Goose Hunting 101

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My husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary a few years ago. While most women would expect a nice piece of jewelry, a movie, or a romantic dinner somewhere…I’m a tad bit “out of the norm” (to put it mildly). What better way to enjoy each other’s presence and paint smiles on our faces than driving six hours away, staying in a lovely hotel…and waking up at the crack of dawn, decked out in layers of padding, and head out to a farmer’s field to put out hundreds of goose decoys?  You heard me right; goose hunting!

A guide was with us. He gave us a quick course in “Goose Hunting 101,” in the pitch dark, teaching us precisely how to place metal sticks into the ground, and top them off with huge, plastic goose decoys. They had to be placed in just the right way so that the fake birds would bob with the wind, rather than fall over and freak out the flying-in geese.

I was following each instruction as the guide gave it…which was easy enough…but I had no way of seeing the “final product” of what we were trying to accomplish, as he did. (Where was he going with this?)

If we didn’t fulfill this task correctly, the geese wouldn’t be fooled enough to come…and that was the entire goal! Do it right, or go home empty-handed.

After the sticks and plastic birds were finished, he handed us cardboard cut-outs of geese on sticks. These also served a very important purpose in attracting the geese, but had to be done correctly and required instruction. If we messed up and one fell over or looked suspicious, we’d scare away the birds.

After placing the 144th goose decoy into the ground (I kid you not), I was able to step back and take a panning view of what we had accomplished. It was fascinating! There was literally a sea of bobbing fake birds everywhere, that couldn’t have looked more real. I wasn’t a goose, but they would have fooled me! (this picture was taken after the hunt, in the daylight)…

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We were all absolutely freezing…hands numb, feet numb, and wind blowing at our faces.  Now that the distracting hard work was over, the cold became more evident. The hunt hadn’t even started, yet, and I was thoroughly numb and hurting. The wind seemed to be picking up. It was below freezing, and it was anyone’s guess how long we’d be out here shooting birds until we filled our limits.

No longer focused on the labor involved, all I could do was think about how cold I was. (Would I still enjoy this?)  Suddenly, visions of candlelit restaurants and warm movie theaters were looking a bit more logical (though I’ve never admit that to the women in my family who thought I was crazy to be there). But, I’d give it “the old college try.”

The guide laid mats down on the ground. (That’s strange. We sit in chairs to duck hunt, and hike when elk hunting. We’re going to lie down?)

Not only that, but he had very specific instructions for how to lie down. (How hard could it be?)

We were to lie on the mat and cover up to our chins with camouflage blankets. Our left arm was to be folded across our chest, under the blanket, with the palm of our hand turned upward, touching the blanket, just under our chin. Our right arm was to be straight to our side, holding onto the gun.

Then, we each had a fake goose to lay over the top of our gut, further concealing us. He repeated the instruction to keep that fake goose right-side-up at all times, warning us that if it flipped over, showing its belly, the geese would immediately see it from the air and “flare” (fly away in fear). It was imperative that the fake geese stay on top of us the right way.

He demonstrated the whole process for us. There were no questions. He showed us that, when a goose flies over, we’d use that open left palm to quickly throw off the blanket, grab the gun with right hand, and shoot.

In the following picture, can you see Steve laying down, covered in a blanket, with a large fake goose on his chest?   You can see his head with his camo arm sleeve supporting his head.

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We all got onto the ground into position, and our guide monitored us. He fixed any potential problems he saw: “He tends His flock like a shepherd.” (Isaiah 40:11)  He cared about the outcome of our hunt, just like Jesus cares about the outcome of our lives. He wanted us to enjoy every minute of the experience, but there was an “ideal” way to go about it, and “other ways” to do it that wouldn’t have been nearly as profitable in the end.

Now in position, snuggled under our camo blankets, geese on our tummies, it was time to wait for sunrise…legal shooting time. Surprisingly, “waiting” was the hardest part! It was painful! All of our hands and feet were past numb. We were all absolutely freezing.

The guide jumped into his position right beside me. I had decided to videotape this particular hunt, rather than shoot at the birds. I’m so thankful I did, or we wouldn’t have the footage and memory of it that we have. It was unbelievable, and I can re-watch it over and over again.

He was such a wonderful guide. He was not only covering all the bases, monitoring everything each hunter was doing, but was also keenly aware of my desire to get great video of the event. As each flock came, he let me know precisely when to press the “record” button, so as to get the most ideal footage, and not waste film. I couldn’t believe his mind could be in so many places at one time…knowing how to call in the birds with his kite-like decoy in his hand, blowing his call with all his might, watching two different flocks from two different directions, baiting them over, remembering me in the midst of it by telling me “record,” ensuring that the fake geese were on our bellies, that the decoys hadn’t fallen over, and then telling the men the very second to shoot when the birds were overhead. (WHEW!  That’s a lot to write, let alone do!)  He was like a circus-act…and I was giggling the entire time with utter delight at the whole process. My incessant giggling is in the video footage, and is Steve’s favorite part of the whole thing. I was having a blast! (What cold wind?! What numb feet and hands?)

God constantly reminds us to hand all our problems and worries to Him, and He will manage and take care of each one (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).  But I’ve never fully been able to grasp “how” to “hand them over” to Him.  However, sitting back and allowing the guide to do all the work to bring the geese to us, and instruct us precisely on what our specific tasks towards to final goal were to be, was a perfect illustration of God’s advice.

I realized how “helpless” we were without that guide.  We literally could not have done any of the hunt without him, and were completely depending on him every second to bring in the birds. God wants us to the exact same thing with Him, but we try to take over…when we can’t possibly know the outcome of 5 minutes from now.

Suddenly, in the distance, you could clearly see the birds!  The sun was rising, and they were finally in sight! The guide started his calling, over and over…waving the goose-flag decoy as though he was flagging down a helicopter or calling “may day.”

Sure enough, the birds started turning, and headed straight for us! You could just sense us all hardly breathing…anxious…not wanting to do one single thing to scare the birds off. Even one movement from the blanket, and our goose would be cooked.

Closer and closer they came, honking louder and louder! Then another group would join-in from a different direction! We’d find ourselves under a cloud of a hundred huge geese, honking, wanting to come in for a landing…on top of us! Just when Steve and the other hunters were starting to wonder, “When is he going to tell us to shoot?” the guide yelled, “SHOOT ‘EM!

I can’t describe the pure serge of adrenaline that rushed through all of us in that second. The men used their open palms to fling those blankets to Timbuktu, as taught, and let bullets fly in perfect unison.   Birds dropped, and the guide leapt to his feet as fast as he could to gather them up and pile quickly behind each hunter, and dashed back to his mat for the next round. More geese were in the distance. He reminded us to cover up, and he fixed anything that was wrong or questionable, ensured their belly-goose was in place.

In the end, he looked to me with a huge smile on his face and asked, “Did you get that?”  As focused on hunting as he was, he hadn’t forgotten about me and my videotaping.  Just like God…perfectly able to perpetually have every single person and their needs in His mind all at the same time, as well as capable of meeting those needs simultaneously.

I smiled from ear to ear with utter satisfaction that I had gotten every exciting second…thanks to his excellent and loving guidance.

The whole hunt only lasted 18 minutes! I found myself wishing it could have been all day, in spite of the frigid cold! This was way better than dinner and a movie, which I could do anytime. This was an experience Steve and I would share for the rest of our lives, that few people can relate to.

But, more than that, Jesus used it as a time to demonstrate His guidance in my life, and reassure me that He’s able, and has a grand vision for my life, and will help me get there each step of the way.  I had been struggling with that for quite some time.

In recent years, He’s placed so many extremely foreign assignments in my lap.  Homeschooling, writing a book, unexpectedly building the B&B….and now the log home (just to name a sparse few).  I’ve often found myself worrying about whether I heard Him correctly, because each assignment was something I wouldn’t have come up with myself.  I’ve often worried and stressed over whether or not I could possibly handle such tasks.  But, I never saw myself goose hunting, either…and with the guide’s help, Steve reached his limit, and I helped put out the birds that achieved that goal.   All I had to do was follow each small task I was given, as I was given it.   This was a reassuring moment to me that God has had my back all along, and is even more capable of “guiding” me than this goose guide was.

Rather than trying to speed up the process and taking things into my own hands in attempts to finish sooner or do it my own way, I need to enjoy the process, step-by-step, and consider it one big adventure with the best soul-hunting Guide, ever.

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