Anderson: Two Christmas geese a fine prize for cold day's work

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 11, 2013 - 6:24 AM

Though Canada geese are fewer these days, and the hunt requires a tricky trek on thin ice, friends and success warm the day.

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Friday at dawn the sun came up and the temperature went down. Whether the thermometer measured 5 below zero or colder still, we were unsure. The wind wasn’t blowing — we were happy about that. Anyway, we stepped onto the frozen lake in our waders, feeling the ice as we went. We were looking for geese.

 

My partners in this escapade, Wendell Diller and his wife, Galina, will tell you this hasn’t been a good fall for goose hunting, not in the metro. They’re correct: If you think we have anywhere near the number of Canada geese around the Twin Cities that we once did, either you live on a golf course or own lakeshore property. And even in those honker havens, the numbers are greatly reduced.

Wendell and Galina and I cared about this Friday morning, the goose population, and simultaneously didn’t. We had our facemasks, heavy parkas and hand warmers, and were going hunting either way. Also among our stuff were charcoal briquettes, a small grill and a pan to boil water for cowboy coffee. So if geese didn’t fly, we’d occupy ourselves with these and also with flapjacks Galina would concoct from her signature mix.

“Her pancakes will darn sure adjust your glycemic index,’’ Wendell said.

An inventor and ballistician, Wendell, a longtime friend, isn’t averse to issuing a proclamation or two straight out of left field.

So I said, “You keep your hands off my glycemic index!’’ And left it at that.

In the past, I’ve chronicled similar hunts Wendell and I have taken in December, looking for Christmas geese to roast. Some of these outings occurred before Wendell found Galina in Russia via a matchmaker website featuring hot women from cold places — Ukraine, Galina’s home, being No. 1 in the latter category, with a bullet.

Of course not many of these women feature on their résumés advanced degrees in chemistry, as Galina did, which for Wendell was a real turn-on and explains in part how they came to live happily ever after, one a citizen, the other a resident alien.

“I don’t think we’ll fall through the ice until we get out a little further,’’ Wendell said.

As he spoke, he pulled a sled on which rested an aluminum canoe. In it were two shotguns, a dozen or so Big Foot decoys, portable blinds and the foodstuffs previously mentioned.

When we sensed ice weakening, we would abandon the sled and instead mosey along, the three of us bent over, holding onto the canoe gunnels.

The trick in these circumstances is not to break through the ice in water deeper than the tops of your waders.

Or if you do, to support yourself above that demarcation by holding onto the canoe, then crawling in, the entire operation aided by a makeshift outrigger extending from the craft’s port side.

Fair warning here: With Obamacare still limping along, don’t try this at home.

“The ice feels strong,’’ Galina said. “Maybe we won’t break through, after all.’’

As she spoke, not far upriver, hundreds upon hundreds of swans took flight from the ice. Lumbering, they pedaled like roadrunners before gaining lift beneath their wings.

Once airborne, the big birds, along with broad phalanxes of geese, were greeted by the rising sun, which bruised the horizon in oranges, reds and purples as it crested the hilly shoreline.

  • related content

  • Winter memories, from northern Minnesota

    Saturday December 7, 2013

    Back in the day, snow and solitude blanketed the woods Up North, offering untrod trails and room for adventure.

  • Swans by the hundreds were in the air just after sunrise Saturday, apparently unbothered by the frigid temperatures. The swan at rear carried a leg band.

  • In waders and life jackets, Wendell and Galina Diller pulled their sled and canoe across ice on a goose hunt Friday morning. The canoe is used if a hunter breaks through weak ice, with the outrigger giving it stability.

  • Wendell Diller used a push pole to propel his canoe through a spot of open water while retrieving a downed goose.

  • Hot breakfast was served on a cold morning as Galina Diller, right, and her husband, Wendell, sipped coffee while waiting for pancakes cooked on a charcoal fire.

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