Mike Wilson: The fugitive: A lesson in applied calculus

Published 11:00 am Friday, July 21, 2023

Mike Wilson

Mike Wilson
Guest columnist

When my wife and I decided to dock our powerboat at Lake Norman for a bit, I was thrilled to discover that the lake had many resident geese that were not especially appreciated by most of the homeowners in the area.

They would swim near us when we were fishing and nearly knock us off the boat if we happened to be in their flight path to their feeding area, a grassy field next to our harbor. I began to lay plans in mid-summer to ambush them come winter. I was especially interested in a small wooded island, typically surrounded by partying boaters in the summer but surely abandoned in winter– very near our marina. The ducks and geese trading across the lake seemed to use it as a guidepost.

When goose season opened, I set up in the shallows near the marina one morning with super magnum shells on motion stakes on the mud and floaters nearby in the water. At dawn I could see a lone goose across the lake on the point of the island.

They gradually began to accumulate until there were about 15, fussing about and making a lot of noise. We called back and forth and I waited until 8 for the feeding flight, but no movement, so I decided to put the sneak on them in my jon boat with a small 30-lb trolling motor since the little 3 hp Johnson my buddy had lent me had quit running.

I only needed to go a few hundred yards, right? I got within about 40 yards and stopped drifting forward before they got nervous and took off. I winged one (literally: it was soon apparent that the engine room and propellers were just fine) and gave the others a two-shot salute.

Now the downed one began to motor with a tailwind heading west at 1.97 mph and I began pursuit at approximately 2.0 mph. The goose had a 75 yard head start. Anyone good at math? The bird was gradually weakening, but so was my battery. Whenever I got within about 40 yards, I would touch off a shot (steel BBs), but it shrugged them off like gnats.

I cannot — actually, will not — reveal the total number of shots, but I will say that the experience began to rival an infamous hunt when I, having seen no birds for weeks, had only grabbed a pocketful of anemic first-generation short 20 gauge #4 steel loads and was then surrounded by hordes of migrating mergansers — a veritable fowling Alamo. It might also have been less embarrassing if I had been using some other shotgun that ejected the spent hulls overboard instead of a Model 37, which was depositing all of them in a neat and growing pile right at my feet. I finally stopped that goose, and when I looked back, my super magnum shells looked like ants. Time to head back upwind with an ever-draining battery and paddle assist (big mistake…ribs and abs sore for weeks).

The lessons? Geese are easier to kill from underneath than from the rear and/or when folded. Set up on the island. Use a bigger motor. Charge the deep-cycle before every outing. Do a few crunches occasionally. And don’t ever think geese will follow Plan A.

Mike Wilson is a former Hampden-Sydney Spanish professor, who now calls North Carolina home. He can be reached at jmwilson@catawba.edu.