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A final chance to harvest a speckle-belly

BY HAL MCKNIGHT, Special Correspondent Published: February 23, 2014
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It was the last day of goose season and my final chance to harvest a speckle-belly.

White-fronted geese, also known as speckle-bellies, come from the Arctic. I've always viewed this species as an exotic type of waterfowl and wondered if I might see some as I pulled into a winter wheat field in Custer County.

Freezing conditions had a stranglehold on Oklahoma for the first half of February, but I was not going to miss the final day of goose season, even though the wind chill was near zero.

My hunting partner, a 12-year-old lab named Will, was 100 percent on board. He does not understand wind chill anyway.

I placed my layout blind, which resembled a sleeping bag with an internal aluminum frame, in a snowdrift. I was hoping to become invisible in the snow by attaching a white cover over the blind to fool the geese.

I'd been lying on the frozen ground for 90 minutes and beginning to question my sanity when I saw a single goose braving the strong north wind. It cupped its wings and headed directly into my decoy spread.

I identified the bird as a speckle-belly because of the distinctive black bars that stood in contrast to its tan breast. My pulse quickened because it appeared that I was about to harvest my first speck of the season.

The speck was on a direct descent to the decoys, like a pitch down the middle of the plate. The only issue in question would be my marksmanship.

But then, I got tangled in the snow cover over the blind and never fired a shot. I resembled a frantic kitten caught in a full laundry hamper.

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