“In 39 years, this is the first time that it rained on Saturday.”
Mark Allen was busy with the Goose Fest activities that had been moved to Sunday when I stopped him to speak for a few minutes.
“We’ve had a few snow flurries, but never rain.”
The weather didn’t damper the spirits of the thousands of people who descend on Goose Fest annually from all over the region. The parade and some of the events had been rescheduled after the constant precipitation on Saturday. Much of the hunting was moved to Sunday as well.
I had traveled to the Thief River Falls/Middle River area once again to take in the festivities and hunt with the guys at the DRC Call Company. I shared blind time with them last year and looked forward to listening to some guys who really know how to call geese in close.
I also wanted to hunt sandhill cranes.
We tried it last year, without success, so we made a conscious effort to get close to these prehistoric birds. Starting in 2010, a sandhill crane season has taken place in a NW Minnesota zone. For a $3 permit bought through the MN DNR, you can take part. These “large” birds can have a 7 foot wingspan, but only weigh around 5-8 lbs. They’re all “neck and legs”, but the meat on the breastbone has given them the nickname “Ribeye of the sky”. I’ve got a couple brining in the fridge as I type this.
Their fossil records date back over a million and a half years ago, making them 1 1/2 times older than other living birds, according to this. The population has expanded to the point where managing them through a hunting season is possible. 10 other states across the mid-continent flyway also offer a season on cranes.
Your limit in Minnesota is two and on Saturday afternoon, I shot a double. Quickly putting me on the crane board and filling my limit.
We bumped up a nice covey of sharptailed grouse along the way and if we hadn’t been in stealth mode, we’d have a couple nice sharpies in the freezer too.
The evening consisted of some of the finest nightlife Goose Fest has to offer. A MIddle River bar, The Wheel, was packed from end to end as two different bands took the stage and had people bouncing around all night. It was my birthday, so we may have stayed out just a little longer than we planned since we had a great goose field picked for the next morning.
A cut wheat field next to standing beans had been trampled by geese and cranes the day before, so we arrived before dark to set up. An assortment of sentries, feeders and actives from the DOA Decoy company were placed in front of and behind a row of grass that sat in the middle of the field-Enough grass to hide 8 guys. There would be two cameras set up from the Wild Dakota crew as well to capture the footage.
Here is last year’s footage:
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(you may have to “like” them on Facebook to view)
Soon geese that were close enough to reach out and grab were falling from the sky. We finished just shy of our limit, but that wasn’t because of our shooting. There were no free passes given. Once the birds were full and heading back to the roost, it was time for US to go eat and soon we were in the Middle River cafe face-first in a plate of pork and mashed potatoes.
Another Goose Fest is in the books and there are big plans for the 40th Annual next year. For more information about how you can be involved, go here.
On the way home, I took the scenic route, taking my time and enjoying the drive. I came across a bowhunter getting ready to head into the woods-a typical sight on a nice Sunday evening in the fall. The difference was he had his young daughter along who would be going with. That was something worthy of a picture: