While it is not unusual to have ducks and geese winging over
the yard here at Prairie Smoke Ranch, there is a time every year when
conducting business in nearby McClusky is similarly impacted.
Yesterday was such a day.
Teachers, farmers, grease monkeys and shop smiths all were interrupted in their civic and commercial doings by the raucous sound of geese overhead. Mostly snows, not flocks or wavering knots but whirling cyclones and pulsating feathered horizons of black and white and blue, clogging the sky and airwaves with the barks, yelps, honks and purrs of goose talk.
Complementing the swirling near-ground wildlife spectacle were skeins and clumps and strings of birds measured not in miles but in horizons -- as in from this to that, from northwest to southeast, from daybreak to dusk. Amazing lines of geese with no beginning or end. That the continent could house and feed so many geese is a mystery which even the crustiest ranchers and farmers were forced to privately consider and comprehend.
As the saying goes, these geese “knew where they were going” – indeed although they bore southeast they did so into a mild eastern wind, meaning both they knew where they were going and what they were running (or flying) from.
Cold weather bothers geese not in the least, as they invented goose down clothing. Snow, though, is a different story. Snow which hides that delicious and much needed goose fuel – corn, wheat, soy, is something to be acknowledged, contemplated, and left behind for easier pickings.
Snow, and quite a bit of it, greeted our Prairie Smoke Ranch duck hunters this morning. And now the final chapter of the 2017 waterfowl season is spread open over the hills before us. Without open water the season would be one for the record books, but our Bluebill lake is still open, along with a handful of other waterbodies in the township, so the season persists for a few days longer. On Monday night the temps are expected to drop to single digits overnight. That should ring the closing bell on waterfowl and signal it’s time to sight in the deer guns.
So while the sharptails, huns and pheasants scratch through the snow in search of their next meal, the waterfowl wing their way south and east toward the Gulf Coast or the Chesapeake. Godspeed to them, and thank you for the season that was.The author is a former US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Department of Agriculture manager. In retirement he owns and operates Prairie Smoke Ranch, located in central North Dakota, the duck hunting hub of the northern plains. All rights reserved.