Monday, November 17, 2014

Canada Geese and Island Camping

If you have never been to Maine in September, it is my hope that perhaps I can convince you to give the state a try when the lines aren’t quite so long, the air is a bit cooler, the colors more vibrant and the experience a tad sweeter. Enjoy mornings a field where your breath can be seen sleepily wrapping up and around your head then slowly dissipating in the first rays of morning sunshine. If these moments can be shared with friends and family, they are only further enriched.

Canada Goose Hunting 
Being a passionate waterfowl hunter, there is no place I would rather be in September than in pursuit of resident Canada geese. Waking up well before dawn to set-up decoys in a productive field or on a small farm pond and waiting patiently for geese to arrive is a thrilling experience. Sitting in absolute silence, sipping rugged coffee and anticipating the moment when the calmness of the morning will be ruptured by that first echoing “honk”, indicating approaching geese. Hunting geese tends to be a mixture of about luck and location. Even when scouting and investing considerable time in locating productive feeding areas, sometimes the geese still refuse to show-up. Other times, what appears to be a terrible location will by mornings end, yield close to a limit of geese.

A majority of goose hunting occurs in fields but getting permission to hunt these prime locations can often be a hassle. A knock on a farmer’s door can be met with pleasantries and permission but also rude distain despite your best efforts. A long time ago, I simply stopped asking permission and started primarily hunting water-based locations, such as lakes, ponds and streams residing in close proximity to these feeding and afternoon resting areas. Good luck can happen on the water and both morning and evening hunts can be productive. Around 9-10:00 in the morning and about 30 minutes before the end of legal in the evening are exceptional times to hunt as geese look for drinking water after a morning feeding or a secure place to sleep for the evening. The sheer size of a goose makes it in flight appear deceptively slow. Do not be fooled, however, as geese are fast flyers and many a goose has escaped being dinner by hunters shooting behind their target. To be successful, don’t rush, keep the end of your barrel moving after the shot and always be prepared for a quick follow-up shot should the goose hit the water only wounded. Geese are powerful swimmers and can quickly disappear from view before hunters can launch a boat and retrieve.

 Geese make for fine eating and when sliced thin and fried with a little butter and salt and pepper remind me of minute steaks. For those needing a little more “spice”, lightly sprinkling the breasts with Montreal steak seasoning adds a nice zip to the taste. Combine “steaks” with a homemade thin cut french-fries fried in canola oil and a favorite micro-brew like season favorite Pumpkinhead by Shipyard brewing company and a perfect meal is created to bring conclusion to the perfect day a field. September weather can be wildly unpredictable with heavy rain and cold weather always a possibility even on mornings that start out beautiful and sunny. To be comfortable, make sure to always throw a lightweight pair rain pants and a jacket into the boat. Good luck this season and may the only precipitation encountered be geese raining from the sky!! Looking for geese? Small lakes and ponds like Fourth Machias Lake (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, C-1), Third Machias Lake (Map 35, C-3) and Lower Sabao Lake (Map 35, E-1) have long been favorites. But remember patterns change daily so keep eyes to the skies and be prepared to quickly modify plans to stay on resident geese!

Camp on an Island
While hunting geese, it makes sense to stay close to the intended hunting location. This facilitates the early mornings and tends to make getting to prime hunting spots a bit less hectic. Camping on an island is certainly a unique experience but ultimately very similar to car camping. Gear and other heavy supplies can be transported by boat leaving less to lug on backs. While care must be taken in packing smaller watercraft like canoes, larger watercraft can easily carry the camping needs of even the most extravagant campers. Firewood on islands tends to be in limited supply, so having a small portable stove to cook meals instead relying solely on wood power is a good idea. Each of the lakes and ponds mentioned above have islands or nearby primitive campsites where intrepid waterfowlers can camp. Fourth Lake Machias (Map 35, C-1) has a beautiful primitive campsite and a very healthy population of resident geese. Use care when navigating this lake during early mornings, as this lake is notoriously rocky and replacement sheer pins a long way away. Better to take a canoe, kayak or scull boat and use the early morning fog to paddle in quietly to an unsuspecting flock and reach your limit in plenty of time to return to the campsite to enjoy a second cup of coffee and a big breakfast.

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