As a rule, Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Canada geese. We love them when they are flying high overhead in spring or autumn. That’s when they remind us of the seasonal changes that are underway. I truly believe if our contact with geese ended there, they might be everyone’s favourite bird.
Sadly, it doesn’t end there. In fact, all those good feelings get thrown asunder the minute you walk on a golf course or any lawn near the waterfront. For these places are where geese remind us of the intestinal changes that are also underway. And therein lies the problem.
In their own way, geese are always giving us crap.
Hunters, typically, don’t mind this, however – probably because we don’t tend to play golf or hang out in parks.
More importantly, the call of a goose still stirs something within the hunter’s heart. It conjures up romantic images of desolate places that we will never visit – like the water feature near the 8th hole. Their pull is so much it almost makes us want to take up golf if only to get very accurate with our drivers.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Hunters in their late 50s will remember a time when geese were rarely encountered, but rather seen and heard overflying Ontario on their way south during the fall migration. Often, their first stop was in the U.S., where presumably the parks and golf courses of the time were much better.
It wasn’t till the late ’70s that goose hunting really took off in Ontario.
I still remember the first goose that my uncle shot at our duck camp. This was in 1980 and we treated it as if he had taken a trophy buck – which tells you how bad we were at bird identification.
Now, geese are much more commonplace and less mysterious than they used to be. Which is to say, most people know goose poop when they see it.
As a result of this history, we hunters have a slightly different love/hate relationship with geese.
We really love them when they justify the thousands of dollars we have spent on guns, ammunition, decoys, camouflage, calls and blinds, by decoying into our set ups or flying by low and slow. We also love them because they are big targets with plenty of delicious meat.
Conversely, we tend to hate geese when they steer wide of an expensive decoy spread or do a u-turn after you have said, “Hey guys. Let me call in this flock. I’m practically an expert at speaking their language.”
Geese are masters of frustrating you that way. I have seen a flock of geese turn just out of range from a decoy spread they were cupping into, because they caught a glint of the brass on a spent shell casing that was not picked up. And I have also seen them land when hunters have put their guns away and are picking up the decoys. If you ever wondered how new swear words are invented, look no further than this.
To their credit, geese are still majestic and, despite their urban tendencies, still wild and wary.
And goose hunters mostly respect them, get up early to be there for sunrise and put in a lot of hard work to come home with a few for the freezer.
In fact, the hunt is not over when the shooting is done. You still have to pluck them. And while almost everyone in a hunter’s family and circle of friends loves a well-prepared Canada goose, no one wants to see the plucking process.
But, you know when that is happening, I really believe everyone ought to take a gander.