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.
The direct flight for that tide being over, we left them feeding, and started for the shore. We paddled directly by them; but a goose is such a good judge of distance, he knows, when he can see you, just how close to let you approach; and so intent were they on something to eat, that they did not even raise their heads, with the exception of the sentinels. By allowing the tide to fall too low before attempting to land, we had the privilege of backing thirty-eight geese that was the number we picked up a third of a mile to the land, also to drag the boats thither. We had to make three trips with the sled to remove them to the house. Just look, with me, at them as they lie on that platform before being hung in the game-room. Is not this fellow an old settler? What a strapper 1 and this one! and that 1 In fact, there are a dozen that have been this way a number of seasons before. Bouncers, ain't they? Could it be possible that this great display of Canadian geese could be captured within four hours? Yet there they were to decide the matter.
A goose is a most deceptive bird for inexperienced gunners to shoot. They are so large, they are much farther away than they seem, and their flight much swifter, so that many a goose escapes the shot sent after it by unskilful sportsmen. The knowing how to do it is what makes so large a proportion of big ganders in that pile. After they were disposed of in the cold-room, Old Appetite put in his claim for attention, and that at once. When we were in the Land of Bedlam, no one had thought of him; but he will not be longer ignored. The savoury smell of onions from that dish of oysters makes him ravenous, while the cook's big plate of biscuit, accompanied by that bowl of dough-nuts, don't improve his behaviour in the slightest.
Now, reader, you have been looking at our birds: do come in and join us at tea. There is plenty and to spare for all hands. By the time we had finished, it was dark, so we settled back on our easy-chairs, recounted some of the exciting scenes of the afternoon, whiffed our pipes, and finished up with a game of euchre. While all this was being performed, we were edified and exhilarated by a tune we designated the "' Honker' Quick-step," for to the right of us, to the left of us, in front of us, and behind us, there was nothing but geese, geese, geese. The brants and ducks were not in it then. That channel in front of the island, only some 300 yards away, had opened by the current a third of a mile, and it was literally packed. The geese at night on the flood remained, and fed on the morning ebb, leaving for the ice at day-dawn. The question came up at the table as to the quantity we had seen that afternoon, the number ranging between forty-five and seventy-five thousand, so we settled on the lesser number, which was well within bounds.
As the weather was growing warm, the ice was breaking up fast, thus opening up other harbours, so that the next day we observed a very marked difference in the numbers visible. However, we had another afternoon of excellent shooting, not exactly on the same ground, but nearer the ice-floe, and farther to the north, as the wind had changed, altering somewhat the range of flight to the feeding-ground. We secured several good shots that afternoon also, and went ashore with eighteen fine birds, all large ones. The like never was known in that neighbourhood, and is not likely to be again. Besides these, we know of eleven being picked up to leeward that we shot one boat securing eight.
Well, like everything else, our trip is drawing to a close. Friday morning has come along the last of it so Will and I started out in pursuit of a finishing-up shot. With our glasses we noticed a large flock of geese sitting on the edge of the Fox Harbour ice, near by the light-house a most inviting shot; so we paddled along with the flood, and were soon within a few hundred yards, when we observed the old gander out by himself on sentinel duty, while all the others were sleeping with their heads under their wings.
To make the approach to them less noticeable, drifting along by the edge of stationary ice was a floating, drifting ice-cake, some two feet out of water. Behind this we sneaked and drifted with it, till we were as near as we ought to be for an effective shot, so we pushed the Daisy ahead of the cake, and just then, and not till then, did the gander sound the alarm. Up like a flash went all their heads, bat there was apparently nothing confronting them; even the old gander lowered his head, as though he had been fooled by a little ice-cake. Now as many as ten strutted up together, and as they saw me level my gun, their heads straightened up accordingly. "Now," thought I, "nothing less than half a dozen here!" They were so near now, not more than 12 yards. If I fired at their bodies, they would be torn to pieces and spoiled. The right barrel was levelled so as just to take their heads. My clothing was so burdensome two or more coats, leather vest and the like that they made me very clumsy, and consequently the butt could not be got near my shoulder to steady the gun. When I fired, therefore, the concussion made her jump, and the ^charge went over every bird not one was touched except by the wind. All jumped up and winged their flight. The results were so disappointing that, by the time my thoughts were collected sufficiently, they were all out of range but the old gander. On him a parting bead was drawn, and down he came on a portion of ice that was very unsafe, and so far from the edge, as to prevent our approaching him with the boat. So we got behind the clamper already referred to, to watch developments. After a while, thinking he was alone, this gander that had been shamming helplessness, suddenly obtained a new lease of life, and started for the woods on the light-house shore, at least 500 yards away. We allowed him to travel until he reached ice strong enough for Will to follow him. When he observed Will on his track, to show his cunning, he turned from the shore for the outside ice but too late. Will soon had him by the leg, and stopped his further running. Thus ended the last act in the drama, and we returned to Derry Island to make ready for our departure the next Saturday morning.