Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Duck, Duck, Goose!!!

As of yesterday, this blog is two years old as I figure it. I set up the page in December but didn't get going until January and, since then, I've managed to more or less meet my goal of posting once a week on average. That's not very prolific, but it's often enough that I have to work at it a bit. In any event, the first post of that New Year was mostly about waterfowl hunting and, as it turns out, that's still what I'm going to talk about.

'09 has already seen a couple of days spent chasing ducks. A new setup on the first hunt, trying a slightly different bend in the river, brought the birds in. Two bunches were really big by my standards- twenty or so mallards. The first of those came in just as I'd gotten up and headed away from cover to clear flotsam off the cords on a couple of decoys. Fortunately, I saw the birds when they were still well out and was able to huddle against the cut bank of the river, rather than getting caught out in the wide open. They swirled and circled and chattered and came right on in. A few minutes after the first big bunch another decoyed nearly the same way and a fine fat drake mallard fell out of each. Three drakes, all shot feet down and decoying, made for successful morning as I count things.

Sorry for the thumb in the frame on this one. I put the photo up anyway because I envision the expression on the dog's face to be something along the lines of "I'm fighting current after a sixty-yard water retrieve and he's taking pictures". I also admire the wake Booker can cut through the current when he's working at it.

In any event, taking advantage of time off and heading back out the next day, we found our spot taken by earlier-rising hunters and headed up river for Plan B. The setup looked good to me, a nice pocket off the main channel where a side channel returned, but the ducks just didn't like it, except for one single that managed to fly through the pattern unharmed.

Fortune ultimately shone her face on us, though. The area I hunt has a short dark goose season and a population of Hi-Line giant Canada Geese. The limit is one bird and you have to get a permit in addition to your regular license before you can hunt. Talking with A, I opined that if we got permits, we'd never see a goose (based upon previous experience) but that if we didn't take the trouble to go by the Game and Fish office for the license, at least one bunch of honkers would fly by within range. Some years I have geese come by, some years they even come by in range, but geese coming by in range, during the season, while permitted (it used to be a draw for a tag) requires an awful lot of luck. Nevertheless, having a bit of time in the afternoon, we made the trip and picked up permits.

So, with the ducks not liking the setup even after the spread had been tweaked and the morning's flight seeming to slow, I was watching a bunch of snow geese in the near distance (and well above range) when I heard Canadas somewhere down river. Flying up river. Toward us. Amazingly enough, a group of the big birds flew right over our location, only thirty feet or so up. Close enough that there wasn't any worry about not having thrown any goose loads in the bag that morning.

That's my first giant Canada goose and one of fewer than a half dozen Canadas I've taken to date. Spectacular, beautiful big bird.

That afternoon, I set to plucking. Note- only one pellet hole in the breast. If you're really good, you don't shoot up the eatin' parts :)

Booker got a little close checking out the process. He considers all birds to be his property.

Long way around that dude and lots of down to get off-

Guess he's never going to get done with that bird-

5 lb, 14 oz. plucked, dressed, & ready for the table.

So, the question presents itself- cassoulet? Roast goose? I know a very good red wine is in the future to celebrate this good fortune, I'll have to spend some thought and some time, browsing Hank's archives and other places looking for recipes before settling on the exact method of preparation.


Live to Hunt.... said...

Congrats on the birthday and the goose. Seems so strange that honkers (as we call them) are so rate there. Out here they are everywhere and the limit on the giants is 4 per day - no special permit. Interesting difference. Great photo in the middle with the dog looking off into the distance.

mdmnm said...

Live to Hunt- thanks!

Thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes winter in the middle Rio Grande valley, but not many Canadas come down. The giants are mostly a local population that has done well within the last twenty years and the hunting season for them is not all that old. Limited agriculture and feed will probably keep them from ever reaching really large numbers.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

As it happens, we shot a goose of similar size a few weeks ago. I salt-cured the breasts, which are hanging up like a prosciutto, and I stewed the legs and wings to make sugo d'oca, basically an Italian pasta sauce that's like a Bolognese, but with goose instead. It was pretty awesome...

mdmnm said...

That sugo looks really good. I have the heart, gizzard, and liver as well so I'll have to give that some thought. Thanks!

Matt Mullenix said...

The OTHER question that presents itself is Who is that in the cammo veil?