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Growing Up with Geese

In the Midwest, Canada goose hunting can be a lifelong obsession
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  • Joe Robinson's black Lab, Dixie, is a goose-retrieving specialist, regularly fetching giant Canadas weighing more than 15 pounds each.
    photo by James Card, DU
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A formation of geese crests a nearby shelterbelt, and Robinson rakes the flag through the air to catch their attention. The flock turns sharply toward us, and we scramble back into our blinds. All is quiet except for the crinkling sound of snowflakes falling on the blinds and cornstalks. Zink waits until the flock is less than a football field away before letting loose a series of sharp clucks, giving voice to our decoys.

The geese sweep down on us with deceptive speed. We pop out of our layout blinds like jack-in-the-boxes and come up firing, sending four geese plummeting to the snow-covered ground. Robinson's black Lab, Dixie, charges out from her cornstalk-shrouded hideout, tackles a grounded goose, and trots back with her chin held high.

More geese appear on the horizon, crossing over a string of distant power lines and heading our way. We watch through the mesh cover of our blinds' flip-top canopies as several flocks converge over the field. Zink begins clucking like a nervous goose about to get its food taken away by bullies.

A flurry of shooting ensues as several flocks decoy in rapid succession from different directions. We fire simultaneously at larger groups of geese and take turns on singles and pairs. Plastic shell hulls smoke in the snow as we rack fresh shells into our autoloaders. Dixie fetches up the geese by their downy gray breasts between incoming flights. Other flocks are too smart, flying just close enough to make us squirm inside our blinds before they drift away. By the time we decide to break for lunch, a total of 13 geese are collecting snowflakes in the corn stubble next to our blinds.

"The most important part of calling any waterfowl is reading the birds' body language and knowing how to react to it. Blowing a call is not calling in birds. You have to know how to communicate with them. Late-season geese are very well educated," Zink says as we gather the decoys. "They've been through the gauntlet."

Check out the Marshlands Museum

A must-see attraction for waterfowlers in the Detroit area is the Marshlands Museum and Nature Center near Rockwood, Michigan. Located in the Lake Erie Metropark, the museum features an exhibition celebrating the golden age of Lake Erie waterfowling from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Displays include antique shotguns, boats, decoys, and wildlife art. Interpretive signs provide a wealth of information about the region's rich waterfowling heritage.

For more information, download the Lake Erie Metropark map (PDF).

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