Every spring, in the Cree communities of northern Quebec, regular life grinds to a halt. Kids take a break from school, businesses shut their doors and people head out on the land to hunt. It's the period known as goose break, a tradition that goes back centuries.

The caribou, moose and ptarmigan that filled up the people's freezers is long gone, and the thousands of geese flying north are a perfect replacement.

Clifford Bearskin is an elder in Chisasibi, on the east coast of James Bay, who's been hunting his whole life. He usually goes out with his grandson and always manages to come back with a good haul.

"A person with a good shot always gets plenty of geese," he said. 

But hunting in the spring can be risky. Once the spring sun shines directly onto the land, the ice and snow melt away quickly. Elder Bearskin describes it "like melting fat in a sauce pan when you prepare to cook bannock."

'It's a tradition in my culture to hunt this kind of wild meat and also to have big feasts in our community.' - Cassandra Weapenicappo Stephen

The environment can change in a flash, and hunters on snowmobiles have to be very careful when they're crossing lakes and rivers. Especially this year, when the ice has been particularly unpredictable.

The weather isn't the only thing changing. Hunting used to be an exclusively male activity, but more and more women are taking it up.

Neil George

17 year-old Neil George caught the first goose in Whapmagoostui this year. (CBC)

Cassandra Weapenicappo Stephen, from the James Bay community of Eastmain, was out on the land Monday. She says she started hunting because she knew how to use a gun.

"The more I learned about using a gun, the more interested I was in hunting," she said.

Goose break also helps Weapenicappo Stephen feel connected to her people;

"It's a tradition in my culture to hunt this kind of wild meat and also to have big feasts in our community," she said. 

Those mouth-watering feasts will take place in a week or two, when the hunters return.