SI Vault
 
Settling down in Texas
Virginia Kraft
November 21, 1977
The McFaddin Ranch may not be the biggest spread around, but each year it finds room for 600,000 clamorous visitors—geese that drop in for the winter
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 21, 1977

Settling Down In Texas

The McFaddin Ranch may not be the biggest spread around, but each year it finds room for 600,000 clamorous visitors—geese that drop in for the winter

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

A goose set on the McFaddin, like just about everything else on the property, is unique. Neither decoys, at least not conventional ones, nor blinds were used on the Sunday morning shoot. Instead the hunters were divided into groups of four, given huge burlap bags and dropped off at three different locations out on the plains. A strong wind was blowing and there was no sign of daylight. The fields were ankle-deep in mud, and nobody knew exactly where he was going or what he was supposed to do when he got there, which lent a certain challenge to the morning.

Slogging through the fields behind a single flashlight beam, our group came finally to what looked like 30 or 40 big white dinner napkins scattered among the stubble, simulating snow geese. These constituted the nucleus of the "set." hi the burlap bag were several hundred more white squares, which were added to those already down. They were made of plastic the thickness and texture of Kleenex. Originally, the Womacks used baby diapers, but plastic proved lighter and easier to clean.

When the squares were out, the hunters positioned themselves in the dark about 15 yards from one end of the spread, tucking a few extra squares into the hoods of parkas, on shell cases and wherever else they could be attached as camouflage.

At 7:10 the first thin shafts of morning light pushed through the low-hanging clouds. On the horizon great strings of geese began to rise. They flew overhead in long elegant Vs, scanning the spread from a safe distance but showing no inclination to drop into it. By 7:30 two things were clear: 1) there were more geese overhead than some hunters will see in a lifetime, and 2) we were apparently as visible to them as they were to us. All those loud cackles were probably jokes about the stupidity of hunters.

Looking around for better cover, we discovered a ditch nearby that we had missed in the dark. When we were hidden by brush in the ditch, our luck rapidly changed. The next flight that came over circled back for another look and began to drop in among the plastic squares. For the rest of the morning, geese continued to be lured to the unorthodox set, arriving singly, in small bunches and sometimes in whole flocks.

Those that did not come in gathered in a nearby field. By 9:30 an area one-quarter-mile square was solidly white with geese. Drifting on the wind, their conversation sounded like the end of a particularly raucous cocktail party. Then in the distance Walter's truck appeared, a speck upon the horizon. With a rumble that began like the revving of many jet engines, then increased to a tremendous roar that made the ground vibrate, 100,000 geese rose into the air at once, almost blocking out the sky with their beating wings. It was an awesome and fitting finale to a unique shoot.

1 2 3