As I finished packing my suitcase the night before we left for Churchill the excitement started to settle in; the next morning my fiance Keith and I were leaving to hunt my first spring snow goose season. For anyone who doesn’t know, snow geese are now considered a nuisance out on the tundra. The once protected species is now one of the most abundant waterfowl on the continent. Snow geese eat their way across the tundra very quickly, destroying the habitat as they migrate through not only for themselves, but for other animals that also depend on the vegetation. I have hunted waterfowl before, harvesting the odd snow in the fall but this was the first time I had traveled to target the species. That night I could hardly sleep I was so anxious.
The following afternoon we landed in Churchill, Manitoba. I had always imagined it as a busy little tourist town where polar bears roamed freely in the streets. I had clearly let my imagination get the best of me, soon realizing that in the off season it was sleepy, quiet and beautiful community. After we settled in, Keith and I decided to do a little sightseeing before everyone headed to camp the next day. Miss Piggy was the first on our list; A C-46 airplane which had crashed on November 13th, 1979. Miss Piggy had left the Churchill airport and shortly into the flight she experienced an engine failure and in an attempt to return it crashed a quarter mile short of the runway. The wreckage remains untouched aside the parts that have been stolen for souvenirs over the years, one of its radial engines still lies fifty feet from the wreck. I felt like a kid exploring this relic, letting my imagination run wild thinking of all the adventures this plane may have been on before it found its final resting place in the rocks of the tundra.
It took a two hour sled ride across the frozen Hudson Bay to get to the cabin and I can honestly say that travelling across the melting sea ice was one of the most beautiful yet terrifying things I have ever done. Our home for the next few days was nestled in a big stand of beautiful tamaracks and was complete with several patched up holes in one wall courtesy of local bear vandals looking for a snack. As we pulled up to camp thousands of snows lifted from the tidal pools and began swarming overhead drowning out the sounds of our snow machines, but I could still hear my excited heart pounding over all the noise. That night we unpacked and decided to stay in, taking the opportunity to get a couple shoots in from camp; believe me, there’s nothing like hunting in your pajamas!
Morning one of our hunt came quickly; we had a coffee and then headed out to build a blind. We set up in a section of open tundra not far from camp, squeezing five of us and the dog into our little blind surrounded by dozens of decoys. Although it started slow the hunt picked up and by the end of the day we had filled our toboggans and even managed to tag a banded Ross’ goose! The following days were filled with hard hunting, laughs, a few bear encounters, late nights and a new-found love for onion soup mix and goose thanks to our friend Brendan’s camp stove culinary skills. Our trip was over way too soon, but I was looking forward to the long ride home.
We traveled another two hours back across the sea ice dodging six foot cracks and slush stopping along the way to have a quick bonfire to warm up. Back in town we enjoyed our last day relaxing and visited our friend Dave of Wapusk Adventures at his dog yard where we got to meet his dog sled team. Watching how the dogs interacted with him and the amount of respect every single one had for him was amazing. That night marked the end of our trip, as we packed to leave the following morning I was already anticipating next year’s hunt. I fell in love with this town, the land, its people and their hospitality and I am so grateful to everyone who made the trip possible.
By Sharlee Robson