No geese doesn't shoot day in blind

Bill Burton

November 16, 1990|By Bill Burton

WORTON -- What goes up must come down, but not always to the same place when one is goose shooting.

The large Kent County pond was packed solid with geese as Chester outfitter Dutch Swonger led our party across the fields to our pit on its eastern bank.

Noisy, these honkers -- about 1,000 in all -- were restless for sunrise. Life is good here; surrounding farmlands are loaded with soybean and corn picking remnants. Weather had been moderate, with no intrusion by hunter activity.

But things were to change this day -- the opener of Maryland's honker season.

As with the fowl, Jim Thresher, Chris Clarke, Angus Phillips and I didn't know what to expect. Preseason forecasts were mediocre, based on another not-so-hefty hatch on the far north flat tundra of Ungava Peninsula at the eastern top of Hudson Bay.

As we approached the pit complete with its AstroTurf trimming, the tone of the honks let us know the game was alarmed. Scores HTC of ducks -- mostly mallards -- were less wary. Many live here year 'round, and are accustomed to man's presence.

Maybe, too, they realized the duck shooting doesn't resume until Thanksgiving Day.

The thunderous clapping of wings broke the semi-darkness stillness when we got 50 yards from the pit. The lower edge of the brightening sky was darkened by the black silhouettes of geese taking to wing, and heading west.

"We'll get them when they come back," assured easygoing Swonger, a native Pennsylvanian who originally came here years ago to hunt geese with other guides, then guided himself, and now operates a small, but efficient outfitter service out of Sportsmen's Service Center on Kent Island.

That's often the way it is with pond shooting of honkers, especially in early season. Birds are flushed, most feed for a while in nearby fields, then return. Some hustle right back.

The interior of the pit, much of which was of steel, was roomy, comfortable and protected from the frigid wind. We sat back and watched the nonchalant ducks swimming around as we waited for their larger counterparts.

Honkers might be bigger and considered more of a trophy, but in the sport of shooting they will never match the challenge of the more swift and unpredictable ducks. But, then sometimes geese can also be unpredictable.

It was a half hour before we heard shooting in the distance, which isn't the way honker seasons are supposed to open. Often, hunters are packing up by then.

Another pit managed by Swonger on the west side of the pond some 200 yards away got some shots -- and a few geese -- from a small flight that Swonger tried vainly to call with help from my companions. With four men calling enthusiastically, the decibel level equaled that of earlier when we flushed a thousand fowl.

We took a few birds that eventually came our way before from across the fields undetected came state wildlife officer Adrian Baker to check us out. We had three birds -- the limit is one each. The party in the other blind had limited out.

The traditional late morning lull set in, often with no geese seen anywhere in the then bright blue skies. The occasional sight of a few high-flyers set our band of callers into noisy action, but these birds had other spots on their mind.

By noon we had other places to go, but what a way to start a day. Just being there was reward enough. Swonger, a low-key, amiable outfitter who obviously enjoys days afield can be reached at 1-301-643-2766.

No antlerless deer permits will be issued for Zone 1 of Frederick County as was reported yesterday. Zone 2 will have 733 permits, and in Zone 1 of Washington County, 631 remain available. Carroll County has 1,440 up for grabs. Permits will be available beginning Monday. Call 974-3195. The Evening Sun apologizes for the error.

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