Last spring my son Joseph Seth, who was 11 at that time, had two good chances to kill his first goose. He used my 12-gauge shotgun to shoot two loners that had landed at our blind but he missed both times. They were within range and I was really hoping he would kill his first goose. My firearms license was for possession only so I was not able to buy a proper shotgun that would have been more suitable for his size. He missed because the 12-gauge shotgun was too big and awkward for him to handle. After our hunt I made up my mind that I would get my acquisition license in the coming year so I could get him either a .410 or a 20-gauge shotgun for next year.
I wrote my test back in February for my acquisition license and my son was so happy to know I passed. It takes time to process the application so there was a waiting period of at least 60 days. He kept checking the mail often to see if it had come in. Finally the license arrived a few days before we left for our spring hunt in Moose Factory. As soon as I got the license we went to Le Baron Outdoor Products where I usually buy my shells and hunting gear. In advance he had already picked out the 20-gauge shotgun and the 22-calibre he wanted. I suggested a .410 but his mind was made up to get a 20-gauge. Now that we had the right-sized gun I was hopeful that he would kill his first goose this time.
Every hunter knows that it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time when the geese will fly. We arrived by helicopter at our goose camp on April 14. It was still kind of cold and there was quite a bit of snow yet and the geese were not really flying. When we were at the blind I noticed that my son was somewhat reluctant to try out his new 20-gauge. He practiced loading and unloading the gun but somehow he seemed afraid to shoot with it. I tried it out for him and he told me the gun blast was too loud for his ears. I also noticed that it was slightly big for him because he had some difficulty to position it properly on his shoulder. However, he was quite attached to his 22-cal-ibre and seemed quite eager to do target shooting with it. I told him that he can’t kill a goose with his 22-calibre and I encouraged him to shoot his 20-gauge but he wouldn’t. I began to have my doubts about him killing his first goose.
One thing that impressed me about my son was to see how natural it was for him to fit in at the camp. He must have inherited that from his grandparents. He has a hard time to get up for school in the city but at the camp he didn’t mind waking up early in the morning to have breakfast before we went to the blind. He was really excited about hunting and sometimes he would wake me up while it was still dark at night and say, “Dad, what time is it?” As far as he was concerned we went there to hunt and kill geese. One time a large flock of geese flew close to our blind but I told him they were too far away to shoot. The next thing I knew he was standing up in the blind and shooting at them with his 22. I had to smile to myself as I watched him shooting at the geese. He seemed content to be at the blind as long as he was shooting his gun.
It was Wednesday afternoon on April 17 when he killed his first goose. The way it happened was very dramatic and I don’t think I will ever forget it for the rest of my life. We didn’t have much food and snacks in our pack-sacks so I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the camp. I planned to cook a hot meal for us so we could enjoy our evening hunt better. We walked back to the camp using snowshoes because the snow was getting soft and was quite deep. Shortly after we ate our lunch we made our way back to our blind. My son had his 22 with him and he was walking slowly ahead of me. Once in awhile he would turn around and quietly tell me to keep quiet. He really expected geese to be at the blind because he knew that sometimes they land when nobody is there. I was not as optimistic as he was because I kept thinking that even if there were geese there they would hear us and fly away.
My son’s pace got even slower as we got closer to the blind. As it turned out there actually was a goose amongst the decoys. At first he didn’t see it until I pointed it out to him. He took off his snowshoes and proceeded to walk slowly towards the blind while I stayed back to watch and coach him. The goose was still quite far from us when my son took his first shot. The goose jumped up in the air but didn’t fly away when it heard the shot. My son took another shot and this time the goose started to fly away but just for a few seconds. It landed close to the blind. Apparently my son wounded the goose so it couldn’t fly away but it started to quickly walk away for safety. He started to chase it and kept shooting at it with his 22. There were actually two geese at the blind and I managed to grab my gun and shoot the other one.
Meanwhile, my son was still shooting at his goose and needed help loading his gun. He was really excited that he was shooting at a goose and in his haste he kept missing it. He distinctly told me not to shoot it because he wanted to kill it all by himself. I told him to get closer while I was busy filling his magazine with bullets. He must have shot it at least 12 times before he finally hit it again. This time the goose was fatally wounded and couldn’t move. It was a proud moment for me as a father to pick up the goose and then to congratulate my son for killing his first goose.
When Little Joe killed his goose I knew without a doubt that it was an answer to our prayers. My wife Sheila and I were praying for him to kill his first goose on this trip. The odds seemed to be against him but nothing is impossible with God. I remembered what my late uncle, Walter Katapatuk, once told me about the animals. He said that when God gives you animals as a gift their reasoning is taken away and they will not be afraid. I was so amazed that the two geese we killed were not afraid at all. The goose I killed kept circling close to the blind so that I couldn’t miss. When I told my older brother Allan that Little Joe killed a goose with his 22 he was surprised and found it hard to believe.
As a parent one of the things I try to do with my son is to spend quality time with him as much as I can. I do this because I know it is essential for fathers to connect with their sons. When my son and I are by ourselves we talk a lot and share a lot of laughs. He has a good sense of humour and sometimes tells me some of his jokes. As his father I feel proud to teach him some of the things I personally enjoy doing like swimming, baseball, golfing, hockey, guitar playing and, of course, goose hunting. He enjoys my company and says that I’m his best friend.
Probably one of the greatest compliments he ever gave me was when he told me, “Dad, you’re the best teacher.” I know that the most important thing I can ever teach him is to know God and to have a right relationship with Him.
I feel I have succeeded in that area.