Sloth, Spandex, and Goose Cassoulet, Part Two
Moving from the deer stand over to the nearby goose pond required a few steps. I had initially put a rifled choke on my 12-gauge shotgun and zeroed it at the nearby range along with the Nagant using slugs in anticipation of using it for deer. It was of course not nearly as accurate beyond 50 yards as the Nagant, so I did not use it the last week of deer season in favor of the rifle. I came to realize the more economical choice of a rifled choke over against the cost of a fully rifled shotgun barrel would work just fine for my purposes. Depending on the placement of the deer stand, the shotgun would be an option for me to consider next season although I really prefer the crossbow and, even in the face of my fresh mishap using the Nagant, there seems to be something more rewarding about a kill with a bow than I sense with a firearm.
Perhaps for some that sense of reward may be similar to catching trout on a fly rod rather than casting live bait. I have an eight-weight fly rod for saltwater and when I first moved to the intercoastal I tried it off a dock on a nearby tidal river. I never caught anything with it except odd stares from the local fishermen who may have envisioned Napoleon Dynamite practicing dance moves or perhaps some odd elitist fashion statement being made by the intrusive progeny of carpetbaggers. Fly rods appear to pair well with spandex on the more rural parts of the Low Country intercoastal rivers. I was quick to realize that when in Rome... When I switched to live bait like the natives, after a couple of years of humbling experience learning my new environs, I actually started catching fish in these challenging, muddy, fast-flowing tidal rivers. The fly rod however does work elsewhere where the water is clearer and certainly it works on the freshwater pond in spite of its awkward size, but it was time to consider the hunt, and spoiled by inshore saltwater fish like speckled sea-trout, redfish and flounder, freshwater pond bass are just not very enticing. They are bait for blue crabs at best.
I hung up the crossbow with the flyrod and would use a 12-gauge pump to bag a goose. I thought better of firing birdshot through the rifled choke as I had never tested that combination and had little idea what it might create for a shot pattern. I dug up a turkey choke that I had cast aside and misplaced for a time after having an embarrassing incident with it when I went skeet shooting with an Anglican church group. I could not hit anything and I had no idea what was wrong; I am not great at skeet and trap, but I can usually hold my own and I had practiced and done quite well in preparation for the event. After my severe humbling I realized that rather than using the skeet choke, I had accidently left the turkey choke installed. I choked to the point of well-deserved ridicule. It could only have been more shameful had showed up in spandex with a shotgun made in China.
To hunt by the nearby pond, I needed accuracy at considerable range and also to be very careful; my neighbor’s livestock graze on the land surrounding the pond including a goat that is very curious about any new activity. I erred toward a light game-load partly because it is what I had lying around and there is not much in the way of ammunition on the retail shelves these days, and partly out of consideration for the safety of the livestock. I piled up some hay and used it as camouflage near the pond edge along what I thought to be the most likely avenue of approach for an inbound gaggle. A problem quickly arose; goats like to eat hay as much as they like to play roughly with any new invading human. Even when Radar the goat was otherwise engaged during my dawn patrol to the straw pile, he had likely spent the night lying and defecating on the very spot where I had set up my hidden outpost. When no geese had showed up for a week, and after Radar I had a few head-butting territorial disputes, my motivation waned as it had with the midseason absence of deer, until while lying in bed well past when I should have been out by the pond hoping I was not on Radar’s radar, I heard the distinct honk of the V-formation overhead that I had so coveted while buried in that hay with my shotgun at the ready for so many prior uneventful sunrises.
I slowly rolled out of bed and made coffee and went out toward the pond, shotgun in one hand and coffee mug in the other expecting the geese I heard earlier from my position of slothful supine comfort to be long gone, but to my surprise they politely had waited for me. The trick was now to sneak up without spooking them. After quickly guzzling my coffee, I crept toward the pond with shotgun aimed at the ready, long before being in range, perhaps out of martial nostalgic self-indulgence if not to risk a hopelessly long shot should they attempt to flee at my presence. They did not readily spook as I slowly approached, and as soon as I was within marginal range, I got one with a single well-placed headshot; the rest flew away from me across the pond. When game birds are flying away, their heads are down and there is little if any opportunity for a good shot from that angle; it is imprudent to fill the meat with birdshot or to risk just wounding them. The oblique angles offered by the position of my straw camouflaged outpost would have worked much better for me had I been more tenacious and was readily waiting in my goat-defiled makeshift blind.
The cleaning process is a bit of an art, so I enlisted my daughter who slaughters meat chickens. Done correctly nothing is wasted. The liver, heart, feet, and gizzard are all salvaged. We filled a cooler with 150-degree water and added some Sal Suds to loosen the feathers for plucking. After removing the head and feet and manually plucking all the large wing feathers, we cut off the wing tips. This allowed us to carefully use a 1.5 horsepower Yardbird electric chicken plucker to remove the smaller feathers. Even with its extremities trimmed, the goose jammed the plucker every few seconds because of its size, but by dropping it in and pulling it out and by stopping and starting it over and over we saved much time over plucking the entire goose manually.
Now it was my wife’s turn to contribute to my little neophyte, salt-life endeavor. She spun up a recipe for goose cassoulet that was quite extraordinary. It took two days to prepare. She soaked white kidney beans overnight and used sausage and pork with the goose. She first roasted the goose separately and then added it, precooked, to the beans and spiced broth which then baked in the oven. The result was exceptional.
We took it to the house of a friend from our local Latin Mass community for his birthday and fed a church-militant platoon with it. I paired it with a sauvignon blanc blend for the ladies and a bottle of Portuguese red on the lighter side as that seemed to go well with the goose. The flavors in the cassoulet differed with each bite as the goose and the pork and the sausage each presented itself differently in the seasoned broth bean base. After an apple tort desert that my wife baked as a birthday cake, we burned some Nicaraguan cigars and talked late into the day on such topics such as the ape of the church, bishops and priests who manifest their worldview deficit-disorders by wearing masks and taking gene altering jabs making them trans-human, and I took opportunity to brag about hunting, fishing, and writing for the Fleming Foundation in an effort to impress the trad youth. It was a wonderful way to end hunting season and to break from our fast on a Sunday in Lent. Having avowed not to again give into midseason sloth next year, I plan to supply venison for sauerbraten.
On reflection, there was a notion of ingratitude commensurate with my instances of sloth. How many hunters have the luxury of being in the deer stand before dawn and still be at a work desk by nine? The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places despite the goat, the governor, the invading cargo ships, and the post conciliar spirit. Next season will be different.