Monday, February 1, 2010

The Buzzer Beater with Kevin

I guess I can write about this now that Kevin is gone.
In basketball hitting a shot with the clock running down is exilerating.... When hunting, watching a flock of geese approach with 90 seconds left in the hunting season is even more pressure packed; especially when you are leaving the country for a two year mission only days later.
Kevin and I went out on January 31st to get him his first goose right before he left to Mexico.

We didn't have a great chance of getting one because we didn't do any scouting nor did we have a trusted hunting spot to go to. However, I try to keep my eyes and ears open at all times, at school, work, or home. I had noticed that right before sundown a large flock of honkers would fly over BYU's campus in the general direction of Utah Lake, more specifically Provo Bay.

From doing some field work for my civil engineering classes I know a few public spots in what I hoped was the flight path of those geese. Kevin showed up to my apartment at 3, and we drove 5 minutes to Provo Bay.

I didn't carry my shotgun, mainly because I still have a goose in my freezer and Johanna doesn't really support the stockpiling of waterfowl meat in the freezer. So I was out there with my camera instead. Too bad the duck season had already closed, because we had hundreds of ducks right on us for two hours straight. It was certainly a temptation.
My camera battery died right as the sun was setting so I wasn't able to document this part of the story. The geese were flying around, and they knew hunting season hadn't quite closed yet. We had two flocks of honkers (flying silent) come near our blind, but not close enough. Anyways the season was 5 minutes from closing, and we started talking about leaving. We figured we might as well stay the whole time, being that we had already been there for 2 hours. Just then we saw a line of geese off in the distance, and it seemed like they were headed our way.

They seemed to be a mile away, but they were getting larger and larger as the seconds ticked off the clock. They certainly were headed right for us, and at the pace they were flying they would be over us with one minute to spare. We waited patiently, hunkered down behind our blind, and the geese didn't change their course at all, they were headed right over us.
Kev kept asking how he should take the shot, he was definitely getting birdy. I told him to pick a single goose, step backwards and shoot it right as it was straight above us. I bet this flock was 50 yards up, so it was no easy shot. I told Kev to choose his bird, lead it, pull the trigger, and then repeat until he was out of shells. I thought he was going to nail one last buzzer beater before his 2 years without hunting.
The time came, geese silently gliding over our heads, the sky a navy blue above them. Kev stepped backwards and shattered the silence over Provo Bay. Kev, just got a new gun that shoots 3 1/2 shells. This was the first goose load he had thrown into a flock of birds, and he definitely wasn't ready for it. After his first shot, he looked like he just took a jab from Mike Tyson, I thought he was going to fall over. I was laughing as Kev regained his balance and blasted a few more canon shells well behind the flock. The geese continued calmly off to some field, winning this game, at least until 2012. We were disappointed, but I was glad that I didn't have to clean three honkers that night, and the scenery was definitely worth our time.

A Pheasant Hunt to Remember

After getting my first rooster on the opener, I longed with all my heart to be back out in pheasant country. I began seeing little clumps of cattails or other cover on the side of the freeway and think that it was some of the most beautiful plant life anywhere on earth. I hear of the pheasant hunts in South Dakota where the pheasants are like flocks of black birds here in Utah, and you can take your limit in a matter of minutes. A pheasant hunt to remember here comes from the way we got our birds, not the numbers. Hunting the wily ring necks requires lots of work and a good shot. Tal, in his final semester of his masters degree in engineering still has his priorities straight, so we skipped school one final time to go after the elusive roosters before the hunt closed. We went on a Tuesday to some public land and had the whole place to ourselves. Our party was two people strong with no dogs so we knew our chances were slim, but we also knew our chances of surviving through the rest of the year without getting back into the field were even slimmer.

We began zig zagging through the fields to cover as much ground as possible. All we were seeing was hens, so I volunteered to be the bird dog for a while. I went stumbling, and tripping through a dried up pond bottom of 10 foot tall cattails, while Tal waited on the hill next to it. Sure enough, running out came a monster rooster. He looked Tal in the eye and all I heard was, "KEV!!", the flush, and finally through the cattails I heard the shot and saw him drop. The day continued, and we were surprised at the number of birds we were hearing and seeing. As another rooster cackled and took off not ten yards away from me in the willows , I was so jolted I almost dropped my gun and I missed him. We never know if we are only going to see that one bird so it was tough on me mentally. Tal stopped to call and tell my dad about his shot and my embarassing miss. I heard some chittering in a thick patch of grass not far from us. After he hung up I told him I thought I could hear one right where we were. I had said this before to no avail, so needless to say he was skeptical.

The patch I heard him in was right against a river bank so the hillside next to us was very steep and about 40 feet tall. There was a fence there so I grabbed my barrel and reached it over and began stirring through the grass with the butt of my gun. Sure enough, just like stirring a magical potion, I stirred up the rooster. The only problem was that I had my gun by the barrel on the other side of the fence and it only had to climb 40 feet before he'd be gone forever. I pulled the gun back up and over the fence, shouldered it, he crested and I fired. Down the hill he rolled right back to our feet. Even the sting of the first miss was gone for a minute. We continued hunting until both of us kept falling down and cramping up from pushing through so much thick cover and covering so much ground. Both of us wanted to see just one more rooster, and just as the sun was setting a hen flushed. Then right behind me, flying right into the setting sun, an uncackling rooster flew the coop. I put my sight on it but with the sun in my eyes I decided it was another hen. Only when Tal, who had a better angle than me, screamed at me for not shooting did I realize I had just let that one last rooster fly from right under my feet to freedom. Then came the question of who was at fault. Me for not shooting or Tal for not yelling "rooster"? Either way, the hunt was one to remember. Never will I have a trip that will be both such a story teller and also haunt me forever.