If it's your patriotic duty to shoot goose, remember to wave the flag

Bill Burton

December 21, 1990|By Bill Burton

TRAPPE -- In Canada goose shooting hereabouts, interest in flagging is not flagging. At least not for those hunting with Art Ayers' Mister Goose Limited operation.

The calling was exceptional for two days in a pit at a large pond near the Choptank River, but it was a pair of big black flags that turned the trick for us.

When watching someone in your pit wave a flag with the enthusiasm of Ronald Reagan, you wonder why it doesn't frighten honkers away. But that's a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

After Ed Nelson, Chuck McCrobie, John Marple and I finished our first morning's hunt, we stood by our vehicles and watched the fellows who took our place wave flags.

From 300 yards those flapping jet black flags amid the stuffed decoys look like a big old gander flapping his wings to get the creaks out of his bones. Had I not known the routine, I would have been fooled.

The fluttering banners fooled a high-flying flock a quarter of a mile away. Its leader made a sharp right turn, and the others followed right for the rig.

Makes one wonder why on the upper Eastern Shore flagging is waning after several years of popularity. "It works, and I stay with what's working -- you have to when warm weather and fewer geese are working against you," said Ayers, who was quarterbacking those in the pit with a mobile phone.

The trick, he said, is to flag as soon as the birds are spotted, and not to let up. Flag them until they pitch is his method.

It's the opposite with calling, and we were treated to callers as good as they come in our two shoots. The calls were loud and fast when fowl were far away; the closer they got, the lower the volume became, until it was practically silent as they made their final circle.

Calling along with Ayers the first day was local hunter Ed Nelson using a Sean Mann's Eastern Shoreman model. Mann's calls should produce, considering that after moving over here from the Baltimore area he started making them and marketing them for $100 and up.

Nelson's son Rodney won the World Junior Goose Calling Championships a couple of times with a Mann call, and also placed second. This year at age 16 he switched to the seniors -- and tied for seventh. Maybe he'll be like Mann, who has been in the winner's circle a few times himself.

Kevin Lohr and Chris Hott played the tunes in a light drizzle and brisk breeze our second day. Both used Olt calls -- a 77 and an 800 -- and pulled geese from afar. Lohr, who studies art at Maryland Institute in Baltimore when not guiding, is one of the most intense callers I've seen. If he can see them, he calls to them without a pause for a second breath. He said it works, and we believe him.

But before you try to call hard and fast, be reminded that there's more than just continuous calling. You have to play the right notes, which takes an awful lot of practice.

McCrobie of Deer Park in Garrett County made a couple of incredibly long shots with an old 10-gauge single shot, 34-inch barrel shotgun that reached out a good 70 yards. But he didn't match his previous mark of two honkers with one shot made two years ago on a nearby farm.

Another single shot weapon almost got him in trouble last fall when guiding Vice President Dan Quayle on a trout stream near Savage Reservoir. The gun he removed from his vehicle was intended for rattlesnakes, but being a country boy he didn't realize how jittery Secret Service agents can be.

He quickly found himself being frisked spread eagle against a fender. Oh, yes, Quayle caught and released 35 native trout.

Then there's McCrobie's .50-caliber flintlock muzzleloader he took to Colorado for elk recently. It was raining. Up came an elk, and the wet flint wouldn't throw a spark. So as he held a steady bead, his companion Gary Ranker detonated the charge with a flame from his Bic lighter, and McCrobie had a 5x5, which to Easterners is a 10-pointer.

Ayers operates out of Sullivan's Store in Trappe. Call 1-301-476-3561.

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