Call of the wild

Hunter plots best strategy to bag geese
Sunday, January 23, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:48 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

On an overcast weekday afternoon just north of Englewood, a solitary goose hovers over a weathered cornfield, a beacon to other geese in search of food. The bird lands amid the dry, broken stalks.

A closer look reveals a different picture: the goose is a flag, a kitelike device hunter Andy Kinder, who is practicing geese landings in the cold but gentle wind, flies. He sets the flag down and continues unloading his pickup truck.

Kinder, 36, has hunted since he was 8, following weather patterns and waiting countless hours around Boone County and Fayette and as far afield as Clearfield, Iowa.

“I imagine the geese will be flying over in about 45 minutes,” he says as he puts the finishing touches on the decoy arrangement.

For the geese Kinder hopes to attract, the setting appears to be a safe feeding ground, with about 20 strategically positioned decoys surrounding his vantage point, a camouflage shelter known as a ground blind.

“The more decoys the better in the late season,” Kinder says.

He uses the broken stalks to further hide the ground blind. Only his head sticks out.

There is enough room in the blind for Kinder’s 18-month-old black Labrador retriever, Jett, who busies himself by playing with broken corn stalks.

While Kinder hunts waterfowl in the late geese season, which ends Monday, clustering the decoys in six to eight families in a “V” formation is his favorite strategy. Each family includes three to four geese.

The layout creates a winged alley for approaching geese to land and an open playing field for Kinder, who by law is allowed to kill, or bag, one goose a day.

Kinder closes the back of his truck and slides into its cab, where Jett is waiting. Kinder, a self-employed carpenter in Columbia, parks the vehicle down the adjacent gravel road.

“I build projects for local builders and clients, but being self-employed allows me to go out hunting with every chance that I get,” he says.

Kinder says he has taken about 30 geese and 30 ducks this season, a fairly typical year for him.

“I like to smoke them or cook them in the oven with some sauerkraut, long-grain wild rice or Polish sausage,’’ he says. “It just depends. They can be frozen for the offseason, or I will usually give them away to family and friends. I don’t let them go to waste.”

With preparations complete, Scott Manns, a friend whose family owns the property, joins Kinder.

Kinder’s goose call interrupts the still air, signaling the start of the hunt.

“Goose calling is not at all difficult,” he says. “You just have to listen for them and mimic back to them what you hear.”

Together the men scan the northern horizon for any sign of geese headed in their direction. An unexpected snowstorm causes the pair to head home early without a shot fired. Despite the apparently unsuccessful outing, the day has been a good one.

“Calling a flock of geese on the horizon and then seeing them turn in my direction is truly a rush,” Kinder says.

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