WOODS, WATERS and WILDLIFE
Somewhere Between Altair and Nada. 6: 30 a.m.
The majority of readers may wonder where in heck or Texas Altair and Nada are. They also probably haven’t hunted geese on the Lissie-Egypt Prairie west of Houston, south of Columbus. “Nada” in Spanish means “nothing.” To first time visitors on a dark, chilly, misty morning, it could mean the middle of nowhere. To goose and duck hunters, however, it’s practically the promise land.
It’s at the end of the line of the Central Flyway for waterfowl coming to Texas from the north. We saw this year’s first ones last Thursday. It’s usually excellent hunting ground. This year, it may be questionable due to Hurricane Harvey.
Another morning, as we sloshed through the ankledeep mud behind the fourwheeler carrying our shotguns and several hundred goose decoys, the walking was tough. Unable to see in the dark, I stepped in a hole full of muddy water and soft muck. I lurched forward, but one foot stuck in a hole, sending me face down in the mud and darkness. Another hunter helped me up, trying not to laugh. I wiped the mud off my chin and continued the slosh, very out-of-breath. I wished I had stayed in bed.
I expected to see the lights of Houston before we finally got to our hunting area. It seemed forever-far.
Just before dawn, we heard geese come off the roost – one of Nature’s most unforgettable sounds. With daylight, we could see the birds coming toward us, still too high to shoot, but possibly fooled by our decoys. After sparse luck on geese, we moved to a large pond for ducks. By the end of the hunt, I had a couple of snow geese and a rare -- for me -- limit of teal.
I was glad I had kept going after my mud bath. I would have missed a great hunt. And missed hearing the geese take flight, again, and then seeing them set their wings as they came into the deeks. It was worth the pain.
Hunting often entails unexpected overexertion. Too often hunters are overweight and physically ill-prepared to trail a wounded buck up a hill or even climb up into an elevated blind. A hunter once fatally lost his balance coming down a ladder and fell head- first onto the remnants of a cedar stump. Statistics don’t always account for physical condition shortcomings. But we know they exist.
We owe it to our families and hunting companions to be in the best shape possible. It’s not too late to start doing something about it. Don’t worry about how overweight you are; just start walking to get your heart, lungs, and legs used to a little stress. Thirty minutes walking is beneficial. Add distance and time as you’re able, maybe a small hill or two, and perhaps a backpack. Other strengthening exercises will help, too. In a few week’s time, you’ll start to feel improvement.
And live to hear the geese or see the sunrise on opening morning … and the days thereafter.