Our Biggest Goose
Saturday, October 11, 1997 (14 lbs. 5 oz.)

I’m sure we had seen him many, many times over the last few years.  He always led a small family group of four to seven Greater Canadas out in the morning, never quite following the other flocks.  You would see him on alert guarding his flock in the barley stubble from time to time but never near, let alone mixed in with, the other huge masses of feeding geese South of the lake.

Speculation about the size of this phantom honker was rampant throughout the local hunting community.  “Twelve pounds if he’s an ounce”, some old veteran would say.  “I’ll bet he’s twelve and a half”, would respond another.  “Have you seen that family of honkers on Hartel’s?  Man, those two adults must be fourteen pounds apiece!”

And so it was not with harvesting one of those particular Canada geese in mind that my brother-in-law, nephew, and I headed out Thanksgiving Saturday but to pass shoot whatever might come our way.

Arriving at the lodge after dark, we had come from Brandon late and not in time to spot.  Four curlers playing in the Deloraine Harvest Bonspiel were staying at the lodge and between games had done a little spotting for us.  Our own barley field around the house had been covered with blues and snows.  My brother had seen one family of whitefronts.  The only canadas anyone had seen were around South of the lake on Barry Hartel’s.  In fact, there had been one field “black with geese!”

The next morning found Harley, Tyler and I still undecided as to where we should go or where we should set up.  It was foggy, Canadians call it “pea soup”; decoys would be of little use and so it was decided, more by way of default than anything else, that we would pass shoot the South shore over by Hartel’s.  After all, Frank had seen a field “black with geese” and we might get a poke at a honker.

Fifteen minutes from our yard, our van came to a halt at the end of a muddy road less than a hundred yards from where we would be standing on the lakeshore five minutes later with guns in hand.  A thirty mile per hour wind was blowing from the Northeast and yet the fog was not lifting or being blown off in the least.  “No problem hiding the car today boys!”
It was already twenty minutes after daybreak as we took our places twenty yards apart in the cattails.  I knelt down fifty yards from the van at the end of an open water neck, which ran towards us from the Northwest and was about a hundred yards wide.

Snows, blues, and lesser canadas had already begun to pour out off of the lake honking and squawking in the fog as they made their way up in to the wind then banked South to come over us and head out to feed.

First you would hear them, then you would see them suddenly in range and right over top of you!  Bang-bang — plunk-plunk.  Just remember to still lead them even in the wind!
We had probably six or seven geese on the ground beside us when I first detected the resonant heronking yodel of some greater canadas.  They sounded low and might be coming right at us.   Suddenly they emerged from the fog, 100 yards West of where we were hiding.  There were four huge monsters and five little Hutchins all flying together in formation and not ten yards off the ground.

It looked like they were going to skirt us West, when for some unknown reason (I’d like to tell you that I called them, but I didn’t) the lead bird banked and led the group right over Tyler and I.

I had just a split second to look for the biggest bird in the bunch and that was easy because he was the front one.  I threw my 12 gauge Beretta up to my shoulder and leading the big honker ever so slightly squeezed off my first load of #2 steel.

My trophy Canada collapsed dead in mid air and I was off on the run to pick him up.  In my excitement, I completely forgot about the other eight geese in range and the other two shells still in my gun!