Sometimes, age has its privileges.
“Legal shooting time is a little after 6 ... be here about then,” Charlie Seitzer told me the night of Aug. 31 on the phone.
So by the time I drove out to the field west of St. Peter the next morning, in the glow of flood lights cast from a trailer, Charlie and a former college buddy, Brian Zard of Minneapolis, were setting out the last of seven dozen, full-bodied Canada goose decoys along with several dozen silhouettes.
Joined minutes later by Dustin Swenson, another former college buddy who drove down from Belle Plaine, the trio put the finishing touches on the ground blinds set up in the corn field that days earlier had been cut for silage.
“You can have that blind over there, by the alfalfa,” I was told, feeling a little guilty over missing out on the set-up chores that had begun at 5 a.m.
Between the three Gustavus Adolphus College graduates, the job was completely done.
Sept. 1, in case you were wondering what the booming shotguns were about, was the opening of the special early Minnesota goose season.
With a liberal bag limit of five birds daily, the hunt, which continues through Sept. 22, is intended to target the resident population of Canada geese that, for all of their majesty, are regarded as pests.
And which might partly explain why Seitzer and his buddies pursue the birds with the relentless passion of, well, 25-year-olds.
Seitzer, who lives in Chaska, is a golf pro at a Twin Cities country club. And as everyone knows — including cagey Canada geese — the only birdies allowed to be shot in such urban environs are those of the unfeathered variety.
As grazing birds, Canada geese find golf courses the perfect sanctuaries to eat and subsequently defile golf greens and fairways with relative impunity.
Hence, the derisive terms of “sky carp” and “feathered rats” that Canada geese have earned in some circles.
But references to urban aerial vermin tend to vanish when a flock appears on the horizon, a thin wavering line announced by a cacophony of ha-runks and other excited goose talk.
At 7:30 a.m., Sept. 1, while hunkered down deep into our blinds, flagging the foursome of geese flying low over a corn field, they represented the essence of wildness.
As Seitzer and Zard called, the approaching birds skirted the outside edge of the decoy spread. The callers pleaded in goose-speak for a second look.
The birds hesitated, then circled back.
As they winged overhead 10 yards out, Seitzer commanded “take ’em” and we all sat up, guns blazing. Two birds crumpled into the adjacent alfalfa.
We quickly reloaded as the remaining two made a wide circle. Some more pleading from the callers and the pair — probably young-of-year birds to be so gullible — obligingly circled back within range. A couple of shotguns barked and we climbed from our blinds to collect our birds-a-piece.
An hour later, another flock — a dozen or so birds — investigated the spread. On one pass, they winged barely 10 feet high over our blinds, so close we could hear the air through their feathers.
A crack at them, their legs dangling as they settled into the decoys, seemed to be a good possibility. We waited for one last pass.
Instead, for reasons only known to them, they swung back to the south and vanished over the tops of the corn fields.
For the rest of the morning, we watched a few distant flocks that clearly had other destinations on their mind. Around us, hundreds of mourning doves settled into the field, leaving us to consider an outing for that feathered rocket for which the hunting season also had opened on that same Saturday.
Finally, beneath a blue bird sky, we called it a day and began the task of retrieving and loading a hundred or so decoys, the flags, blinds and other gear into the trailer.
This time, the old man lent a hand.
John Cross is a Mankato Free Press staff writer. Contact him at (507) 344-6376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.