Saturday, March 13, 2010
We Now Introduce "Snow Goose Season 2010"
I am not necessarily the same woman I once was. Once upon a time I was a very "indoor type of girl". Now I am a fisherman's/hunter's wife. I can fish with the best of them. I cast my line farther than my husband. I have a very accurate cast - thanks to hours spent with my Poppy in his side yard with a fishing pole, a lead weight and a bucket. I bait my own hook, take off my own fish and even clean fish. I butcher deer with such perfection you would think that it had been done at a professional meat locker - thank you, Mommy for teaching me that. I hunt small game and turkeys. I don't care to hunt with people other than my family and my husband though. He hunts with his Minnesota friends during the Spring Snow Goose hunt. During this time I would rather take on other hunting party duties. Maybe someday that will change but for now I am happy that my current duties offer me more opportunities to photograph birds than to hunt them.
With our recent warm weather and heavy rains, the snow drifts and frosty white fields have disappeared to reveal ponds, heavily flooded fields and ditches. To humans this is a mess. To Snow Geese this is Heavenly. The Northward movement of the "snowline" is a signal to Snow Geese that they can migrate to Canada to start breeding. The goal of the Snow Goose hunting season is to reduce the population thus minimizing damage to crops. "Snows", as they are commonly called, do not travel in small flocks like Canadian Geese. They travel in huge flocks with other geese called "Blue Geese" ranging from 500 to as many as 100,000 birds. Yes, this is hard to imagine, but it is incredible to see. It is estimated that there are 4.5 million Snows that migrate back and forth each year. During their travels, Snows in mass, will pull up rye grasses by the roots and clear out wheat fields with ease.
Since the day I saw my first Snow Goose migration I have been in awe of this wonder of nature. It is amazing to see these huge flocks assemble into a mesmerizing spiral of birds in multiple layers of the sky. The sound of thousands of Snow Geese is unnerving at first; it somewhat resembles the sound of the movie The Birds. But as you watch and listen the sound is simply amazing. The landing formations of Canadian Geese - or "Honkers", as they are known - and Snows greatly differ. Honkers stay in their straight formation, set their wings and land. Snows are much more dramatic and beautiful. In unison, the flock swells and swirls like a white tornado, swooping and rising, always together as though tightly choreographed. When they take off it is equally exciting. I LOVE to photograph a "fly out" it is incredible to see 100,000 birds get up, all at once, like a cloud of black and white confetti rising from the field.
During Snow Goose season I am chauffeur, navigator, scout and photographer - oh, and cook. I always send the guys out with a warm breakfast - breakfast burritos are a big hit with hunters - and have warm soup or stew ready in the evening during the big weekend hunt. Today was the start of my Spring Snow Goose duties. The first flocks of Snows have begun to migrate through South Eastern South Dakota. Each and every time I find it amazing. My husband and I set out this afternoon to "scout" for geese. We spent a few hours searching for, following and observing the incoming flocks. During this scouting time we determine the common "flyway" that the birds are following and make note of any large concentrations in particular fields, ponds or other locations. This information will be of great use next weekend when my husband's friends from Minnesota come to hunt. Due to the extensive flooding we have in our area it looks as though the guys will not be able to set up in some of the locations they usually use. But we have noticed new fields and areas that the geese are feeding. This will definitely benefit the "Great Hunters" next weekend.
This is a mounted Blue Goose my husband shot last year.