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Parting shot.

* In the iron cold of predawn darkness, the goose pit appeared as little more than a bulge in the flat field. Only the mussed-hair look of a few still standing corn stalks revealed it for what it was.

Each year the goose pit goes through a metamorphosis. It starts out surrounded by lush, standing corn. The pit roof is a heap of laid-down stalks to a point where the hunters sometimes complain of having trouble poking the gun into shooting position.

In front of the pit, here and there, accidently dropped ears smile a yellow-toothed grin at the wavering flights of passing snows and Canadas.

As the year progresses the camouflage corn gradually disappears until few stalks are left. Late in the second half of the Canada goose hunting season the smart guide piles extra foliage into the back of the pickup as he brings the sports to the shoot.

The golden kernels are no longer visible, having been food for all sorts of critters. Always the major corn eater is the great gray goose, particularly on the nights of the full moon when he can cackle, holler and squawk all night long. Then he eats like a glutton to test the strength in his wings in a predawn take off.

Our hunt was timed just after the dark of the new moon. It was early January, a time when the soft mud of the rutted tracks to the cornfield had turned flint-hard. There was no danger of getting stuck with the four-wheel drive. Now the danger was a possible fractured spine or loosened bridgework as the truck bounced from one hole to the next.

Our guide was Tom Elliot. I had hunted with him before and knew of his prowess as a fixer of blinds, teller of stories and adjuster of decoys, but first and foremost, as a caller of geese.

Pete Carlson was my hunting companion and together we huddled in the icy hole in the ground, while Tome made last-minute adjustments to the overhead canopy.

The first hour or so of the hunt was filled with anticipation, which was enough to pump the hot blood and keep us warm. Then the sun came up, a disappointing pale gray disk which, though good for moving birds, did nothing toward warming hunters.

On my left side Tom Elliot, with hands in his pockets, casually leaned against the hard ground as he watched and listened for the first sign of geese. A bulge of tobacco in his left cheek, he chewed contentedly as he patiently awaited the action. I knew the cud would go flying at the first need of the goose call.

For some unknown reason hunting guides never seem to feel the cold. I've hunted the high mountains with guides sporting little more than a blue denim jacket. They looked warm, though I was smothered in goose down and still felt the chill.

Tom also looked comfortable though his clothes were what a farmer might wear. He sported none of the fancy camouflage hunting gear available in all sporting good stores. His was an old, brown canvas hunting coat over a tired and worn pair of brown plumber's bib overalls. Of what he wore beneath for warmth, I had no idea.

On my right side Pete was banging one foot against the other, jumping up and down in an effort to keep warm. To say the least, his footwear left much to be desired.

As for me, I sported a perfect Christmas present. Yet, it came as somewhat of a surprise on Christmas morning. The size, color and make were perfect for me. It was one of the few times I could honestly say, "Just what I wanted!" Through the years I have been blessed with friends and relatives, most of which try hard to please me with appropriate Christmas presents, I have made no bones about the fact that I am not the least bit in favor of a gift certificate, unless said certificate is against the House of Mercedes-Benz or Holland & Holland.

In past years I have received some weird presents from non-hunting relatives. One year it was a hunting knife. The giver no doubt figured the bigger the better. He gave me a knife with a blade at least 14 inches long. Great for slicing roast beef, it is just not the thing I would choose for gutting a deer. It might serve for eviscerating a rhinoceros, but it isn't often that I have one of those to clean.

I dearly love all the joys of the Christmas season. It starts with the Christmas advertising--some of which is a little ridiculous: "For Christmas buy the man in yoru life the perfect gift, Z-27 Bug Spray to ensure perfect tomatoes next summer."

I share with little kids the thrill of anticipation as they, in their simple faith, talk of Santa Claus, his reindeer and his bag of toys. Bright eyes and smiling faces; they literally radiate ecstacy.

I love to wait until Christmas morning, then open the gifts from my family and friends. I concede I am the most difficult guy in this world to buy for. I think Elaine and I have found the perfect solution.

It started when I was telling her about a situation which happened years ago during the Depression. One of my brothers was dreaming his way through the Sears & Roebuck "wish book." Coming to a rather expensive boat he exclaimed, "Wow, would I like to have that!"

This drew may grandfather's attention and he asked, "You want that?" Naturally the kid said, "Yes!" So, Grandpa got a scissor, cut it out, and gave it to him.

Yes, we use catalogs. While our wishing goes year-round, it intensifies right after Thanksgiving. Naturally, everyone has an L.L. Bean catalog, so take that one as an example. I got through it looking for things I'd like to have for Christmas. I badly needed cold-weathered boots. So, I folded the lower corner of page 69. Then I wrote in the size, circled the catalog number and also circled extra felt liners. Just to be safe I put my initials next to the item.

By the time I finished with the Bean book, six pages were folded. Subsequently, Elaine die the same, only she folded the top corners of the pages.

When Christmas arrives I'll have folded hunreds of pages in a variety of catalogs. It's a little bit like, "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care."

I have no way of knowing just what Elaine will select. It will come as a surprise. More important, I won't have to fake it when I exclaim, "Just what I wanted!"

Merry Christmas!
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Title Annotation:Christmas gifts and hunting
Author:Wolff, Dick
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 1, 1985
Previous Article:Scope sight savvy.
Next Article:Uncertain ground.

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