Lately, I've been feeling like Bernie Lootz — at least in the goose blind. You know Lootz, a down-on-his-luck character played by William H. Macy in 2003's "The Cooler." Whenever someone gets hot at the gambling tables in Las Vegas, in goes Lootz to "cool them off."
On Sunday I was laying in bed, talking with my wife, who had just arrived home from work (she's on third shift at a nearby hospital). As our conversation wound down, I told her that I'd be going for a run and then watching the NFL games. That was my entire plan for the day. Then I decided to forgo the run. As I mulled over how many pounds of chicken wings to order for the big games, I got the text: "Going crappie fishing/goose hunting in an hour, who wants in?"
My younger brother, Carl, came over, we drove to our buddy Chris's house, and off we went to Rice Pond. Located on the Illinois River, and just 20 minutes from my front door, Rice Pond is a premiere place to waterfowl hunt in this area. Everyone around here wants a crack at this place. With the river frozen up, we were hunting a blind on the back of the property — a spring hole where mallards, gadwalls and pintails were cruising in. We all cursed them under our breath as duck season ended here more than a month ago.
Since there were a few guides using the blind, and no geese in sight, we headed over to the fish shack for a chance at some crappie and small mouth. No bites, not even a nibble. My brother almost immediately caught a snag, which snapped off his bobber and minnow. What an amateur.
With a few hours left for shooting, it was onto the blind. We saw duck after duck, but no Canadas. Not a honk. Some gents to our south would blow a goose call every now and again, getting us all riled up for a few moments, but we never saw a goose. I couldn't believe it. My last two hunts have produced two freaking geese.
But as with most hunts, I did come away with a great story. Cecil, one of the Rice Pond pushers, had a doozy. He was sitting at the breakfast table with his kids recently, when a coyote appeared. Cecil grabbed his rifle and announced the impromptu hunt for all to hear. The kids were ecstatic, "Daddy's going to kill something!" So, he leans up against the side of the house and decides once the coyote gets within 100 yards, he'll shoot. Clicking the safety off, Cecil had his finger on the trigger, when the wife appeared right in front of the gun barrel. "What in the hell are you doing?" he asked. "Uh, I have to feed the dogs," she barked back. "You need to be more careful with that thing."
Crisis averted. And thanks to Cecil, my Sunday was salvaged.