h5. Twenty Four
It appears I’ve just gotten lucky! Again!
“Hello, what have we here? I believe that’s a decoy caught in those roots.” Said a voice from out in the water. I hadn’t heard any sounds until that voice spoke up and if I could have jumped, I’d have cleared the bank in front of me. That was a scare.
A pair of hands reached back into the roots, grabbed me by the neck and tail, and lifted me right out. What a glorious feeling of freedom.
It felt so great, I didnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t even mind having my butt pinched.
Now I understand why I didn’t hear them. There are two guys in a canoe and they slipped right in behind me without a sound. There sure is a lot of gear in this canoe. Camo material, coolers, sleeping bags, life jackets, paddles, decoys……Decoys! Don’t these guys know it’s spring? I know there used to be a spring season but that was a long long long time ago. And there arenï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t any shotguns or shotgun cases. Now, why would you have decoys and no guns. Maybe they’re just decoy scavengers, but, if that was the case, why would they have that camo material? And some of those decoys are the strangest, ugliest, decoys I’ve ever seen. They kind of look like a Blue Heron, but, not really. Blast! I thought I was getting smarter. Guess not.
“This is the roost island I was talking about Les.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ said the man in the back of the canoe.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½The Sandhill Cranes have been pouring in here every evening by the thousands. There are so many of them that you can’t see the sandbar once they’re packed in.”
“Steve, this looks like a great spot to me.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ Les said. “Let’s put in here on the island. There is a small cluster of willows out in the middle of the island that the ice missed. I can work the camo around those and make a great blind. We can put the canoe in those trees on the other side of the channel. We should just have time to get set up and still have enough light left to shoot. Hopefully the cranes will come in just before sunset.”
Blind! Cranes! Light left to shoot! He definitely said blind and shoot. Happy days are here again. We’re goin’ huntin’! They must be hunting cranes. I wonder what cranes are? This is going to be interesting. They’re running that camo material around those willows and making a pretty good little blind. It sure is a long ways from water. They must figure on shooting them on the swing.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Let’s put those crane decoys fairly close to the blind and set the goose dekes down at the end of the island. I’ll go ahead and put that decoy we found on the bank by the floaters. He’s pretty beat up but I don’t think he’ll scare anything off.” Steve laughed as he hollered at Les.
Beat up! Scare anything off! Now, just hold on a minute fella. You should go through half of what I’ve been through and you might not think it’s so damn funny! And while I’m at it, you’re setting this spread all wrong. You ain’t gonna shoot anything set up the way your are. And if you want to scare something off, just leave those long legged, long necked, scrawny gray things you called cranes out in the open. That’ll do it! Theyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ll spook every goose right out of the county. Young whippersnapper! I Guess I told him.
Huumph! Nobody listens to me. He didn’t pay any attention at all. He set me on the sand close to his floaters about two hundred yards from the blind. This isn’t a proper set up by any stretch of the imagination.
He set me facing the blind so at least I can watch what they’re up to.
Well, I’ll be. Dip me in shit and call me stinky! There must be two hundred geese in that flock and they’re heading right for the decoys. They’re going to be smack dab over the blind at about tree top height. I guess these guys do know what they’re doing. Ok guys. Take ‘em! Take ‘em! Take ‘em!
Good grief! What is their problem! Those geese were perfect and now they’ve gone on by so they can come back into the wind. They’re setting in right on top of the spread and we’re way out of range. Hey, bud! Watch the wing tips, I’m beat up enough already!
I don’t get it. I’m surrounded by geese in a pretty good spread of decoys with two hunters in a blind and they didn’t shoot. I can see the one named Les peeking out the top of the blind. He’s pointing something at us. It’s not a gun, or binoculars. Ah Ha! It’s a camera. With a long scope on the front. That’s what’s going on. They’re taking pictures of the geese. Well, work’s work! I’ll take what I can get.
h5. Twenty Five
“Thirrrilllll! “Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll!
“Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll!
My God! There must be fifty million of those long legged, long necked, ugly stick beaten, gray winged creatures coming in to land on this island. What’d they call them? Cranes? Yeah, Sandhill Cranes. Well, if that’s what they wanted pictures of they won’t have any trouble getting them. I’ve never seen or heard anything like this. The noise is deafening. I hope those guys have ear plugs.
I can’t even see the blind the cranes are so thick. They’ve completely covered the island. They’re standing shoulder to shoulder to shoulder. I wonder how they take off when they’re bunched so tightly together. They must go in shifts. “All right, you cranes on the perimeter. Go! Step up, next row. Now, off you go, into the wild blue yonder.” Yep, that’s the only way it could happen.
Uh, I wonder how those guys plan on getting out of here with all those cranes covering the island? They did have sleeping bags in the canoe and I’ll bet they plan on staying all night. Yechh! I sure hope those things keep their distance. And I hope they quiet down. This could be worse than being in the corn field with all those cows and their brown rounds. And the smell of all those wet feathers isn’t my favorite odor.
How about that. There’s a pair of albino cranes. No? They’re not albinos, they’re different. Not just the color, but, they’re a much bigger bird and they have a black wing patch. They’re really handsome. I wonder where the rest of their flock is? It seems kind of strange that there would just be the two of them will all these thousands of gray ones. They’re down on this end of the island. I hope those guys can see them and get some pictures. They really stand out, mixed in with the others.
A few hours ago this was all very exciting and pretty interesting, but, after all these hours of listening to all the noise, I’m ready to hit the road. Or the river. Anywhere but here. It’s just sunup so maybe those guys will get out of the blind and we can get going. I suppose they’ll stay until the cranes leave. That would make for some great pictures.
Thirrrilllll! “Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! “Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll! “Thirrrilllll! Thirrrilllll!
A small bunch just picked up and flew off, and there goes another, and another.
The white pair just picked up. Just the two of them and they’re heading right over the blind. My, that is quite a sight. They’re turning and flying right into the sun. That is as beautiful a sight as I’ve ever seen.
And now look at the rest of the cranes pick up and go. Wow! There must have been a couple of thousand of them in that last lift off. That’s an awesome sight to see. The sky is full of them.
And the noise is impossible to describe.
The guys just got out of the blind, they’ve both got cameras hanging from their necks and are they ever excited. They’re slapping each other on the back and jumping up in the air and slapping their hands together. They’re walking down this way. They started off taking very careful steps but they gave up after a few feet. It washes.
“Steve, I just don’t believe our luck.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ Les said. ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Those two whoopers in with those Sandhillers was just fantastic. You picked one great roost site for us to set up on. What a sight. I hope all those pictures come out. I think we took about 15 rolls of film. I know we both shot till we ran out. Sorry for making you stay all night.”
“Les.” Steve said, “I’d have stayed here all night without a sleeping bag just to see those two whoopers. I saw another pair once, but from a distance. To get that close was really some amazing luck. Those pictures better come out. Let’s pick up these decoys, throw everything in the canoe and get on down to the truck stop parking lot and go in and eat breakfast. I can call Todd Waldo to come out and get us, then we can get this film in and get it developed.”
It was a pretty tight fit in the canoe. They didn’t take much time packing us in, but we made it. They sure are in a hurry and they are still awfully excited. Shoot. They didn’t even get anything. ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Cept a bunch of pictures.
They pulled the canoe up on the bank next to a lot filled with cars and trucks and went into the truck stop. It must be a good place to eat judging by the number of vehicles.
A few minutes ago a pickup pulled up to the bank by the canoe and they are loading everything into it. I’m a little scrunched but my finish is so bad now, it doesn’t make much difference.
This Todd Waldo is my kind of guy. He spotted me right away when they started loading us up. “Steve” he asked, “Where did you get that wooden floater? That’s not one of our decoys. He puts ours to shame, even with all that paint chipped and scraped off of him.”
Thank you very much, sir. It’s nice to meet a man who knows quality when he sees it. Unlike your buddy, Steve, who thought I might scare everything away. I said that, but, of course, he didn’t hear me.
“We found him, Todd,” Steve replied. “Les spotted him wedged in a big old Cottonwood’s roots. He must have come down when that ice came through in February. Somebody out west at Lexington or Kearney is probably wishing they had him back. After he has a new coat of paint, he’ll look pretty good.”
Pretty Good! Pretty Good! This Steve character is getting on my nerves, big time!
“Tell you what, guys,” said Les. “Why don’t you let me keep your spread for a couple of weeks. In return I’ll give them all a fresh coat of paint. I still want to try decoying some more geese for some close up shots.”
If you don’t care, I thought I might try your new spot east of Doniphan in the south channel. You pulled a lot of birds in there last fall and they should use it this spring, too.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½
“You’ve got a deal, Les,” Todd spoke right up. “I never did like repainting decoys and they sure could use a sprucing up. I think that wooden deke has seen a few more years than our plastic dekes. He’s got aouple of gouges in him and his paint really is scraped up pretty bad. He really has a look about him though. How’d he look on the water?”
“He only had a short cord and no anchor, so we just used him on the sandbar, but he looked great,” Steve said. “He does look a little different and a little better than any I’ve seen before. I don’t know what it is, but there is just a little something different about him. We’ll get him fixed up with an anchor and Les can put him to use.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½
Well! A compliment out of Steve. That makes me feel a little better. Plus, I’m going to get put to work and get a new paint job in the bargain. What a deal.