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Flying White Ghost, World War II – Lake Champlain

“I am finally getting to see and hunt the snow geese I haven’t seen close since WWII,” recanted my hunting neighbor. Laying next to a man for 12 hours in a cold wet corn field hoping some of the ‘flying ghosts,’ will come down out of the sky, you learn a lot about someone.

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It has been almost 65 years since he had seen the tens of thousands of Snow Goose in Saint James bay after returning from WWII. He had served on a US Navy ship during the war and entered back into the friendly zone through the Hudson Bay. He recalls that ship Captain came on the “horn,” and welcomed back home the sailors from the war. Turns out it was spring time when the ship finally made it back to North America and the snow geese had made it back from the south heading towards northern Canada.

Ever since that day, now at 80 years of age, he wanted to follow and hunt the path of the Snow Geese back north all the way to James Bay where he first saw them and heard the welcome home. The New York & Vermont border was the 2nd stop on the hunting trip north. His trip was to end in James Bay.

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We met at 0500 on the farm adjacent to Lake Champlain hoping today was the day the Snow’s decided to make the hop across the Adirondacks from the Finger Lakes. Today was it, a warm West wind blew them all day until they appeared in the afternoon a mile high but looking for a place to feed and rest.

We were waiting with 2,500 full body snow geese decoys, 8 hunters, 2 Chesapeake Bay retrievers, 8 speakers, and some extra pads for the vet’s to lay on at the age of 80. You could first barley see them but just hear a faint bark and a twinkle of white light as the sun hit their wings. Slowly a thousand would break off and take 10 minutes to examine closer and closer our setup.

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Having hunted Canadian geese for years, we were no match for them as they pulled back time and time again realizing that we had some red shells laying out and exposed skin and sun glasses. These were birds that had been in the area for a few days and knew the land and that ‘something was up.’ Rested and roosting on the just unfrozen section of lake nearby, they had seen this setup for a day or 2 and were not interested.

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Afternoon finally came and our hunting guide said, “they are here, look west.” Sure enough, some flight weary snow’s were flying directly across the tops of the Adirondacks and looking hard at out setup. With our setup cleaned up, hunters hiding in white Tyvex suits, they started to pour in. Our WWII vet hunting partner finally got to see a snow goose up close after all of those years.

The end of the day came with truck bed full of snows, an assembly line of butchers, and our Orion at the end packing the meat into a fitting bed of left over snow from the field. We decided to save one of the snow’s to remember the day by to hang on the wall. The harvest of meat was to follow the hunters all the way north to James Bay and then back home to the Vermont kitchen.
~ Brian Dowling

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