Over in Mistissini, Don Macleod shot the first goose, again. It was an early spring for this inland community with the snow and ice melting away quite quickly. With the water moving faster, due to an early thaw, the geese were unable to land, making kills difficult and fewer than previous years. For some camps the hunt was good, for others, not so much.
Keeping the spirit of goose break alive, the James Bay Cree Communication Society played goose calls in the background of its usual broadcasts throughout the break. The JBCCS also held a goose-call contest. Jasmine Petawabano of Mistissini won first prize, earning herself some handy decoys – courtesy of Cree Sports & Outdoors. Second prize went to Clayton Gunner, also of Mistissini, who
won a case of shells, sponsored by Meechum. Third prize went to Patrick Blueboy of Waskaganish who won a hunting kit courtesy of JBCCS.
Around the corner in Waswanipi, Albert – or as his friends like to call him, Albet – proudly shot the first goose in the community. Paul Dixon said that though it’s “never a bad hunt,” the ice was too thin and therefore melted away too quickly for the inland people to have a stellar year. As Dixon stated, though the thrill is never in the kill, there will be fewer geese in the freezers of Waswanipi. As suspected, there was better hunting to be had around Waswanipi Lake and Omo Lake.
In Chisasibi, Chris Iserhoff shot the first goose, and much like in other areas within the Cree Nation, there were fewer geese than there were in previous years as the snow went away quite quickly. According to Sam Cox, the geese hit Chisasibi a week later than usual but only stuck around for one week. Though there were less geese, ducks and small birds around, Cox’s camp still did well, bringing in around 280 geese at their LG2 camp. While at the camp, there were six walking-out ceremonies involving four new Cree children and two non-Natives strolling across the land for the first time.
Larry Tomatuk got the first goose of the season. According to the CTA in Eastmain, goose break wasn’t too bad this year for the community. Apparently there were bears at the Conn River camp and Redfern Mark Stewart shot one on May 15 and Clayton Tomatuk shot another the following day. Jordan Miller, 14, shot his first goose on his first hunt and Rachel Mayappo, 12, also got her first kill.
“The harvest was down. There were not a lot of geese this year. It was raining all of the time and that is not normal for here,” said Barley Shecapio Blacksmith in regards to goose break in Ojay.
According to James Neeposh, “Goose break went pretty well. There were a lot of kills but not as many as there were in years before. The weather was okay, but we had a lot of rain. There were lots of birds landing but I couldn’t tell you if anyone in particular killed many.”
Brian Frank shot the first goose. In some areas the hunt was just so and so. According to the Waskaganish band office, it seemed as though the geese were just flying through and not stopping to linger around for a bit. Like in other communities, the snow melted too quickly. Last year the snow was there for much longer, contributing to better hunting.
According to George Katapatuk at the band office, where he was hunting just outside of Waskaganish, goose hunting wasn’t that good. “At the beginning it was okay but the geese weren’t flying as much as they usually do. They seemed to fly right through. There were strong north winds and snow storms and I guess the geese just flew up and north instead of flying back and forth and they were flying very high so people had a hard time getting them.”
Like the majority of the Cree communities, according to Katapatuk, most folks did not end up going home with their usual quota of geese due to strange weather patterns and early spring conditions. Despite this, many of the men around the camp kept themselves entertained by hunting ducks and did very well when it came to duck hunting.
At the same time Katapatuk’s grandson, Keenan Katapatuk Hester, 6, managed to get his first kill, injuring a goose with a .410 and finally killing it with his uncle’s assistance. Later on that day, Keenan shot and killed one on his own. According to Katapatuk, his grandson wasn’t eager to go home after his first two kills and wanted to shoot more but unfortunately the geese weren’t flying and he couldn’t continue to get more. “The boy was the talk of the camp for the entire break.”
In Nemaska, George Wapachee said that for himself goose break was okay but that a different story may come from other community members as, once again, the spring came pretty early leaving expansive pools of water and nowhere where geese could be confined. “Instead they were simply flying over the camps near Nemaska. It wasn’t that good of a season. Some people I know even went down south to Cornwall to a reserve there to hunt,” said Wapachee.
For the community of Nemaska there seemed to be fewer ducks and geese around this goose break and from what Wapachee said, the birds might have chosen to fly at night as they could not really be seen during the day in the Mountain Lake area. This is the way things have been going for the last four or five years. “Certainly there has been a change in the weather pattern. It’s either that or the geese are just getting smarter. I kept seeing them fly on Sundays when we don’t hunt,” said Wapachee
According to Ron Sheshamush, the goose break in Whapmagoostui was “terrible!”
The geese were flying high and they did not land, Sheshamush explained. “They were on the go and did not stop for feeding.” Sheshamush waved at the birds as they passed over. Though some community members did manage to get some kills, by no means could this year compare to Whapmagoostui’s stellar performance last year. On a brighter note, young Brian Kawapit was the first child in the community to kill a goose — which was also his first kill. There was also significantly less snow geese on the east coast this year but plenty inland.
It was not a good goose-hunting year for Edward Georgekish of Wemindji who was at his camp with many others at Kilometre 196 on the Trans-Taiga Road. Though Goergekish said he only shot one goose compared to the 30 he had killed the year before, he and his wife kept themselves occupied by scraping moose and caribou hide. The hunting party at this camp did manage to kill about 100 geese during the course of the goose break but it was not a great year for the community as, once again, the snow disappeared rather quickly and the geese just weren’t sticking around. Much to his delight however, Goregekish’s one-and-a half-year-old granddaughter, Keisha, had her walking-out ceremony while up at the camp.