For Andy Forma, Canada geese are golden.
Forma got off to a great start in the statewide early (nuisance) goose season with some impressive shots. At 14, Andy has already established himself as an experienced shooter and hunter. So far this season he has gone on outings with several members of the Western and Central New York Chapter of the Safari Club.
His dad, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Forma, introduced Andy to trap shooting early. The father-and-son pair have been seen standing near trap houses for several years, which accounts for Andy's skill when it comes to clean kills on passing geese. Dad, recuperating from recent heart surgery, has had to limit his field activities, but he was able to watch as Andy joined Safari Club hunters on the "easy" hunts along western Erie County and nearby eastern Wyoming County ponds.
"Just seeing the smile on his face when he walked back with an incoming single he took was worth the entire effort," dad said after Andy cleanly dropped a Canada goose at 30 yards as several SCI members beamed grins from nearby blinds.
"A big part of these outings is to just be out there when the sun starts lighting the eastern horizon on these warm mornings," the elder Forma said.
Mornings during the first days of the season began with clear skies, summer warmth and no winds. Even before the rising sun could outline trees and pond banks, the geese on nearby ponds started in with their mixture of calls. This "goose music" begins well before designated legal shooting begins, a half hour before sunrise.
During most of the first week of the early goose season, the birds have their fixed routine: Sleep on lakes and ponds and then fly off to feeding areas, if the water has been stripped of goose forage. These first few days offer relatively easy shooting, if the birds scatter, fly close to the ground and return to calls.
On one morning of the opening week, the Formas joined another father-and-son duo, Mike and Matt Shevlin of South Wales, and six other SCI members on a pond-jumping hunt. The effort resulted in a limit of birds before 10 a.m. This day, not opening day, was unusual because the birds kept coming back to the decoys several times after the initial rounds had been fired. Matt Shevlin, 21, like Andy Forma, had gotten in on the early season hunt with his father the year before. Neither son ranked as an amateur at goose shooting.
Despite the lack of a first-time hunter in the group, the euphoria of the hunt could be felt by all from start to finish. Often, the older hunters would put down their guns and either take pictures or just watch as the younger hunters shot and took their limit of geese.
Andy, after trap shooting at Alden, Buffalo, Bradford and Syracuse ranges and frequent trips with dad on crow shoots, has equipped himself with a powerful goose gun, a 12-gauge Browning Gold that takes 3 1/2 -inch magnum rounds. The Shevlins added this same goose gun to their collection this season and accounted for solid steel-shot kills with the big Browning.
Early-season Canada goose hunts during the last two weeks will probably not be as easy as opening-week shooting. Resident birds have been hearing shots on quiet mornings for nearly two weeks.
"The shooting has been minimal in our area," said goose guide Chuck Tiranno at Middleport. "We're going through our second year of drought in this area." Tiranno looks for cooler mornings, overcast skies and some solid rainfall to bring birds down onto dry ponds and marsh areas around the Iroquois federal refuge.
Scouting, normally recommended long before a hunting season begins, might be done best at the middle of this year's early goose season. A slow reconnaissance around open farm country might turn up areas where geese still hold. What is more important, it could draw favorable responses from farmers and owners of large tracts of land that still hold excessive numbers of geese, birds crowding on farmland or water areas during the drought.
Making good relations with landowners at this time of the goose season might add to your options for hunts during the regular goose season, which opens later this season for the first time in years. Possibly you could find good starting points for next year's early Canada goose season.
Remaining days of the early hunt will take more looking and walking, but heavy flights still hold over Western New York fields and waters. Long after the early season closes on Sept. 25, area hunters will not be able to say the flocks are a gone goose.