When the geese start flying over Clint Bowman's trailer in the swamps of Dorchester County he doesn't wait for the birds to come to him.

He climbs his fat-tired jeep, slogs through puddles and brush to the tallest oak around and straps himself into the elevator he built of angle iron and steel cable.

He glides up 75 feet to his four-by-eight-foot tree house, fires up the propane gas heater, rolls back the removable roof and waits for the shooting to start.

Start it does, as great waves of majestic Canadas work their way across the treetops on their daily meanderings from the Bay, where they raft up overnight, to refuges and corn fields where they feed during the day.

Most hunters try to catch the geese at one end of their flight or the other - either in pit blinds in the fields or water blinds on the Bay.

Bowman doesn't have that luxury. The 280 acres he and four other hunters bought in 1969 would only be tillable if you could hook a plow onto an air boat. And there's no access to the water. So he gets the geese in-between.

The little humps and hillocks between the puddles and creeks have generated hardwood growth that scrapes the clouds on rainy days, and somewhere along the line Bowman figured that was his ticket to goose shooting.

He started nailing steps to the tallest trees, and when he got to the top he started nailing two-by-fours to the branches. Next came plywood sheets, then roofs. Suddenly he had invented what may be the world's first goose-hunting tree stands.

And they worked.

The first stop for a visitor to Bowman's hunting camp is a little shed in the clearing where the co-owners maintain their trailer-cabins.

In the shed is a freezer, and in that freezer is enough skinned and quartered goose meat to feed an occupation army.

The second stop is to Bowman's trailer, where a release form is produced that says if you take a tumble from a tree it's your bad luck. Fair enough.

"I expect you'll want to get up at the crack of dawn," said Bowman. "The geese won't fly till 8 to 9, but it wouldn't be hunting if we didn't get up."

At 5:30 a.m. the 56-year-old Bowman was rattling around the kitchen - bacon, scrapple, eggs, coffee, biscuits, white gravy, oatmeal and orange joice to start the day right.

Then we were off, trundling through the eerie blackness for a mile or so.

"That's your tree," said Bowman, pointing to an endless oak with slats nailed to its trunk and a fragile gray box at its peak. Stairs are for young men. He'd hunt them elevator tree a half-mile away.

We tied gun and two boxes of shells to a haul rope, I clipped a safety belt to another rope and the climb began. Minutes later, huffing with exertion and shaking with fear, I arrived at the top and lunged into the little box.

The view was incredible - tops of poplar, oak and pine, the pink sun barely beginning to glisten to the east and the sweet sound of blankets of geese off to the south, honking melodiously.

It was 8 o'clock, sure enough when the first wave of high-flyers made its appearance. It was bluebird day, not a cloud in the endless sky, which normally means bad shooting because the birds are too high.

But with the 75-foot advantage of the giant oak I was in range, and watched breathelessly as the dozen big birds drew near. I shot and missed that bunch, only 50 yards away, but before two hours had passed I has brought down my limit of three.

Of course the satisfaction, as in most hunts, is not so much in the shooting as the observing. And along with the three birds that fell there must have been 3,000 Canadas that passed out of range, but close enough to marvel at. And there were two spectacular flocks of whistling swans that swept directly overhead, long necks outstretched, huge white swings flapping that almost took the breadth away.

Things weren't so lively at Bowman's tree stand as the wary geese kept their distance. He had shots, but no hits.

But there will be plenty more days for Bowman - rainy, cloudy days when the big geese fly so low they practically knock your hat off.

"We'll just go up there and meet 'em," he said.