Tom Brittain works hard. He also plays hard. Running a new car dealership is a tough, demanding business. Just ask Brittain. That's why an annual hunting get-away - or two - is a welcomed escape for the East Palestine businessman.
Annually Brittain, and several friends and family members, have traveled west to South Dakota for a pheasant hunt. Usually it's the same group that drives for several hours each November to the Dakotas. Brittain started out 40 years ago hunting with his college roommate, John Carey. Along the way they invited friends to hunt with them and took their sons along when they reached hunting age.
"It started out with 4-5 friends. And the group expanded (to 14-15) when we all started to have boys. Then we'd take them with us," said Brittain of the annual pheasant hunts. He first took his oldest son, Cory, then his youngest son, Tommy, made the trip.
Friends and family gather for a photo after a successful snow goose hunt in Missouri.
Shown are: (kneeling, from left) Larry Liebert, Casey McKnight, Cory Brittain,
Tom Brittain and Paul McKnight, back, Mike Carey, John Carey and Bob Carey.
Over the years some of the pheasant trips have been tough hunting. Mostly because of the weather, according to Brittain. "There's been winters out there when they had 6-7 feet of snow. And when that melts the birds had nowhere to eat. We've seen as many as 1,000 dead pheasants lying in fields, trying to get to food," said Brittain. "You just never know how the weather is going to be."
So, Brittain came across a magazine article that peaked his interest about some great hunting opportunities in Missouri. Further investigation led Brittain to snow goose hunting in the midwest. "They were talking about groups of 100,000 birds migrating, south and north," said Brittain. "They get the migration coming and going."
Although he didn't book the snow goose hunt through an outfitter, Brittain managed to secure enough information and good hunting locations from hunting buddies and outfitters in the Missouri area. So another hunting trip in 2012 was planned. This time the trucks headed toward the Missouri River, about 40 miles south of Kansas City, MO.
Tom Brittain started out 40 years ago hunting with his college roommate, John Carey.
One of the hardest things in planning the goose hunt for Brittain was setting a date for the hunt. The weather had to be a good fit for the bird's migration. The area they would be hunting sits in the key Central Flyway zone. An early February hunt was planned. Eight hunters made the trip. Tom Brittain and son, Cory, traveled from eastern Ohio and met Larry Liebert, Carey, his son, Mike, and John's brother, Bob, in Columbus, OH. Two other hunters, Paul McKnight and his son, Casey, met them in Missouri, where they live.
The timing of the hunt was near perfect, according to Brittain. The birds were in full migration. The weather had allowed area farmers to cut their corn down. And it was before fields needed to be plowed. This makes it difficult to set decoys. "You want the geese to feed in the stubble," said Brittain.
It helped that there were a lot of birds. Brittain said he must have seen a "million birds".
"There would be 200-300 birds together in groups and it never stopped for at least a half hour," added Brittain.
Getting the snow geese to land, or get within shooting range was another story. But Brittain said the group managed to down 80 birds. In Missouri there is no limit for snow geese. So, Brittain said his troupe learned a lot from their first trip to "the Show Me State".
"We'll go back. I know we can do better. You always get better with experience. We'll take a few more guys. And hunt at daylight and dusk and catch them coming and going," said Brittain.
It's a hunting experience Brittain said more people should try. "It's something anybody can do. We complain about them (too many birds), but people don't hunt them. You just have to find a place and you have to get their attention. It's a lot of fun."
Something Brittain enjoys when he's not selling cars.