The lone goose flew overhead, its honk resounding clearly. I responded instinctively, crouching and calling. A neighbor reminded me that I was away from home, visiting a small suburban community outside of Ottawa, and that spring arrives earlier in the south.
The neighbor, wondering what the ruckus was (my goose calling), called me over to his driveway. I explained to this local friendly that I was merely trying to convince my next meal into coming close, but that the goose, unperturbed, landed in the lake nearby, oblivious to his possible fate as my supper.
Yep, itchy trigger and all, goose fever is settling in quickly. If it weren’t for the possibility of catching the Avian flu, goose fever is catching on earlier and earlier every year with no wanted cure in sight.
I hear that hunting in the National Capital area is now allowed in the spring for those willing to take a course and obtain a permit. Go figure, if you can’t catch ’em, join ’em in the cornfields that cover the suburban landscape of the south and do a farmer a favor, kill those delicious pests! Yes, those scavengers of the corn seed will meet their chef soon!Hunting in the south, belying all those years of traditionally maintaining annual migration routes over clusters of naturally camouflaged blinds and landing on ponds that generations of goose hunters laboured over for decades, is becoming quickly accepted as an alternative to the traditions of hunting lore, passed on from father to son.
I’m not saying that the old way of hunting is vanishing the way of the spring goose, but that the need to eat goose has extended into nearly a borderless environment. The southern farmer is more than willing to accommodate the hunger of a Cree in a Trebark™ hunting suit by offering his precious fields so as to defend them from the voracity of the Canada Goose’s seemingly unending appetite and to diminish their ability to destroy a crop overnight.
The irony abounds: wildly different species become birds of a feather come together to save their environment and at the same time sate their needs.
Meanwhile, those who still carry out the traditional rites of passage have come home with nary a feathered fowl and lament that the goose has flown past, either all at once, way too high and out of range, at night, or not at all. Whatever the reason, it’s still not fair.
Some camps do very well, but they seem to be fewer and farther apart and all the best to them. The goose is not just a meal, but an occupation, a means, a tradition that is used in ceremonies and garnishes many a feast and festivity.
I hope that the proper practice and tradition continues, that sand-blasted skin and black-burned lips contrasting with the sunglass outline raccoon that we spring hunters proudly display is something that is synonymous with our way of life.
I think that in time, after being the scarecrow in the cornfields for a few decades, the balance of the annual goose migration will return to normal. Who knows, maybe the geese are the ones that changed the balance of nature by accepting the safety of the farmer’s fields instead of traversing the dangerous lead pellet-lined routes of James Bay, where every pond is for sitting ducks, and everyone is hungry for the roast goose supper!I get in the car in suburbia and say goodbye to neighbor, travel to downtown Ottawa and then head north, ready for another month of waiting for the first geese to arrive in my back yard to cure that growing itch in my trigger finger.