Danny and I have been writing this blog for nearly two years. Unfortunately, about sixty of our initial posts were deleted from the website archives during the parent company's transition to a new subcontractor. Fortunately, I had most of the material that was used to create the originals. So with minor revisions, we are repeating a few of the best offerings. This story was a favorite of mine from Danny; I will follow with another one of his classics: "The Diamondback Kid (Rides Again)". New material is in the queue and we intend to post some soon. So, in case you missed it...
The Swan Lake Goose by Danny Batson
To this day, I have never understood what it was about goose hunting that would possess a grown man to travel thousands of miles and maybe spend thousands of dollars to our area each Fall to hunt geese.. They would happily sit in a freezing blind for hours on end just for a chance to shoot at one! As teenager growing up in the late 1960’s, I could have dropped by Alice's poultry and bought one (already cleaned) for no more than three dollars. I could have done so, had I liked to eat goose. I didn’t care for them back then, nor do I now.
As natives, we probably take our easily-accessible Swan Lake Wildlife Refuge too much for granted. The Sumner/Fountain Grove area is only about 30 minutes from Chillicothe. The more than 10,000 acre Swan Lake Refuge is on a major North American migratory bird flight-line and attracts over 200,000 Canadian Geese each year. As such, this beautiful and storied part of our area most certainly lives up to its billing as “The Wild Goose Capital of the World.”
Flash back to late November of 1967, where my story begins. My older cousins from northern Iowa had made their annual trip down to hunt geese. This particular year my cousin from California joined us at Kay's Pits near Sumner. We would always reserve a blind in the front row closest to the water. The weather was typical for late November. It was cold and freezing. There was water in the floor of our blind and the wind was howling, with nothing to drink but black coffee (which I hated as a sixteen year old.) I raised my feet up and huddled in the corner trying to stay warm. I had brought my trusty 20 gauge Remington pump; undersized for those big Canadians. On the other hand, my cousins brought along 10 and 12 gauge shotguns which fired 3" magnum shells.
Because it was windy, the geese stayed in the Swan Lake Refuge a little longer that morning. About nine o'clock, along came a flock flying higher than a kite! They are too high guys, I said. Look, none of the other people are shooting. But they had come to shoot! So all at once, my cousins threw open our blind roof and turned loose with their big guns.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The birds flew on by without a scratch. They asked me why I didn't shoot and I told them the geese were too high and my gun was too small. About noon, another flock came by and was just a little lower in elevation, but still too high for a good shot with any weapon we had. As they came over our blind, my cousins did their thing once again.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Once again, they missed every one of them. I did not shoot. Suddenly, a lone goose passed over us honking away and trying to catch up with the main flock. While this loner was still too high, my cousins told me that this one was mine. With some reluctance, I raised my 20 gauge and shot. My target stopped honking and flapping his wings and started dropping! I think everyone at Kay’s Pits were shocked because none of them had bothered with this loner.
He landed at the far end of Kay's Pits and he just stood there, still stunned. I jumped out of my pit and started running toward him, gun in hand. As I trotted along, I came to realize that he was farther away than I had first thought. Over rough ground my trot had slowed to a fast walk. As I passed the other guys, they called out things like “great shot!” and “what did you use?” By the time I finally reached my goose, he had regained his senses.
Suddenly, I realized that in my haste I had left the pit without any ammo! The nearest guy told me to shoot it. I responded by telling him of my situation. A 12 gauge shell came flying my way. I said thanks, but I need a 20 gauge shell. By now, the goose is getting very mad. The tables had turned. The hunter was now the hunted! Based upon past encounters with angry fowl, I quickly backed away. Their bites can hurt.
The guys in the surrounding pits are laughing their heads off and I'm dancing around trying to stay clear of those powerful wings. After considerable rummaging about in his gear for a 20 gauge shell, another guy found one and yet another shell came flying my way. I snatched it out of the air, quickly reloaded and pumped, and fired at his head. To this day, I have yet to understand how every pellet missed!
Enraged, he charged me...I hit him with my gun barrel right in the neck! I grabbed him by the neck and straddled him to avoid being flogged by those powerful wings! Have you ever watched a man kill a Canadian goose with his bare hands? Well, if I were a betting man I would bet my money on the goose. I slowly walked back to my blind with my kill. Everyone was out of their pits clapping their hands and laughing. I had made their day. I have not hunted geese since. Besides, I bent the barrel on that old Remington pump!
Editor’s note: I identified strongly with Danny in this story and feel much the same about hunting waterfowl as he does today. I have some childhood recollections, but not nearly as funny. I would have to believe that Danny’s story was recounted for years thereafter; maybe with some embellishments--- as it likely took on a life of its own. So Danny, you should take some solace in that retelling this tale likely made future generations of waterfowl hunter’s time pass a little faster; as they sat in water-soaked pits for hours on end, teeth chattering, body shivering, hoping and praying for just one more chance to...
Boom! Boom! Boom!