Quebec Crees heading further south for annual goose hunt

Goose Break is now in full swing in Eeyou Istchee, northern Quebec. Over the past few years, more hunters have been heading south for the spring hunt, saying the birds are heading inland instead of flying up the eastern coast of James Bay.

Hunters noticing geese heading inland rather than up to eastern coast of James Bay

Goose Break is now in full swing in Eeyou Istchee, northern Quebec.

For the Crees of James Bay, the annual spring hunt is bigger than Christmas; schools are closed and the communities look like ghost towns as everyone goes to the bush.

But now, many Cree hunters are getting a head start by heading south.

"Hunters say the geese are heading inland rather than flying up the eastern coast of James Bay," said Waskaganish, Que., Chief Gordon Blackned.

Blackned said that in the past, a hunter could kill hundreds of geese each spring. Now, he said even a good hunter will only kill about 20.

"In the past 10 years, that is when we noticed a change in the geese around the coasts of James Bay. The geese flew more inland and are not landing as much as before."

Because of this, over the last five years, some Crees from James Bay have gone hunting in the farm fields of southern Ontario.

One of their favourite places is a town called Alfred, Ont. The geese are plentiful, and local farmers give the hunters permission to shoot geese in their fields.

While the men are out hunting, the women stay behind and pluck.

"I clean the geese from the evening hunt the next morning when the men are off to shoot more geese. By the time I am done cleaning the hunters arrive with more geese to clean," said Emily Cowboy of Waskaganish, who has been coming to Ontario for three years for the hunt.

When the hunt is finished in Ontario, the Crees return to their communities in James Bay where the hunt is just beginning.