There’s No Place Like Home


Just before Thanksgiving my son and I, my hunting partner Mike and his son, packed up truck and trailer and made the 13-plus hour drive to the Tule Lake Refuge on the California/Oregon border. Although we’re surrounded by perfectly good ponds here in Southern California, and a good amount of geese, we were driven to make the trek by the lure of the Canada Goose. Yes, that black-headed, white cheeked, dusky 747 of a bird is not very common to our area, but legend has it that for “honkers,” short of Canada itself, Tule is the place to go.

So we left our comfortable and familiar hunting grounds and drove. And drove. And drove some more.

We scouted on Friday, which consisted of a little driving around and glassing, but mostly interviewing every refuge worker, waitress, or local with a camo hat. On Saturday we planted our 800 snow geese and honker decoys in a refuge field and got ready for the slaughter. But the only thing that got slaughtered that day were four trays of Oscar-Meyer “lunchables.”

One of the five days we hunted the area, we downed eight snows. A good goose day back home, but not what we were expecting from legendary Tule Lake. Still, our harvest was better than the 1 or 2 taken in other fields by local hunters. The Orange County crew had done well. But we never got into the real geese we’d gone there for, the honkers. So we arrived back home without the big bird we’d wanted for our Thanksgiving dinner meal and had a store-bought turkey instead.

That Saturday I had a rezzie card for our local pond, San Jacinto, so we went there for a nice quiet duck hunt. No shoulder-jarring 3 1/2-inch loads. No below-zero temperatures. No trailer full of goose decoys, flags, and layout blinds. Just ourselves and a dozen mallard decoys.

We’d promised my wife we’d be home by lunchtime. Just before 11 we had a couple of ducks on the strap, but not much was flying. Then I spied a line of dark birds off to my right. Cormorants, I thought at first. But as they got closer I realized they were honkers!

We were in the “back” of the refuge, so we watched for agonizing moments as those Canadas flew the gauntlet of calls, waiting for that skybusting shot that would send these new arrivals packing. But the geese stayed high and shrugged off the honking that rose up to greet them. They veered off as they neared us, and I let out a sigh, but Griff isn’t so easily discouraged. He grabbed his Primos Honky Tonk — fortunately still on his lanyard from the Tule trip — and gave those honkers a big hello. They not only answered back, but turned toward us. Lower and lower they glided, and I prayed they’d make it all the way to us. An eternity later they were over our pond, past one, then the other blind that lay between them and us in the third blind, until they looked as if they’d land right on top of our mallard decoys. That’s when Griff’s barrel popped out of the tules and BOOM…BOOM…BOOM.

A big bird sailed down over his head and crashed into the pond behind us as only a 13-pound bird can. We had our honker at last. Very unexpected but completely welcome on our game strap.

Which just goes to show. Dorothy was right. When you’re searching for something, you don’t always need to venture far to find it. It might be right where you are.

There’s no place like home.

~ by SpeakingZenaphorically on November 29, 2007.

One Response to “There’s No Place Like Home”

  1. Excellent story, I love it!!! There’s no place like home. Although those adventures and travels are great life experiences, sometimes what you are looking for “might be right where you are”. Congratulations Griff on the Honker.

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