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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Goose calls

BY Sonny Orr May 22, 2023

The roar of an old snowmobile cuts through the early pre-sunrise fog. Its distinct sound of muffled cracking accentuates the quiet drone of a two-stroke engine. Then the total silence is briefly renewed when the motor is cut off before some quiet talk can be heard between a few shadowy figures. Another sled draws up close, this one a quietly efficient four-stroker. A third machine rolls in, again like a quiet ghost. The distinct click of a lighter struggling to catch flame can be heard before the coughing starts. Then, all three of our mysterious protagonists take their leave, disappearing into the fog. A half hour later, the sun is still not strong enough to have burned off the excess moisture in the air and no aircraft are allowed to fly. 

Yep, it’s official: it’s Goose Break time.

Suddenly, the call of a goose gets everyone to run outside and locate it. It’s been five months since we’ve seen any fly by, and the excitement is too much to contain. Yes, the time-honoured tradition of getting some nice fat spring geese is near at hand and the rush is on to get to the nearest blind, in our case way up north. It’s off to some open ice area all dressed to kill in all-white clothing made from your bedroom closet’s highest-quality bed sheet. At least that’s what is officially told to the better half when you try to explain the holes and blood on her favourite linen a few days later.

Another quick rush to the only store open at 9am reveals that you had some affinity for fine smoked sausage and creamy camembert on a whole wheat bun. The old days of canned foods are nearly over, even as I cling to my tin of sardines and long for the days when Klik was king. The great thing is that bannock has not yet left our traditional menu. For many, a big difference in the often-bland cooking of corned beef balls on a stick plunked onto a dry slice of white bread whose ingredients look like a recipe for embalming and eternal preservation. 

The tea, freshly made in an old pot, is great for washing down everything dry and clingy on your parched throat. Whoever thought that a fog could disperse so quickly and turn the goose blind into combo tanning table and sauna. 

Before any unknowing geese fly by our perfectly hidden blinds, they must be attracted by their plastic doppelgangers and convinced to land by highly skilled and perfectly tuned vocal cords. At least that’s what it sounds like until a plastic goose call – or worse yet – a recording of a real goose is heard being used by the other hunters. The same ones who begged me not to employ my old-school goose calling techniques. 

But memories remain fresh from times when the geese were abundant and still landed as if no one was around. Back then there was no need for a goose lookout. But the days of spring are different now, as new forms of hunting tools are produced and tested under real conditions. The question remains, how long will this new tool last and is it repairable? Will it improve my life and increase my odds of bagging a few geese for the meechuap? 

Only time will tell, but the real tools for hunting are patience, quietness, a keen eye and the ability not to leave your blind to scare away the only flock that flew in that day. 

Happy Goose Break and stay safe!

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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.