SPENCER, S.D. | The morning sun hung just above the eastern horizon looking much like a fiery orange ball. It wasn't throwing much light across the landscape yet but we could see three or four hundred white pelicans resting on the slough on the south side of the road.
To the north, another slough, this one much smaller hosted a couple hundred resident Canada geese.
Those geese were why Simon Fuller, Yankton, S.D., and I were there that morning. We had joined Chris Paclik, Brookings, and his friend Nick Merkwan, Dell Rapids, both college students and both avid goose hunters.
In fact, avid may not be a strong enough word to describe these guys' passion for hunting geese.
They were pulling a big trailer behind Chris' big pickup and the trailer was packed with about 100 full-body goose decoys and a half dozen layout blinds.
South Dakota's burgeoning goose population has created a fairy tale hunting opportunity for them, and they have been taking advantage of it since the special August Management Take for Canada Geese opened Aug. 4.
The special season allowed resident hunters to hunt through Aug. 26 with a bag limit of 15 and no possession limit.
We were now in the regular goose season which opened Sept. 1 and runs though Dec. 16. The limit remained 15 through Sept. 30.
Only resident hunters could hunt here at the time, so I was along to do photography, both still camera and video. You can never have enough goose-hunting photos.
Chris was waiting for the geese to leave the small pond to go out to feed. Then we would set up in their place and wait for them to return.
It was still early light when I saw a movement along the edge of a field nearby. It was a mink which was intent upon reaching the slough, but when he saw us, the big male turned and ran down the ditch and into a culvert.
We also watched four deer break out of the slough grass and run across a pasture and into a cornfield.
Then the geese began to talk. Within minutes they had taken flight and we moved in.
We set out about 70 of the decoys in two bunches, one on each side.
After grassing up the blinds we got inside of them and waited.
Before long we heard goose talk and a flock of about 30 swept in and attempted to land in the open water between the two bunches of decoys.
The three hunters fired and geese dropped.
They were doing their part to reduce goose numbers which have exploded recently, and are causing significant crop depredation to farmers' fields.
South Dakota Game Fish & Parks waterfowl biologists say resident Canada Goose numbers have shown an increasing trend since the early 1990s.
Surveys have shown a spring population of 270,000 Canada geese during 2012. The three-year average, from 2008-2010, is 143,000 birds. That's far above the management goal of 80,000 to 90,000.
Thus, the August season. In 2011, the harvest of Canada geese was estimated at 30,300 during the special management take.
The open areas included Brookings, Brown, Clark, Codington, Day, Deuel, Hamlin, Hanson, Hutchinson, Grant, Kingsbury, Lake, Lincoln, McCook, Marshall, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Roberts, Spink, Turner and Union counties.
Also, participating game processors take geese and process them for free for the hunters as part of the Sportsmen Against Hunger program. The meat is delivered from the processors to food relief agencies for distribution to needy families.
The Sportsmen Against Hunger program has been extended through the early fall Canada goose season which ran Sept. 1-30.
Non-residents are not allowed to hunt in many eastern South Dakota counties during the early fall season. The limit of geese continued to be 15, but the possession limit was reduced to twice the daily limit.
However, beginning Oct. 1 non-residents were allowed to hunt some eastern counties and the daily limit was reduced to three.
Meanwhile, our hunters retrieved their birds, and we waited again. We heard them before we saw them. Two big Canadas were coming in like they were on a string. I had them in the viewfinder with the tape running, but I looked behind them and saw a large flock following in. I wondered if the hunters had seen this. If they took the two, they would have no chance at the larger number.
I followed the pair into the water as they landed and then swung the camera back to pick up the flock. They were close now and as they swung to sit onto the water Chris yelled, "Take 'em," and shotguns began to roar. More geese dropped.
We only had one more group come in that morning before the hunt was over. It was mid-day and the geese were resting on the many sloughs in the area. There would be no more action until evening.
We picked up our decoys and blinds and loaded everything into the trailer, said our goodbyes and thanks and called it a day.
It seemed odd to be hunting waterfowl when temperatures pushed the 70s, but that's how it is nowadays, thanks to the reproductive capabilities of Canada geese.