The soul-stirring vocalizations of Canada geese announcing their return from the north is a harmonious rhythm of nature that coincides with the fall grain harvest. Guided by an unerring internal guidance system, gigantic flocks of Canada, blue, snow, and speckled geese joyously honk and cackle as they arrive at their wintering grounds on the Eastern Shore.
Growing up on a farm on the Wye River in the 1970s, it was not uncommon to see 10,000 geese land on the river in a single afternoon. It still amazes me how such a cacophony of individual birds sounding their cry of welcome could blend into a perfect symphony of celebration. If wild geese are the orchestra of autumn, then Sean Mann is undisputed maestro of those drawn here to pursue these wonders of nature.
I’ve been friends with Mann since we attended high school together, and he is genuinely optimistic with unbridled energy and a contagious sense of humor. Using the same tenacity he displayed on the lacrosse field, Mann parlayed his passion for waterfowl hunting into a successful career spanning 34 years.
A native Eastern Shoreman, Mann is a local icon among hunters and guides alike, and in the national and international waterfowl hunting industries. While Mann is proud of the contests he has won and the titles he holds (including World Goose Calling Champion), he is even prouder of numerous others who have won contests using his calls.
He is as happy to win a contest as he is to see another competitor outdo him.
“If you are going to compete in a calling contest, you want to be competing against others who are also bringing their A game. You can’t win every contest, but you can do your best … and can heartily congratulate whomever does win,” Mann said.
Devoted family man, convivial host, and vibrant storyteller, Mann is also highly skilled in the ways of his craft. Mann’s knowledge of waterfowl habits and biology benefits hunters, naturalists and photographers who work with him.
Mann is busy guiding hunts in the fall and winter, and he spends the rest of the year at Sean Mann Outdoors making and selling high quality waterfowl calls.
“I was five years old when my dad first took me hunting,” Mann said. “I was the youngest of five sons and to be invited to hunt was an acknowledgement that I could be trusted with this family tradition. It was like being invited to ‘sit at the big boys table.’
“When I was seven years old, Dad let me shoot a .410, handing me only one shell at a time, because with only one shot I had to make it count. On one hunt, while dad was snoozing, I called in and harvested my first goose on my own — I was hooked.”
For Mann and his family, as it is for many on the Shore, hunting has been a tradition for generations, a way for family members to spend time together both enjoying nature and putting food on the table.
“It has been a way of passing along life lessons and wisdom from generation to generation,” he said. “My father taught me firearms safety and the serious nature of using a gun to take an animal’s life.”
When Mann was a child, his father opened The Gun Shop across from the Tidewater Inn.
“As a student, I would beg to go to the shop after school. If my homework was done, I could stay until closing. I wiped down the counter and all the guns. If no customers were there, my dad was a captive audience to answer all my questions on guns and hunting. When guides and customers were there, I listened with rapt attention to all their stories, insights, and calling. I was hungry to learn all I could and stored every bit of information away as the most valuable of treasures,” Mann said.
The Eastern Shoreman is Mann’s signature call, and he has always been fascinated with Canada geese. (My dad did a lot of things well, but calling geese was not one of them — until he started using the Eastern Shoreman.)
When his father would drive him around the area looking at geese in the fields, Mann would hold a tape recorder out the window to record the sounds they made.
“To me, the sound of a goose is music to my ear. Just as musicians can pick up a guitar and play it for hours all alone, long after hunting season is over, I can sit on my back porch and blow one of my calls and be lost in total reverie.”
Mann reflects on his family history, as well as the future of hunting.
“My dad would never have dreamed of going hunting and not involving the boys. I am stunned at the numbers of men I see hunting without their children,” Mann said. “The number of hunters is declining nationally because of this detachment of hunting parent from uninvited child. For whatever reason, these parents are missing out on one of the greatest opportunities to influence their child by teaching them so much of which hunting involves—ethics, sportsmanship, camaraderie, confidence, and much more. Parents need to involve their children in hunting, and I can guarantee they will be glad they did. They will grow closer to their children and make lifetime memories.”