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.
Not wanting the dog to retrace the long r distance he had gone, I met him at the shore opposite where he captured the gander, and left it there, then went after the dead ones still in the water. When they were all collected and tied together chickens and geese the prospect of having to carry that load a mile and a quarter was by no means an enticing one, yet it had to be done. Before it was lifted to my shoulders a whistle startled me. Turning to ascertain the cause of it, I saw Harry coming laden with a basket of lunch for his supposed half-starved companion. This would have been most acceptable, had not my English friend been ahead of him. I assured him, however, that he had come at a most opportune time, and his thoughtfulness was fully appreciated. To prove this and my thorough unselfishness, he was allowed to carry the heaviest half of my load all the way to the house. On the road there he informed me he had been visited that afternoon by a neighbour two miles away, who came especially to tell us that a large body of geese were feeding on his 320-acre wheat-stubble field, and we might get a chance at them in the evening, as there was nothing to disturb them. Had such information come to us three days before, it would have greatly excited me, but hunting, creeping, walking, running, crouching, rowing, paddling, wading, tumbling, and all the other " -ings " concomitant of a sporting trip, to say nothing of the prolonged excitement over such varied and wonderful success, had taken so much out of me that I confess to being tired. I had what sportsmen in another line of business call " enough," and would have been very willing to stop at my last shot at the lake, telling Harry so. " Oh, that will never do! never do I After his taking the trouble to come two miles to tell us. We'll hitch up the horse and drive over. Then the hunting -will be easy." So after resting a couple of hours, about four o'clock we started.
To get to their proper feeding-ground, as directed by the farmer, the main road, which led along the edge of the open field fully 300 yards, had to be followed. It was decided to walk the horse, very slowly passing there, and not to move in the slightest while in sight. Just before reaching the exposed spot, a large flock of greys flew over the road on to the field, and, while watching to see them light the horse guiding himself Harry gave me a pinch without moving his head, but whispering, "By gracious, Pat, just look a little to your left! Do you see those fellows feeding?" I saw them, and the sight started all the tired feeling. There were eighty or a hundred of those old settlers, the real Canadian goose, feeding within an easy shot of quite a knoll for the North-West. As I was on the seat farthest from them, I told him to keep the horse moving, so as to attract their attention, and I would try to drop out on the distant side. This was accomplished hut how, I don't know. When on the ground, I found I was completely hidden, and there was Ready crouching. He had seen the birds as quickly as we, and sneaked along under the waggon. The knoll between me and the geese made it comparatively easy creeping. When as near as it was possible to get without exposure, I peeped over the natural blind. What a sight was there! They were watching the horse, and were inclined to fear him, apparently ready for a start, as they had walked much closer together than when first seen. Directly in front of me were eight or ten standing in a line, covering about a foot, with others a little outside this range. The left barrel of No. 10 was loaded with " B," and the right with " buck," so I concluded to try the left sitting, and the other on the wing. I levelled. " Now my hitherto trusty friend, do your duty " pulled. " Bang 1" was the response. But where were the birds ? Every one jumped. Before I had time to wonder, I saw one tumbling, then another and another, yet still another four down, but every one on a new kind of wild-goose chase, in which Ready was a lively participant.
While this was going on, the flock, having to rise to windward, came towards me, till they were started; then circled, and, reader, if you know anything about shooting, there was the sportsman's chance. Every " buck " ought to bring a bird. Did it? Not it. Listen! Did you hear the " bang" ? I didn't not when I wanted to. I pulled she snapped. No time to change cartridge now, so must try again. She may go the second time. All this while, bear in mind, they were rushing away, for they got a view of me when they circled, so when she was ranged the second time, they were more than 80 yards off, and considerably scattered. Expecting her to refuse again, I was careless in my range, and, when she responded, was not disappointed that none came down. I watched them, however, for a little, when one was noticed to lag behind, and to sheer from the others, bat was able to join them when they settled. This fellow we found afterwards in that very spot, dead.
Let us return to the scene of the first shot, to see what Beady has been about. He has the four that were in the chase captured, and in a pile behind the knoll. Oh, what beauties 1 what beauties! what beauties ! All very large ones, and so clean and pretty. Where is that tired feeling now? Echo answers, "Where?" Not there, not it must have evaporated. At the first shot Harry had stopped the horse, and came to my assistance, so that we soon had the birds in the waggon, and ready for more. The flock we fired at, and the one that crossed the road, were the only ones that arrived up to the time of the shooting; but soon there were three more arrivals, making three or four hundred geese altogether. Apart from the knoll, which made such an excellent blind, the rest of the field was comparatively level, so that approaching them near enough for a shot we found an impossibility, as their detectives, the old ganders, had as keen eyes as we. As fast as we creeped, so fast they walked, and they were well schooled in the safety line. We thought, when it became dusk, we might get upon them, forgetting that the ganders' heads and eyes were always in the air, and they had the advantage of the light background, while we, creeping, had a dark one. By this they were able to lead the geese out of harm's way every time we attempted to approach them; so we had to give in, acknowledging ourselves beaten at the heel of the hunt.
Five geese such as we had in the carriage would have been, and are, a very respectable afternoon's sport for ordinary mortals, but for sportsmen that had been gathering them by the dozen, it seemed a great come-down. The knoll-shot finished the week's shooting, and the next morning I bade my friend Harry and his genial partner a regretful good-bye, as it was likely to be, and was, the last cruise made by me to the Red Deer Lake. After Harry had taken all the game he wished, the waggon was literally packed with geese, ducks, and chickens tied in. My approach to Calgary drew many inquisitive eyes upon me, as well as ejaculations at the attractive appearance of the waggon.
When reading these stories, some may be inclined to think them exaggerated. Yet they are not. Shooting or fishing ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago was very different from that of 1902. Then there was scarcely a sportsman, where now they are met by the score. Then, where pools were full of trout and salmon, and lakes the feeding-ground of tens of thousands of ducks and geese, now the fish are caught as soon as spawned, if any are left to spawn, while the birds are shot, in many places, as soon as they attempt to fly. So that there are many localities now, where game used to be abundant and hunting a pleasure, in which it has become laborious, and the fun has gone out of it. While finishing the shooting-cruise, with its wonderful success, it may be gratifying to my readers to tell them that, the year after the scene described here took place, a party of English sportsmen in Western Assiniboin, goose-hunting, secured over seven hundred. What do you think of that ?