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Lessons From a Goose Blind

Learning about life while on the hunt


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"One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted."

--Jose Ortega y Gasset, philosopher

The first time I sat in a goose blind, I was about 11 years old. It was a frozen January morning in a cut corn field outside of Greenleaf. We had set out the hollow plastic geese decoys to resemble a flock in the field while it was still dark. The goal was to trick the geese into thinking they could land in the decoys and be safe. Little did they know.

After we set out the decoys, we waited. And waited. Scanning the horizon, we saw one lone honker coming in. My father's co-worker laid on the call. The goose swung right for the blinds. It circled a few times and then locked its wings to land among the decoys. As soon as the goose was in range, my dad whispered "take 'em" in my ear. I pulled up and blasted. One shot and then another out of my 16 gauge side-by-side shotgun. The goose fell hard and fast to the ground. I ran out to grab the bird and was so alive in the moment, I was shaking. The cold had gone away. The boredom of sitting endlessly was gone. All I could feel was a connection to something in my gut. It was like my inner cave boy was clawing its way out.

That was the only goose to come in that day. Four grown men and a child had spent the better part of a cold morning "hunting" geese with little luck. Yet no one seemed disappointed in the day. I got more pats on the back than I can remember. It was a great lesson for life that I learned from behind a goose blind. It was a lesson in patience, mortality, kindness and support for a younger generation. Knowing that I'm not the only one to have learned a few lessons in a goose blind, I set out to find a few others with stories to tell.

Lesson No. 1: Hunting is hardwired into the human psyche

Dr. James Swan, Snow Goose Productions, author of In Defense of Hunting

Every now and then you get a book that just makes you want to wax philosophically about a subject. In downtown Nampa, I found a great little book called In Defense of Hunting by James Swan. It seemed like a book I could get behind. As it turns out, Swan dedicated a whole lot of his book to his "spirit animal," the snow goose. So I asked him for a lesson that he learned from behind the goose blind.

"The hunt has been with us for thousands of years. Hunting is firmly hardwired into the human psyche: an instinct for survival fueled by passion and guided by ethics that locks mankind into a kinship with nature. Honoring the hunting instinct, getting your hands bloody and dirty to put food on the table, naturally inspires one to know what Thanksgiving really means."

Yeah, what he said.

Lesson No. 2:In life, it is not what you know, It is who you know

Drew Allen, Peppershock Media, goose hunter

"I've been goose hunting off and on since I was a kid," said Drew Allen. "I remember getting up early with my dad, heading over to grandma and grandpa's to meet up with Grandpa and his buddies. Grandma had the coffee and donuts ready. We'd drive one mile down the road, set up in a field right off 12th Avenue and Locust Lane in Nampa and slay geese. ... Those days are long gone. ... Basically, it has become a 'who you know' sport. I have a neighbor that would love to go more often, but he doesn't know where to go.

"Don't get me wrong, though. ... I still love getting up early, brewin' coffee and freezing my ass off even if we just end up watching a nice sunrise and bullshittin' the whole time."

Lesson No. 3: Things are not always as they appear

Brannon Hancock, counter guy at Sportsman's Warehouse

Hunters fund wildlife conservation. It sounds a little counter intuitive but it is true. In 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act imposed an excise tax of 11 percent on all consumptive sporting goods. Consumptive goods are things like guns and bullets. That means that every $20 box of steel shells I buy contributes $2.20 to the conservation of wildlife. If I was a better shot, my conservation dollars would actually decrease. Crap, I now have motivation not to practice my shooting. But it still seems odd that purchasing goose-killing 3.5 magnum shells also helps save geese.

"Speaking only for myself, I think it is marvelous. A great program," said Brannon Hancock. "If we, hunters, don't have the resource [game] then companies lose a customer base. ... The cost is hidden in the item that is bought. Hunting funding conservation."

Lesson No. 4:You are probably not the first person to have the idea

Dr. Chris Hill, associate professor of anthropology at Boise State

At first, Chris Hill was at a loss as to how he could help me find a lesson in goose hunting. While he normally digs up bird bones in his work, they are not typically identified by species. However he did mention a discovery in "the dry caves of Nevada" that was on the waterfowl topic. "One of the most amazing discoveries is from Lovelock Cave in Nevada, where duck decoys have been found that are about 2,000 years old, probably slightly older." It just goes to show that hunters and decoys have a longstanding relationship. While it is great to think you are original, it is painful to realize that someone has probably thought of the idea before you.

Lesson No. 5:Don't sweat the details

Jeff Rhodes, owner of Winglocker Decoys

Sometimes it is just as effective to get the gist of a situation and react as it is to be detail oriented. That is the case with goose hunting as well. Geese decoys are normally made with an astute attention to detail. The heads are painted just so, the black and white covering lifelike in the detail. But sometimes that is not the point at all.

"Look," said Jeff Rhodes. "If a goose can see all the little details of your decoy then the darn thing should have already been shot at."

He should know, he makes decoys. Not the normal, expensive ones but a silhouette decoy made out of cloth and wire. His decoys run about $36 per dozen while the higher end, very detailed decoys sell for more than $400 per dozen.

"What sells decoys is shelf appearance," Rhodes added. "Take a look at the expensive decoy at about 35 yards and tell me if all that detail matters."

I did; it doesn't. You don't always need to sweat the details.


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