The Spring Goose Hunt Report – by Martin Mallet

April 27, 2010

With no word from Martin for a couple of days after the much-anticipated expedition, I sent him a query, and the following is his response. – Rod

TO: Rod Croskery, Vanya Rohwer

FROM: Martin Mallet

RE: Goose Hunt

I picked up the car Saturday evening and could barely contain my excitement for the drive up Sunday. As both of you well know, I had been absorbed in Greater Snow Goose statistics for the past several weeks, reveling at the sheer number (over 1.4 million at the last census) and extraordinary bag limits (20 per day) associated with this species.

I was to meet up with my cousin at a sporting goods store in Quebec. It was like a cross between a Cabela’s and a Mountain Equipment Co-op store. Heaven. There I learned two things: 1) gun cleaning kits are ridiculously overpriced — $60 for a rod and a couple of brushes? and 2) no one shoots 2 ¾ inch shells anymore. I stocked up on the steel BBs we had successfully deployed at the farm this fall, and off we headed to Cap Tourmente.

We wanted to check out the site the day before our hunt to make sure we knew where to go and modulate our expectations, if need be. Let there be no doubt, snow geese are an overabundant species! We saw thousands upon thousands in a very small geographical area. Most were on the water, but we also encountered several hordes in fields and in the park proper. Here they were unafraid of humans, both on the ground, letting us approach to within 15 yards with no problems, and in the air, frequently buzzing us. It was fun to visit the preserve, wolves among the flock, mixed in with the tourists and birders who were there to take pictures and stare at the geese.

Needless to say I did not sleep well Sunday evening. By 2:30 a.m. I was wide awake, and woke up my hunting partners at 3:00. On the drive up to our hunting site we again saw thousands and thousands of snow geese sleeping on the river. When we stopped for coffee we could hear them chattering, probably deciding which poor farmer’s field to decimate that day. We were at the blinds at 4:20, ready to help our guide set up the decoys, all fifty of them. As any Google search will tell you, fifty decoys is by any account a paltry number, but we figured there were so many geese that there were bound to be some stupid ones out there. Right.

As it turns out we arrived at high tide and the blinds were flooded. We couldn’t set up the decoys at all and had to resort to pass shooting for the first few hours. Unfortunately, the long-term forecast I had consulted when booking the day was off by 24 hours: the high winds were present but the clouds and rain had been crowded out by clear skies. As a result we saw lots of high-flying geese in the early morning and few shots were taken (none reasonable).

We finally got the decoys deployed and our blinds pumped out (each individual blind is like a giant rain barrel) by around 6 a.m. We still had fourteen hours of hunt ahead of us, so a small missed opportunity in the morning didn’t seem like the end of the world.

Then we spent the day staring at geese in the distance. They either avoided the decoys or that particular field like the plague, constantly tormenting us with 100+ yard overhead flights. When the tide came down the mudflats were exposed, and we were soon treated to the spectacle of a sizable feeding flock developing about 200 yards directly ahead of us. Shooting in their general direction in an attempt to flush the group produced no response whatsoever. Our only hope seemed to be to wait until high tide, when a few of the hundred and fifty birds might be driven up to shore.

Eventually a lone runt of a goose decided it needed some friends and cautiously approached our decoys. Encouraged by the electronic goose call, it eventually settled into a leisurely descent. At about thirty yards the three of us opened fire. The result was a dead snow goose containing a mixture of BBB, BB, and Blackcloud ammunition. Another pair passed within range later on and we took down one of them as well.

Out of sheer stubbornness we stayed until 8:08 p.m., a full sixteen-hour day in the field. We slept very well last night. I came home today with the two snow geese (my partners generously offered me the group’s bag), one of which was in good enough condition to keep whole. I should also mention that, due to the wind direction, the geese we shot plummeted straight into the mudflats, which made for some pretty miserable plucking. On the drive home I hit a major snowstorm, traffic in Montreal was awful, and some idiot almost drove me off the road.

Yet, oddly, I am still happy. And now I know why snow geese are so abundant…

Martin

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