Click here to view an Omaha.com Viewfinder blog post from photographer Matt Miller about Ralph Kohler and his wife, Dorothy.
Ralph Kohler thought he'd seen it all.
Then it nearly hit him between the eyes.
A lone Canada goose was buzzing the 94-year-old commercial hunter's goose pits near Tekamah, Neb. Hunters caught its attention with a few calls. It turned back toward the decoys.
Peering at it through the broom grass that covered his blind, Kohler waited, waited, waited — and then called the shot.
About three shotguns fired. The goose tumbled from the sky.
And plowed into Kohler. A direct hit.
Kohler caught enough of a gander at the goose moments before it hit to turn his head and avoid a face-to-carcass collision.
The 10-pound bird struck Kohler's shoulder and back, bloodied his jacket, crashed through the broom grass and fell dead at his boots.
“I'm a little sore, just like another arthritis pain,'' he said.
Kohler has hosted more than 50,000 people over the decades at his waterfowl blinds. They sit on a man-made pond not far from the Missouri River, about 60 miles north of Omaha. He has seen other hunters struck by falling geese, but it had never happened to him.
Until early Saturday afternoon.
Kohler said he should have been watching more closely but started to turn away the moment the bird was hit.
Visiting hunters Gaylan Abood and John Gondring, who live in the Elkhorn area, were in Kohler's blind. Nine other hunters were divided between two other blinds.
Abood hit the bird with a shot from his Browning Gold 12-gauge. The goose was about 30 yards high.
“As I shot it, I could see it was coming down toward the blinds,'' Abood said. “I yelled. Ralph ducked.''
The crash startled Kohler.
“It made a heck of a racket,'' he said. “Sounded like the blind exploded.''
Kohler recalled a similar incident nearly a decade ago when a dead goose hit one of his club members, breaking his glasses and knocking him out for a minute.
“He just went out like a light,'' Kohler said.
This is Kohler's 74th year calling the shots for members of his hunting club and paying visitors. He's in his blind almost daily during duck and goose seasons.
Kohler quit bringing a shotgun to the field years ago. He perches on an elevated office chair at the end of a blind rigged with a telephone and an intercom system. He pokes his head through the grassy cover to scan the sky for ducks and geese — and to watch the beauty of the sunrise, shifting clouds, rippling water and decoying birds.
Abood's goose fell to earth with knockdown power.
“No ill effects,'' Kohler said. “Just a little sore. I feel like it was a 25-pounder.''
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