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STORY AND PHOTOS BY Danny Christensen
The hunt from this story inspired a Goose Stew recipe by Danny Christensen.
Living in New York City, my senses are in a constant state of overload. There is not one minute, not one moment, where the electrical impulses in my brain are firing on low, where everything is clear, everything is pure….
So the second the decision is made to start the car and drive north to my house in the mountains in Catskills National Park, I already feel a little lighter and the excitement starts building…like a little kid the day before Christmas.
It’s a two-hour drive from NYC to the Catskills Park and my house in Woodstock (yes, that Woodstock). It’s a drive I have done a hundred times before and every drive is like a two-hour therapy session. As soon as I get past the Bronx, I start seeing the small creeks trickling through the rocky underground, birds of prey flying over the road, and, much to my surprise, huge rocks and boulders penetrating the grass and rising like majestic giants on both side of the road, reminding me of how Manhattan must have looked when Peter Minuit bought the island for 60 guilders, or $24, from the Lanape tribe in 1626, back when Manhattan was wild…well a different kind of wild.
For every mile I move away from the city, the skyscrapers in my rear-view mirror slowly shrinking and the trees taking over, I feel the joy and euphoria rush over me. I feel the pressure on my shoulders slowly evaporating and my lungs begin to expand as they take in more and more oxygen. As if by a Turbo in a Ferrari, it’s forcefully injected into every vein in my body and it gives me a head rush….
But this time it’s different. This time it’s accompanied with an increased heartbeat and a steady and constant rise in adrenaline, catalyzing the head rush into a high…that indescribable feeling that gets you hooked. This time it’s early September and hunting season is open…and I’m on my way to hunt Canadian geese on the flats surrounding the Catskills Mountains.
While growing up in Denmark, hunting geese and ducks automatically made you think of a stormy, wet and cold fall day, but not now. Not this time.
It’s 7 p.m., and NYC is about an hour and a half behind me and the sun is going down. The deer are starting to emerge from the woods to go feast on the juicy fresh-cut grass next to the highway. In the distance I see a flock of around 60 Canadian geese flying over a wetland area, and it’s 78 degrees outside!
The sight of the geese inspires me to break the silence, the silence that I enjoy so much. I pick up my phone to call Adam.
Adam is a local guy in his mid-twenties who introduced me to goose- and duck-hunting in NY — well, in the U.S. Adam is joining me tomorrow morning for the hunt and I hope his experience, and knowledge of the area and the birds, will give us the best odds for bringing home a 100 percent organic and free-roaming fat and delicious goose.
Unfortunately Adam confirms what I feared the most: there are not a lot of geese in the area. The hunting season has been open for almost two weeks now and the geese that spend the summer in the area realized the smell of the bakery and headed for safer grounds. The warm weather resulted in a halt on winter migration from Canada, so there are very few geese to be found in NY. Luckily we are hunting in an area the geese really love — a harvested cornfield — so if there are any geese around, we’ll see them tomorrow morning.
After a terrible night’s sleep, or rather lack of sleep, due to the adrenaline still surfing the blood waves of my veins, the alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m., about 30 minutes after I woke up.
The 25-minute drive to the hunting grounds feels like two hours. The weather is warm and there is not one cloud in sight, resulting in the clearest night sky with a vast ocean of millions of bright shining stars; it’s truly magical.
I meet Adam and we start setting up the decoys and our layout blinds on an open field that a week ago was covered in a forest of delicious sweet corn. Now we are hoping that a few geese will swing by to feast on the remaining pieces of corn scattered around on the big, open dirt field.
As we crawl into our blinds, loud barks and howls break the silent morning as a pack of coyotes seems to welcome us from the edge of the forest about a half-mile away. Or are they really taking a stand to defend their territory and their hunting grounds? They no doubt love the fat, corn-fed geese even more than we do….
Settled in our blinds, we see the first signs of the new day lighting up the sky to the east just as a thick, mystical fog rolls in. As sent by the coyotes to curse our hunt and save the geese for another day on the flats, another day as coyote prey…. I remember that the local Mohawk Indian tribe believes coyotes are humans spirits reincarnated, and they NEVER cross a coyote as they have the power to curse humans. But I’m from New York City and if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere, so I decide to challenge the coyotes today and set my focus on the sky towards the north as I hear the sounds of geese from far away.
Instantly my brain releases a flood of adrenaline that reaches my heart in a split second and makes it pound with a force and speed that would make even Lars Ulrich of Metallica look like a 2-year-old child banging on a cardboard box with a stick.
But the rush is short; the sound of the geese is getting weaker and weaker until all is silent again.
Everything is quiet for a while; there’s not a sound. The sun is now up and its rays paint the eastern sky in a full-range palette of red, pink and purple.
I’m focused on the amazing morning sky, through the slowly lifting fog. I’m completely gone and spellbound by the beauty, like I’m in a trance fueled by the magical colors.
Like a hypnotist snaps his fingers to bring a person back from the hypnosis, the loud sound of a goose very close by snaps me out of my trance.
Out of the fog to my right comes flying two huge Canadian geese. They are too far out, but any second now they will see the decoys and swing towards us, getting them within shooting range.
That never happens.
That same instant a single goose yells out, it’s locked onto its landing strip and is coming right at us and the decoys. It’s only 25 yards away and I jump up from my blind, aim, and fire off a very loud single shot that sends the goose towards the ground.
Short of breath from the excitement, I quickly turn around towards Adam to share moment. To my surprise, I see Adam reloading his gun and with a huge smile on his face.
We both shot at the goose at the very same instant, with a precision worthy of the New York City Philharmonic’s clarinet players, resulting in a louder-than-normal bang and a very dead goose.
It was a perfect ending to a more than perfect morning of Canadian goose hunting in the Catskills, NY.
Eye of the Beholder