The world record snow goose and other stories

In a way I felt sorry for the guy and in another, thought he got what he deserved.

The incident happened in a small café in Macdoel, California, a small town in northern California below the Oregon border, north of Mount Shasta, near the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Preserves.

At times it seems that every migratory waterfowl bird on the Pacific flyway would headquarter on the 90,000 acres of marshland on these preserves. On a series of crisp early winter mornings before first light you'd hear just a few of them, and then just a few more, and as the dull sun rose above the dense fog shroud of the marshland, you'd hear all the gathered species of geese and ducks raise their voices in what became a painful blast of thousands of wild sirens sounding at once as they took off. The sheer wild fury of it all would send chills through you.

We'd hunt the edges of the preserves in blinds you could reserve or take on a wait-and-see basis on arrival, or on public land where you could toss out a few decoys near an improvised blind, or, if you were lucky, hunt on a nearby farmer's land.

The hunting was phenomenal – but what I remember most is the pre-dawn noise and sheer wild excitement of all those birds getting off the preserve.

The wind would blow that wet near-freezing cold right through your upper body while the cold water would eventually chill right through your waders regardless how you dressed underneath them.

At the end such a day a crowd of regulars would sit in that small café in Macdoel to warm themselves with hot coffee and refuel their calorie loss with chiliburgers before making the trek home. The federal warden assigned to the area was a common sight among the hunters.

We were gathered there toward dusk when one guy, obviously not a seasoned waterfowl hunter, burst through the door eagerly asking the warden to come look at his snow goose. He was beyond excited. He was sure he'd shot a world's record.

Some of us silently wondered "What's this about?" as the warden followed him out the door. We watched as the warden confiscated his bird, then his shotgun, and wrote him a long ticket while delivering an intense dressing-down.

Trumpeter swans were a very rare and endangered species then, and he had managed to shoot one.

Swan number have increased since those days to the point where just recently a friend of a friend got a special permit tag to legally shoot one – no doubt a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My friend Gerald is a fly tyer, and was gifted with more than a lifetime supply of swan feathers – which he is treating with near-reverence.

He dyed some and used the biots for nymph and small mayfly bodies. The results look terrific. There will be plenty of uses for the many, many other feathers.

Roadkill big game in Montana? That's a different story. You can take it home and eat it, or parts of it, and you can make use of the hide. Just go on-line, get a permit within 24 hours, and follow the rules. One of them is to remove the entire carcass from the roadway.

I'm thinking: Deer, maybe elk, OK... but how do you wrestle a twelve-hundred pound moose you just happened to come across into the pickup or SUV? Pass.

My own supply of deer and elk hair comes from my hunting buddies. We have an agreement: They keep me in hides which I cure and redistribute to them, as most of them are fly tyers, or I keep them in flies.

And then there's upland bird hunting, roadkilled birds, or birds that fatally mistake a plate glass window for sky. Pheasant tails, the back and breast feathers of game birds like grouse, Hungarian partridges, sage hens, or even starlings – hey – if you're not sure, pluck it.

There's something redeeming in the idea of utilizing every possible part of a dead bird or animal.

I doubt that Saul Alinsky, Rahm Emanuel, Eric Holder, or Hillary Clinton give a rip about fly tying. They have unwittingly given us a slogan, though, just one word removed from a saying those of us who believe in making full use of dead birds and animals should adopt:

Never let a good carcass go to waste.


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