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.
See them on the ice, close to the decoys, heads and necks up, as if trying to make out to which branch of the goose family they claimed relationship certainly not to a very noisy one. The old gander travelled around amongst them. but. apparently becoming disgusted with the want of friendliness displayed, moved back to his own. Oh, what a chance was there then! for they all moved together. We could have tumbled over three or four; but they were there, and we here. After a few minutes they started up again, and went up to the flock in the channel, where they were originally bound. The next morning we were up betimes, and were delighted with the appearance of the enlarged operating-field. The outside water was a mile square at least, and the channel up by the island 200 yards by 15 yards. Our opera-glasses disclosed greatly increased quantities of game on the harbour, with nine blue-wings down by the ice-blind, among the brants. We decided to go out in the ice-boats in the forenoon, more with the view of ascertaining about the game, though with no expectancy of getting any, as without drift-ice it was difficult to approach very near, and, with the ordinary goose-punt, it was useless to attempt it. We therefore started out with little hope, but found large numbers of brants had arrived during the past two days, and were sitting all over Wallace Harbour, which the open water embraced. When we saw that, our hopes rose of having at least a shot. The tide was ebbing, and the inner feeding-grounds were bearing fast.
Just see the geese on that outside bar. My! my! Wish we could get there. S. spied them, and started in their direction. Hundreds of them are beginning to feed on that spot. "Will, suppose we try to get upon them ? " So we started also. Now, S. had quite a lead, 100 yards or more, so I saw the most hopeful chance would be to work off to the eastward of S., and endeavour to get between them and the ice, being convinced that, if. the birds rose and did not settle again when pressed by S., they would leave for the Gulf ice for safety and rest. So Will pushed on Daisy at a rapid rate, making great headway with the tide. Now we were fairly well placed, and we put over our little anchor, and awaited developments. As S. approached nearer and nearer, the geese kept walking towards the land, into a wide deep cove. He kept pressing them, but they would not let him get near enough for a shot. At last they began to mistrust, stopped feeding, did not like the look of that ice-cake.
Now, it has been my experience, in hunting geese and brant, that it is wise not to press them with the boat when they are swimming from you. Let them see that they can get away from the thing following, then, when they slacken, get upon them quickly, slowing down the boat again when they move off; generally, the third time, you can approach near enough to fire before they try to escape. As I found they had shifted position so much after we anchored, we raised it, and got more in direct line to the outside ice. " Will, it begins to look as if 3. and John will get a chance at them. They are less than 100 yards off now, and the boat is to windward, and they must rise in that direction." The prospects were brightening, and they made me tremble with excitement. H no false move is made now, they will get an awakening soon. " Will! S. is going to fire." He has his gun levelled, and they are standing with heads erect, ready to jump. " Bang! " goes S.'s No. 8. They jump towards the boat, when, "Bang! bang ! bang!" They were tumbling in every direction, but, for the moment, my own work was cut out. "Don't move, Will, for your life ! Get both barrels ready. They are coming directly for us, about 20 yards up. Don't move till you get the word from me, then act quickly." So, when the head ones were abreast of our boat, and a little back, I called out " Now, Will! give it to them. Aim well ahead." When that shout was made, and the guns thrown up, that hitherto harmless ice-cake became suddenly transformed into veritable gunners on murder bent, and that flock of geese was more surprised than when S. woke them up. " Will, keep your eyes on the flock as they go to the ice. There may be more fall." We have down, six; four of them dead, two winged, and they are working off. " Mr. P., there goes another fellow, and, by George! there has another one left the flock, with his wings set, going off towards the westward. Great Scot! he is down, too. I know he fell dead, the way he tumbled. Load up again, quick, with No. 1, and I'll use No. 2, and let us get after those two winged ones, or we'll lose them." Will soon started her, and we began to gain on the nearest one. "The other chap is going off at right angles. Now, Will, try your No. 10 on him. Bang! he's under, don't think you touched him. Give him the other as soon as he shows above. Bang ! There he lies, with his wings spread. Now for the other! load up, and we are after him. He knows it too, and it is no mean race. What is the matter with him? He is not larger than a teal. Well! well! well! did you ever see the equal of that ? "
This fellow had actually weighted his body a power that geese and some ducks have, when closely pursued, and can by this keep their bodies invisible under water, with their beaks just above. " Get up near, Will, and I'll blow him from under water with my No. 8 blunderbuss." So when we were within 6 or 8 yards of his bill, or beak, I spied it moving along quite fast, so pulled on it. The volume of that shot was so great from my No. 8 that I actually killed him under water. Then we returned, and picked up the four that fell short.
S. had several down, and was chasing some wounded ones, when we started after the two seen to fall out towards the ice. The wind and the tide^were in our favour going for them, and they were soon in the boat, as we found them dead. But now, friends, the wind and tide combined say, " Get back."
Will worked and pumped. Sometimes we gained a little, and oftener didn't. When he caved in I took his place, and pumped those paddles, till the sap was nearly gone. Then we anchored awhile, and looked in scorn at those two birds that were working so hard. Anchor is up again, and those ponderous wheels are revolving with a swiftness and power approaching those of a Cunarder. White Daisy is forging ahead, and more out of the tide. Then we got hopeful, and, after a time, came to anchorage near S., who had been watching our struggle back. " How many have you, S. and John ? Half a dozen?" "Well, I guess." "I don't believe it." "Well, you may, for we have." " For we have what ? " " Why, if you must know, six." " I don't believe it yet." " Well, then, count. There's one there's two there's three." I noticed, when lifted, that one had a peculiar blood-mark about his head, " Now, there's four; then there's five." "Well done!" "And there's six." " Ahl no, you don't 1 that last one you counted as No. 3. You have only got five. Be honest." "Let us come alongside your boat, and see if yours are as fine as ours." Very suddenly they concluded it was time for a shot at brant, as there were several flocks in the opening. As he was starting, he asked, "How many did you get ? " " Six t" "Ah, but we know you got more than that. We know we saw you get six ourselves, and we know you got more." So we had to tell them we had eight. " You just played that same 1 get to leeward' game you did on the first day, when you captured the best shot." "Well, you know, it is nice to experiment on people that know it all. Now, if you want to go chase brants away to leeward, to paddle back against this tide and wind, do so. You will find it very interesting, as well as muscle and appetite making, the latter of which neither of you chaps want an increase of. We have had all of it necessary to satisfy us for one day at least, and we shall return to the island." So with our experience, so freely related, they decided prudence in this case should be the better part of valour, and so gave up the hunt for the day in that form.