Everyone loves a good freak-show. Although it’s now politically incorrect to call someone or something a freak, it’s still appropriate. Watching a dude pound nails with his forehead or swallow spark plugs is downright entertaining. Most of us love the unusual but how many of us go out of our way to look for it. That’s what family reunions are for.
This freak-show fall season we shot over 600 birds and almost all of them geese. I had a conversation with a good friend and nature lover Davey before the fall started. He was talking about how a disease called Avian Cholera ( Pasteurella multocida) was taking it’s toll on waterfowl populations. He told me what to look out for and when we hunted this fall he showed me some symptons to look for. In a nutshell it’s a disease that does not transmit to humans but attacks the liver, respiratory system, and can cause unusual lesions on the face and necks of birds. We are definitely no experts but this season we saw some really unusual things, perhaps I was just looking for a freak-show.
Take a gander at this greater white-fronted gander that we shot mid-October in Saskatchewan. We heard this bird coming in and it didn’t sound right. Until we did a pick-up of the dead birds I did not notice the poor little thing’s beak. It was on borrowed time this one. It could not breath through it’s nostrils and the blockages were full of a yellow puss. It was an under weight adult speck with decent bars, probably 5-8 years old estimated. Needless to say this one didn’t make it into our food-chain.
Davey and myself were hunting on a large slough in Saskatchewan on my aunt’s field for an evening hunt. We knew that we were not the only people to hunt this spot since it is a real good one. There were coyote eaten corpses (just attached wingtips and skeletons) around our corner of the shoreline. On a quick walk we saw around a dozen of these skeletons. We both wondered if someone had shot up a bunch of birds and left em floating and the wind blew them to our side of the slough. I noticed a larger than normal amount of ravens and crows on the far end of slough (perhaps eating dead birds?).
The previous day we finished a hunt on a large harvested lentil field. We shot a few birds and we had watched a large group in the tens of thousands feeding about thousand + yards away from our spread. After we cleaned up for the morning did a quick look around our field and the closest slough for cripples (YES some of us actually do this). When the large feed of birds flew back to their afternoon watering hole to rest we saw 2 dead/crippled lesser snow-geese on the same spot as the feed. We thought that these were a couple of wounded birds that went to join their brothers on the ground. They were two dead adult snows there. One cold (from early morning and one warm one). Not a scratch on em, no wound no mark. Both magestic adult trophy birds. One had bubbles and liquid coming from its mouth and nostrils then other looked pristine. We opened them both up and they had blue spots on their livers. Another sign of avian cholera. They were disposed of. Now to the day later, were those skeletons on the slough dead birds like these two we had found? Who knows. Look at how pretty they are (the only blood you will see on them if from our hands at butchering time).
Every now and again you see a really unique bird. Check out the head on this blue phase lesser snow-goose. We shot this bird on the last day of our Saskatchewan hunting season. A real looker here, haven’t seen black spots on an eagle head before.
Next season I know that I will be looking even more intently at the birds we shoot and looking for the freaks/oddities all around us. If you have any odd pics or stories pass em along. Good hunting.