Waterfowling on the Chesapeake
Continuing the tradition
The two of us were crouched motionless in an Eastern Shore pit blind. Sweeping high over our heads were a half-dozen Canada geese, their heads twisting first one way then another as they eyeballed the six dozen goose decoys we had spread out before us in the harvested cornfield. For over two frigid hours since dawn, we had been trying to entice a flock to our set. Finally there was some interest.
They cruised swiftly past us well out of range, set their wings, banked, then came back again in a silent, slicing, descending glide. One of them honked out tentatively, and I answered with a mimicking toot on my goose call.
Another honked back, and I replied in kind again and again as their close formation broke up and the birds maneuvered to lose altitude. Black webbed feet extended down into position, and they committed to the approach.
The final seconds were so tense that time slowed while the birds’ dark silhouettes grew larger. When at last they were in certain range I called out to my partner, take ’em. Throwing back the blind’s concealing cover, we burst up into daylight. The flock instantly flared out, their powerful wings reaching for the sky.
Mounting my gun, I tracked the closest bird on my side of the group, swung ahead of it, and the old Fox 12 slammed back into my shoulder with recoil. The big bird flinched hard but didn’t go down.
My finger slid back to the second trigger and, squinting with concentration, I pulled in front of the goose again, this time a bit farther. The second shot connected solidly, and the bird collapsed.
As my peripheral senses cleared, I heard my friend Wilkie’s autoloader bang out a final shot that sent a bird on his side cartwheeling to the ground. Bingo! We had both scored. Exhilarated, grinning and congratulating each other, we secured our guns and climbed clumsily out of the blind to retrieve the prizes.
The Pleasures of the Hunt
Goose hunting on the Tidewater is an experience as classic as it is timeless. We had just bagged two of the same birds that were pursued by the Chesapeake’s first European immigrants some four centuries ago, and by much the same means
Our fellow hunters have repeated that tradition virtually unbroken over all the many years since then, and I doubt their enthusiasm and elation had been any less than ours.
Dinner that evening would certainly reflect the heritage. The centerpiece would be goose breast medallions sautéed in butter, garlic and fresh rosemary with a gravy of mushrooms and chopped green onion. A good hearty red wine, wild rice, beans, winter squash and corn (of course) would round out the meal, along with a heavy loaf of crusty, country bread.
Afterwards, a good brandy would ease our hunting-weary muscles and cement this communion with our forefathers, reminding us more deeply of a time long ago on the Chesapeake, a time not so distant for our experience.