This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
It was my good fortune to be located at Calgary, N.W.T., in the years 1890 and 1891. At that time game of all kinds was so abundant that it was conceded to be the " Sportsman's Paradise," which title was by no means a misnomer. Canadian and wavy geese by the tens of thousands made the stubble-fields their feeding-ground, and the lakes their resting-places. Myriads of ducks in endless variety fed in the pond-holes and lakes, as well as on the prairie, while prairie-chickens in large flocks abounded in every direction. Then the jack-rabbit was so plentiful that he became a nuisance to the hunter after better game. Those in pursuit of larger game could find it in the shape of antelope, prairie wolf, at least three different kinds of deer, elk, bear, etc.; so that any one starting on an outing was reasonably sure of securing a good-sized bag, even if he shut both eyes when he fired.
On Monday, September 28, 1891, I left Calgary for a week's shooting at Red Deer Lake and vicinity. This was 12 miles from the town, and not much frequented by sportsmen on account of its distance. When approaching the house of the friend with whom I was to stay, I noticed in a field, a few hundred yards away, a large flock of wavy (white) geese, and a larger one of Canadian, feeding on the dropped wheat; so I rushed my horse into the yard, scarcely taking time to unharness him, and, having persuaded my country friend to take his gun and accompany me, we moved off in quick-march pace towards the game.
The ground being very level, as is a very large portion of the prairie, to get within shot of them we had to go down on all-fours and creep. There is a great knack in this performance which unskilled hands know not of. Most hunters, and many of them old ones at that, are so anxious to see how successful they are in approaching the game, that they raise their heads while creeping, which almost always causes alarm. I found by experience the best way was to take marks on the line on which you wished to creep before starting, having a special one where you wanted to stop, then creep for your first mark, head down, but steady, carrying your gun along with each movement of the right or left arm, then from the first to the next, and so on to the last. Now, if there has been no sound of rising birds, you may be reasonably sure of being within shot, as geese and ducks have great curiosity when they see any undefined thing approaching them, and will sit with their heads erect even within danger-limit. Now, to raise one's head at such a time means certain failure, as they would be up and off. Instead of doing so, at this juncture I cock both barrels presuming, of course, my gun is a double oner sometimes lowering myself and shooting from full length, as at rifle-target practice, or, sitting on my haunches, open fire from that position. My reader will pardon this digression, and we will return to the start off after those geese.
I was clad in a hunting suit of dry grass colour, while my companion's was not unlike it, so, after sneaking along, with a fence between us and the game, for a couple of hundred yards, we gradually settled on to all-fours, and crept up to the fence without disturbing them; but we were then fully 80 yards away too far for a successful shot, so we lay stretched out at full length, awaiting developments, hoping, of course, they would feed towards us. Now, my friend had a very eccentric neighbour, an old country bachelor, who thought he owned all creation, or, at least, had a claim on it, and was unwilling that others should have what he could not. He had evidently seen those geese as soon as I did, for they were on his property, and he had been watching our movements, as we noticed him going towards his house shortly after we started. By the time we had reached the fence, we looked up the field and saw a steer coming towards the geese, and could see that old scamp pardon me for the contemptuous term, but it is the correct one walking alongside of him, but concealed from the birds, thus hoping, as he did, to start them and spoil our shot. Wasn't he a generous soul ? I know what every sportsman will say if he puts himself where I was. Well, did he succeed? We'll see. He got so near with his cattle-blind that, had he been generous enough to own a gun, and not too cowardly to fire it, he would have had a splendid chance, as he got within 35 yards of them before they stopped feeding and raised their heads. How I wanted, just then, to be standing where he was; but he kept the steer moving, and so they had to raise, and circled right towards us. " Look out now! Be ready! They are coming too close." So just as they cleared the fence about 10 feet above it and about 15 yards distant, I threw up my gun and shouted, when they turned from us and huddled together, not suspecting any danger till then. This was our time, and we embraced it, unloading the four No. 10 barrels into them. Down fell seven shot, and within 200 yards four more, while still another 100 yards further away was added twelve birds, four white and eight Canadian or grey geese.
Weren't we proud ? The old bach had done us the greatest favour possible, of which we showed our appreciation by dangling some of the birds at him as we walked abreast of him on his way back. We got him so mad, he left his steer and took a different route, so as to escape our serenading. The geese were beauties, and so heavy and fat, we were forced to make a second trip to get them to the house. You can readily understand that geese fed for weeks and months on the fallen wheat they find among the stubble could not be otherwise than fat, and to be at all presentable and attractive for market, must be picked when warm. After they are cold, every feather drawn takes the fat with it, and they present the appearance of having had smallpox. To have these keep till the end of my outing, they were picked and drawn, then filled with charcoal and pepper. With this precaution I have kept game sweet for a month.