Holly A. Heyser
Canada geese get a bad rap. We all know this goose. It's the one that chokes our parks, wanders around our neighborhoods, and leaves great cylindrical snakes o' crap all over the place. Sky carp. Flying rats. Stinking, arrogant hissing birds that frighten children.
Yeah, Canadas can be all of these things. But in the right circumstances they can be wonderful at the table, in many ways better even than either a domestic goose or a wild specklebelly goose, which is known to those of us who hunt them as "the ribeye of the sky."
I managed to return from my sojourn to Manitoba with five Canada geese, and since then I've been busy trying to elevate what most people view as barely a step above vermin.
I should start by noting that there are Canada geese and there are Canada geese; incidentally, it is most definitely not a "Canadian goose." That drives me nuts. The geese I shot happened to be Canadian because I killed them in Manitoba. But the species is correctly known as "Canada goose." Got it? Good.
As I was saying, there are all sorts of geese that look like Canadas, from tiny Aleutian geese no larger than a mallard, to the Giant Canadas, which can reportedly top 18 pounds. That, my friends, is one big-ass sky carp. The geese I shot were a mix of cacklers, which are only about three to four pounds, lesser Canada geese, which are about five to seven pounds, and one big Western Canada, which weighed nearly 13 pounds. That was a monster.
Canada geese live like large mallards, which is why you see them sharing the same park ponds. Both birds will eat just about anything, from bread and algae to insects, crayfish, and, yes, grain. How a Canada tastes depends on what that bird ate before you shot it. And because they are such eclectic eaters, it really, really matters.