Messingburg along with his dog,
Scooter, retrieve a crane.
Looking at Mark Meissenburg's decoy
spread can play games with a person's senses. They play
worse games with the senses of geese and sandhill cranes.
Amarillo's Meissenburg, president, owner and
guide for Panhandle's Best, Inc. Professional Guide and Taxidermy
Service, uses decoys for both crane and geese that are actual
taxidermy mounts - birds shot and then stuffed with ground stakes
extending from their legs to hold them secure to the ground on windy
days. The spread is almost an irresistible magnet to passing geese
and sandhills looking for a safe place to feed.
"Realism is the No. 1 thing," Mesissenburg said
of the effectiveness of his decoy spread. "There is a natural shine
on the birds' feathers that no decoy can duplicate. That's the thing
that geese see and they key on it."
It takes Meissenburg about four hours spread over
four months to make each decoy. It takes an hour to an hour and a
half to set the spread up and the same time to take it down. The
decoys also require extra work in hauling them around. Meissenburg
uses a 16-foot trailer with special shelves to transport the decoys.
"It's a long process, he said.
Meissenburg had scouted the area
and found two cut corn fields side-by-side where both the geese and
the cranes had landed and fed three days in a row. The fog delayed
what is usually an early morning flight. The birds, which usually
fly off the roost at the crack of dawn didn't get into the air until
Strings of mostly cranes with lines
of geese mixed in were visible in the misty pale skies, winging
their way over the flat farm land and finally setting wings and
gliding into Meissenburg's spread after the flights started working
to fields to feed. He estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 sandhills
are staying in the area.
Meissenburg set out nine crane
mounts and 80 geese mounts - mostly Canada geese with a few snows
mixed in. The birds were arranged in small family ranging from eight
to 10 birds over the two fields separated by a small farm road and a
A flight of about 60 geese
committed to the decoys and landed among their stuffed cousins after
a few passes shortly after a noisy mallard duck and a flight of six
silent geese sent us scrambling for the cover of the blind.
Meissenburg, who called the geese
in with a handmade diaphragm call, let us observe the birds walking
on the ground just 20 or 30 yards away for a short time before
giving us instructions.
Meissenburg gave us a three count,
at the end of which the three lids on the A-frame blind covered with
mess woven with long hay stalks were thrown up and the geese
frantically lifted off the ground. Four made it only yards off the
ground before finding a place in the corner of the blind.
Not long after we picked up the
geese we had shot, another flock landed in the same fashion - one
close, the rest out in the field about 40 yards. Despite emptying
our guns on the smallish, noisy honkers in the four to five-pound
range that most hunters call cacklers, the flock of 70 to 80 birds
flew off unharmed, but a little wiser.
The geese soon became a sidebar as
the bigger and harder to bring down sandhill cranes started their
A little more suspect of the decoys
than the geese, the cranes never landed in the spread, but they did
get close enough to shoot when they would pass over the decoys for a
look with Meissenburg using only his mouth and hands to call the
"Cranes are weary," he said. "I
don't think you can kill many of them over rags. They're fun but
from what I've seen they're pretty smart."
The four of us filled our three
crane limit and loaded 12 birds to take home with five geese at 11
a.m., just two hours after we started shooting.
Flock after flock of cranes and a
few more strings of geese closed in on the spread for a closer look
after we had finished hunting and started working on picking the
Meissenburg, who moved to Amarillo
eight months ago with his wife Kim, has not been skunked while
hunting geese or cranes. He said he has a bigger problem of people
complaining about filling bag limits too early.
~ by Terry Moore Amarillo
News-Globe, January 5, 1997