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March 1, 2013

“I am woman. See me hunt.” from Toronto Star. Sunday, March 11.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anne Hines @ 12:39 pm

Spring approaches. And with it comes the return of thousands of snow geese, making their annual migration to the Arctic with a stop just north of my town. Since moving from downtown Toronto to Lucky Lake, SK (pop. 295) to serve as a minister for the United Church of Canada, I’ve learned that local attitudes toward the geese change with the seasons. In spring, we marvel at their grace and beauty. In autumn, we head out and shoot them.

Being eager to participate in all the activities of prairie life, last fall, I decided I should shoot a goose. Frankly, I consider the existence of ducks and geese positive proof that God does not intend for us to be vegetarian. And, reason that if I eat meat, I should be prepared to kill it. Here’s how I fared.

Mid-September:  Very excited. “I am woman. See me hunt.” First step: must learn to use gun. Local rancher and gun safety test-giver, John Peters, agrees to teach me and outlines some basic rules. Bottom line seems to be: don’t aim at anything you’re not prepared to eat.

Get 98% on written test. Very happy. If being a minister doesn’t work out, perhaps I can become town sheriff. Have not actually held a gun yet. But, find myself now viewing fluttering geese less as “breathtaking” and more as “lunch.”

October: Practical exam. Discover that firing a gun is like having sex. Alarming at first, but pretty soon you start to see how this might be fun. John suggests I not screech every time I pull the trigger, as it may unnerve whoever I’m with. So, also like sex.

Hunting enthusiasts Gary Boon and Terry Shaughnessy offer to take me out. Swagger a bit in town. Someone says, “I hear you’re going to shoot a goose.” I have to be truthful. “I’m going to shoot in the general direction of a goose.”

November: Weather finally deemed sufficiently filthy enough for goose hunting. Furthermore, apparently all expeditions begin at 4:30 am. Wonder at wisdom of being around people who have guns, but not enough sleep or coffee. Shaughnessy asks, “What’s life without risk?” My response? “Longer.”

4:30am: Gary and I meet at Shaughnessy’s place. Discover that you cannot just go hunting. First, you have to talk about hunting.

5:30 am: Finally load into truck and head to fields.

6 am: Glacial north wind gusting over prairie. In total darkness, jam metal-spiked bottoms of 200 goose-shaped wind socks into frigid ground. The brisk breeze fills the white canvas cut-outs immediately. We pull on white pants, jackets and hats and hunker down in the midst of a bobbing sea of decoys.

7:10 am: Sun a red line across the horizon. Suddenly, howl of wind combines with pulse of flapping wings. Trails of black specks against a lightening sky. I lift my gun. Line after line of geese appear, hovering briefly, then spiralling down on top of us. Shaughnessy shouts a signal. I click off my safety latch. I squeeze the trigger. Four or five geese thud to the ground.

I choose to think one of them was mine.

9 am: Back at Shaughnessy’s place we clean our “take.” He shows me where to push my fingers into the feathered breast plate and crack the chest cavity. In minutes, 18 geese are lying opened on the table. Shaughnessy slices out the breast meat, plopping it into a plastic bag. We drive the carcasses out of town and leave them for the coyotes.

Head home for a late morning nap. Very happy. I am courageous-amazing-hunter-woman. Toss meat into freezer.

Two weeks later: Given combined cost of gun safety-certificate, hunting licence and permit to carry gun, could have treated friends to steak dinner.

Instead, have bag of goose meat in freezer that I cannot bear to look at. Also, have a stack of recipes for wild goose dropped off by helpful neighbours, that I will never use.

All I can think is, “I turned a goose into meat in a bag.”

Have decided, I am not a hunter. Also, that if you eat meat, it does not mean for a minute that you have to kill it.

As for the life lesson in my freezer, I’m going out soon to make some coyote very happy.

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