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.
Scout Jack is sitting there, getting on his long leather boots, with his face as long as the Moral Law, at the probability of having to wade his boat back to the island with that prospective load. He sees his work is cut out for him, and sighs at the very thought. Come along with me, reader, and have a peep in upon them as they rig up for the jaunt. The wind is blowing an easterly gale cold and raw necessitating warm clothing to prevent being chilled. Our friends have lots of it, so they appropriate short hose, long hose, gaiters, leather and rubber boots, wool shirts and jumpers, corduroy pants and vests, leather jackets and vests, oil-coats, rubber coats, gloves, and mittens, and heavy caps. These they piled on till they could get on no more. Ordinarily clad, they would turn 200 not pigmies, by any means; but now, with the above additions, become veritable giants. John has stepped up beside us, and whispers, " Hope none of them will fall down or tumble overboard I'd never get them up I " Will from the shore shouts out, " I hear the old ganders; they have just arrived, and there appear to be lots of them." At this report those of us who were to remain took down our guns to the boat and waded her off, so that they could get started while the sportsmen followed along. The lantern was now lighted, and showed up brilliantly ahead. Gun was given the place of honour next the box, so that he might have a fair chance to lay out his windrows; Bac taking the second place, where his keen eye and acute ear would serve him in his prospective slaughter; while Pat, the slayer of his hundreds, occupied the third place, sitting there, all drawn down and looking as meek as Moses, but keeping that fellow Gun in view, that he did not cheat him out of his shot. Thus placed, with a push from each of us who were to stay behind, and a shove from John's pole, off they went on the wild-goose chase. " Good luck!" all of us shouted, and returned to the house, leaving a signal lantern on the shore. While you are sitting there with them waiting to hear the cannonade open, come with me in the boat, and see the fun there.
The foolish old ganders, by their incessant " houking " lead us straight to them. The tide being in our favour aids John very materially in overcoming the force of wind, so that we come upon them faster than expected. In a short time we are up to them; they are visible. What a large flock, two hundred at least, and black ducks amongst them, feeding all around! We are now within 60, 60, 40, 30, 20 yards of them, some so blinded by the intensity of the light that they actually hit the boat, near enough, if we dare to reach out, to take them by the neck. A bunch of duck has sagged to leeward and taken our scent, and up they go " quack! quack I quack! " This starts the geese together. Oh, what chances ! Directly in front of Bac are the dozen he spoke for, with their heads erect, winking at one another as though waiting for him, while he, patient soul, not wishing to spoil the shots of the others, was delaying the slaughter of the innocents, awaiting the signal from Pat, who was sitting with both barrels cocked and scores in front of him listening for the word from Bac to fire; the result in both oases being the want of arrangement. There, before these excited sportsmen, sat the disturbed circle-shooter arranging his windrows for future action, when all of a sudden the scene was changed; the birds, being pressed so closely, became bewildered by the light, so that when a second lot of ducks jumped with their danger-signal" quack I quack!" up went the whole of them with a deafening rush, and up went the guns.
Our friend Gun, not having straightened his gun-barrel since he fired the circular shot at a " shell-duck " wherein lies a tale I shall not tell you here had this to do now, which gave the others the opportunity they wanted, and " bang ! bang! bang! bang! " they are tumbling in every direction. Such " houking" as there was in their efforts to get away, made it a complete Bedlam. Fifteen or more, are there on the water, and several others are threshing themselves off with broken wings. While all this was being enacted, Gun spies the windrow coming towards him as they circled over those lying on the water. " Give them plenty of windage, Gun ! " shouts Bac, when "bang! bang I" is followed by Egyptian darkness. " Holy horrors! " shouts some one. " This is a deuce of a go ! What's the matter ? Stick your pole down, John, and hold the boat. Well! well! well! if this don't beat the Dutch ! " And all burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. Not to get the lantern lighted, and that very soon, meant to us the loss of our birds. So that while our position was most ludicrous, it was also serious, made more so from the fact that our supply of matches was small, not having prepared ourselves for an emergency like this.
Jack allowed the boat to swing by the pole before the wind, which was so high that as soon as the match was struck it blew out. This was a dilemma not anticipated, leaving us in a most absurd, and, we must confess laughable, plight. The only remedy at han<3 was to get back to Derry Island as speedily as possible before the tide got too low, otherwise we would have to wade hundreds of yards through the mud.
So homeward we started, reminded by Brother Gun that "the best-laid schemes of mice and men 'gang aft aglee.' " "Troubles," it is said, " never come single-handed;" and so it proved in this case, for scarcely had we gone two-thirds of the way back, using the signal-lantern on the shore as our guide, when John informed us the water was shoaling very fast, and the boat would soon be aground. " Great Soot I" we exclaimed, " not away out here ? " Hardly had he remarked this, when we became conscious of the fact she was aground hard and fast, and the only way out of the scrape now was to wade. Just here Bac salutes Pat thus: " Pat, what did I ever do to you, that you brought me into such a scrape as this ? " " Holy horrors! " cried the " circle-shooter," " got to wade ashore ? Ha ! well, here goes it." Up he got and out he got " Great Soot 1 " he calls out of the darkness, " I am down below the top of my boots."