First Goose, And a Favorite Remington 1100 Shotgun, Circa 1971. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
There are many “firsts” in the life of a hunter. Who can forget their first BB gun, a first bow & arrow, or the satisfying heft of that first box of shotgun shells of their very own?
And then there is the game to pursue. I cut my teeth on the ever present English Sparrows and Starlings, before graduating to a cadre of over educated pigeons in our old dairy barn. Soon I became fairly good at thinning out our local rabbit and squirrel population, with thoughts of bobwhite on my mind.
You could say that a Canada Goose, well, that was an entirely different brand of dreams…and the thought of actually killing a goose of my own was outside the boundaries of my young boy’s possibilities. That all changed one bright, sunny morning on a small farm not far from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.
I had spent the early hours with my father and younger brother, hidden in a pit blind amongst the remnants of a picked cornfield and a few dozen goose decoys. The action was slow, and I was restless, being a boy and all, and I decided that chasing squirrels in the nearby woods sounded like a much better proposition.
To be honest, I don’t remember if I had a crack at any squirrels, but I do remember, as if it were just yesterday, the unmistakable form of what seemed like an impossibly large Canada Goose gliding into a glistening farm pond on the far end of the property.
All thoughts of squirrels now gone, I remember doing my best Indian stalking imitation as I crept towards a small group of trees on one end of the pond. Barely able to still my beating heart, I could not help but hope that maybe, just maybe, this goose was mine.
I remember peeking my eyeballs through the brush and over the rough bank of the pond, but…nothing. My heart sank as I took one more step, and then suddenly, there he was, his body broadside, suddenly alerted, that all-seeing eye wide and gleaming.
I wish that I could tell you that I made a perfectly executed shot as he gained speed on those powerful wings and crossed sharply with a brisk and snappy tailwind at his back.
Truth is, completely flustered, I missed him cleanly twice as he ran along the edge of the pond, flapping for all he was worth like a fully loaded B-52 Bomber, finally connecting with my last and final round just as his feet were about to leave the ground. I pounced upon him like a starving coyote, beaming with pride and accomplishment and knowing that this goose was without any doubt the finest trophy in all the world.
Looking back, you might wonder, as I sometimes do, if my enthusiasm may have gotten the better of me, and maybe I should have given him a little more time to get fully off of the ground before taking those shots.
But then again, perhaps not.
After all, a young boy can stand a little edge, when it comes to a first goose.
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“A goose represents the rebel in all of us and because they’re wild and free, they have a certain quality that shines out and makes us wish that we were not bound to labor in life, but rather that we could drift as they do with the seasons.” – Paul S. Bernsen, The North American Waterfowler, 1972