By: Mike White
June 30, 2021
Florida loved to hunt. It didn't matter what the game was, deer, duck, squirrels, as long as he had a gun and was in the field or on a lake he was happy. So, it was no surprise when he learned about the goose conservation season in neighboring Arkansas, he bird dogged me hard to set up a hunt.
Goose "conservation" seasons are set held in several states to help control specific species of geese that have excessive populations. This excessive number of geese are a nuisance to the agricultural community. They can flat tear up a farmers crop field. Conservation season generally have a different set of laws that apply only during that season, the biggest one is that most of the time, there is no limit on the amount of birds you can take. Some other season specific laws often include;
· Hunters are not required to plug their shotguns
· Electronic Calls may be used
· There is no limit on Snows, Ross's and Blue Geese
· Shooting light time increases
The season also lengthens the time to hunt each year. Some states conservation seasons run from February through April. As you can imagine. these liberal rules can make for a heart pounding hunt when the birds are flying.
Now, I am not one that needs my arm twisted to have a good time and shooting unlimited geese with my boy sure qualified as a good time. So, I booked a hunt with an outfitter and soon after we headed to northern Arkansas for the hunt.
Geese move often and the flyway shifts with the weather. When we got to the hotel in Arkansas, the outfitter explained to us that the birds were about an hour away in southern Missouri, so we would leave earlier than usual the next morning.
After a bleary-eyed drive the next morning, we arrived at our field. The weather conditions were perfect. The field was covered in a thick white blanket of snow, the clouds were low and a light wind was driving in a mild warm front.
As we walked to the spread, my foot broke through a puddle that had frozen over. I instantly felt bone chilling water gush into my boot. I had broken one of my own rules, "be prepared". In Texas where I live, I don't have much use for insulated rubber boots. Although, I did have a pair for the occasional hunt or fishing trip where I might need them. I kept them in my shed with all my other sporting gear. When I pulled them out for this hunt, I didn't put them on or check them, I just threw them in my locker and loaded it up. Best I can figure, the heat from sun and the humidity that we have in east Texas caused the souls to separate from the boots. I had only taken a dozen steps from the first sting of cold water when I found myself wearing two boots filled with ice cold water. Florida thought this was pretty funny. I didn't.
The outfitters were top notch. Often when you goose hunt, you are expected to help put out the days spread of deeks...hundreds of deeks. These guys had the bags and deeks set and had already put down our layout blinds. We had a short shooting rules and safety meeting while we lay in the dark waiting on shooting light. The roar of honking geese was already loud and it was building. Florida and I talked a little trash to each other and bantered back in forth in excitement of what daylight would bring.
Before I talk about the hunting, I have to tell you about what we experienced as the sun provided enough of a grey glow to see into the skies. It was magical...just unbelievable. There were geese everywhere you looked in the sky, V's of geese coming at all angles. I have had some good goose hunts but never, never in my life had I ever experienced something like what I was seeing now. I lay there in awe and thought of Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”. I thanked God for what he had made and for letting me experience such a incredible moment in the outdoors with Florida.
We shot that day till our arms were bruised and hurt (and I got hungry). The shooting was so fast and furious I never had time to worry about my near frozen feet. In about 31/2 hours, 5 shooters had 100+ birds on the ground. Unbelievable!
This easily ranks up there with the best hunts I have experienced. Not just because of the number of geese we killed, but also because of experiencing something new with Florida and God showing up and showing out. Seeing that many geese at one time is not something many of today's men will ever experience. The outfitter estimated we saw over 500,000geese between morning and afternoon hunts. Once again, UNBELIEVABLE!
My heart is full when I look back at this hunt with Florida. See, we lost Florida a few years back. Florida is Collin "Florida" Hawkins. Florida was a diehard sportsmen. Hunting and fishing were life, he was obsessive about both. I found him many days practicing his shooting technique in the field next to the house or watching a YouTube video on how to present a new bass bait. He was a student of the sports. Florida was also my stepson (I was his Bubba) and my constant companion in the fields and on the water. He was my buddy.
When we lost Florida, my world crashed. I've described it as feeling like I was lost in a hurricane, a castaway in the water with roaring waves coming one after another, crashing on top of me and beating me against the rocks. My world went dark and I felt as though I couldn't catch my breath. This was the absolute most horrible, heart-wrenching thing I have ever experienced.
I couldn't see the hurt ever lessening. But it does. Don't get me wrong, the loss of Florida still hurts everyday but, those crashing waves I spoke of, they have gotten smaller and a little further apart. I don't feel like I am drowning every moment of everyday anymore.
People say, "time heals all wounds". For some maybe. To me, it suggest that I will slowly forget about the loss of Florida or his loss simply won't mean as much. Nothing could ever be further from the truth.
I feel better today only because I have hope. My hope is given to me by Jesus Christ. My faith in God gives me hope that Florida opened his eyes in heaven and stands in the presence of God today. Through my faith, I also have hope of seeing Florida again, that I will join him in Heaven one day.
See, I have read the book and know how the story ends. I know that Christ has conquered death. As Paul gladly writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54–57, “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory!’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because of my faith, I know God has prepared a place for us to go after death. Jesus proclaims in John 14:2"In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?".
I also know my only hope of going to heaven is through Jesus. John14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I miss my buddy everyday. Some days much more than others. No matter how much I miss him, I still couldn't ask him to leave the side of God and the beauty of Heaven to come back to such an imperfect world. Until the day I get to wrap my arms around his neck and I kick him in his butt, my hope and my faith will sustain me.