Goose Hunting Wisconsin’s Exterior Zone

It was a foggy, hazy night, and as I rounded the corner on the backcountry road, I could see the glow in the fog ahead. Getting closer, I could make out the inside of the trailer, lit up like a Broadway stage. Several bodies emerged from the trailer with bags of decoys over their shoulders. My nephew Trevor Haasch, and his cousins Austin and Colton Lee, make up DFF Outdoors. Their passion for waterfowl hunting has these young guns scouting fields and laying out decoys from the start of the season to the very last day.

It was still several hours until shooting time and the work was just beginning. Bag after bag of decoys came out of the trailer, followed by bags of blind material; chairs and all had to be hiked out into the field to the water hole. Once we hauled everything in several trips to the site, Trevor directed which decoys were to go where, and the double A-frame blind was assembled and carefully placed in the center of the reed-covered ditch. Carefully, additional reeds were stuffed into the pockets of the A-frame blind to complete the camouflage process.

Trevor then turned his attention to the decoy layout, and he instructed which decoys needed to be moved or turned to give the most natural appearance to the geese that had been coming to this location the past couple days. Scouting had begun weeks before the hunt.

Wisconsin’s exterior zone, especially along the Lake Michigan shoreline, has large flocks of local geese that spend the entire summer breading and nesting season locally. Without an early season to target these local birds, populations would get out of control and cause even more crop damage to farmer’s fields. These young men spend the entire year building relationships with the local farmers to get permission to hunt some of these fields, and the farmers are happy to know that they take care not to damage crops and leave the fields cleaner than they found them.

After watching this field, the geese finally started feeding here and the boys were ready for the opportunity. I was excited for the invitation. Once the finishing touches were put to the spread, they turned their attention to the blind and the seating arrangements. I was fascinated by the thought that goes into deciding who sits where. After a brief instruction from Trevor, we settled into the blind. Six hunters in a double A-frame blind actually had plenty of room and pretty organized. Trevor was the caller and would call out the shots. As exciting as the moment can get, patience and safety were a priority.

As the sky started to lighten a bit, the ground fog gave the decoys an eerie, almost lifelike appearance. Suddenly, Trevor shifted a bit. “Listen,” he whispered. “Here they come.” He was right; the calls got louder, and yet the hazy sky kept the birds hidden from sight. Trevor started calling, loud and hard. Austin echoed some calls from the far end of the blind.

It seemed like minutes, but was only seconds, and the silhouettes of birds started to appear. The sky came alive in the fog. Trevor whispered between calls, “Wait, wait…take ‘em!” He shouted. We all stood in unison and shots rang out. That was a group of six and four fell. “How did you miss those other two?” Trevor exclaimed? “Quick, down, more coming,” Trevor whispered and he and Austin broke into calling mode.

Another group of nine appeared in the fog, started circling and finally locked and dropped into descent. “Take ‘em!” Trevor exclaimed as shots rang out. For the next hour or so, it was a constant repeat of small groups of Canadian Geese coming in the fog to the watering hole, along with calling, shooting and birds falling. Pretty soon, Trevor stopped calling and said it was time to gather the birds and count. “Three short,” Colton stated as he laid the birds behind the blind. “Down, more coming!” Trevor shouted. In came six more. “Only take three,” Trevor shouted between blasts on his call. Bang, bang, bang, “Stop, shooting!” Trevor shouted as three more fell.

Guns were unloaded and cased and the picking up was to begin. 18 dozen decoys between full bodies, shells and silhouettes to pick up, stow and haul across the muddy field is more than a little work to end the morning hunt. All the while we gathered the decoys, small flocks of geese flew in, circled and flared away from the activity. Chalk up this day’s success to dedicated and diligent scouting and building great relationships with the local landowners. Also, great teamwork from the DFF Outdoors team made this a memorable experience and a great morning of hunting!

Trevor is a licensed guide and also my summertime fishing partner on Lake Michigan. Guiding for hire is not the main intent for DFF Outdoors. They pride themselves on being good advocates for the sport of waterfowl hunting and they also focus on youth hunts. They provide youth hunters opportunities to waterfowl hunt and teach all aspects of sportsmanship, from landowner introductions to sharing in the work of setting spreads in the fields, shooting (fun part), packing up, processing of the game and, of course, enjoying the different meals the game provides.

It is refreshing to see young men so active in the sport and taking it upon themselves to share their experiences with younger brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. DFF Outdoors also carries over youth experiences to the ice in the winter, hosting some small ice fishing events for youth. It makes me very proud to know these young men and see how they interact within the outdoor industry. I am actually looking forward to getting another opportunity to hunt with these young guns, and maybe I can sneak along to help with an upcoming youth hunt.

 

 

 

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