Posts filed under Waterfowl Hunting

What is a Wild Goose Worth?

A Recollection This past Wednesday night, I loaded my car up and headed north out of town to shoot league trap with my buddies.  While on the road that evening, I was fortunate to be blessed with three occurrences. 1) We finally had weather that was characterized by temperatures above 50 degrees 2) Eric Church seemed to be dominating the radio station I was listening to and 3) my DSLR camera was stashed in the back seat so I could capture this image of a big ole gander perched atop a tussock sedge.


While sitting on the roadside observing, I recalled one of my favorite Aldo Leopold quotes.....

“What is a wild goose worth? As compared with other sources of health and pleasure, what is its value in the common denominator of dollars? I have a ticket to the symphony. It stood me two iron men. They were well spent, but if I had to choose, I would forgo the experience for the sight of the big gander that sailed honking into my decoys at daybreak this morning. It was bitter cold and I was all thumbs, so I blithely missed him. But miss or no miss, I saw him, I heard the wind whistle through his set wings as he came honking out of the gray west, and I felt him so that even now I tingle at the recollection. I doubt not that this very gander has given ten other men two dollars' worth of thrills. Therefore I say he is worth at least twenty dollars to the human race."

Ecosystem Services

Aldo's story eludes to what environmental scientists call Ecosystem Services.  Quoting the National Wildlife Federation, an ecosystem service is "any positive benefit that wildlife or ecosystems provides to people".  These services are often hard to place a monetary value on and come in many forms.

A tomato plat grows in the authors backyard.

If you have a garden in your backyard, I can almost guarantee that you have benefited from at least one ecosystem service: pollination via wild honey bees.  According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, more than 90 American crops valued at more than $9 billion depend on bees for pollination.  While most of the bee colonies are now regulated by bee keepers, wild populations play an important role in pollination for backyard gardeners who do not keep bees themselves.

So if you have veggies and other plants growing in your backyard, wild honey bee populations should be important to you.  What would happen if wild honey bees or other pollinators ceased to exist?  How much would you be willing to pay to ensure the proliferation of  home grown groceries? Think about it.

Coming Full Circle

This brings us back to the goose - of what value is it to society?   First of all, there are birders who have an appreciation for these creatures and hunters that use geese as a food source.  Secondly, think about all the businesses that rely on sustainable populations of these birds, such as decoy companies, call makers, hotels, convenience stores, gunsmiths, boat fabricators and guides.  I'm sure, given a budget and years of research, one could make a valid argument linking jobs and economic trends in the waterfowl industry to fluctuations in waterfowl populations.   By figuring out the value that waterfowl have in dollars to the human population, we waterfowlmaniacs could have a better chance of educating the general public of the benefits these birds have to both hunters and non-hunters.

Last Words

I think Leopold made his case in attempting to place a price tag on his experiences with that lucky gander.  As waterfowl hunters, conservationists, and humans, it is our duty not to forget the enjoyment that we receive from the outdoors at little or no cost to us.  By giving back through organizations such as Delta Waterfowl, who have spent over 100 years studying the best management practices for sustainable waterfowl populations, we can assure that ducks and geese will fill our skies for years to come.  Hopefully one day my children's children will be able to pull over on the side of the road and appreciate the beauty of a lone gander, just as Aldo and I did.

Love Like the Duck

Instead of watching Dr. Phil or Oprah, people should look to waterfowl when it comes to relationship advice. Allow me to make my case.

A pair of mallards migrate north together.

90% of all birds are monogamous, meaning that they mate for life, and waterfowl are no exception.  Waterfowl fall under one of two categories when it comes to pairing up and breeding.  Geese and swans form monogamous pairs while ducks form seasonal bonds, in which male and female pair up for one season to raise a brood of ducklings  (although some seasonal monogamy and repairing have been observed in sea and cavity nesting ducks).  Either way, the birds seemingly have us whipped when it comes to "divorce" rates, especially when it comes to us U.S. citizens who bear a staggering 50% rate of divorce.

Now that I have provided all the scientific mambo-jumbo, I'd like to share an experience with you that I had this past weekend, for it is the reason that I've been thinking about this whole waterfowl and relationships topic.

Following our turkey hunt this past Saturday (read "The Link Between Two Souls") my father had to make a trip into town for a meeting, while I headed back to my own place.   A few minutes into my drive my dad called and told me I had better drive over by Fischer Law Offices with my camera.  He said it was a shot I wouldn't want to miss out on, even though it would be the saddest thing I'd seen in quite a while.

I arrived to the location he had indicated at about 9:00 AM, and there on the muddy boulevard between the sidewalk and a four lane highway stood a lone drake mallard.  At his feet lay his fallen mate, a hen who had obviously been struck by a car.  There was no doubt in my mind that the bird was dead, judging by the amount of blood on the road that followed her to that final resting place.  Without so much as a quack or a murmur, the drake just stood there - a testament to loyalty, faithfulness and undying love.

To top it all off, my girlfriend and I drove past this same spot at 4:30 that afternoon.  There, sitting in solitude next to the hen's cold corpse, remained the drake mallard.

A drake mallard stands watch over his fallen mate.

We could all learn a lot about relationships from this one little duck.  He and his mate likely both lived through tough times (braving harsh winters, flying thousands of miles during migrations, wetland loss and increasing predation amplified by a growing human population) just as we humans experience difficulties in our own relationships.  Yet we people often fail to overcome obstacles because we lose sight of what these ducks valued - having common goals, adjusting to deal with an ever changing world, and staying by your partners side through thick and thin.

Lesson of the day - love like the duck, and a little less like the typical human.

Class dismissed.

Posted on April 17, 2013 and filed under Life, Waterfowl Hunting.

Do I Really Need This?

Today's blog post comes from my good friend and guest blogger Michael Kurtz.  Michael introduced me to both waterfowl and crow hunting when we were 13 years old.  Even though he currently resides in Indianapolis, we still make time to call each other every day to talk hunting. It's that time of year: the off-season.  We spend these next six months or so looking through piles of photos of our harvested game from the previous season, telling stories of the hunts to friends, and making a mental list of all the new toys and gadgets we want to purchase for next season.  But when you are making that list this year, think to yourself, “Do I really need this?”

I think the majority of us have fallen into the trap, at least one point in time.  I'm talking about the trap of wanting to buy the “latest and greatest” products to make it to the market.  Every year, big name manufacturers of products are coming after us outdoorsman and outdoorswomen with their product.  The fastest trigger speed of any shotgun; the newest call with freeze-proof reeds; the most comfortable waders to ever hit the market; the most realistic decoys a sportsman will ever hunt over.  The list goes on and on.  Even if you are able to say no to buying the product after seeing the first commercial on television, you may begin to change your mind and become more tempted after seeing that same commercial a dozen or so times.

Falling into this trap is often very expensive.  I can say first hand, because I fell into it!  A couple years ago, I got into this mind-set that I needed to start converting my collection of shell goose decoys into full bodies.  Every hunting show you watch and every picture you see in the magazines has a spread of fresh-off-the-press full body goose dekes.  And all those decoys are hauled into the field in an enclosed trailer.  Because I have been goose hunting for several years now, and like to consider myself as someone that knows what he is doing, I thought that I needed to catch up with modern times and go purchase the newer style of decoys.  I didn't want to be left out!


But here I am, only a few years later, in the process of selling both my full body decoys and the trailer that I used to haul them around in.  Why am I doing this you may ask?  Well, there are a few reasons.  Most importantly, I realized how purchasing full body decoys can have an impact on the billfold.  Can I afford it? Yes. Do I want to though? No.  When looking at my harvest numbers over the past few seasons, there has been little change.  I haven't killed any more geese now that I am using full bodies versus a few seasons back when I was using shell decoys.  So why spend the money on something I don't have to?

The point of this blog wasn't to talk you out of using full body decoys.  All I am saying is decide what is right for you.  Don't fall into the trap of spending loads of money on stuff just because “everyone else is doing it”.  If you do not want to spend the money on full body goose decoys, don't!  Spend your hard earned cash on the things YOU want.

For example; about half a dozen seasons back, I went to a banquet of some sort, and won myself a brand new Benelli Super Black Eagle.  I don't remember exactly what those were selling for at the time, but if I recall correctly, it was somewhere in the ball park of $1400.  I won the gun on a $10 raffle ticket.  Otherwise, there was no way I would have ever owned that gun.  At the time, I was a hard working high school student and simply did not have that kind of dough.  Now though, I have a good job and can afford that shotgun.  When the time comes for me to buy a new shotgun (currently I am still using that same Benelli I won a few years ago), you can bet I am going to buy another Benelli.  Not because I want to be one of those guys that has the best of everything, but because I LOVE THAT SHOTGUN!  But if I were to lose my job or decide to spend my money elsewhere, I would more than gladly pull out that trusty $150 Mossberg and keep shooting geese, just like I did in my high school days.  Why wouldn't I give up until I could buy the new Benelli?  Because I know that my Mossberg does the job just as well!

Just as I will, I know all of you reading this blog will be doing the same during this off-season; thinking to yourself, “What should I buy now?”  There will be plenty of new items to hit the market in the upcoming months.  You will watch plenty of commercials, television shows, and read articles by big-name companies telling you that you NEED to buy their product.  But it is up to you to decide what is right for you and where you want to invest your money.  So whether it is camouflage, decoys, guns, or calls, think to yourself, do I really need this?

Chasing Tail

The pursuit is intense.  Timing is key.  Chasing tail is a man's business... Long-tails that is.

My good friends Dean and Mike of Big Water Outdoors recently invited me on my first ever long-tailed duck hunt out on Lake Michigan.  Both Dean and Mike have been chasing tail for quite some time (take it as you may) and are experts when it comes to locating and producing a good long-tailed duck shoot.

The coveted long tail duck!

The journey from the dock to our hunting location was an experience in itself.  We'd be setting rigs out about 6 miles off shore in 100 feet of water.  As you can imagine, this took some getting used to for a guy that is usually found trudging through marshes and rivers only inches deep.  Mike and Dean's custom Phowler boat cut through the icy waters of Lake Michigan as we made our way out into the vast darkness.  Spray hit our faces like tiny pellets of glass.  I felt the adrenaline pumping and for a moment it was like being on an episode of Deadliest Catch.


Long-tailed ducks, also known as Old Squaw, concentrate in flocks numbering in the thousands over the deep waters of Lake Michigan each fall to feed and mate.  Although they are only a medium sized sea duck, they are capable of diving down to depths of 200 feet to feed.  It is quite a spectacular to watch thousands of these birds fly elegantly above the water.  You may see pairs of these birds work the dekes as well as flocks consisting of hundreds.  Fortunately for me I would be watching this all go down from the comfort of a two-man layout boat.  Equipped with my trusty old Mossberg 500 and several boxes of Winchester Super-X, I thought I'd have my six birds in no time.  Little did I know it would take me an entire box of shells and then some.

A pair of drake long-tailed ducks.

Now, I shoot trap on a regular basis and am fairly confident in my shooting abilities.  However, I did not factor in 2-3 foot swells and being yanked around like decoys on a jerk rig.  I was in unfamiliar territory, and the challenges of wing shooting old squaw only intensified as the morning passed on.  My comrade in the two man layout boat, Mike Evert, was a seasoned big water gunner and went 6-2 on the morning as far as shots go.  I struggled, but managed to knock down all my birds after 25+ rounds.  I'm not proud, but I'm not afraid to admit it either after braving those elements.  By 9 AM, the conditions on the lake were unsafe, and we had to pull out quick to avoid damaging the fiber-glassed layout boat.

Myself with a few long-tailed drakes!  Notice the battle wound above my right eye

Mike and Dean arrived in their tender boat to pick us and the rest of the gear up.  As we were getting out, I took a blow just above the right eye from the rib on Mike Evert's shotgun.  It wasn't until a few brief moments later that I felt the blood running down the side of my face - the guys cheered that a new long-tailed duck hunter had been born!  I will proudly carry that scar through life forever - a reminder of my younger days spent chasing tail.




Cameron Pauli has been an avid waterfowl hunter for the past 10 years of his life, 3 of which he has spent as a prostaffer for Flambeau Outdoors.  To learn more about Cameron, you can visit his website at or follow him on Twitter at @CamPauli

Four Steps to Enhancing Your Waterfowl Hunting Experience

Waterfowl hunting catalogs and the shrinking of my wallet appear to have a strong correlation.  Enticing products are always hitting the market claiming to help you shoot more ducks, and before you even know it your checking account may be drained.  As a waterfowl hunter and a recent college graduate, I’ve had time to practice avoiding these pitfalls and develop other ways of enhancing my waterfowl hunting experiences.  Follow these steps to spend more quality time in the field this season, without breaking the bank. Scouting  One of the greatest investments you can make prior to hunting season is scouting.  People often start too late in the year, and the best way to break this habit is don’t stop – scout year round.  Whether it’s a drive up to the cabin or a paddle in my kayak during the summer, you can bet I’m on the lookout for “ducky” locations.

Myself with Jeff Fuller of Sporting Dog Adventures while attending the Cabela's Waterfowl Classic in Richfield, WI

Attend a Trade Show  Trade shows are a great way to learn about new products on the market, like the Flambeau Storm Front Decoys.  In addition, there are often free seminars taking place all day where you can learn invaluable tips from seasoned waterfowlers, guides and prostaffers.  These ladies and gentlemen are usually more than willing to take the time to sit down with you and answer any individual questions you may have – all you have to do is ask.

Join a Conservation Committee  Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited committees can be found in every state, all across the country.  By joining a committee, you not only are increasing conservation efforts, you’ve just increased your duck hunting network by 10 fold!  Some of my best hunts have been in the company of fellow DU members.  They share a similar passion not only for hunting but conservation as well.  Instead of being restricted to hunting my own locations, I now have a few good friends to rely on if my honey holes stop producing.

Practice  No matter what aspect of waterfowling you are talking about, practice is key to any good hunting trip.  There is nothing better in my mind than a hunt in which the dog works well, calling is crisp and the shots are clean.  You don’t have to dedicate long periods of time to mastering each of these skills either – all they require is consistency.  You can save a lot of headaches by working with your dog for at least 10 minutes every day, picking up your calls a few times a week, and joining a trap shooting league during the summer months.  The best waterfowl hunters that I know live the lifestyle 365 days a year – not just during the season.

Cameron Pauli has been an avid waterfowl hunter for the past 10 years of his life, 3 of which he has spent as a prostaffer for Flambeau Outdoors.  To learn more about Cameron, you can visit his website at or follow him on Twitter at @CamPauli

Posted on December 12, 2012 and filed under Waterfowl Hunting.