Big Game Hunter in Training
Last year was my son’s first year of hunting. You have to be 12 to hold any hunting license at all in NY and at least 14 to hunt big game. The biggest game that a 12 or 13 year old can harvest in NY are turkeys and Canadian geese, so that is what we chased. It was the best preparation for big game hunting that I could come up with to reinforce safe gun handling, stalking, and the hard, hard lesson of patiently waiting in a blind.
One the first weekend of goose season we dressed in full camo and went out before dawn Saturday morning. We scared some birds away from the near shore of a large pond as we approached the water in the darkness. They honked their way over the dark water to the far side of the large pond but did not take flight.
We set some decoys and did a little calling trying to get then to come back when the sun came up, but they were not interested. We eventually tried to work around the pond ( +/- ½ mile walk) to get closer to them. We got within about 50 yards when they went up. We tried a couple of shots, but it was no real surprise that they were without result. Still, we had seen geese and my son had taken his first shot at game so I called the day a success.
Saturday evening the geese returned, but it was after legal shooting time.
Sunday morning we attempted the same ambush on the near shore but, they busted us before we were within range (again!)
Sunday night we checked two ponds. There were no geese on either at the close of legal shooting time.
Monday morning we set up to ambush at dawn on the 2nd pond. There were no geese there when the sun came up.
We proceeded back to the first pond, but since we had been harassing the flock for two days and the sun was already up – i.e. we were visible they busted us at +/- 200 yards and took off for parts unknown (yet again!).
Last night – the owner of the smaller pond called us to say “Come get them!” as there were geese landing on the pond just before sundown. That gave us 30 minutes of legal shooting time. So we piled in the car just as we were – no boots, no camo. I was in jeans and a T shirt, he was in shorts, shirt and sandals!
We parked 200 yards from the water’s edge and on the far side of a small wooded rise with tree cover that went right to the water’s edge. Then S-L-O-W-L-Y sneaked the last 75 yards to just shy of the water’s edge. That put the geese at about 40 yards from where we were on the shore. There was a sentry bird standing on a small island keeping watch for danger while the rest of the small flock fed in the shallows around the island.
My son took careful aim. I could see his hands tremble as he braced himself for the big 12's recoil, then his shot echoed across the pond and dropped the sentry bird !
It’s not only his first goose, but the first game animal he has ever hunted.
Gentlemen, we have another hunter in the ranks. By the time we used the canoe to retrieve the goose and get back home for photos it was fully dark, but by the miracle of flash photography here is the happy hunter and his trophy (photo attached).
Later in the fall he took another Canadian goose with me in a local barnyard. The photo of him and that goose was posted on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website.
Not a bad start for a first year of hunting! We can hardly wait for next year's deer season!