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.
To show how bitter our bachelor neighbour was, the next morning I shot a chicken on the wing, that fell just inside his fence, and he forbade me going after it, nor would he allow the dog, but picked it up himself, and took it to his house. I spoke of his using a steer as a blind to get to the geese, which is the method used by all the farmers. They will not allow a horse to approach them, but a cow or ox can walk up to and in among them, and this fact is taken advantage of by training an animal, which is soon done, and then having a suit the colour of it; the farmers can thus have all the geese they want. The geese leave the lakes at the first appearance of daylight for the fields, and sometimes fly 10 and even 15 miles to their usual feeding-grounds. About ten o'clock they return to the lakes to wash and sleep; then again at four o'clock they start for their evening meal, returning at dusk. In their flight they take the same route continuously until disturbed, so that the sportsman, taking advantage of this habit, and using proper precaution, has many an hour's splendid shooting.
When they go to the lakes in the forenoon, they wash, then seek the shore, where, with their heads under their wings, they sleep, while the sentinels of the flocks, the ganders, do the watching, and yet with all their precaution, many of them bite the dust. This digression has been made in order that my general readers may the better understand, not only the wild geese, but the hunter's methods of capturing them.
The next morning after our field exploit, I persuaded my country friend to go with me to the lake (Red Deer), a shoal, rush lake, a mile and a half long, and half a mile wide, located three quarters of a mile from his house. What a sight met our eyes! It was literally full of ducks of many kinds the beautiful mallard and plump little teal being very conspicuous, while my old Nova Scotian friend, the blue-wing, held quite an important place. There was a peculiarity about all the ducks out West, that I never found in any other place their apparent indifference to the report of the gun. There, the more gunners on a lake, the better the sport, as it does not drive them away, but merely keeps them moving, while ordinarily in other countries, after the report, every duck leaves the neighbourhood as fast as feathers can carry him. The border of this lake at each end was covered with rushes eight feet or more high, and as stout as corn, and quite impenetrable, so that to use them for shelter and to shoot from them successfully, tracks had to be cut, which we discovered others before us, on shooting bent, had done. Now, to get any shooting, it was necessary to have those fowl on the wing, so I procured something that might in inexperienced parlance be called a punt. It had neither form nor comeliness, nor yet any bearings, as I found by sad experience; was about eight feet long; had probably been planned by a person who had read about but never seen the thing called a boat. It would not carry two, and scarcely float one, but I made bold to venture in it, from the knowledge that the water in this lake was not over Ready's back. When I was on it the water was only five inches clear, so that all my movements had to be like sitting on eggs. Well, eventually I got off into the lake, and began bombarding the birds, as they went up and down by me, while my friend, whom I had left on the shore among the rushes, was having a full share of the good things. After a time, I landed in a bunch of rushes about the middle of the lake, and hauled the punt's bow into it. The water amongst these rushes was about 8 inches deep, and the bottom quite hard, so that with my rubber waders I could kneel down and be concealed. In this way I secured several fine shots at passing birds. Ready was on the shore with my friend, and I could and did use the punt to pick up mine.
I had just returned to my concealment, when I saw a flock of mallards flying up the lake, so I squatted in the boat, but they turned from me, so I kept still, waiting for a chance. Without any warning, I heard a " Kahouk! " behind me, and knew, by the direction of the sound, they were coming directly over me. " Oh, my! if I were only out of this thing! " came involuntarily from my lips; but there was no time for regrets. I gradually raised my head, so as to get a glimpse of them and their whereabouts. What a sight! Fully two hundred grey geese coming right over me, about 25 yards up, with their wings set for lighting. I cocked both barrels, and just as I saw their shadow pass me, I threw up my gun. What consternation it produced! Evidently, with their eyes fixed on where they were going to light, they had not taken me in, and the motion of raising my gun was the first intimation of danger. Then they all got in a heap, going in and out through one another, and all had apparently found their voices, judging by their noise. This kind of a chance I had often talked about and longed for, and here it was right before me. Besides my friend on shore, others had arrived after my leaving, and all were watching to hear my gun, and to see the geese tumbling by the dozen. Well, why didn't they ? Don't be impatient, and I will give you the secret. When I threw up my gun, I had to lean back a little to line up the sight, in doing which I lost my equilibrium, and over the old trap (punt) went, landing me in the water on the broad of my back, with both barrels full of water, while the geese, poor rescued things! were making good their escape. On the shore they were puzzled to know why I didn't fire. " What a chance! What a chance ! Why don't he fire ? Well, well, well! What is the matter ? His gun must be all right, for he has been shooting right along." While all this wondering was going on, could they have seen me floundering around, trying to get my big waders out of that trap, so that I could turn over and get myself and gun out of the water, they would have had merriment to their hearts' content, as they did afterwards, when I was telling the mishap. I could do nothing hut laugh at the ridiculousness of my position, and am inclined to laugh now, as I see myself kicking about there in the water on Red Deer Lake. I hope, gentle reader, you will be sufficiently considerate to not even smile at my mishap. Just think of my unenviable position and condition there and then, and heave me a sigh of sympathy. Oh, do, like the generous soul that I know you are !