Phil Obrist of Gladstone and David Merrill of Albany invite me to share a goose blind reservation on Sauvie Island’s goose-rich Oak Island.We set the honkers downwind on one side, the lessers bunched close on the other. They’re designed to rest on stakes and move with the wind. From a distance the set comes alive in the stiff breeze.By 7:50, with 10 minutes left, a dozen real geese have landed and are happily feeding in the middle of the decoys.Merrill hasn’t yet shot a goose in the permit zone and can barely contain himself.We fill our limits of Canadas by noon and settle back in the rain and watch as the geese keep trying to thread neighbor sets and blinds to get into our decoys.“It’s actually kind of painful to shoot your limit so soon,“ Merrill finally blurts out.
This is not, by the way, a paid advertisement for DSDs. Smith and his partner, Brad Cochran, have orders backed up for weeks from across the United States and Canada.It might even be too late for Santa.Close call: At the check station Thursday (the Northwest Permit Zone hunt is usually Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday but is scheduled separately for the state-managed wildlife area), one of my geese narrowly missed being punched by the checker.Its breast, dampened by the rain, showed darker than other lesser Canada geese. But it also had been much lighter in contrast to the geese it was flying with when I shot it and was far from the typical chocolate chest of the traditional dusky Canada goose.I went to my book when I got home, and sure enough, not all geese classified within the measurements of duskys — bill and leg lengths and widths, size, etc. — are dark-chested. Lesser Canadas, another of a dozen subspecies, are often within the dusky parameters.
Fact is, it’s still an extremely difficult judgment call during the heat of gunfire and wing-cupped geese.Duck hunters who enjoyed improved seasons the past two years will like the 2015-16 hunt as well.And goose hunters across Northwest Oregon will positively love this fall’s outlook.Waterfowl production in the far north was good again this year in the Pacific Flyway and hunters are looking at seasons nearly identical to 2014, said Brandon Reishus, waterfowl biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.“The only change will be one more canvasback,“ he said Friday following approval this past week of flyway council recommendations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C.That means seasons for ducks and geese identical to those in 2014, changed only to reflect the calendar and add the canvasback (to two per day).The most significant news is the end of the world’s most complex goose hunt (pending approval of Fish and Wildlife Commissions in both states – Oregon’s meets Friday in Salem).