Goose Break evolves as hunters face new challenges

The 2013 Goose Break got off to a good start without the early thaw that has hampered recent years.

Eeyou Istchee communities have become ghost towns as most folks have left for their traditional shooting grounds. Many are contemplating extending the break to take advantage of a strong geese migration. “Everyone’s gone out for the break,” said Shirley Moss, Executive Secretary to the Chief of Eastmain. “The Chief might even extend his outing, if it’s good hunting out there.”

Getting a first goose is a moment of pride for many young hunters who have passed that milestone during this Goose Break. Randy Mapachee, a 14-year-old from Washaw Sibi, bagged his first goose on April 15 by the Harricana River.

Being the first to get a goose in each community is another achievement for any hunter. Arthur Bosum, from Ouje-Bougoumou, shot the community’s first goose on April 20 by Lac Laura near Chapais. And in Mistissini on April 22, Don Macleod, President of the Auberge Mistissini Lodge, got the first goose of the year around Mistassini Post.

Many were able to travel to their goose camps by snow machine this spring. Last year’s unusually warm weather hampered the hunt. “Many weren’t able to travel to their camps because of the early melt,” noted Sam Shecapio of Waskaganish. ”Some were able to go by helicopter, but the high price made it difficult for most.”

An early spring thaw is dangerous as people can get trapped or injured in a rapidly changing landscape with overflowing rivers.

The recent warm weather, however, has caused several road washouts from rapidly melting snow. “A lot of it has been happening around the inland Cree communities,” said Cree Radio Network host Roderick Rabbitskin of Mistissini. Highways around Nemaska, Chibougamau and Ouje-Bougoumou were flooded in late April to early May and required emergency repairs.

It is hard to determine exactly how climate change is affected migrating geese on their annual journey to Arctic breeding grounds. But their flight paths are changing noticeably with every passing year. Many lakes that are usually frozen at this time of year are now ice free. Along with the serious danger of travelling by skidoo over thin ice, the warming climate is shortening the season for Cree goose hunters.

That’s why some hunters now start their season earlier by heading to Ontario, where there geese migrations happen earlier in the year, and where local residents welcome income from the hunters. The community of Alfred, half way between Montreal and Ottawa, is a favourite among growing numbers of Cree hunters seeking a head start to the goose-hunting season.

“Three years ago it was only a handful of people going down south,” said Sam Shecapio of Waskaganish. “Now whole families go to Ontario during Goose Break and the fall.”

As the extended Goose Break comes to a close, the summer fishing season is right around the corner. We hope that your Goose Break was bountiful in both the memories shared with family and the number of geese harvested.