Wild geese have been an important food item for people from the earliest times. They are found around the world. Geese remain a common target of hunters, wherever the taking of geese is permitted. Typically they are hunted with shotguns. However I am going to be talking about methods of taking geese that were used prior to the arrival of gunpowder, specifically the corral trap.
Shortly after breeding. for up to three weeks in mid July to August, geese (and other waterfowl) moult. That is they lose their flight feathers. During this time they typically take to the water. At this time it is possible to herd them towards a previously constructed corral consisting of long wings, extending into the water and funnelling down into a corral pen. You can see the general form of the corral pen in the image below. The three illustrations below are from the FAO. 2007. publication, Wild Birds and Avian Influenza: an introduction to applied field research and disease
sampling techniques. Edited by D. Whitworth, S.H. Newman, T. Mundkur and P. Harris. FAO Animal Production and Health Manual, No. 5. Rome. (also available at www.fao.org/avianflu)
The geese can be herded by individuals in small boats, people wading in shallow water or walking on land, as the case may be.
The number of boats or people will depend on the spread of the wings. Herders should move at a steady pace so that the birds simply keep moving forward. Poles and/or nets can be used to foil escape attempts.
Indigenous peoples of northern Canada would use bow and arrows, bird darts or nets to take their prey. Bird darts were spears with three pronged heads typically used with a “throwing board” or atlatl to provide more distance and force. Sometimes the birds were simply clubbed to death. As can be imagined, numerous birds in a small area made taking them a much simpler matter than hunting individual members of the species.
Obviously it would be very difficult for a single person to manage this method of survival bird harvesting. Not impossible, but difficult. In some ways, this is very similar to game drives, used in the past to take jackrabbit, antelope, deer and buffalo in North America. Evidence for European prehistoric game drives has been report. It would seem to be an obvious technique, though once settled in an area, people may have been more careful to preserve a significant portion of any prey animal population for their own benefit.
Taking birds is simplified during their moulting period because they can only operate in two dimensions and their speed is drastically reduced. Advantage hunters. Because of the number it is possible to take, it is necessary to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of people available to process the catch and preserve the meat, or to use it immediately. An alternative is to allow some birds to remain alive inside the pen, to be used as required. However, the corral pen must then be constructed sturdily enough so as to keep other predators out.
The technique discussed above has many similarities to the techniques used in fish traps and in game drives. Long wings, angled towards a collection spot. Large numbers of prey herded into a constricted area that make collection simple and efficient.
If you have any thoughts, don’t hesitate to comment, or to go over to the Survival Harvesting Facebook page to engage with others who have similar interests.