Big Game Guide

Regard, I have happened upon our Department of Fish and Game Licensed Big Game Guides Web page. I envision a Great Hunter, right boot placed on a dead beast's ribs, Italian shooter shirt opened at the chest, and a .50 caliber Barrett M99 hanging off one shoulder. Whiskey and croquet anyone?

Of course, it's not like that. It's like this: Danny Moss. El Centro. Hunting services: Rifle/Shotgun. Hunting Species: Deer, Quail, Dove, Waterfowl, Pheasant. Other Services: Photography.

* * *

"I do goose and duck hunts," says Danny Moss, 46.

I ask, "How did you go about getting your big-game license?"

"Applied through the state."

"Just, 'Hi. I'm Danny and I want a license.'?"

"There's an application process," Moss says. "They want to know if you've guided for somebody before. They ask questions about the equipment you have and the things you do. I guess it goes through a review board. Costs 250 dollars a year."

I've got to have one of those. "How many people do you guide in a year?"

"Probably 150 to 180. When I do goose hunts, they're a minimum of four people on a hunt and a maximum of six. We do anywhere from 20 to 25 hunts a year.

Strangers with guns. "Taking out that many people, you must run into some jerks. What do you do with them?"

Moss says, "If you can't abide the few rules I have, 'Wait until I call to shoot geese.' Or, trying to shoot in front of everybody else or over people's heads, then you're asked to leave. It's my property, it's my place, it's my game, so if you don't play by my rules, you leave."

Okay. "And what kind of geese do you hunt?"

"It's mostly snow goose hunting in Imperial Valley," Moss says. "It takes a lot, a lot of decoys. I put out anywhere from 1000 to 2000. It takes two, two and a half hours in the morning to get set up and that long to take them back down."

"How come so many decoys?"

"Snow geese flock in numbers," Moss says. "Last season we had 50,000 snow geese in the valley. To pull snow geese away from those groups, you've got to have a big group for them to come look at. Early in the season, I can get away with 300 to 500 decoys. Early in the season, when the geese are new, they're real decoyable because they haven't seen anything yet. But, later in the season, I got to put out close to 2000 to get them to come in."

A job worth paying someone to do... "How do you lay out a 1000 decoys?"

"I keep them in a big trailer. They're all full-body decoys. I put them out in groups, mix them up on different days. They're not in a straight line; they're in a big group. They cover anywhere from an acre to an acre and a half."

I consider the question of owning 2000 decoys: storing them, maintaining them, trading them, buying them, selling them... "Where do you hunt?"

"South end of the Salton Sea, on the edge of the game refuge," Moss says. "There's the Sonny Bono (Salton Sea National Wildlife) Refuge on the southeast end, holds 30,000, 35,000 snow geese every year."

"You tell your clients, 'Meet me at this place and we'll go hunting.'?"

"Right. Right."

"And you get there a couple hours early..."

"Yeah. I'm out there at 3 a.m. putting decoys out," Moss says. "Meet clients about half hour before shoot time. Get them signed into the guidebook, collect their money, take them out to the field, get set up. We hunt until noon. Sunup to noon is a day hunt. I've had hunts that lasted 20 minutes and hunts that have lasted until noon. Sometimes the hunting is so good, you can sit and pick out the birds you want. Other times it's a bit tougher."

"Does it get old after awhile, picking up 2000 decoys?" That has to get old.

"I've hunted since I was a kid. This is fun for me. It lasts two months out of the year. We hunt three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday. I could have booked five days a week last year, but we wanted to keep pressure off the geese."

What else? "If you're a civilian and want to hunt geese on your own..."

"It would be almost impossible," Moss says. "Because all the property around the refuge is private property, and it's all posted. I've got permission to hunt just about every bit of it around there. And snow geese, typically, don't leave and fly three or four miles to a different field to eat like Canadian geese do. Snow geese don't do that. The refuge plants about 1000 acres of feed for them to come here and stay for the winter. They stay on the refuge. Everything we hunt is just one field off the refuge. It's pulling them out and making them come look and shooting as they come in."

The Vegas Line can be found at SanDiego Reader.com. Click on "Sporting Box."

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