KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - On a cold, blustery morning, Ryan Guffey and Nick Lisec could sense that they and their hunting partners were in for a memorable day of goose hunting.
Tucked inside layout blinds at the edge of a cut cornfield, they could see hundreds of Canadas packed on a small farm pond in the distance. All the hunters had to do was wait for those birds to fly out to feed.
"In this part of the state, there are clusters of crop fields," said Guffey as he hunted near Perry Lake in northeast Kansas. "When you can find water near some crops, you have a good place to hunt.
"They aren't going to fly far when they want to eat."
Guffey and Lisec, who run the Wings over Kansas Outfitters guide service, started by doing plenty of scouting, seeing which fields the geese were using, then asking for permission to hunt there. Then in the predawn hours on the day they were going to hunt, they pulled their trailer onto a hilltop and unloaded 12 dozen goose decoys and began arranging them to resemble one huge flock of feeding birds.
By the time they met their hunting partners for the day, Steve Liles and Jeff Anderson, the trap was in place. They finished up by piling corn stalks on top of the layout blinds and even atop a small blind for Lisec's black Lab, Ammo.
Then the wait began.
At first, the geese were in no hurry to leave the pond. But when the hunters heard a roar of wings mixed with loud honking, they went on alert.
The hunters' calls cut through the wind, and one flock turned. The birds cupped their wings and descended, occasionally tipping as they caught gusts of cold wind.
They glided over the decoys and began to drop. That's when they were greeted by a round of shotgun blasts.
Ammo raced out of his blind and over the hilltop and retrieved the first of three fallen Canadas. Seconds later, he had brought all of the birds back to Lisec, and the hunt was off to a good start.
"That was beautiful," said Liles, who lives in Peculiar, Mo., and has guided in the past himself. "Those birds worked just the way you want them to.
"Good calling, good dog work, the birds decoying - that's what makes this field hunting so much fun."
And there was more fun to be had.
In fact, from 8:30 a.m. on, there were few lulls. Wave after wave of Canada geese worked the large decoy spread and provided ample shooting opportunities. Guffey and Lisec even managed to call one flock of snow geese, flying at nosebleed heights, down for a look at the decoys, and the hunters took two birds.
By the time the action finally slacked, the four hunters were carrying 10 Canadas and two snow geese to their vehicles - proof of another successful winter hunt.
"With this mild winter we've had, we don't have the numbers of Canadas down here that we usually do at this time of the year," said Guffey, 25, who lives in Perry, Kan. "But we've still had some good hunts.
"The key is scouting; keeping on top of the birds and finding out which fields they are using. It's been even more important this year because with so much open water, the geese have been scattered out.
"But if you can find a hot field, you can get into some good hunting."
That was the case on this day. After several days of scouting, Guffey and Lisec had the geese patterned perfectly.
"These geese have been doing the same thing every morning," Lisec said. "They'll break off from another large group of birds on another pond, fly here, then fly out to feed in this field. They're working it pretty hard."
Guffey and Lisec are careful not to put too much pressure on one field. They are mobile, doing a lot of scouting to make sure they have plenty of options. Once they have permission to hunt those private crop fields, they revolve their hunting sites from day to day.
That formula works. Guffey and Lisec have been guiding waterfowl hunters since September, when the teal season began. They've been shooting ducks and now geese since.
They had a memorable season of water hunting for ducks, guiding customers to many opportunities both on the water and in fields when the mallards flock together to feed. Now they are looking forward to the last days of the goose season when cold fronts can drive large flocks of birds into Kansas and produce fantastic hunting. The season is now open and will run through Feb. 12 for Canadas and light geese; the whitefront season will reopen Saturday and run through Feb. 12.
For both Guffey and Lisec, that's cause for excitement. They are both longtime waterfowl hunters.
Guffey got his start with his dad, tagging along to hunt rivers, fields and small water, such as the marsh they own below Perry Lake. Guffey started his guide service two years ago, then was joined by Lisec last year.
Lisec grew up hunting waterfowl in Nebraska, where he developed an affection for hunting Canada geese and ducks on the Platte River. The hunting could be spectacular there, he said, but he's also had plenty of good days in Kansas.
"I love this field hunting," he said. "It can be a lot of work, putting out as many decoys as we do. We believe in putting out large spreads at this time of the year.
"But it's worth it when you see a flock of 25 to 30 birds cup up and drop down on you. A lot of the shots we're taking are just 20 yards away. And that's fun when you can get them in that close."