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Texas Sportsman
Geese From Top To Bottom
From the Texas Panhandle to the Gulf Prairies, geese arrive and depart constantly this month. Here's where and how you can cash in on the big waterfowling bonanza.

The goose hunting experience that Levin Aynesworth never forgot happened along the upper reaches of the Colorado River back when a hunter had to keep an eye out for hostile Indians as well as game -- but it's easy enough for a 21st century sportsman to understand how the frontiersman must have felt on that winter day so long ago.

Unencumbered by game laws or much of a sense of sportsmanlike behavior, Aynesworth spotted some geese on a sandbar in the river. Hankering for some savory roasted dark meat, he shouldered his muzzleloader and drew a bead on one of the big white birds.

But when he squeezed the trigger, nothing happened. As he later recalled, the damp powder in his rifle "sputtered and fizzled" after the falling hammer popped the percussion cap, but the charge didn't fire.

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Alarmed by the noise, the geese flew at about the same time that Aynesworth threw his rifle into the air in frustration and anger. That's when the weapon finally went off. And according to Aynesworth (who claimed to have had a witness), the wild round just happened to hit one of the spooked birds.

More than a century and a half latter, Texas hunters are still taking to the field hoping to bag a limit of geese. Most of them know what it feels like to miss a shot over a gun issue -- empty gun, forgotten safety, defective sights -- though it's hard to imagine anyone actually tossing a shotgun into the sky after a miss. These days, of course, sportsmen pursuing geese in the Lone Star State have to play by the rules.

One thing that hasn't changed since the 19th century to now: the plentitude of geese. From the playas of the Panhandle to the rice fields along the mid-Gulf Coast, Texas offers some of the finest geese hunting to be found anywhere.

While no 2008 numbers are available just yet, the 2007 goose harvest in Texas showed an increase compared to 2006. "The total for 2006 was 300,000 geese," said Dave Morrison, waterfowl program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "In 2007 the harvest was 361,000. Most of that increase was in snow geese, including blues and Ross' geese (160,000 to 227,000). Whitefronts were unchanged and Canada geese were down from 63,000 to 47,000."

In Texas, he said, the most common geese are snow geese, followed by whitefronts and Canada geese.

Many veteran hunters prefer going after geese late in the season. For one thing, most of the pressure is in the early part of the season. Later in the season, the birds tend to let down their guard somewhat. Also, fewer hunters are out.

"Going after geese can be tough but exciting hunting," said Merkel advertising executive Roger T. Moore, a cartoonist who's been on some hunts worthy of his humorous drawings.

"I remember on my first hunt, down on the coast, we put white plastic trash bags over the top of our bodies and then lay down in the rice field," he recalled. "It was a cloudy day and pretty soon some snow geese headed toward us, thinking we were some of their buddies."

Moore knocked down a bird but when he went to pick it up, it ran. "We had quite a chase," he said. "I finally tackled it, but when I got hold of it, it seemed as big as me. I think it was winning the fight for a while."

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