourjaily explained it, as we lay prone in the quagmire and watched yet another group shun us with contempt.
It really didn’t matter, though. I closed out the season with the finest of company. I ate sunflower seeds, drank warmish coffee, and got to laugh and giggle while not working. It was a great day, and a fantastic way to end the 2012-13 waterfowl season. Now if I could just go to sleep and make turkey season come quicker.
That said, many Mississippi Flyway hunters haven’t put the guns away yet. Avery Outdoors Team Member, Floyd Decker, reporting in from Bloomingdale, Michigan, talks of “the warmest late goose season opener ever (on January 12). The mercury flirted with 60 most of the day on Saturday. Our January thaw should be over by Sunday, but some of the coldest weather we’ve seen in years is predicted over the next couple weeks.” Decker’s right; even here southwest of him the mercury isn’t supposed to rise much above five degrees for the start of the week of the 21st, with low temperatures predicted to be well below zero. Decker also spoke of “good numbers of both ducks and geese in the area, and finally a few fresh birds trickling in.”
In the northeast corner of The Buckeye State, my Pop, Mick, and his hunting buddy, Patrick Nutter, have been chasing late-season Canadas around my hometown of Newton Falls. “There are some birds here and some there,” Pop told me this morning from his booth in the local McDonald’s where he was drinking coffee with The Boys. “But it’s nothing like it should be. Hell, it was 60 degrees here a couple days back. We really need this weather to turn for the worse, or else we’ll just sit and watch the tweety birds flit about.”
Down Arkansas way and reporting out of El Dorado, Jay Hayter, also of the Avery Team, reports both water and feed conditions on the upswing due to Mother Nature’s recent cooperation regarding rainfall. “Rain has been frequent,” Hayter said, “and the situation here is improving, as rivers fill green timber areas that had been dry all season long. We’ve gotten some new birds, thanks to this latest front from up north–mallards, gadwall, spoonies–but it’s the last two weeks of the season. It’s often like this in the lower Mississippi Valley; conditions aren’t right until there’s little time left.” Still, Hayter did refer to the overall hunting as “fair to good,” which I reckon is better than lousy.
From out of Iowa, Louisiana, Avery Pro, Jason Campbell called the described the conditions as “apocalyptic flooding.” He said that most areas received from 14 to 18 inches of rain in the past three week. “Everything south of Interstate 10 is flooded, with once-dry pastures now wet and full of weed seeds.” But, unfortunately, it’s too much water this time around. “The major flooding has scattered the birds,” Campbell said. “Hunters limited to single blinds or farms are done for the year, as most blinds are under water. The late-winter survey isn’t complete yet, but numbers should be below average for this time of year. The flood of 2013,” he finished, “has just killed the waterfowl hunting south of Interstate 10. Still, there’s always next year.”