I by no means consider myself an expert when it comes to hunting Canada goose, but I learned one valuable lesson last fall: a flock of Canadas fears not the innocuous lime-green headlamp atop a hunter’s brow while he gathers his decoys.
Last autumn, my friend Dave Orrick, St. Paul Pioneer Press Outdoors editor, and I spent a few mornings during hunting season in a farmer’s field, attempting to entice migrating Canada goose to bypass a neighboring property ripe with scattered ponds and cow dung. Our efforts were mostly futile, except for one morning when we were able to pull a couple flocks off their prime landing spot.
Orrick had arrived well before daylight and scattered his two dozen plastic-shell decoys by headlamp. I arrived shortly before daybreak, wearing my own headlamp, and helped re-arrange decoys and predict our best strategy. Once satisfied with our spread, we took our seats in a line of bushes within gun range and waited for daylight.
The northern sky went from dark to bruise to baby blue. Soon flocks of Canada goose appeared like a line of sutures above the horizon, one after another. We watched them land in the field across the road, north of us, while we honked on our calls and waved black-flag wings.
One flock eventually circled our spread and one brave goose locked wings and touched down. We missed, but in all fairness, my second barrel never fired (bad shell primer, it’d turn out).
A little after 11 o’clock, after having seen no birds for the past half hour, we figured they were mostly down for the day. We set our guns aside and stood and started gathering decoys. When we were nearly finished, a flock eight-deep approached the property across the road. “They will surely land there,” we told each other.
They flew east and made a u-turn, heading our way, flying a mere 30 yards—if that—above ground. “There’s no way,” I told Orrick. Still, my actions belied my words, as I walked toward the bushes and loaded my gun.
I barely had enough time to load both barrels before they passed over a patch of reeds directly in front of us. I fired my first barrel into the white, wide breast of one and was astonished to see it drop immediately. I blame the poor shooting of my second barrel on utter surprise, as there I stood, dumbfounded, still wearing my headlamp beside a plastic sled stacked high with cheap decoys.
I suppose, after all, to those goose we looked pretty harmless: one shmuck with his bright green headlamp still on and the other piling gear into a duffle bag.
We showed them, though—well, maybe just one of them.
Suffice to say, I’m a better cook than I am a shot. I learned through my own mistakes that the tougher cuts—the hardest working muscles on a wild bird—require the greatest degree of patience. The strategy is simple: low and slow. Give Canada goose legs enough time to stew on low heat and after several hours, those legs will yield delectable, tender meat.
Makes four servings.
Two wild Canada goose legs, skinned, lightly salted and peppered
Crock Pot Ingredients:
One orange, peeled and split into slices
2 large cloves freshly minced garlic
2 tablespoons Sambal chili paste
1 cup chicken stock
Half head green cabbage, thinly sliced into inch-length pieces
Half head red cabbage, thinly sliced into inch-length pieces
1fresh jalapeño, minced (seed if you don’t wish to include spice)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 lime, juiced
1-1/2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons kosher slat
Eight 6-inch corn tortillas, fried
Freshly minced cilantro
To grill wild Canada goose legs: Skin legs. Completely thaw if frozen. Lightly salt and pepper all sides. Pre-heat grill to 400 degrees farhenheit. Make sure coals are gray and hot (if using charcoal) and grate is also hot. Thoroughly sear all sides of legs and remove once done, cover with aluminum foil.
To finish legs: Set Crock Pot to low heat and add grilled legs. Add freshly minced garlic, orange slices, chili paste and chicken stock. Cook on low for a minimum 8 hours, or 4 hours on high, 2 on low. As meat starts to tenderize after a few hours, you can cut it from the bone, as it will yield quicker if detached from bones. Use two forks to pull apart and shred goose meat. Larger legs may take longer, so be prepared to wait. Have patience, all wild legs yield eventually.
To assemble coleslaw: Cut one red cabbage and one green cabbage in half, remove stem. Thinly slice into 1-inch pieces. Place pieces in a large mixing bowl and add sour cream, mayonnaise, juiced half lime, sugar, salt and freshly minced whole jalapeño. Be certain to seed jalapeño if you don’t wish to have that spice included in coleslaw.
To prepare: Add a half inch of vegetable or canola oil to a large skillet and heat to 350 degrees. Fry each corn tortilla one at a time. Each side should only take a few seconds, if oil is hot, to brown. Remove once both sides are fried and place on a napkin-covered place until all eight are fried.
To serve: Add a thin layer of shredded wild Canada goose to each taco and top with coleslaw. Garnish with freshly minced cilantro.