The 2020 North American Waterfowl Tour continue as Ramsey Russell wheels into Wisconsin during an October snow storm and shares a couple great Wisconsin honker hunts with “TJ Ten Yards.” TJ describes his earliest goose hunting influences, why giant Canada geese are his favorite. TJ came by his nickname the old-fashioned way – he earned it. Like a talkative 9-pack of longnecks sailing towards the spread on locked wings, his proven Canada goose hunting game plan philosophy is worth paying close attention.
Classic Goose Hunting in Balmy Wisconsin
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host, Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to another episode of Duck Season Somewhere. Those of you who have been keeping up with the social media know I’m right in the middle of a North American road trip tour and my goal is to probably check off 23 states this season. Hey, it’s Duck Season Somewhere. I want to check off a lot of states that I have not yet ever killed waterfowl in. Which brings me to balmy Wisconsin. I left Iowa yesterday and pulled into Wisconsin. There was a bunch of white stuff falling from the sky. It was 32°. That white stuff like y’all down South see only on Christmas cards. I got here and met today’s guest, TJ Sirovatka, who is a proverbial goose whisperer. How are you today TJ?
TJ Sirovatka: I’m good.
Ramsey Russell: What about this morning, was that not beautiful?
TJ Sirovatka: This morning, it was a classic goose hunt for Wisconsin, no doubt.
Ramsey Russell: I’m reminded every time I get into real Canada goose country. We have no real Canada goose hunting culture down in the South. But I’m reminded every time I get into this part of the world, where you guys cut your teeth on Canada geese, hunkered down in the panel blind this morning, looking up under the bill of my hat and, man, you were working those geese. You start off quiet this morning, sunrise, all that snow sitting out there. I just remember thinking how the landscape seemed to be blushing like a new bride. It was beautiful out there and then, slowly but surely, some geese. First, some geese out in the distance and the city geese back behind us in the distance and soon enough, the whole sky. Those geese were going all which-a-ways up in the sky. You started talking to them, and it never ceases to amaze me, all these wonderful ducks and geese in the world, but those great big Canada geese, those giants, when they start spinning and steering themselves, like B52’s making those wide angles. You know they want it. There’s just nothing as beautiful as that, and it’s distinctly North American.
TJ Sirovatka: Yeah, it is.
Early Beginnings in Waterfowl Hunting & Goose Calling
“I was hooked. Just got addicted immediately.”
Ramsey Russell: You’ve been hunting these things practically your whole life, haven’t you? Tell me how you got into duck hunting, or goose hunting, I should say. How did you get into all this?
TJ Sirovatka: I was introduced to it from my father who was fortunate enough to grow up in Illinois and hunt down in Southern Illinois, down on Horseshoe Lake. I was lucky enough to go and hunt down there once with him, experience it, back in the early 80s. Once we moved to Wisconsin, that’s when I really got the itch and the passion for it, being up here in Northern Wisconsin. I was probably five or six years old. I remember my dad carrying me down a small little creek, shoulder in one hand, double barrel 12 gauge in the other. I didn’t have any waders and I was too small. I would have been over my head, and Dad just carried me down. We were shooting ducks. He was John Wayne-ing it down the creek with one arm, and I was hooked.
Ramsey Russell: Do you remember your first duck or goose?
TJ Sirovatka: I do. Absolutely. My first duck was on big water. It was a teal. That was an early season. I would have been in middle school then. First goose was during that same season. That was my first year that I could actually shoot legally. The goose hunting, by far, then just elevated over ducks in a short amount of time.
Ramsey Russell: Why? What was it about?
TJ Sirovatka: It was just a bigger bird. I was intrigued by the sounds they made, how they flew, and the different tones that they made, different pitches, different cadences, that was different to me than a duck. I was hooked. Just got addicted immediately.
Ramsey Russell: I’m assuming, back when your dad was carrying down the bank, you didn’t duck call or goose call. None of us hardly did at that age. How did that progress? Because you guys up here are excellent callers and with all those vocalizations and stuff, how did you get climbed down that rabbit hole?
TJ Sirovatka: I still have [Dad’s] lanyard. He had one duck call, one goose call, and it was the old wooden Faulks and that’s what I started on. Dad used to blow that one “ha-ronk,” and as much as it drove me nuts that he couldn’t do anything else, it just fueled me to learn how to blow different sounds out of it. I was constantly stealing dad’s calls and I’d go in my room and I’d sit and blow. It drove my sister and mom nuts until I figured it out, just listened to different sounds of geese. I’d take it out in the outdoors and just try and match what they were doing. There wasn’t a lot you could do with the old Faulks, but you could do a lot more once you practiced with it, worked with it. I just kept at it, any time I had, I was blowing a goose call around town. I’d be riding my bike down the street, blowing the call. It just got to be second nature for me, and learning the birds, and just a lot of practice.
Ramsey Russell: It’s interesting that your dad hunted back in the house-signed days in Illinois, Horseshoe Lake and places like that and you blew that. I know what Faulks call you’re talking about because I have one. It makes that one noise, “ronk”. It makes that one.
TJ Sirovatka: The H81 I think is what it was.
Ramsey Russell: I think I got my kids one when they were babies. But he killed geese. I guarantee he did. He killed geese with that call, didn’t he?
TJ Sirovatka: Yes, he did. He got that from my uncle and my uncle had the same call. That’s all they did. He would sit in the pit down there and just keep blowing at them. They’d kill geese.
Ramsey Russell: You were telling me a story yesterday about being a young man and your dad carrying you somewhere and you actually competed at a very young age.
TJ Sirovatka: Yeah, I was in high school at that time and I’d been blowing a goose call since I was five. At some point, I don’t know if it’s just fate, I don’t know if somebody knew that I could blow a goose call or not, but one day, I came home from school and I had a letter from state of Illinois asking me to come down and compete in the Junior Calling Championships for the state. I was honored. I told my dad and he played it off pretty good. I don’t know if he was the influence on that or if he knew somebody down there, but it was quite an honor to be asked to come down there. My parents were very supportive and they let me go down there and compete. I didn’t fare as well as I had hoped, but the experience was awesome and it put into perspective how good people were at that stage back in the mid-eighties. I had known Tim Grounds was a huge goose caller in Illinois. Big influence because I think he was probably one of the first ones I knew of that put out a video on how to call, when to call, and that was a big start for me, a big influence.
Ramsey Russell: I know that you played baseball. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but you probably had a little bit of a competitive nature. You’re in high school, you get invited to come blow. You don’t hit a top round or win or something like that. Tim Grounds got an instructional video. I’m thinking you were inspired to step it up and be better. That’s kind of how we all get. You just get into something, you want to be better.
Growing Up Hunting
“We’d miss lunch. Hunting was more important than getting fed that day at school.”
TJ Sirovatka: Yeah. I’m probably the most competitive person I’ve ever met. I was a big sports guy and that was a big drive that I had growing up. Whatever I’d do, I’d like to do it, go all out, and give it everything I got and be the best I can be at it.
Ramsey Russell: Undeterred. You just kept on blowing, kept on figuring it out, kept on hunting. What was it like growing up around here in high school? Did you hunt a lot?
TJ Sirovatka: Oh yeah, I remember back then buddies of mine and I were able to bring our shotguns to school.
Ramsey Russell: Back in the good old days.
TJ Sirovatka: During season, we’d get dropped off by parents. When we were old enough to drive, sophomore year, we started bringing guns to school and keeping them in our lockers. When we were able to break for lunch, we’d always skip lunch and we’d go and jump all the potholes within a few miles of the high school and go try and get some mallards each day. There were a lot of ducks around back then in that particular area, so it was fun. We’d miss lunch. Hunting was more important than getting fed that day at school.
Ramsey Russell: There’s still a lot of truth in that. Boy, times have changed about bringing shotguns or pocket knives to school. You can’t bring them. I don’t guess you can bring a nail file to school anymore. I can remember going to high school and a lot of boys drove hot rods, most guys drove little pickup trucks and everybody had those old window racks and everybody had a shotgun or a 22 or something.
TJ Sirovatka: It was every other truck in high school.
Ramsey Russell: I did not go skip lunch. I did skip lunch and skip school to go do stuff. It wasn’t duck hunting, normally. But at the same time, you played a lot of baseball too, didn’t you?
TJ Sirovatka: I did.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about that.
TJ Sirovatka: Baseball was my bread and butter. I played football and hockey since I was old enough to skate or throw a ball, but baseball was always my love for sports. I like to think I was pretty good at it. Most of the time, off-season of hunting, I was practicing, going to camps, playing on as many teams as I could in local leagues and that continued, which allowed me to attend college in Indiana when I received a scholarship to play baseball at Division One level and it was pretty impressive.
Ramsey Russell: It didn’t interfere with your hunting too much, did it?
TJ Sirovatka: It did. We’re pretty much at the mercy of the coach. When they’re giving you the money to attend school and play baseball, you’re pretty much your dad, you do what they say.
Ramsey Russell: How far up the baseball channels did you go?
TJ Sirovatka: I did some split squad stuff with the Pittsburgh Pirates as well as the San Francisco Giants. I was a catcher and I’d caught since I was about 8 or 9 that I can remember. After my sophomore year at college, my knee started giving me issues and I ended up never leaving the bullpen during the summer of ‘98. I’ll never trade in the experiences I had, playing ball at that level. It was awesome.
Goose Hunting Philosophy
“You can never do this enough or be too old to learn something new, see something new from the birds, hear something new.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, that kind of brings me around to the goose hunting. Because I’ve learned real quick. I’ve hunted with you one morning. We had dinner last night, a wonderful dinner. You’re kind of a play for keeps, very serious goose hunter. You’re very, very serious. You bring the A game every time, very detailed, very organized. Opening up your trailer, it looks like a surgical room. It’s so clean. All those bright lights and everything in its place and everything immaculately clean and everything organized and everything ready. You know exactly how we’re going to set the spread. Tell me a little bit about your philosophy for goose hunting.
TJ Sirovatka: Well, I’ve learned a lot. Every time out is a new experience and it’s a learning lesson. You can never do this enough or be too old to learn something new, see something new from the birds, hear something new. No doubt, I think you mentioned it this morning, I’ve still got a good foundation I think and I stick with the basics that I’ve always had or always done and used when hunting geese and I think it’s more of just little tweaks. I would like to say I just tweak the basics, just a hair. My philosophy, I guess, is that scouting is important. It’s probably the most important. You find good areas. I’ve hunted the same area for 20 years now, and I know on a regular basis that the birds are going to be in a certain area, at a certain time of the year. They seem to pattern that way annually around here, which helps for scouting because you can pinpoint where you’re going to go and divide things up per night which I typically try and do. I’ll stick with one area, see how many birds are there. There’s a lot of water in this area and we have three rivers that stay open throughout the season. They don’t freeze up. The lakes, until it gets really cold in November or December, you know where the birds are going to be. They stick with the same patterns year after year here, whether it’s a new hatch or new birds coming down, they tend to stay with the same areas, so that helps with scouting. As far as setting spreads and what I do with that: number one, most important scouting. Two, I would say the hide is most important to me. I do spend a lot of time making sure that I’m not going to be seen or the guys that are hunting with me aren’t going to be seen. I’m a huge advocate of natural vegetation that’s there. There are great products out there in the goose hunting industry, but you can’t beat natural color, you can’t beat natural grasses. I think that a lot of times I’ll try and blend the two. I use a lot of updated products. I’d like to test things out. The new products that come out year to year, see what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly with that stuff. I think I’ve always been a realism person as far as decoys go, instead of necessarily strength in numbers.
Ramsey Russell: Quality versus quantity.
TJ Sirovatka: I’ve probably tried every decoy that’s ever come out. I’ve been hunting for 37 years and I’ve seen it all, I’ve tried it all. Realism is huge for getting birds to finish the way I want them to finish. And fire spreads go. I like to stick, again, to the basics. You’ll never see me make a perfect ‘U’. I always used to call it the Nike swoosh. I just don’t. It’s never been realistic to me. I’ve seen birds from the air. I’ve seen drone shots, I’ve been in planes, I’ve looked at birds on the ground and it’s never a perfect pattern. I like to mimic that when I set spreads, I think it’s the key, and I stick with what works.
Setting Up a Goose Hunt & Earning the Nickname “TJ Ten-Yards”
“If they like the music I’m blowing, if they like what tune I’m playing, there’s no reason that they won’t be right in your lap.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, let’s talk about today’s spread for example, since you’re on that. How would you describe today’s set, the way we put those decoys? Because you knew exactly how you wanted to run that game. We had a straight west wind. We were looking to the east. There were birds roosted behind us. There were birds roosted way out in front of us somewhere, a mile I’ll say, maybe more. There’s a lot of traffic running through there. They’ve been in that field and several fields around us. But when we got out there and started unsacking your decoys and getting them right, you knew exactly how you wanted the birds to go. I’ve never seen a pattern like that. I’ve never seen that arrangement but it worked. How would you describe that?
TJ Sirovatka: We were in a flat area so the wind that was supposed to be 5-10 I would say was pushing 10-12. I wanted to keep the spread open and not too tight. I like to keep the middle thin, with where I want the birds to land, or the ultimate X, which was right out in front of the blind. I kept things spread out. We balled up the left and right a little bit more than the middle was. The middle was sporadic and it had a lot of gaps in it.
Ramsey Russell: How far would you say from outside to outside? 40 yards maybe?
TJ Sirovatka: I would say 40-50, 40-50 wide.
Ramsey Russell: If I were looking down, it was almost like a barbell. Kind of skinny in the middle and then heavy on the ends and a faint little trailing out at an angle, just a wide funnel to get into that skinny part you were talking about. I’d say the barbell handle was maybe 10 yards from the blind. Maybe 10-12 yards. Very precise.
TJ Sirovatka: I like to keep them tight.
Ramsey Russell: When I met you yesterday, it’s snowing big time. I meet you downstairs. You get off work, come by here and pick me up at the hotel, and we jump in the truck, and within 2 or 3 minutes of meeting you…now folks, just so you know, those of y’all listening, I met TJ through my friend Alex Robinson who was supposed to be here, but congratulations Alex. I bet you’re a new dad, and my friend Lee Kjos, who both described you as an excellent goose hunter and a pretty good guy, but within minutes of being in there, you started saying something to the effect of “I heard you’re a pretty good shot.” Now look, I don’t shoot that. That’s not my game. Previously, just a minute ago, you said something about getting them to finish like you want them to finish. How do you want geese to finish?
TJ Sirovatka: I like to have them, if I’m in a layout blind, I want them at my feet at the boot bag. I know a lot of people say that but I literally want them at my boot bag. It’s not a figure of speech. If I’m hunting out of a panel blind or layout, depending on the situation, today, we were on a fence line, more or less, with some tall grass and we didn’t have a backer, there were no trees or anything around us. We just had tall grasses that didn’t get cut from the harvesting of the crop on the backside. I’ve hunted so many times where I’ve had geese finish in tight to fence lines, in tight to wood lines even, around here and it’s always a challenge. If I can get them that much closer, I want him that much closer. But typically, I would say 9 times out of 10, I want my x to be about 10-15 yards in front of my blind. Wherever we’re setting, that’s where I want the birds to see.
Ramsey Russell: Why? These guns are capable of killing the goose at 40 yards. What the heck difference does it make? I’m being facetious here, but I know how you think. I’m leading up there.
TJ Sirovatka: One reason to me, it’s a challenge. If I do everything right, there should be no reason that those birds don’t get to 10 yards. If my hide is good, and they can’t pick out anything, they’re going to finish. If they like the music I’m blowing, if they like what tune I’m playing, there’s no reason that they won’t be right in your lap. Every time I go out, that’s my goal. That’s my challenge. I’ve hunted with a lot of guys that I’ll let birds go at 25-30 yards. If they’re not doing it the way I want them to do it, I’ll let them go. They beat me. It’s a contest to me. I’m trying to fool Mother Nature with plastic decoys and an acrylic or a wood goose call, and I win when I get them at 10 yards and they land right in the middle. Today was a perfect scenario of what I wanted to happen. Those birds, with how the spread was, they finished right directly in front of our blind. They weren’t left or right until the first gun went off. They were centered up on you and I. It was perfect.
Ramsey Russell: TJ Ten-Yards. Ten-Yard TJ, is that what they call you?
TJ Sirovatka: TJ Ten-Yards, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: TJ Ten-Yards. You’ve got a pretty big reputation for this.
TJ Sirovatka: I got that nickname or handle last year hunting with Lee and Luke Kjos. It just stuck. Around here, a lot of birds get shot by people that just pass shoot, or they’ll sky bust, unfortunately. I’m so against that, not only from an ethical standpoint of being a hunter, but that’s not a challenge to me. Anybody can go and stand on a fence line or in some trees and shoot geese that fly over at treetop level. I’ve seen a lot of crippled birds that way. It was never sporting to me that way. It was no fun, because I wasn’t doing anything to influence those birds to come in tight or to do what I want them to do to finish in the pocket or in the spread, on the X, where I wanted him to be. I just said, “I’m not going to do that.”
Ramsey Russell: Everybody starts off, that has been hunting for decades, it’s like a progression, and I don’t think it’s a step. I don’t think you say there’s five phases to a duck hunter or ten phases or whatever. It’s more of like just a gradient and you find yourself. I remember being younger and I just wanted to kill a duck and then later wanted to get limits and then later wanted to be a rock star and shoot more and more and be better. I hunted Mississippi public land, which I got into good, which made me competitive, which made me have to play a more perfect game. Now, many years later, we were talking about this over dinner last night. It’s really not the limit. It’s not a part of it. I can leave with one duck. Yes, I’d like to shoot more but I can leave with one duck or one goose, happy, as long as I didn’t have the opportunity that I blew or missed over ineptness or poor shooting or not paying attention. As long as I play that clean game and I know I’m leaving with one, but that was the duck God gave me and I made it happen. You can say, if I leave with one and I could have shot three or five or six, that’s a huge disappointment. I failed the game. But I see that progression, when it was there, a time in your life that you can think back on. When you were jump shooting ducks in high school, you didn’t have that ethos. At some point in time it just is something snapping and it becomes very important, how the decoys are placed, how the birds respond, when I’m going to shoot the birds. Can you remember that?
TJ Sirovatka: I would guess it was in high school, because that’s when I really started to get more into it. I worked and saved up money, bought decoys, and was able to do things on my own. I could go and, when I was able to drive, take myself out to the fields, do the scouting, do the pre-season work to get ready. Each time out there was a new challenge. What if I wait, what if I give him two more seconds, what are they going to do? Can I land them? When’s the right time to pull the trigger? When’s the right time to call a shot? I just kept giving it more time, giving it more time. Once it became natural to get these birds to finish and sit down in the spread, that’s what does it for me.
Ramsey Russell: Your description of that reminds me of when I really first got into hunting over in Arkansas. I may have told this story online before, but I was hunting with a team over in Arkansas. A fraternity brother and his dad and brother and there was an old man, Mr. Boyd, and down there was the crew chief. We hunted Arkansas public and he called the shots and a bunch of water ducks came in that hole, and I shot, “boom, boom,” he scolded me and the next flock of ducks came in and “boom, boom, boom,” I shot. He told me, “Russell, that’s not the game. Anybody can shoot a duck, it’s 20 yards. The other side of this hole, anybody can shoot these ducks. That’s not our game. We want to land them. It’s not about shooting. We want to own those ducks, we want to talk to them, we want to call them. We want to move a decoy and get to the point and we’re going to shoot, we’re going to kill them because we’re hunters. That’s the grand finale, but we want to own those ducks.” I hear you saying the same thing about goose hunting.
TJ Sirovatka: No question, that’s the game for me. That’s the challenge. I don’t lose sleep over it. If I pass a shot at 25-35 yards on a goose, that’s not finishing the way I want. I’ll get him again, next time around.
Shooting with Number Five Shorties
I said, “Fives? What’s that going to do?”
Ramsey Russell: You told me something very interesting last night, also at dinner. We’re both all-shot shell fans. I know we both shoot them, but you normally shoot those little number five shorties.
TJ Sirovatka: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: For most of the season and you’re shooting a very, what I would think of, as a pretty dang open choke. I would have thought you shot a tighter choking keys, but no, man, you’re getting them in there. Certainly this morning’s performance, those little number five shorties were clobbering them.
TJ Sirovatka: Oh, they mash keys. All our geese here are bigger honkers. We get the occasional lesser that moves through here, but they’re big geese and they’re tough. They’re the bullies. I started shooting shorties a year and a half ago, two years ago now. Lee Kjos introduced me to Boss. I remember him giving me a box of shells and he goes, “Try these out,” and I said, “Fives? What’s that going to do?” I was hooked. I first started shooting them in the spring snow goose season. When I was guiding out in the Dakotas at the time and snow geese are typically a further shot than Canada geese. They were just folding geese at 60, consistently. The way that those birds were getting hit was just eye opening to me. I haven’t seen that since growing up with my dad, shooting lead.
Ramsey Russell: The good old days.
TJ Sirovatka: Yeah, being an older individual, I was fortunate enough to shoot lead when I started and then steel came along and, man, did we have to adjust to that.
Ramsey Russell: What were you shooting prior to Boss? You don’t have to say a name brand, but what we’ve been a typical load you were chambering to shoot these geese?
TJ Sirovatka: Earlier in the year before the geese started getting that bigger extra layer of fat and down on them, I’d shoot three inch shells, consistently, three inch deuces, ones and double B’s. I was wrapped up in that whole fad of, “You got to shoot 3.5. You got to shoot 3.5 inch double or triple B to kill these things,” and I got in that mode. I was, unfortunately, one of those guys and I did that for years.
Ramsey Russell: Well, if it works, it works. In the last 30 years, since steel shot came along, all of us old duck hunters have been trying to replace old sure shot lead shells of yesteryear with something. I feel like we’ve become prey to some really slick marketing. “Hey, come substitute my technology for skill set or for really good shells.” I’ve shot the 3.5 and probably had to get a few fillings replaced shooting those things. A lot of young people still do shoot 3.5s. But one of the hardest things in talking to people about Boss Shotshells is when you start talking at two and three quarter inch chamber. There’s people, very good, avid duck and goose hunters out here that their entire lives, they shot either 3 inch or 3.5 inch. It’s hard to find a two and three quarters still shot shell. When you start telling them to go the other way down the scale, they just don’t believe it. But I thought that’s really interesting because this morning, just for shits and giggles, I had some 3 inch 4, and I just shot Canada geese, big, littles, and middles, with the two and three quarter inch five specs and snows, all of them. But I just wanted to shoot those 3 inch 4s. It was just a whooping on them. It was a little overkill for what you had those birds right on the deck.
Perfecting the Goose Hunting Game
“I’d do it every day for the rest of my life.”
TJ Sirovatka: Not to change the subject, but you had asked me earlier about the closeness that I like to get the geese at. When you think about it, when you call the shot, the first trigger goes off after you say take them, kill them, whatever. It’s two seconds, maybe, before you pull that first trigger and now that goose that was at 10 yards with his feet down is at 15 one round, second round at 20-25, depending on the wind. Now you want to rip three shells off by that time that goose is on at 30-40. I don’t shoot the cripple and I can get three successful shots off when I call it at 10 yards, and birds don’t run away, walk away sore. It doesn’t happen, especially with these shells.
Ramsey Russell: Right. What do you see? Because you’re in social media, you’ve got an account, you duck hunt a lot, you know a lot of guys. What do you see or perceive, I shouldn’t say this is reality, but what do you perceive as different from the average guy out there goose hunting and what you do? You see the question I’m trying to ask. Not everybody is TJ Ten-Yards, not everybody shares that. What do you think it is about that? Why? What do you think they haven’t yet experienced or missed or seen or done that just got them playing a different game than what you’re doing? I’m not saying their game is wrong, I’m just saying you’ve elevated it.
TJ Sirovatka: There aren’t a lot of people around here that are my age, first and foremost. The years that I went out and hunted by myself, 8-10 years, I’d get up every morning and go and do this myself. I’d set an entire spread by myself and pick up. Years ago, when I first started, there were a few years you could only shoot one goose in the state and that was your limit. I’d do it every day for the rest of my life.
Ramsey Russell: You were saying last night that’s really when you got hooked on geese. I remember you saying that the limit was one goose and you couldn’t get enough of it.
TJ Sirovatka: Absolutely. I think it was just the fact of growing up being taught the right way to hunt by my father. This isn’t a blood sport by any means. It’s not a numbers game. Appreciate the outdoors and take in everything that has to offer. We didn’t have to pull the trigger this morning. You probably heard me saying multiple times we had some swans that came in.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, boy.
TJ Sirovatka: Watching those swans go by at 5 to 10 yards, fly right by with blue sky in the background, that says it all for being a hunter, enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer. Taking it all in. You mentioned the sky. It was overcast this morning till the sun came up, wind was blowing, glistening snow and cut cornfield. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t need to shoot birds. I’ve shot thousands of birds.
Ramsey Russell: I cannot argue with that, but like myself, the minute the sky started filling up with geese, you got serious.
TJ Sirovatka: Don’t get me wrong, I want to shoot geese.
Ramsey Russell: You weren’t out there to watch the sunrise, I’ll tell you right now. As Josey would put it, I saw your fangs come out.
TJ Sirovatka: I’m there to do a job. I’ve got something to do, but it’s just taking it all in, those picture perfect mornings like that, even if they don’t include a limit. A lot of people don’t get to experience that. I lost my dad years ago and he’s always with me when I’m out there, but not having him by my side to hunt. Would he be out there if he had a chance? Absolutely. That’s a huge drive. It always has been for me. I want to continue to do this until I physically can’t do it anymore. I’ll probably have somebody drag me out in a wheelchair to sit in a blind if I need to. It’s my obsession.
Ramsey Russell: It all makes sense out there in a duck blind, sometimes. There’s so much craziness in the world sometimes. Life just makes sense. It makes sense to me: the order, the decoy spread, the interaction with the wildlife, watching the sun come up, talking to the birds, shooting the birds, skinning the birds, smoking the birds, it all just makes sense. Perfect sense. The dog knows her rules, the geese know how to play, we all play their rules. Life just makes sense then. Tell me, yesterday we went out scouting and a lot of the birds were not yet in the field. Was that because of the snow? Did that mess them up?
TJ Sirovatka: They had fed in the morning and I think they were out late, later than normal. The snow started at about 10:30 or 11 here, and I think the birds knew that it was coming. They sat out longer than normal in the field in the morning. We didn’t see anything in the fields last night, driving around. There were quite a few birds on the water that we saw, especially at the refuge nearby. I had scouted the area for days so I knew the areas that they were working and they showed up.
Scouting for the Hunt in WI
“You’re just an avid goose hunter.”
Ramsey Russell: Based on tomorrow’s weather report, what are you expecting?
TJ Sirovatka: It’s supposed to be 36, right around 35-36 degree again, just like today. The wind changes tomorrow. Today it was west and tomorrow I think it will be north east. Another wintry mix is supposed to hit. We’ll probably see some snow, some sleep and then it changes to rain late morning.
Ramsey Russell: They’ll probably want to come out and feed the first chance they get. You think they’ll come out during the wintry mix? The wintry mix is supposed to hit around nine in the morning, so they’ll probably want to come out and get a bite to eat before then?
TJ Sirovatka: Yeah, with this snow on the ground and the colder temps now, it’s go time. Being here in North-Western Wisconsin, that’s what you look for, because there comes a time where you make that switch. I’ve always said it, my friends always laugh at me, but these geese get in a mode when that happens, and their bellies overtake their brains. They have got to eat, and it doesn’t matter the time of day, they’re going to get out. They’re not going to just sit on water all day, they’ve got to go eat and when there’s snow on the ground, you could, most of the time, if you do it right, you can decoy geese into a parking lot because they’ve got their mind made up. They’ve got to go get food and you got to capitalize on it, you got to be there.
Ramsey Russell: I know y’all have resident birds up here because everybody has resident birds, it seems like, but these are migrating canadas, aren’t they? A lot of this weather is probably pushing some migrators down.
TJ Sirovatka: It definitely is. This past weekend, we shot some speckled bellies here and that’s the second time hunting in Wisconsin in 30 some years that I’ve even seen speckled bellies. Whether they got pushed from the west or out of the north and got mixed in with some honkers, I don’t know, but it was pretty cool because we had a baker’s dozen, and they just were 10 yards off the deck and they were still maple leafing to get right in the hole. We cleaned up on them. It was pretty cool to see. That was a good morning.
Ramsey Russell: We sure enjoyed this morning’s hunt and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s hunt. TJ, do you have any parting shots or any words of wisdom?
TJ Sirovatka: I am just happy that you’re here. It was a pleasure hunting with you today. I look forward to tomorrow. It’s fun to have hunts like this on a more intimate level and not ten guys in the blind. It’s nice to sit and chat.
Ramsey Russell: I’m glad you brought that up.
TJ Sirovatka: Just enjoy it. That’s what it’s all about.
Ramsey Russell: I hunt with crowds. I hunt with a blind-full. I love a party. That’s fine. But I’m going to tell you, this morning, that really added a whole new dimension that it was me and you. We got along perfectly. You shot your side, I shot my side. It was perfect. Knowing how you are with those geese, I remember, that first flock, before they got sorted, they were up there about 40 yards. I said “We’re going take them?” You go, “Huh? huh?” There’s probably people listening that can’t believe I didn’t shoot.
TJ Sirovatka: I wasn’t trying to handcuff you.
Ramsey Russell: I was smiling ear to ear, looking under the bill of my hat, watching those birds, those big birds have to spend so far out in the field and you’re looking at him and you’re watching them and you’re reading them. When they’re making such a big spin, it’s like “Are they going away?” “No, they’re just getting set up there.” Because they are so big trying to get set up, and it’s just distinctly North American, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I was telling you this morning how I got started down the long, crooked path of GetDucks.com was wanting to go to Canada, to shoot little Canada geese. Up there we shot bigs, middles, and littles. To this day, immediately after the first hunt, I just realized how much differently those big B52s are and how much happier I was when they came in. Especially in the layout blind when you’re looking right over the top of your feet. It’s just getting bigger and bigger and bigger, coming in slow motion, not flapping, just sliding in and your heart is about to “beat-beat-beat.” Because they look like they’re shoot-able when out there 40 yards, but it is getting closer and I just really realized this morning how much I truly love giant Canada goose hunting.
TJ Sirovatka: Like I said, I could do it every day, all day. 365. Even if I don’t shoot anything.
Ramsey Russell: What is your Instagram account handle? You’re no guide or outfitter. You’re just an avid goose hunter. TJ Ten-Yards
TJ Sirovatka: TJ Ten-Yards.
Ramsey Russell: TJ Ten-Yards, people. Y’all have been listening to my buddy, TJ Ten-Yards, here in Wisconsin. We’re fixing to go scout a field. Thank y’all for listening. Keep up with the road trip. Thank y’all.