Fire Up The Charcoal 'My first white-fronted goose was memorable and delicious'
Paul Wait, Magazine Editor on 10/08/2013
I WANTED TO crawl under my seat.
There I stood, a moment removed from the third spent shotshell hull having ejected from my semi-auto as my target winged away over a flooded Arkansas rice field.
Seconds earlier, a lone white-fronted goose — also known as a specklebelly or speck — had flown perfectly over the levee pit. And all five of my blindmates allowed me to be the only hunter to fire. You see, they had heard me say in our morning chatter how much I wanted to shoot a speck and that I had never had a chance at one.
The goose emitted the species’ characteristic high-pitched squeaks, slowly fighting a brisk breeze that rippled the water around our decoys. I coiled low, hoping the speck would maintain its flyover course. When the goose finally reached 20 yards out, I stood fast and fired wildly.
Expecting the goose to flare, I fought to swing my barrel ahead of the bird as it continued on the same flight path. I launched my second payload of pellets straight up.
The goose didn’t even flinch.
With the bird now past me, I spun and tracked, sending my third shot skyward. I poked more holes in the sky.
To add to my misery, the hail of pellets from my second volley rained down all around the blind as I stood staring in disbelief at my still-smoking barrel.
“Watch that goose!” cautioned one of my hunting partners.
The specklebelly had continued in flight for 200 yards over the field, but was now seemingly struggling to stay aloft. The goose hovered for an instant, and then tumbled from the sky.
“Dead goose! You got him!”
A duty-bound black Lab lunged over the rice straw to fetch my prize, but it wasn’t until I held the goose in my hands that I felt a wave of relief.
I examined the speck, noting it was clearly a young bird. In fact, my whitefront was missing its specks — the goose had no barring on its chest.
Sure, I wished the bird had folded cleanly. But it was well within range, and when I dressed the goose, I discovered several pellet holes.
The next evening, back at home in Illinois, I tenderized the breast meat and fired up my charcoal. I had heard the claims comparing specklebellies to rib-eye, so I decided to treat it just like a steak. I grilled the meat to medium-rare and served it with potatoes and corn. Best meal of the month.
In October, I have the good fortune to travel to Alberta for a hunt. I’m sure we’ll encounter large numbers of Canada geese, cacklers and snow geese, but my ears will be acutely tuned for the sounds of the laughing specklebellies migrating down from the Arctic breeding grounds.
If I’m lucky, my second speck will be a dark-barred adult goose I crumple in the decoys on the first shot. I sure hope it tastes just as good as my first one.
Paul Wait is editor/publisher of Delta Waterfowl magazine.