"The honkers can't believe their eyes when they spot these huge decoys," reports McWilliams. "Even if they're miles away they'll change direction to investigate. They'll even land on them and start pecking." McWilliams' hunters rarely allow such intimacy, blasting away as the birds draw into their sights. The gunners have enjoyed gory success on forays with McWilliams—which cost up to $75 a day and which naturally sparked anger in rival guides, not to mention the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Indeed, on the assumption that what's not good for the goose or gander should not be good for the guide, the local federal warden is enforcing for the first time a Cibola refuge regulation that decoys be no more than 36 inches long. This will render worthless McWilliams' $2,000 investment in 13 decoys acquired from the Klamath Falls, Oreg. firm of Neumann & Bennetts.
Without this competitive edge, McWilliams fears his $2,000 guiding income will be cut in half. (In the summer off-season he runs a boat shop at the Havasu Springs resort near Parker, where he lives in a mobile home with wife Tricia, who is expecting their first child in August.)
If the ban—which so far is not in force in other federal areas—sticks, McWilliams claims he will miss most "the sense of accomplishment in fooling a honker. I respect these birds and they seem to be getting smarter every year. Their desire to survive is a lot more powerful than anything a government bureaucrat can do."
Ed McWilliams, 31, came from the big city and soon began showing the hunting guides in the Colorado River Basin how a Detroit big shot operates. McWilliams' ruse is as old as the Trojan horse. He deploys plastic decoys—large enough (4'-by-5') for a hunter to crouch inside to lure wild geese into range—in the Cibola national refuge near Parker, Ariz.