Growing up in a hunting family I always had access to help and the equipment I needed, but tirelessly found my mind yearning to do everything myself. I didn’t want to be the girl who had to have her hook baited or birds cleaned by anyone but me. And my stubbornness to do so has shaped me into the hunter and angler I am today. I like to call it the self taught by trying all the wrong ways first and then figuring out all the right ways later…chalking that up to my stubborn streak. However this worked well for me over the years accept in the goose blind.
Goose hunting was something that was always done with my dad, brother and their friends and eventually my husband. Since there is a lot of work that goes into goose hunting, blind building, setting decoys, etc., when you’re allowed in the blind the last thing you want to do is screw the hunt up for everyone else, and so I never blew a call. Well not exactly never, but the few times I did attempt it I was met with unfavorable looks from the other hunters, and comments like, “you sound like a dying rabbit, you need to go home and practice.” So I would just sit back and let the masters work the birds and when they brought them down I was the hunter who would shoot and not be heard…at least not heard blowing a call.
Fast forward dozens of seasons to my having my own blind. I still had experienced callers out to hunt several times but on one blustery day with a blizzard starting to howl my husband, brother in law and I gave it a go on our own, all of us basically non-existent in the skills of calling geese department. By mid morning we had no birds and the guys decided they better stop playing and get home to feed the cattle. I opted out of actually being responsible and decided I wanted to stay and hunt, I just knew in my heart this was going to be a good day for birds. They shrugged their shoulders and left mumbling some sarcastic form of good luck with that.
I’d been secretly wanting to goose hunt on my own for some time, and now was as good a time as any to let that call screech! I let the boys get well out of range of any sound I was about to make before I started my “it’s about time Angie learned to blow a call session.” Rummaging through the calls I picked out a couple I’d tried before that I thought had sounded okay…not like a dying rabbit like they said. I thought about all the hours I had sat in a tree stand bow hunting and listening to the geese on the river next to me and flying over and what they sounded like. And then I started to blow, and while it didn’t sound like a dying rabbit, it may well have sounded like a donkey braying away. Hmmmm, this may be harder than I thought. So onto the next call which didn’t sound like a goose either, stupid calls I heard myself say out loud, as if the calls feelings would be hurt, and maybe they’d shape up and start sounding better. But, alas this was up to me so I just kept blowing. Standing up out of the blind I blew and blew and while no straw house fell down something else started happening, the sounds were changing and starting to sound at least like a goose, a dying one maybe, but a goose none the less. With the snow pelting my face and the wind whipping my hair, I called and called.
Sitting back down in the blind I was so blissfully engaged in my calling I had no idea what was coming in. Two greater Canadians came from behind and flew directly over the blind, so close the swoosh of their wings nearly gave me a heart attack. My heart leapt out of my chest, I had birds! I dropped the call and reached for my gun only to see them put their brakes on and fly away. I frantically grabbed the call again and began a crazed, please come back to me call that I have no idea what actually meant in goose lingo, but it was working! Again they circled and came down, turning their heads and looking at my spread of decoys, and again they braked and took off. Frantic calling round two commenced although this time I’m sure added a little Spanish goose or maybe French just in case they were international birds. Not really, but in my mind that actually sounded cool, and as I had no idea what actual goose sounds were called I was rolling with it.. I was convinced these birds were the spawn of satan himself and were completely enjoying messing with my mind. Round and round they went, circling, setting their wings and then just as quickly as they came in, off they went again. I was one exhausted hot mess! The sweat was rolling, and I was running out of air to breath, let alone blow a call and still they wouldn’t get close enough or leave.
Thankfully the adrenaline in my body wouldn’t let me quit and then it happened. Wings set , check. Feet down, check. On the ground…check! Holy goose crap, I did it! I was so excited I could not control what happened next. I burst out of the blind screaming yes…and forgot to pick up my gun. Yep, you guessed it, my spawns of satan laughed their little gray feathers off as they happily picked up and flew away. Now here’s how the emotions of a stupid, exhausted girl go. I wasn’t sure if I should cry, scream or start blowing that call again. Insert a very, very hot mess here. Adam called within a few minutes of my exhilarating disaster and as I was completely out of breath wanted to know what the heck was going on. With my flare of story telling he got the jest of the fact I landed two birds, and then the question, “did you get them,” was met with a little to much laughter on the other end of the line. And was followed with, “are you ready to quit?” Say what? Quit is not in my vocabulary sweet pea! And the recovery response of “well the snows getting heavy is all,” didn’t really erase the word quit that had previously been dropped. I was now on an Angie mission and that can be hazardous to one husbands well being.
Adam knows me so well I don’t think what I came home with mid afternoon surprised him at all and I was met with his big grin when I dropped the tailgate to my pickup revealing not one goose, but my limit, five greater Canadians! Suffice to say when I called in more birds that day I never forgot to pick up my gun. I won’t say I’m a master caller, not even close for that matter. But each time I hunt my calling improves and I’ve learned to make more and more sounds, none of which sound like a dying goose anymore. I still don’t know what most of the sounds are called, but the sounds I make work. I do things how I do them. Conventional has never really worked for me, so it’s fitting along with my unconventional calling my bird dog is a border collie. So don’t be afraid to be you, go ahead and step outside of your comfort zone, put that call in your mouth, blow until you can’t breath and watch the geese start falling from the sky. You’ll never know if you can if you don’t ever try.
Angie Kokes resides North Loup, Nebraska with her husband, Adam and is a Prois Staff Member.