Dig Baton Rouge

Goose Hunting: Catching the F5

By Matt Leerkes

It’s late February, 2 a.m., and a 25 mile-per-hour north wind is blowing freezing rain sideways across a muddy field in south Louisiana. Five guys are beginning the monotonous task of jamming 1,400 white plastic bags into the frozen ground so that that they can lay in the mud amongst them, awaiting a living tornado.

To most sane people, this sounds crazy, but as I look across the field at the shining headlamps gleaming through the sleet, seeing nothing but grins and hearing only laughter, I know I am not in the company of sane individuals.

February in Louisiana means conservation season for light geese, including snow, blue, and Ross’s geese. These birds, growing in population at a five percent rate per year, destroy vital arctic tundra when they return to nesting grounds each year. Such environments are critical to a diverse collection of other waterfowl and wildlife, and so wildlife officials allow hunters to harvest unlimited bags with the help of unplugged shotguns, electronic callers, and extended shooting hours.

It is with this mandate we’ve taken the field. Over the course of the next few hours, it begins to transform into a vague resemblance of a concentration of tundra maggots, or, as the public knows them, snow geese. With war paint on our faces, heads down in the mud, and shotguns loaded to brim, the orange haze on the horizon brings the first waves of our enemies.

“Here they come boys,” I say. “Get ready. Hold… hold… hold…Kill ’em!”

As the molten steel burst from the ends of five smoking barrels and the huge white B52 bombers fall, the conservation effort begins! One by one, two by two, and even three at a time they fall, but small militia waves are not what the crazed maniacs laying in the frozen mud came for.

We came for the F5 Tornado!

With the sun now over the horizon and the ground begging to thaw, the massive snow army knows it’s time to search for a rice stubble field to plunder. It just so happened on this morning we were protecting the field they wanted to destroy.

A roar of cackles, clucks, and honks in the distance gave way to a blackened sky.

“This is the one we’ve been waiting for boys!” I yell. “Keep your heads down.”

As 500 geese turns into 1,000 and 1,000 into 5,000, the super tornado was upon us. Little by little, the vortex begins to funnel to the ground, and when the nerves of the five warriors could take no more, the downpour began.

Like bowling balls falling out of the sky, the 10-pound birds crash into the frozen ground. As gun smoke, war cries and high fives fill the cold late winter air, it’s apparent that these crazy snow goose hunters got what they came for, and another fragment of arctic tundra has been conserved.

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