Oh Canada, Goose
A while back I sent out a call seeking urban hunting tips and an anonymous person suggested the Canada Goose as a potentially less polluted animal for the urban hunter. Since then I have begun to look deeper into the lives and ways of the Geese People. In my studies I found geese truly magnificent birds in more ways than I can count. To the urban hunter-gatherer, geese may serve a much deeper purpose than just another source of food.
The Fascinating Lives of Geese
Most people can easily recognize Branta Canadensis or Canada Goose, the most common goose in North America, by their sleek black head and neck, broad white cheek, and large voluptuous gray bodies. Their wingspan stretches from 50-60â€ and their bodies measure around 16-25â€ from beak to tail. Their plumage remains the same year round with very little difference in appearance between the sexes; the males appearing slightly larger. Their weight varies from 3-15 lbs depending on age, sex, food availability, season and other variables. Several sub-species exist that also vary in size, color and call.
Generally they migrate north during the spring and south during the fall, flying in a V shape pattern. Migrating day and night they often travel very long distances at a time. Airplane pilots recorded seeing Canada Geese fly at 9,000 feet. When on land they prefer open areas that connect with water by foot. They generally wonâ€™t fly over a fence or hedgerow. For an entire month during the summer they canâ€™t fly at all as they go through their molting phase.
Communication between birds can help determine the sex, since males and females have different calls and exhibit different body language. The males call sounds like a deep, â€œahonk,â€ while the females sounds like a higher â€œhink.â€ Often calling one after another and sounding as though it came from only one bird. They will aggressively defend themselves if approached. This behavior escalates from the bobbing of their head, to the quicker more agitated pumping of their head and ending by attacking with their wings or jabbing with their beaks (hence the term â€œgoosingâ€). Geese, like most birds, have a complex language to extensive for me to write here. I found Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior Volume One a great source for goose behavior.
Courtship begins in late winter and nesting usually starts in early April. Pairs remain together for life; only finding a new mate if the other dies. The average goose lays five eggs and raises one brood a year. Incubation does not begin until the female lays all five or so eggs; that way all the eggs will hatch at the same time. The male does not partake in the brooding, but plays the part of protector, patrolling the area around the nest. Incubation lasts about twenty-eight days. When baby geese, or goslings, hatch their eyes are open, their bodies covered with down, and they have the ability to walk. Often the mother will lead them to a safe place to feed far from the nesting site, right after they have hatched, moving them straight into the fledgling stage, which will last for another two to three weeks. Interestingly, goslings will â€œimprintâ€ on the first creature they see when they hatch, meaning that no matter the kind of creature, it will perceive that the creature mothered them. This imprinting has made it very easy for people to domesticate geese.
They eat mostly during the early morning and late afternoons, feeding on grains, some marine vegetation, but mostly grasses; with a seemingly unquenchable taste for Kentucky Bluegrass. Their tendency to eat only well-fertilized, nutritious sprouts angers many farmers, landowners and other nature-hating assholes.
Hazards of Geese
Urban environments often provide excellent habitat for large geese populations. An unexpected turn of events, seeing as how in the 1940â€™s geese populations had plummeted to 1.1 million due to civilizations encroachment on their wetland homes. Well-kept suburban lawns, public and business parks, golf courses and recreational fields offer just the right spring, summer and fall feed for the metropolitan goose, eliminating the need to migrate in more northern states. In addition, most of these places have water sources such as reservoirs, ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes, and islands that give the geese protected areas for nesting. Coyote, fox and other natural predators who prey on geese tend to stay away from human settlements. These conditions have caused a rapid population increase over the past several decades to the current estimate of 3.7 million and rising.
These large, non-migratory populations have brought about hazardous conditions not only to humans but other wildlife as well. Studies have shown E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria to appear in the fecal matter of urban geese. Their fecal matter contains large amounts of nitrogen and in large concentrations can cause toxic algal blooms, which often cause many problems for both wildlife and humans.
Hunting and Gathering Geese
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 USC 703-711) protects the Canada Goose in several ways. This act made it illegal to harvest waterfowl or other migratory birds except during the hunting season or by permit. It prevented the unrestricted egg harvesting and commercial hunting for meat and feathers, a commonplace practice in the United States during the late 1800â€™s and early 1900â€™s.
Hunting geese in city limits may prove difficult. To do it legally you need to get the right permits and that takes time and most importantly money. You may find loopholes if you have friends who own golf courses or friends in the park service. I donâ€™t have friends to give me free reign on these private and public lands. I donâ€™t have a hunting license. I donâ€™t own a shotgun (yet). You may find it easier to bypass legalities than I. I just donâ€™t care about jumping through the legal bureaucracy. I have no money for permits or guns or bullets and so donâ€™t have any curiosity about that. I plan to respectfully, covertly and primitively hunt these geese.
A bow and arrow seems the ideal primitive hunting weapon, allowing you to shoot accurately from a distance and immobilizing the bird. However carrying a bow and arrow around in the city would not help keep your hunting discreet, unless you only hunted during the nighttime. Due to their aggressive nature of choosing fight over flight, one may get close enough in proximity (if the geese are on land) to use a simple lance, throwing stick or club. At a primitive skills gathering I heard a story of two urban hunter-gatherers who clubbed a goose mid-day in front of hundreds of people at water park, slipping the goose under a trench coat fast enough that no one noticed.
Goose meat and eggs can provide lots of protein. People have recorded using goose fat or â€œgoose greaseâ€ as a cooking oil for thousands of years, and probably have used it for thousands of unrecorded years before that. People say the flavor of the oil tastes better than almost any other oils, in fact chefs use it very often at high-end restaurants. Geese carry the most fat during migratory times, fat working as the main energy source for the long hard flights. Humans need a certain amount of fat in their diets to get the amino acids that are found there. Originally I thought I could survive off of squirrels, until I read about Rabbit Starvation. You cannot survive eating lean meats, and in fact will starve to death no matter how much meat you put down your gullet. People need the amino acids found in fats, and more accurately the fat found in organ meats. Fat in and around the organs contain the most vitamins and amino acids. Geese seem to be the best source for low-toxin fats in an urban environment.
The feathers of geese have several uses; the fluffy down serves as a great stuffing for pillows, the wing feathers can turn into old fashion quill pens, and the others you could cut and shape for arrow fletching. Herbalists once used goose grease as the preferred oil for making medicinal ointments.
The People of the Geese
Geese have long been mythologized. In the past they have been recognized for their fidelity towards family; they mate with the same partner for life, aggressively defend their nests, and though they travel sometimes hundreds of miles, they always come back to the same place to nest. People have also recognized geese for their perseverance through long, hard journeys. In more recent culture the character â€œMother Gooseâ€ represents the keeper of stories that teach children how to behave in the world. No one seems to know where this character or idea came from, only a few leads exist here and there, but all seem to understand the archetype without the need for a historical articulation. The slang term, â€œsilly goose,â€ comes from peopleâ€™s observations that geese, despite their aggression to outsiders and hard migrations, remain humorous, or humble in their nature.
It seems that geese, serving as a potentially large source (maybe the largest) of meat and fat and with their personalities of aggressive devotion to family and perseverance through long journeys, may represent the best friend, relative and mentor to the rewilding urban hunter-gatherer. As we, like children, stand on the crest of a long, hard journey, may the geese family feed us both physically and spiritually, teaching through their humorous stories to aggressively persevere through the dark days of now, back to our original family; the community of life. – Urban Scout
*I wrote this article in E-prime; if you find a â€œto beâ€ verb in this article please make a note in the comments below and I will remove it.*
1. In what ways can one kill a goose most efficiently and quickly so that they may suffer as little as possible?
2. In what ways may one enhance the geese familyâ€™s lives on this planet?
3. When does one harvest goose eggs?
4. Would harvesting goose eggs in our current time help the geese or worsen their condition?
5. What can one do with other parts of the goose? Bones, bill, etc.
6. Does anyone have a goose story to share?
7. Goose recipes?
8. Tips on gutting/cleaning/buthering?
How Birds Migrate
Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior Volume One
Petersonâ€™s Field Guide to Birds
Golden Guide: Birds of North America
The Birders Handbook
Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds
â€¦and a bunch of other ones I forgot about. 🙁
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