Oh, Canadas! Skies are full of them


TRAPPE -- General Robert E. Lee the 15th, a superb 3-year-old Labrador retriever, hardly got a workout. Neither did his master, and our guide, Tim Ward, wildlife artist Chris Clarke, Angus Phillips and this writer.

It was opening day of the Canada goose season yesterday. It was also a short and sweet affair; one that ended almost before it started.

Though we settled in our pit on the banks of a small pond, a half hour late, we had bagged our limit of three honkers by 7:17 a.m., which figures out to 34 minutes of splendid hunting. A masochist might have wished for colder weather -- it was chilly enough in the low 40s, thank you -- the breeze was moderate before it dropped off, the bright sun gave way to overcast and game was plentiful.

Missing a great day were those disgruntled hunters who object to the one-bird-a-day bag limit and are waiting for the split season to reopen Dec. 9 with a two-a-day bag. And there were many absentees.

As Mattumaskeet, N.C., first became a ghost town during goose season 30 years ago, downtown Easton on the eve of the opener had taken over as the Honker Capital of the U.S. Its streets were as busy as Hong Kong.

Monday night, the streets of downtown Easton were deserted. Remember when you had to fight your way through the lobby of Tidewater Inn the night before the shooting started? Monday night, at 6:45, there were two people in the dining rooms -- and they weren't hunters.

What ever happened to the "it's not what you kill, it's just being there" attitude of hunters. Hey, this was opening day -- an opening day in which little shooting could be heard in the distance, though skies were filled with Canadas.

-! Ward, who guides for Art Ayers'

Mister Goose Limited headquartered here, pointed to standing corn -- much of it already stripped of kernels as far up the stalks as geese can reach. Ayers had to miss the opener; he was confined to bed by illness, though he hopes to be calling again by the week's end.

"The snow geese are giving us trouble," said Ward. "They're mixed in with the Canadas; I've never seen anything like it -- and so early in the season."

Though the snow limit is four a day, we didn't tarry. Why lessen chances of later in the season getting more of the prized Canadas by spooking them now in efforts to get their white counterparts? We can get snows later; their season extends 23 days beyond the close of the honker shoot.

Curiously, the smaller snows were

mixed in with the tail end of Canada flights, not just hereabout, but in much of the Eastern Shore from here north. Some claim -- others complain -- their population appears double that of last year, which means much more competition with Canadas for food.

Elsewhere Kennedyville outfitter Floyd Price had five parties. A local wildlife officer said hunting pressure was one-twentieth of what it was five years ago in Kent County. It was pretty much the same in Queen Anne's County said another officer.

Goose picking was relatively slow at Sportsmen's Service Center, Grasonville, said proprietor Roger Dye when we stopped to have our birds plucked. "The shooting is good, but it's never going to be like it was in the old days," added Dye.

On the Shore, Queen Anne's County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited canceled its annual and once very popular fall banquet and fund-raiser because of lack of interest, Dye said.

All of this, as our beloved Canadas are making a comeback. After he and his guests limited out early, Anne Arundel Countian Ray Nichols who shoots near Tilghman said it looks like one of the best shoots in years.

Oh, Canadas! Skies are full of them

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