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Goose Hunting vs. Bow Hunting

My first love has always been Bow Hunting, large game, specifically deer.

Growing up, no one in my family hunted… with the exception of my uncle Terry, and even Terry’s hunting was limited to grouse in the Minnesota north woods. Other than Terry there was my Grandpa Tom.. who used to hunt… deer, ducks, upland, you name it. So bad timing for me there, he gave up hunting for golf long before I was old enough to hunt.

I always wanted to hunt, my friends hunted, their families hunted, and they all shared great stories. In or around 1999 my future sister in-law met this guy (Sean, now my brother in-law) and they started dating. I met him a few times, he seemed like a decent guy and guess what… come every September I didn’t see him again until Christmas because he was hunting. If someone was going to teach me how to hunt it might as well be Sean.

Sean helped me go pick out a bow and get me set-up with the right gear that I could grow into. Only problem with my theory is that when it came to actually shooting, Sean doesn’t teach. He didn’t know how to explain what he did.. didn’t know how to explain what I was doing wrong… and was intolerant of my many errors. However, I was in luck — Sean’s dad Mike was a friggen awesome teacher and he even loved to share his knowledge with others. Over the next couple seasons, I learned from Mike and actually got better (although Sean would dispute the getting better part even today).

For those who haven’t bow hunted, it’s really tough to explain the solitude that comes with the sport. Imagine yourself in the deep woods on a small platform, alone for hours..3 hours, 5 hours, sometimes all day. No TV, radios, or internet. No pocket games or books. You, the woods, and anything that happens to walk by.

When I say walk by, I really mean it. Wild animals rarely run through the woods. They move slowly, with caution and near silence (except for squirrels). They do this to protect themselves. Typically, the bigger the trophy, the less they move… which of course, is why they are a trophies. So there it is, the first challenge, identifying something coming near you before they know you exist.

Next, they actually have to walk by you. Archery is not like rifle hunting. Rifle hunting 100, 150, 200+ yards, no problem. Twigs in the way? No problem. Steady your rifle, use your high-powered scope, and exhale and pull the trigger. Dead deer. In archery it’s more like 10, 20, 30.. maybe 50 yards if you are a great shot and have an absolutely clear shot at the deer without obstructions. In reality, most shots in the deep woods are 20 yards, give or take a handful.

So imagine, you silent, on a small platform, 4 hours pass.. you hear a crunch in the distance. You identify your target, stand up, and position yourself all without the deer seeing you. Next you wait… maybe he’ll give you a shot within range and within a shooting lane. Most times he won’t. But this one does.. you’ve watched him from 80 yards in, now he’s at 15 yards. You can almost jump out of your stand onto it’s back it’s so close. You can see his breath in the cold air. Yeah, he’s that close. Problem is he’s walking an angle where your arrow isn’t going to take him. He lingers for 10 minutes near your stand, then he walks off and you never get a shot. That’s bowhunting.

Occasionally, all the chips fall into place, you have the opportunity and you make a great shot. The excitement and reward of a successful hunt with a bow is beyond expression. Nothing like you’ll ever experience catching a huge fish (I’ve caught my share of pigs) and nothing like you’ll experience shooting a goose.

Goose hunting is hunting, but this is where the similarities end. The solitude of bow hunting is replaced by hanging out with all the members of your hunting camp. Rick, my father in-law, has been going to the same goose camp for 20+ years. I’ve been invited many times but have always bow hunted, until this year.

Unlike deer hunting where most of your “effort” is pre-season. Every goose hunting outting is filled with work. Decoys and blinds, you seem to always be doing something for 1/2 hour pre and post hunt. While hunting, at least one guy, in my case a guy we’ll call “B” does the majority of the work… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

If there are no geese in the sky, no problem, you’re 10 feet from the next guy… talking, swapping stories, and giving each other a little hell. In my case, you might decide to not engage and just take a nap. Note: napping is not recommended when bow hunting.

When there are geese flying, sometimes by the tens of thousands, there’s B, calling geese, this call, that call, working them from the skies into your spread. The rest of the guys, including myself, for the moment take a more serious tone. Geese have excellent vision making any movement completely unacceptable.

There you are laying on your back in a ground blind, waiting, watching, waiting some more… the geese seem interested, they’ve circled you three times and each time they are closer to the ground. Here they come, feet forward, wings cupped, they’ve committed to land right into your decoys. But they are still 500 yards out.. you lay patient, the anticipation is nerve racking. You begin to pick out which birds you are going to target first, and second. 200 yards, oh these babies are going to land right on you. 50 yards… “TAKE EM!” yells B. Four blinds spring open and with deafening barrage of shotgun fire geese scatter, some start dropping from the sky (or not). Everyone’s been so focused on shooting, but watch where the birds land. You’ll lose them instantly in the corn stubble if you dont. Jump out of the blinds and grab the birds. Have a few laughs, harrass me because I missed everything I aimed at, and reset for calling in the next group of flyers. Excited a few birds dropped? Sure. Bow Hunting excited? No. More laughs? Definately.

So which wins? Both. Bow Hunting and Goose Hunting are both really cool experiences that I feel very fortunate to have been able to do. So thanks to Sean, God Bless Mike and thanks to Rick (and Eric too!).

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