I went on my first Goose hunt in December 1969. We arrived in the field and there were about 300 torn sheets scattered over the field. I thought good lord! What is this?
We draped the rags over the rice stubble and then sat down and started BS-ing. If you notice in all these stories, there is more BS-ing than doing. While we sat there, I kept thinking, "What the hell are we doing sitting in a cold, wet rice field swatting mosquitoes?"
Then out of nowhere came one very stupid goose. The darn thing tried to land in the torn sheets.
I was fascinated.
I was 16 at the time, but the seed was planted. Not only was I overwhelmed by the staggering amount of geese, but the fact that they could be fooled by pieces of sheets draped over rice stubble.
There were plenty of experts to learn from; the newspapers were full of articles about goose hunting. At the time, the pioneers of goose hunting were still alive. I read everything there was written about goose hunting, and I asked questions from everybody that thought they knew anything. I became obsessed.
After World War II, rice farming exploded on the coastal prairie of Texas. Snow geese began feeding in the rice field. Areas like Eagle Lake and Katy became home to hundreds of thousands of snow geese. These areas had always held ducks, so there was a pioneering industry of duck hunters and now there was unbelievable population of snow geese.
But there was a problem. The darn things feed in rice fields, so building blinds is unrealistic. Geese eat all the rice and then go to another field. So decoys had to be portable and inexpensive. The first solution was to use newspaper. That worked great until the wind blew or it rained.
The next generation used pieces of torn up bed sheets, or even diapers. Both worked great. When the wind, blew they would cling to the stubble. But hunting with them in the rain was a nightmare.
Remember, there were no ATVs to haul things in and out, so if a bag of dry rags weighed 30 pounds, it would weigh 150 pounds wet. That was particularly hard on me, because I was the biggest and was expected to be the pack mule.
The fancy black mesh decoy bags weren't around yet. So, we used 100-pound burlap feed bags to transport the decoys.
One time, my friend Champ and I got the great idea to borrow about 200 towels from the LaPorte Athletic Department. That was a total disaster. Needless to say, we didn’t go very far in the field hauling those towels, but somehow, we managed to get there and kill geese.
Sometime in the 1970s plastic banquet cloth was invented. I was one happy dude. Not only were they light, they didn't get dirty and they were cheap. Instantly, I had 500 of them and a fancy black net bag to haul them in, too.
The next step in the evolution of decoys was to make them three dimensional. At first, we used balloon sticks and propped the rag on top. That didn’t work because the wind blew the rag off the stick.
Then, Chuck Berry of Texas Hunting Products took the plastic and tied it together to make a wind sock. Then he attached it to a 3/8-inch dowel rod, and it became the Texas Rag. These were extremely effective, relatively inexpensive and easy to transport.
But there was one big flaw. The wind literally ripped them to pieces. Three hundred realistic looking wind socks would get ripped to shreads, with only a handful still in tact. Before Chuck died, he developed the wind tamer wind sock, which was more durable against the wind.
The final evolution, and the one that is popular now, are Sillosocks. Sillosocks combine the durability of Tyvek, three-dimensional movement, ease of transport with the realistic-looking decoy. For the money, they have proved to be the best decoy ever.
Long time coming.