Challenge of the goose hunt worth the effort

Geese hold a special place in the hearts of many waterfowlers who are willing to pay the price and exert the effort for the big bird. 

CORINNE, Utah — Shane Henriod places the last of roughly 130 full-body and silhouette goose decoys in a corn-stubble field, climbs into a cement pit smaller than the cab of his truck, cranks his eyes to the skies and waits.

The sun rises, but a reluctant cloud cover keeps Henriod and his companions chilled to something just this side of a bottle of champagne on New Year's Eve.

The geese are close. Henriod can hear them milling about on the ice of a nearby marsh at the Chesapeake Gun Club.

The famous flying Vs stream into the marsh, but the geese are not paying attention to their fake friends bobbing in the wind on the agricultural field. The trio of hunters watch a single goose take off from the frozen marsh and head south.

"That birdie is going the wrong way," Henriod says.

The goose crumples and falls, shot by another hunter, before Henriod's words have faded into the wind.

Henriod is confident the geese eventually will approach the decoy layout he spent so much time placing, but the birds don't seem hungry for leftover corn kernels this day.

"That's what I really like about goose hunting: the
challenge," he says.

"Geese are not the easiest animal to pursue. There are times like this and there are times when it is phenomenal. Today the birds are wanting to sit on the marsh for who knows what reason."

Perhaps Henriod should have headed to the nearest golf course instead — at least on this day, when only a pair of geese, both of which Henriod missed, were drawn to the decoys.

If hunters were allowed to harvest geese on golf courses, public parks and condominium ponds, a lot of folks would be happy.

Instead, golf course and condo landscape managers have to deal with abundant piles of slimy, smelly goose pellets and hunters curse while passing gaggles of geese lounging in urban settings.

"They have discovered a safe place with lots of food and they are imprinting that on their young," said Tom Aldrich, waterfowl program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

"Hunters may wish they could harvest some of those birds, but there are plenty of geese still in the marshes."

Henriod and his hunting buddies headed to Wyoming for an early-season goose hunt on Sept. 1. They also have hunted Idaho, Montana and Canada this season and have plans to travel east to Nebraska or one of the Dakotas.

In his pursuit of geese, Henriod also has traveled to Texas to add variety to his goose bag.

While he enjoys hunting ducks, geese hold a special place in Henriod's heart and he is willing to pay the price for the bigger bird.

"For me, to shoot a limit of goose is like taking a trophy elk for someone else. Every time I get birds coming in it gets the adrenaline going and it feels like the first time I sat in a blind and experienced it," he said.

"It's just awesome to watch these big birds come right into your faces."

Henriod figures he has spent at least $10,000 to hunt geese.

"Suffice it to say I've narrowed my hobbies down," he said. "It's crazy to think about the investment I've made, but that's what it is.

"I hardly ever hunt alone. It's a chance to spend time with friends. I like to introduce people to hunting."

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.