Kelly Bostian: Targeting flocks of small geese pays off on this trip
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 8:10 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Art of the hunt
IF YOU HAVE ever doubted the ability of one individual to lead dozens into the grip of disaster, you have not watched a goose hunt in western Oklahoma.
After watching flocks of "little geese" goof up a few hunts for larger geese in central Oklahoma, I was intrigued by guide Brad Albeck's affinity for hunting flocks of these little honkers in western Oklahoma. He hunts large flocks of little birds.
"We're here because there are about 200,000 geese here," Albeck said with grin after I asked why he chose our particular location last Sunday. "You put me under 200,000 geese, I can guarantee something's going to die."
I was looking for an answer more specific to our set-up within that realm near the raucous roost area but, well; ask a dumb question. I'm sworn to secrecy as to the location, beyond stating we were west of Interstate 35 with the Shawnee-based owner of Albeck's Adventures.
Albeck, 11 gunners, a dog handler and I snuggled into layout blinds tucked up against a fence row on a south-facing hillside on the north end of a field of winter wheat. We were downwind of a peanut field the geese had been using as a food source for days leading up to the hunt.
We faced south, a steady north wind of 10 to 15 mph blowing over our shoulders and 20 to 25 dozen full-bodied Canada goose decoys arranged in a circle about 45 or 50 yards in circumference at our feet.
"Little geese like to land in the middle," Albeck said. "Some guys make the mistake of leaving an open U or a J."
The majority of decoys filled a swath 10 to 15 yards deep and "tight and right" up against the blinds. He typically arranges laydown blinds shoulder-to-shoulder for safety reasons and to create the illusion of a continuous strip of tall grass. Shorter and taller laydown blind models should be arranged with the smaller blinds to the outside edges to avoid creating shadows, he said.
"You really have to grass in, and you really have to be still," he said.
Cackling geese, lesser Canada geese and Ross's subspecies rose from the eastern horizon well after dawn, a morning haze in the air but well before the sun burned bright. They created an illusion of threads of black and gray lace rising from the ground to float under the clouds with a faint but nearly solid tone like thousands of party horns blowing in the wind.
"Get down, get in!" Albeck instructed as he waved a V-shaped black flag to mimic goose wings and we ducked into our layout blinds and closed them up.
As the geese drew nearer the lace peeled into layers of flocks, some higher, some lower, some smaller groups, some larger. White Ross's were mixed in among the Canadas.
Waterfowl hunting regulations simply address "Canada" and "Light" geese, so determining a limit of three Canadas and 20 white geese on the air is a simplified task. We saw no white-fronted geese. The limit on those is just one.
A Ross's essentially is a smaller, stubbier version of a snow goose. Even ornithologists get into debates about identifying cackling geese versus lesser Canada geese. Cacklers are roughly the same size, to about a third larger, as a mallard duck.
Albeck lit into a series of calls that I imagined would have left me out of breath. "Clean and fast, with a little rasp," is how he described it. At times he called so quickly he sounded like more than one goose. With hundreds of birds directly overhead, the noise increased to the point it felt like we were inside one giant party horn. It was so loud it seemed a futile effort to blow on a call, but this is where the difference in hunting big geese and the little geese really comes into play, according to Albeck.
"That's when you hit 'em hard," Albeck said. "Big geese, sure, you can let your decoys work more for you and you can slow down on the call, but not with little geese. That's where a lot of guys make that mistake; with little geese you stop calling and they know something's up, you've gotta call them all the way in."
If calling at a deafening flock of thousands seems futile, it is. "I'm calling to one goose," Albeck said. He watches the flock for the one bird that sets its wings to land at a certain tone and then he sticks with that tone and calls that bird to the ground. "Out of all those thousands of birds I'm looking for that one dummy, and he'll lead the rest of the parade right to their death," he said.
Guide Brad Albeck can be contacted at Albeck's Adventures, 405-443-8762.
Guide Brad Albeck poses with his hunting party from the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas last week. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World
Wyatt Langley, 12, of Edmond poses with two geese from his first goose hunt with Albeck's Adventures last weekend. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World