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  • I sat on the porch early this morning listening to newly arrived geese, which are two months early. I got dressed, grabbed my camera, walked to the lake and found them in the big open flood plain behind my studio and the neighbor's garage. All the neighbors, except me, petition the Federal Wildlife Reserve (FWR) for permission to plow the field every spring and plant wheat or some other 'neat' crop that grows uniformly, which is then cut down and plowed again in the fall.

    When it was left natural, wild flowers, game birds, and blackberries were abundant. FWR also blocks the creek and huge long bay with buoys during the winter months, so that no boats are allowed in to disturb the wildlife. All the land around this long 'creek' is Federal Wildlife Refuge and eagles can sometimes be sighted way back in through rough 'virgin' forests, briar patches and swampy bogs. The homes that are closer to the lake have FWR woods growing between them and the lake and a few have been caught and fined a few thousand dollars for cutting trees and brush down so they can see the lake better. And when the spring floods come, no trees and brush can mean that your land washes away and you get more flooding.

    When I moved to the Lake in '90, there were many ducks and geese that flew down for the winter around November and one year there were thousands, so many that the 'creek' and bays were full of flocks with much quacking and honking going on. Every day, my dogs and I would walk along the lake, which would have a nice beach in the winter when they lowered the lake level through controlling the dams.

    One day, during that great duck and geese season, I walked back in to the first small bay. The dogs were in the bushes sniffing rabbits and other critters and when I came around the bend, there was a circle of geese doing their mating dance. I withdrew quietly to the trees and watched them as the gander in the center of the circle did his tap dance on top of the water. It was amazing, and of course I didn't have my camera with me.

    During hunting season, the first gunshot goes off at dawn and you can forget sleeping late after that until hunting is over with. That year, the hunters went wild and there were very few ducks and geese that went north in the spring, maybe a few hundred.

    The next year, very few birds flew in. I ran into one of the hunting guides in town, who took hunters to Hank, Jr's private hunting club across the 'creek' from me, (it's no longer in existence) and he complained to me about how few ducks and geese had come in this year. Being the blunt person that I am, I said that was because they shot all of them last year, and he never spoke to me again. Since then, fewer and fewer birds come back each year and other than the periodic first gunshot at dawn, there aren't many hunters either, so I can now sleep past dawn during much of the hunting season.

    This is a case of overkill and under-think. Did they really need to kill so many ducks and geese? Did they eat all of them? If not, then why did they kill all of them? Well, they have paid the price and I hope they learned something. Now they are all singing 'There's a tear in my beer'.
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