Do you have to be rich to hunt the majestic Canada goose? Frank Gomme doesn't think so.
Gomme, a 6-foot-4 economist from Wyoming, who is not without a certain majesty himself, decided nearly a decade ago that commercial hunting wasn't for him. "The guide calls the geese, they jam you back in the corner of a pit blind and tell you when to shoot. You never get to see the geese work. It's not hunting to me."
So he started casting around - at work in the Agriculture Department, through friends and neighbors, for a hunt club to join or form. He finally came up with one. It was not a happy development.
"Well, some of these fellow like to drink more than they liked to hunt. I found myself in a blind with guys that couldn't even stand up, let alone shoot straight. After a year of that I decided to let it lapse."
The indomitable Gomme didn't give up. He read and reread hunting ads in the classified sections of thearea papers, starting each September. He took his family on drives across the Eastern Shore and stopped in gas stations, grocery stores, sporting goods shops to beard every native he could find for a clue to land, clubs, rental blinds.
He set up a dragnet at work and at home to find other hunters interested in forming a club, and it all came together about seven years ago, when he, four coworkers at Agriculture and five others from outside put an arrangement down on paper and came up with fields to rent in Dorchester County.
It was not a happy development.
"After the first year the farmer started giving us some gas. He didn't want us parking on his land, something like that. I can't even remember what it was."
So they looked some more and came up with another field. It wasn't easy because they had set a maximum total expense of $200 a year per member for field rental and materials for blinds and decoys, which is mere chicken feed by elegant Eastern Shore standards.
Gomme's been out five times this year and only been skunked once. One day during the Christmas/New Year's week he got down to thefields near Blackwater Wildlife Preserve before dawn and by 8 a.m. he was walking back to the car dragging his limit of three Canadas.
"It's not the greatest hunting spot, but you get to learn a place when you hunt it a lot. You know by the way the wind is blowing and the way the weather is developing whether it's going to be good shooting. You pick your days.
That, of course, is your basic difference between hunting and shooting. The hunter has to understand his quarry and what makes it tick. The shooter lets someone else worry about that mundate stuff. He stokes up on brandy and blasts away.
Gomme and Co. built three blinds in the corn fields and they have two water blinds-near the Little Blackwater River for ducks and occasional geese. All the blinds are built, maintained and set up each year by the members during a work weekend.
They have a couple hundred decoys, about half silhouettes built by the members, along with, some full-bodied fake geese and ducks that they spent long hours carving. And there are some commercial plastic jobs as well.
Gomme is always willing to try something new. This year he cut up the expired tires from the family's aging Chevy wagon, turned the rubber chunks inside-out, spray-painted them brown and white, stuck some old decoy heads through them and put them in the field to fill out the decoy spread.
Do they work? You'll have to ask the geese.
If only they could talk you could have heard them laughing last week down at Gomme's place.
For all his long experience, Gomme doesn't know it all. He and a guest hunted the south blind in the cornfield on Friday. From dawn will noon great flocks of Canadas sped by, far south of the field.
At about 12:30 after a half-hour of nothing at all, Gomme suggested a lunch break. The hunters trudged through the muddy fields and drove into town for a burger.
Feeling good? not quite. When they got back a half-hour later the geese were flying everywhere and from out in the fields came the gentle harronk, harronk of a feeding flock.
The hunters stretched to peer over the fallen stalks and locate the flock. The geese, 22 of them to be exact, were a little hard to spot. They were concealed by Gomme's decoy spread wandering all around the little blind the hunters had just left.
Needless to say, they flushed in a flurry the minute the hunters stepped into the field.
And they came back.