Like two peas but lying in their individual pods, we snuggled into our blinds. Dad was in a layout blind, I sat on a reclining legless camping chair and cloaked myself with the remnants of the pea field stubble. Geese were coming.
The evening before, while driving home after visiting our friend in the hospital, I had spotted geese. First came a flock flying low over the highway, originating from a small slough. Then, I saw the rest stationed on the opposing field. Dad and I immediately became excited, and after dropping Mom off at home, returned to the scene. There were tons of them, literally, peppering the golden harvested crop. First came a flock flying low over the highway, originating from a small slough.
Continuing on to a neighbouring ranch belonging to longtime friends of ours, we enquired who the field might belong to. A phone number transpired, and a tour of their trophy room later, we had all the information we needed. A quick ring to the farmer produced permission, so we quickly got our things together for the next morning.
The alarm rang at 4:45 and we got a quick start. Due to the extreme fire hazard from the dangerously dry conditions in Alberta at the moment, we did not drive across the field. Rather, we lugged all the decoys, blinds, shotguns, and accessories approximately half a kilometre from the vehicle. My Geovid HD-Bs confirmed our confidence that we were the legal 200 yards from the nearest farm building, and then some.
Twisting heads, necks and bodies together, our magnum Canada goose decoys were assembled. Now, we created a classic V-formation facing into the building northerly wind and blended our blinds into the spread. Exactly at legal shooting light, half an hour before sunrise, we were ready. Let the games begin! The waiting game that is. An angry dark purple sky to the north promised a shower, whereas the pastel horizon to the east presented an unforgettable sunrise. The musty smell of autumn hung heavily in the morning air.
Half an hour into shooting light, I was started to wonder why the flocks hadn’t sent their scouts out yet. “Don’t worry” whispered Dad, Canada’s are quite late to start, usually right around sunrise. Sure enough, the first two arrived; low! Dad shot one from that first flock, but that didn’t deter the many other flocks from coming in. Despite our relatively meagre spread (30 decoys), these early season, local geese were not yet accustomed to the dangers that accompany decoys, and flew in naively.
Dad’s coaxing calling steered the birds in our direction. Hunkered in my blind, I could hear the honking getting closer and the wingbeats getting louder. From pairs to larger flocks with twenty birds, we saw it all. This was one of our best Canada goose shoots to date. If I had shot better, we both surely would have reached our daily limits. In total, we connected with 10 birds.
Every time Dad and I were looking to leave, new birds would fly in. A few times we would hit the deck on the stubble and hope our yellow camouflage did the trick. Often it worked and yes, blondes do have more fun. Eventually tired of being constantly caught out in the open, we stuck it out another hour in our blinds and left only very late when there was absolutely nothing flying.
We called it a day and had plenty of work waiting for us at home; plucking. If you think about the disconnection that much of today’s society has to its food’s origin, plucking could be considered a lost art. Some mature birds without many pin feathers went easily, while others, the juveniles, not so much.
We shared our bounty with a neighbour, an acquaintance of ours. Known far and wide as “the lady who loves to eat geese,” she was tickled pink. We all know the saying: “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” Well, in this case the chicken were geese. Overjoyed with the fresh meat and down to stuff pillows, she later gifted us eggs from the chickens roaming her farm. Talk about sustainable, organic, and local produce.
As a goodbye meal the next day, for I was returning to chiropractic studies in England, Mom prepared our traditional meal of roast goose, mashed potatoes from the garden, and German red cabbage. My childhood, and present day, favourite supper. We live globally, but when it comes to food, nothing beats local.