Goose on the loose
Goose season worth challenges of winter
Forget the vortex. The polar blahs have settled over Colorado.
The Broncos fizzled, a February thaw has brought rains (rain? In February?) to turn the rivers muddy and we’re left watching Mad Vlad leer over the Olympics like some Dickensian landlord.
When a friend from the Front Range called and mentioned the goose season, which ended last month on the Western Slope, still had two weeks to run east of the Continental Divide, two of us pulled out of town like the Sundance Kid leaving Bolivia.
By this late in the season, even the wildest of geese have figured out safe flying patterns, so it takes a little extra insight to be in the right place at the right time.
That “insight” was finding open water, a tough-enough task after several weeks of frigid weather up and down the Front Range had sealed off lakes and reservoirs.
However, we figured a bit of open water could be found on the cooling ponds used by several municipal electric companies, so all we had to do was find a nearby landowner willing to allow a threesome (plus dogs) a place to hide and wait.
“I have a friend who will let us hunt on her land,” said Gordy Reese, a longtime friend and skiing buddy from Boulder. “We can’t hunt close to the reservoir but just as long as we don’t drive across the pasture, we’ll be OK.”
A short hike across a snowy field and soon we were crouching, guerrilla-like, in a knee-deep irrigation ditch shielded by a wall of winter-red willows.
A few minutes later, we heard a few shots coming from a scattering of motley buildings a half-mile away.
“There’s a guy over there who has a bunch of junk cars on his property,” said Reese, chuckling into the goose call. “I think some guys use the cars as blinds, sitting in the cars and then jumping out to shoot when the geese get close.”
We waited as a bank of angry looking clouds the color of old pewter shoved across the distant mountains, hiding the sun and making the day old before its time.
A few flights of geese, none close enough to entice, rose out of fields to the east and rode the west wind toward the open water in the middle of a reservoir 400 yards away.
“Sometimes the geese circle back but mostly, once they see the reservoir, they stay on course,” said Reese, as yet another flock of geese set their wings and slid into the safety of the reservoir.
Reese’s 7-month old chocolate Lab named Paya didn’t mind the lack of shooting, finding plenty of interesting smells riding the wind.
After one exploratory circle, she returned with a bit of grey goose down stuck to her nose.
“That might be the closest we get to a goose tonight,” someone remarked as the day grew to a close. “It was sort of slow, but it sure beats watching pairs ice dancing.”
The Central Flyway regular goose season ends Feb. 16. A special conservation order season for light geese runs Feb. 17 through April 30 east of Interstate 25.
If you want to hunt in April, you’ll have to get a new small game license and state waterfowl stamp, both of which expire at the end of March.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a federal waterfowl stamp is not needed to hunt light geese during the conservation season.