The smiles on the faces Tommy Wagoner, JP Wagoner and Josh Buskirk show what the experience is all about.
Social media gets a bad rap. Often, we hear news reports of crimes and bullying conducted through social media’s various forms. Marriages have been broken and lives are affected.
Recently, I was able to experience the flip side of social media. For the second year, I was part of Cold Front Calls Waterfowl Weekend. 2015 was the first we had hunted with Randy Cesco owner and founder of Cold Front Calls. He and I met through Facebook when I inquired about his products, we hit it off and soon arranged to hunt together.
After the hunt in 2015, we agreed to do it all over again in 2016. Following my hunt with Randy I had received several friend requests from others that knew him. A few of these gentlemen stood out as people I could see sharing a hunt with. People who not only held a passion for waterfowling in all of its elements but who also held respect for the natural resource and others.
Two of these people held one other thing in common: they were big fans of Cold Front Calls. In October, the thought occurred to me “How cool would it be if we not only had our annual hunt with Randy, but also included these other enthusiasts”? Using social media as a means of reaching out to them I contacted Rob Miles of north east Indiana and Tommy Wagoner of central Kentucky. Within minutes everyone was on board with a trip to sunny Greene County.
A private group was set up on Facebook and everyone used that to get acquainted with each other over the next three months. On January 5, this eclectic ensemble of hunters showed up at our camp near Worthington. The amazing thing to me was that everyone walked in and felt like lifelong friends. No awkward silences or uncomfortable moments, just friends assembled to celebrate waterfowling and artisan quality duck and goose calls.
Waking the following morning, we were greeted by single digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chills. Myself and four guys from out of town piled into the UTV. Pulling out of the driveway, hauling a 12 foot trailer loaded to the max with decoys and blinds we made our way to the field of choice.
Now, I had never hunted this particular field and as my wife would eagerly let anyone know... I hate asking for directions. My innate sense of direction as an independent, intelligent man precipitated my soon to come slap from reality.
Boldly going where I had never gone before, I turned off the road and onto the property we planned to hunt. The only obstacle was to find the gate from the pasture we were crossing to go to the corn field we were planning to hunt. Apparently finding a gate in the dark is easier said than done.
Stopping just short of an electrified fence gate, Rob jumped out and held the wires back so I could pass. Upon making it through the gate I immediately realized I was faced with another electrified crossing. So now Tommy, with Rob still holding the previous gate open, hopped out to clear the path. I moved the UTV another 16 feet forward only to be faced with yet a third gate, the straw breaking the proverbial camel’s back. I climbed out of the UTV and proceeded on foot, along with Rob and Tommy, to find a way out of this tangled labyrinth of high voltage.
Daylight was fast approaching and we were desperate to find a plan of action. Needless to say, I was looking like a total noob. Then like a hero from a western movie, the ones where the protagonist rides in on a white horse and saves the day, Josh Mason messaged me and said “Hey, I see your lights down there... Do you realize you are in the wrong field?” Accepting my defeat, I trudged back to the UTV and made the drive of shame back to camp to be shown the way by Mason.
It speaks volumes for our guests to go along with this harebrained venture and still remain optimistic for the hunt. Nevertheless, we managed to get set up shortly after sun-up and hunted the rest of the day. As it would play out, the entire day was needed for the geese to make an appearance. In the last 45 minutes of legal shooting time no less than 400 canada geese came into the field. It was a sight to see so many geese all at once, and everyone in the group was left in awe of the show.
So it would go over the course of the weekend. Highs and lows. One particular bright spot was when we hunted a ditch for mallards one morning. Randy commented on how much it reminded him of a place he hunted as a young man with his father stating “We’ll do good here, you just watch.”
Sunrise came and down the ditch from us shots were fired. Josh Buskirk walked to get the mallard drake and as he picked it up a faint cry could be heard. Randy said “Did he say band?” No more had those words left his mouth when a text came through on my phone, Josh was holding a leg banded drake mallard.
In 30 years of hunting Randy had never been on a hunt when a banded duck was taken, so abandoning his hunt he walked down the ditch to see the trophy. When Rob asked Randy “Are you going to take your gun?” Randy replied with “I don’t even care about the gun!” This was a moment I’ll cherish for a long time.
Sunday came and all the guys packed up to leave, vowing to return next year. What started as a bunch of strangers chatting on Facebook grew into fast friends over the span of a single weekend. Brought together by a common passion, each one of us left richer in stories and experience. As was stated, so many times between all of us “It’s not about the piles, it’s about the smiles.”
Jon is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 21. He can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.