What happens when Gyro Gearloose gets loose in a goose field?
Like goose kites.
"You fly 'em downwind," said W. David Powell, a winter denizen of Easton, Maryland, where migrating Canadas are flocking even now.
It's a kite painted to look like a goose. Powell attaches one to monofilament line and a little fishing rod and sits in his goose blind and watches it flutter in the breeze, which isn't a bad way to spend an autumn day all by itself.
When a flock of geese appears he swings into action.
"The geese will be coming upwind, looking for a place to land. When I see them coming I start reeling in like crazy. It looks like a goose pitching in to the decoys."
Well, that's what the instructions say.
The end result of Powell's experimentations with the goose kite last year was "a great deal of embarrassment in front of my hunting customers -- a lot of running around and tripping in the corn fields."
No geese bit on the wacky contraption, but it looked authentic enough to arouse the wrath of a passing red-railed hawk one day. The hawk dive-bombed the kite and tore it to shreds.
Powell went back to the drawing board and came up with the de-icer and ripple machine.
This gizmo is a submersible electric motor attached to two-bladed fan and mounted on an A-frame of lead pipe.
The idea is keep the ice clear around water blinds when the freeze sets in.
Geese are suckers for a clear patch of water in the hard freeze of January, especially if a stand of decoys is swimming around in it.
The underwater fan sucks warm bottom-water up and sloshes it against the base of the ice. It will, according to the inventor, break through foot-thick ice in an hour.
Before the freeze he'll use it to stir up the water on flat calm days, to give his decoys life when they'd otherwise be sitting still on glassy waters.
The de-icer ripple machine runs off house current and is controlled by an electric wall switch in the blind.Very cozy.
And if it doesn't work, there's the blue-ice trick, another invention. Powell fills a trash can with river water and a handful of blue dye. Then he builds a fire and heats it to boiling. "You have to be careful not burn the blind down," he said.
He pours the hot mixture over a frozen creek, producing a blue slick that looks like open water to passing geese.
Powell is a goose guide on the Eastern Shore with a classy clientele. Some would say that he puts on a good show whether the geese play the game or not.
Like many goose hunters, he chewed his nails and cursed the dawn many a morning last year, when unfavorable waterfowling weather and a shortage of juvenile birds after a poor nesting season combined to slice the goose kill down to half what it had been the year before.
Powell won't take that lying down.
He reads his game laws carefully, and as near as he can figure it, "Just about anything electronic is legal except electric calling devices."
Now he's trying to figure out how to mount a propeller and a battery in a goose decoy, so he can send a radio-controlled, powered decoy out to scout up unsuspecting birds.
"I'm afraid he'll get so far downwind I won't have the power to get him back. And there goes two hundred bucks,"
Then there's the foot-treadle, which has the same effect as the underwater propeller in stirring up flat, calm water. He hooks a pair of lines to a board and floats it out among the decoys. When birds approach he jiggles a pedal with his foot, which flaps the board around and sets the decoys bobbing in the ripple.
He's got another moving-decoy technique of attaching lines to a floater and pulling the fake bird back and forth among the other decoys.
He's playing with the notion of burying a windshield-wiper motor in the dirt outside his field blinds, hooking it to a battery in the blind, attaching a gray rag to the wiper arm and letting that wave around.
"The old boys say any motion will help you," says Powell.
But when is enough enough?
I have a vision of Powell on the day when the best flock of his life pitches in to the blind.
He'll have a foot on his treadle, one hand on his ripple-maker switch and the other on his decoy-puller, the blind will be half ablaze from the blue-water trash-can fire and the wiper motor will be stuck on permanent high speed, groaning. The kite will be attracting lightning bursts and the motorized goose will have run amok and be leading a landing party.
Powell will be so confused he'll never fire shot one.
As the old saying goes, oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.