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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

After Goose Break

BY Sonny Orr May 22, 2021

Goose Break is over, and the kids are back at school for yet another Covid-restricted term. But it’s hard to shake off Goose Break fever – the daily dose of outdoor activities, good old hunting and grumblings over an early spring. 

We complain that the ice is not ice on the lakes. It’s floating slush – the same out on the bays. Aircraft that usually land on that ice… can’t. Instead, helicopters are now used, much to the chagrin of the local hunters as choppers are slower, cost more, and offer less payload. Such is the way of modernity.

Meanwhile, the geese are flying unimpeded over lonely ponds. Still, geese kills were respectable; not too many and not too few, enough for several suppers and a feast or two. The amount of the goods we depend on to harvest them is growing, however – the batteries, the charger cords, the wi-fi router, the 4k TV set and satellite getup along with microwaves for the popcorn during hockey games or just for the hasty hunter. 

We have it all, but something’s missing. Oh yes, the new gear for the ponds. The inflatable wind-directed, semi-gloss reflective 3D decoys and the bullhorn goose-callers that have replaced the traditional ones that dangled around our necks. It’s the 4GB USB filled with every imaginable type of goose call, snow goose mating calls, moose calling geese – attached to the bullhorn strategically hung around the shoulder like an upside-down Sidewinder missile launcher that makes a hunter complete.

We lead a fashion parade with our wearable gear – rustle-proof, waterproof, windproof and scent-free for those “420” days. The ultra-flexible gloves that enable you to grasp shotgun ammunition in the cold and load that modified AK-48, a higher-level Cree version of the Kalashnikov, except in three-point-five-inch, 12-shot silenced version. This is for the hunter who needs to shoot multiple times before knocking them down. But it makes for a fine YouTube upload that will harvest many thumbs up. 

The communications system has changed – from the silence of nature and the need to shout at old men with hearing aids before being locked, loaded and ready to shoot – to the loud chatter of radios updating everyone on the daily affairs of the hunt or even live broadcasts with OOOwaaah comments for the hits and misses.

Then there’s transportation. We’ve evolved from paddling canoes and using a light two-stroke snowmobiles to become helicopter-hopping hunters, even if we only need to travel 50 kilometres. We want to be away from the crowds but remain within reach of a cell tower, since we can no longer be sure something happened if it’s not posted on Facebook. Walking in ordinary hip-waders to the blind has been replaced by sitting in a completely amphibious eight-wheeled wonder that can go anywhere and still ensure that our jiggling beer bellies remain intact.

Back in the day, the most advanced technology we used were sandbags to make the ponds that would attract geese and ducks from afar. The gun was always within reach and ready to fire as split seconds were needed to knock down that spoon-billed duck or that errant lone goose.  Rubber patches were the only material needed to repair the holes we constantly created in our hip-waders, which had to be coddled and cared for since natural rubber could easily tear if you didn’t tread carefully.

Today, we should care for the hunt and treat each harvest with respect and share with those in need. Why clean out your freezer every year because of overharvesting? Please remember our traditions and teachings from those who have the experience and knowledge. Most of all, stay safe and healthy!

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.