Rites of Passage – A Boy’s First Goose

 

A Vintage Still-Life Photograph Of a Canada Goose And A Remington 1100 12 Gauge Shotgun; Against The Concrete Blocks Of An Old Grain Silo. Circa 1971. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty

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.

Good Hunting!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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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

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