The back of the green jacket hanging over the chair reads, “Goose Control.” That jacket belongs to Rob Hall, who explains why the Toronto greater metropolitan area has long held tremendous numbers of Canada geese, and how goose control upbringings later lead him into recreational hunting. And plenty of it! Despite an incredible goose abundance–and no matter how much fecal matter each Canada goose generates daily–hunting here where rural lifestyles increasingly collide with big city ideals presents unique challenges, increasing limitations. Tune in to hear about the Toronto pipeline–and watch your step!
The Canada Goose Pipeline
So they’re slowly working their way down through James Bay and they end up, right down into like Moosonee area, I believe that’s what it’s called.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere where this year road trip has taken me to Toronto, Canada on the north side of Lake Ontario. Never been to this part of Ontario and it’s been nothing short of amazing, it’s what today’s guest, Rob Hall who was born and raised in this region describes as a Canada Goose pipeline. Rob, we’ve had a couple of good days up here with you.
Rob Hall: Yeah, I’m happy we didn’t disappoint.
Ramsey Russell: Is that pretty normal hunting for you?
Rob Hall: Yeah, usually once we can get a good crop rotation.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it’s real weird coming from Western Canada. Just Mayberry RFD, little country, little bitty villas of 600 or 200 or 8 people to here to Toronto. Kind of like, I mean, I don’t know, I haven’t been everywhere in Canada, but it strikes me as the New York City of Canada.
Rob Hall: Yeah, pretty much.
Ramsey Russell: And everybody kept warning me, oh, man, highway 401, it’s the most dangerous highway in America. Well, now let me say you this, it’s the busiest 7-8 lane highway I’ve ever been in the sovereign power of Canada, but it ain’t Houston, Texas. So there’s that to be said, but it’s a busy like, driving to goose hunt the last couple of mornings, man, it’s been bumper to bumper, like rush hour traffic in big cities. Is that normal?
Rob Hall: Yeah, it has been for basically since the pandemic, we had a big shift in land values, so once everybody could work from home, everybody decided to sell their houses in the city and move to the country.
Ramsey Russell: And moved out here to the good old part of the world. And that’s going to be a lot of topic of what we talk about today is how the interface right here, the hunting is unbelievable, as the last 2 mornings have shown where it can be mallards and big old Canada geese. But at the same time, it’s right at the interface. It’s on the one hand, I’m looking this direction and there’s a beautiful cornfield, farm land, flocks of Canada geese coming from all points on the compass. But I’m surrounded by McMansion, I’m surrounded by just bumper to bumper traffic, it’s unbelievable.
Rob Hall: Yeah, it’s a different world completely.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me what the pipeline is, you kind of articulated that when I got here the other day and I had seen a lot of geese. It’s like once I got somewhere across this invisible boundary, kind of coming to the outskirts of Toronto, we’re not in Toronto, we’re north of there, but still this is the Toronto Metroplex or going to be very soon. It’s like, wow, every field are flocks, what is that?
Rob Hall: Basically, it’s just a mix of – we have such a – it’s hard to explain, we have such a massive building development happening all through the GTA because of the lack of houses that they’re just trying to develop whatever farmland they can get their hands on.
Ramsey Russell: I get the urban sprawl, I’m asking about the pipeline. It kind of starts up there at James Bay and what I’ve tried to figure out is somewhere between James Bay and Ottawa, there exists a pipeline, right there that Ottawa Valley where Ryan Reynolds is, there’s a pipeline and then some of those birds go north, but they’re drawn here. They’re drawn here by massive resident populations of geese and even when I’ve talked to a lot of boys over in Western Ontario are saying a lot of the Canada geese are drifting through this area. Describe that pipeline to me?
Rob Hall: Well, basically what my opinion on it is that they follow the path of least resistance. So they’re slowly working their way down through James Bay and they end up, right down into like Moosonee area, I believe that’s what it’s called. And then if you take a straight shot draw on a map and you go from there down to Lake Ontario, it’s a straight fly to where we are, the difference is, from the bird’s eye view, when you’re coming into the city, you can see this big sprawl of cement happening before the lake. So there’s nowhere for them to stop, so they just end up stopping before they actually get to Lake Ontario because we have so many golf courses, so many environmental offsets from developments, there’s just so many different ponds.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a habitat scale too. Because the other day when I was coming in, I zoomed out on my little Google Maps on the truck and below me was big old massive Lake Ontario, I know they use a lot of shoreline to the north was that Georgiana Bay?
Rob Hall: Yes, sir.
Ramsey Russell: To its west is Lake Huron and then you see all these other smaller water bodies right on down to the stock tank and it’s crazy. It’s almost like, you’ve got corn, you’ve got soybeans, you’ve got pasture, you’ve got the golf courses, you’ve got the other urban grasslike setting, just like you’ve got the perfect storm.
Rob Hall: It literally is the perfect storm –
Ramsey Russell: For geese, for non-migrating geese. And then you’ve got, as we’re going to talk about, you’ve got this massive population of city slickers that ain’t going to hunt, don’t like hunt, don’t want to kill, don’t want to hunt.
Rob Hall: Yeah, there’s always a better way.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, it just reminds me as Netherlands to me. A lot of the birds we talked to Jack Miner formerly and a lot of the bird when there ain’t no bird flu going on, a lot of the birds that come into their fold are from here. They are resident birds that are captured when they are – problem birds when they are flightless, they round them up, boom and they send them over there. And just the side, one of the crazy little things I learned had never heard of angel wings, “angel wings”. And there’s all these full grown geese walking around that are flightless and their wings are kind of sticking straight out on them like a little penguin or something, I’m like, what the hell is that? And they go, well, that’s angel wings. I go what is it? They go, it’s when those birds raised in the cities like Toronto and folk feed them bread and feed them and they kind of just like, overload their wings with protein and nutrients and they just become malformed isn’t that crazy? They don’t like killing geese, but they’re going to feed them to death where they can’t fly and then they’re going to complain about, oh, we got problems with them, we need to get rid of them. It don’t make sense.
Rob Hall: That’s the problem that we deal with every day.
Ramsey Russell: Talk a little bit about the changing land use, the agriculture, the realty prices swallowing up the landscape kind of what this melting pot and just put it in your hunting career and your lifetime, what has changed, when did it explode, when did it take off like it did?
Rob Hall: It was probably mid 2010 was when everything for me got pretty big. I feel that just because of the amount of golf courses and whatnot in the region, these birds just slowly just keep funneling through and there’s no hunting pressure whatsoever. So there’s no reason for them to leave with all of the road salt that we still use on the roads, as soon as they start salting the roads, all the salt runoff ends up in the ponds and they keep the ponds open. So we have roost ponds open –
Ramsey Russell: And it’s that much salt put out on the highway.
Rob Hall: Not even just the highways, the highways they don’t use salt, they use salt on all the municipal roads so that the ice doesn’t build.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. You were saying, like one morning I heard some shots somewhere but there really wasn’t a lot of shots and one morning as we got done, you told me, oh, I’m just letting you know, I’ve called the police, what was that about? You called the police?
Rob Hall: Yeah. Well, basically because of where we are and our experience is usually with the amount of shooting that ends up happening on a decent hunt, somebody’s caught interest and they’re not sure that we’re allowed to do what we’re doing, we either, you’re not allowed to kill Canada geese or you’re not allowed to do what you’re doing. So rather than have the police show up at the field and cause an embarrassment and ruin a hunt, we’ve just decided to call it in the morning, explain to them what we’re doing, tell them that we’re not breaking any bylaws or rules and they act as our little buffer and keep everybody away from us.
Ramsey Russell: What do the police think about all that, when somebody calls them up says, I’m hunting out here?
Rob Hall: They kind of talk in amazement.
Ramsey Russell: Are they pro hunters, are they in middle?
Rob Hall: Not a lot of people around are, but I think a lot of people because nobody in the area hunts people just don’t – you’re not exposed to it, so you don’t have to think about it. So nobody’s really made a decision whether they’re for or against it. So it’s all depends on the way that they’re exposed to it.
Ramsey Russell: Would you describe this part of Ontario as liberal?
Rob Hall: Very, unfortunately.
Ramsey Russell: Very, like New York City liberal.
Rob Hall: Yes, very.
Hunting National Parks in Canada
Ramsey Russell: Because you told me a story the other day about, you used to hunt on some parks, Canada properties and how previously, something about the land grab, some of the land got taken over and then that political body ethos changed. Can you go into that in detail?
Rob Hall: Well, basically, what’s happened is just outside of Toronto, we have this giant green space, it’s been environmentally protected for a very long time, but because of how close to Toronto it is and the lack of land available to build on to farm, et cetera, they’ve built a giant – I can’t remember the amount of acreage Provincial National Park. And the plan is to turn it into this big –
Ramsey Russell: Was it expropriated from private people?
Rob Hall: Basically, yes. What they did is they approached the farmers and they said we’re taking this for a National Park, we’re going to buy –
Ramsey Russell: Did they buy it or condemn it?
Rob Hall: They bought it and I’m not 100% sure because none of the farmers want to talk about their specific leases. So what the gist of what I have gotten is they were given very good payment and then the ability to farm their land for the foreseeable future for a very small lease fee. But one of the things they’re now not allowed to do is crop protection or nuisance wildlife because it goes against the ethics of Parks Canada.
Ramsey Russell: What about hunting on those National Parks?
Rob Hall: Well, from what I know there are National Parks in places in Ontario and other provinces that you’re allowed to hunt on. But I feel that just because of the proximity to Toronto and the potential backlash, they just decided it’s not something they want to deal with.
Ramsey Russell: The world keeps on spinning and things keep on changing and here we are in the Toronto pipeline that starts in James Bay goes down to Lake Ontario and beyond. But Lake Ontario where Toronto is located, Toronto is actually built on a historic marsh similar to New York City, built on historic marsh where a lot of these birds used to overwinter.
Rob Hall: Well, and this is the problem is –
Ramsey Russell: Now they show up, they’re still overwintering but they’re overwintering and salty affluent off of municipal road that keeps them open in an abundance of food, no hunting pressure, with a government that doesn’t like hunting, doesn’t like guns and people that are comfortable sitting in their little apartments and not hunting.
Rob Hall: Yeah. Some people like to sit there and watch these giant flocks come down and they think it’s a great spectacle. Meanwhile, there’s a poor little farmer who is losing $20,000 a year in crop damage.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. And did you tell me, you can’t make this up. Did you tell me that, if you come on to my property and slip on goose shit, I’m liable?
Rob Hall: That’s correct.
Ramsey Russell: How does the city and the government get away from that then?
Rob Hall: Well, I think it’s just one of those things where people don’t realize, because nobody sues for it or nobody does anything about it, they just turned a blind eye to it.
Ramsey Russell: I was talking to one of your buddies last night, where were we driving? We were driving somewhere maybe this morning and he was telling me about firearms and how his girlfriend applied something like two years ago to get something he called a PAL and she can’t use a firearm even though she’s a grown woman, she’s older than 12, but he said, there’s this real delay on getting your firearm. What is a PAL? And why is there a delay on getting it?
A Giant War Against Gun Control
The problem with Canadian gun laws is they’re so confusing that we can barely even follow them.
Rob Hall: A PAL is your purchase and acquisition license, it’s what allows you to go to the store and buy a firearm to get it. You have to go through a safety course, email paperwork to your provincial government, they do a background check, they mail you paperwork back then you mail your paperwork to the federal government, they do a background check again, wait 28 days and supposed to issue your license. The problem is nobody’s getting their licenses in 28 days. There’s such a backlog because anything that’s government funded – any of the government bodies in Canada are horribly underfunded. So they say that’s why they can’t process all of these licenses in time. But we’re having a giant war against gun control here.
Ramsey Russell: Like what? Can you elaborate on that for us non-Canadians? I mean, I was aware that at the height of COVID when everybody was sheltered in place like cavemen that the minute the parliament left the office, Trudeau and one of his cabinet members banned a whole bunch of black guns up here.
Rob Hall: Yeah, that’s basically what happened. And I’m going –
Ramsey Russell: Is it bigger than that? Supporting gun?
Rob Hall: So it’s a bigger picture, it all depends. The problem with Canadian gun laws is they’re so confusing that we can barely even follow them. So the gist of it went and I’m not an expert on this is they banned a bunch of guns, but they did it in very specific wordings. Things like muzzle velocities, a projectile that can travel faster than 5000 jewels, so you’re looking at like your 500 cartridge Safari type rifles because they’re sniper rifles, anti-material rifles. There was another one where I can’t remember the exact specifics, but it was a barrel diameter measurement and they pretended because of grenade launchers. But if the barrel diameters were basically the exact same as your 12 gauge shotgun with a choke removed.
Ramsey Russell: That could be a little tricky legislature wording –
Rob Hall: This is the thing is they word things very vaguely and then a few years later decide to review things and sorry guys, these things fall into place. So that’s one of the things we’re all worried about. Now, they’ve gone out and said, don’t worry guys, we’re not coming after your hunting guns, but nothing has been reworded. And since then they’ve come after and done a full handgun ban, you can now no longer import handguns into the country as a person with a license, you can’t sell your handgun to somebody else, the only thing that you can do is buy one from a store if you can find a store with one in stock. And as of right now, the stores aren’t allowed to import anymore. So, very specifically, you’ve put a ban on handguns.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. If I were Trudeau, I’d probably want some kind of measurement like that because I have seen more F-bomb Trudeau Flags and stickers and sentiments in the last 7 weeks than I knew existed in the world. Does anybody like the man?
Rob Hall: I don’t think so, but it is a lot more than just that, what we were explained when I was doing my last safety course by our instructor is, Trudeau has been trying for the UN Security Council because that’s the next stage in his career and to get on to that, you have to show a effort in disarming your population. So, is this a personal agenda issue because he wants to further his career or is this something that they’re doing because they want us all to be safe?
Ramsey Russell: And then Dee was telling me about different township laws, some place he’s hunting, he has to use archery, he can’t use a certain calibre and it sounded to me like it varies among township.
Rob Hall: Every township is very different.
Ramsey Russell: Like what’s an example of some of those gun laws in township?
Rob Hall: So basically because of the way that our road systems are set up is they say most places is 270 is your caliber limitation. So nothing over 270 unless it’s a shotgun just because of the distance your bullet can travel, you don’t have to worry about it going over and hitting some car beyond yonder.
Ramsey Russell: So there’s town, okay, like township range like a map, not township, like a township map.
Rob Hall: Everything’s broken down, so they all have their individual bylaw. So, some of them are completely wide open, other ones say no discharge in these specific areas. Other ones will say, only discharged by landowner or agent there are very specific wordings so that it makes it very difficult for people to understand if they’re allowed to do their chosen activity or not.
Ramsey Russell: It’s crazy. I mean, we’re in the pipeline, we got the perfect storm for lots and lots of geese and we’re going to talk about these last couple of mornings where I felt like Davy Crockett swinging his musket by the barrel, defending himself at the Alamo, the geese coming in all directions, it’s crazy. But hunting is very difficult to do legally and it varies on squares of a map.
Rob Hall: When I try to explain it to people who aren’t from here, they don’t understand. It’s a very technical endeavor for a lot of these areas, you almost have to be a semi bylaw officer, lawyer and –
Ramsey Russell: It seems like you need an attorney just to keep you abreast of everything.
Rob Hall: Basically, you do.
Ramsey Russell: What was your background? Talk about growing up, you grew up in this area?
Rob Hall: Yes, sir, I did.
Interfacing with Wild Geese
So we would wait until molting season when they would all blow their flight feathers and you’d set up a corral with a livestock trailer and we just bang pots and pans and they’d all just wander into the trailer
Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up in this area, talk about all the geese and talk about when you started hunting, why you started hunting? I want to dig deep into your childhood about your interface with wild geese.
Rob Hall: That’s an interesting story. So I would have been about 10 years old and my family ran a dog kennel and we were looking for –
Ramsey Russell: What kind of dog kennel?
Rob Hall: We bred and sold golden retrievers. So we were looking for something to do some more income and all of a sudden some crazy ideas popped into my mom’s head that she could use the dogs to chase geese off golf courses and –
Ramsey Russell: How did that just come across her radar?
Rob Hall: I don’t know, I’m assuming she –
Ramsey Russell: So 30 years ago, there were a lot of geese around here.
Rob Hall: Yeah, but there wasn’t a lot of pop – what I assume what it is, is 30 years ago, people were not as efficient at their hunting practices for Canada geese, things were just changing, all of your grains – was about the 90s when most of our farmers started to switch to cereal grains just because of the value. And then at that point –
Ramsey Russell: What were they farming before that?
Rob Hall: Potatoes, you name it, hay, all kinds of stuff. But when the value of wheat, soybeans and corn skyrocketed, they just switched to that. So that’s literally all we grow.
Ramsey Russell: And again, I’ve got all this artificial urbanite habitat of epic proportion plus the Great Lakes, plus the big lakes, plus the rivers and I’m in the city, but then I step just out the city, like just a mile down the road here, it’s like, I drive down the road and you got fresh honey, crisp apples for sale and you got pumpkins for sale and there’s deer in front yards and geese in front yards, somebody’s got a cannon, an old cannon in the front yard, I saw, country as the Beverly Hillbillies and then right across the street, McMansion City, urban sprawl like New York City.
Rob Hall: Well, that’s the selling point because you can jump in your car and you could get downtown Toronto to your office in half an hour, 45 minutes without having to deal with the traffic that we dealt with.
Ramsey Russell: You all had a golden retriever kennel and she decided, hey, these dogs would be good at chasing geese off of country club. So then what, people pay her to do that, did the dog do everything?
Rob Hall: Yeah, it kind of spiraled and we didn’t realize, and we got linked up with the Canadian Wildlife Services and a few other places and we ended up doing all kinds of different things from rounding up geese, loading them into trucks in downtown Toronto when they’re molting season, shipping them to other provinces, spreading the problem all around to egg oiling to –
Ramsey Russell: I want to go into detail now, part of what she would do is just she turned her dog loose and run the geese off and people would pay her a monthly fee to do that, golf courses, city park –
Rob Hall: City parks, municipalities and the reason that we sold it was you don’t want to have a child attacked by an angry goose when it’s nesting or you don’t want your property completely – I mean, an adult goose produces 2.2lbs of feces a day, if you’ve got 100 of them in your soccer field –
Ramsey Russell: A kilo of feces daily.
Rob Hall: Yeah. So, there’s 100 kilos of feces in your kids field. So when you get a pressure from a bunch of liberal parents –
Ramsey Russell: Who don’t want to hunt the geese. So you’d go out as a little boy and your mom would drop a tailgate and turn 2 or 3 or 5 golden retriever loose, they just run off and bark at the geese.
Rob Hall: Basically what we would do is jump on the golf carts, load the dogs on the back and drive around and we would try and pressure the geese with the golf cart and send the dogs from the golf cart, that way the geese would hopefully associate the golf carts as being a potential threat and then the golf carts would do the same thing.
Ramsey Russell: It worked?
Rob Hall: Yeah, we were pretty efficient at our jobs 3 years and we would be out of a contract, no need for us or services anymore.
Ramsey Russell: And part of what you said is, how would you all catch the geese and distribute the geese or by catching the geese or distributed geese, did you mean like municipalities would do that?
Rob Hall: Yeah, it would be organized through the municipality and Canadian Wildlife Services all covered by environmental permits and basically they’d have an area where they’d have a population spike and there was nothing you could do. So we would wait until molting season when they would all blow their flight feathers and you’d set up a corral with a livestock trailer and we just bang pots and pans and they’d all just wander into the trailer as they were in the trailer, they band them, they do their research and send them to whatever –
Ramsey Russell: If you had to guess, how many geese fit on a horse trailer?
Rob Hall: A double horse trailer or quadruple?
Ramsey Russell: Whatever.
Rob Hall: I was pretty young but I think there was probably about 100 per livestock trailer.
Ramsey Russell: So let me send 220lbs of goose feces daily to another municipality, let them deal with it.
Rob Hall: Not just another municipality, another province.
Ramsey Russell: Another province, another place, not in my backyard. Let me go, let me send this trailer load at a time, 200lbs of feces daily to somewhere else, let them deal with this problem.
Rob Hall: There was a place in Elmer where they would buy the geese from us and it was a high farm fence, they would load the geese in their big giant fence and the geese would learn to fly, then they would come back and they had a private hunt club close by. So all the fields around the high farm fence, they would hunt the geese.
Ramsey Russell: And how did it evolve from the dogs to your involvement with displacement of geese like that? You were telling me something about a conversation you had one time with your mom.
Rob Hall: Well, basically, once I learned that because we were raised anti-hunting, once I learned that –
Ramsey Russell: So, your family was not hunting friendly, they were anti hunters –
Rob Hall: My grandfathers were hunters, but the generation before me, there was a big – everybody just stopped hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Why?
Rob Hall: Everybody moved urbanites, everybody moved urban, you go closer to Toronto, it was less convenient, so it just became something nobody talked about, nobody experienced. So we lived in the city growing up, moved to the country and first experience I had with hunting was coyote hunting. The municipality we lived in had a bounty for coyotes and we got called into look at something and walked around behind a barn and there’s a giant pile of dead coyotes and it didn’t go over well with my mom being a dog lover. So that was kind of where she took her stance. So once we got into the business side of things and I learned, we were allowed to shoot them and started believing in conservation, I brought up this, why don’t we just file for permits and we shoot them?
Ramsey Russell: What did she say about that?
Rob Hall: Well, basically, that’ll finish the problem and we’ll start making money. So that was –
Ramsey Russell: Work yourself out of a job.
Rob Hall: Basically.
Modern Day Goose Control Techniques
What do we do now is, I’ve gone off a different approach.
Ramsey Russell: And you’re still in goose control?
Rob Hall: Yeah, a little bit.
Ramsey Russell: What is your modern day goose control like?
Rob Hall: What do we do now is, I’ve gone off a different approach. We used to sell to the municipalities and the public sector, but all we would do is show up at first light, scare them off the roost, they’d go to the farmers’ feed for the day and then fly back after I left the parking lot, I’d come back at dinner time, scare them back into the field just basically programming them. So when I finally decided that it was time to do something, I went straight to the farmers and said I can save you all of the money that you lose to crop predation. You now no longer have to file to your insurance company that you’ve lost this money. So, we tried it for a couple of years with a couple of farmers because they were very skeptical, they too, with all of our municipal rules, they’re like, this is kind of confusing and I was like, don’t worry, we’ll cover it and is just kind of grown to the point that now we’re almost a reactive service and we can’t keep up with it.
Ramsey Russell: Like how does that service work? A farmer calls you when? What’s going on that a farmer calls you and how do you react?
Rob Hall: So, usually, now what happens is we have a full list of fields and when they’re being cut, so we know to keep an eye on it once they get cut, I run my route every morning and we keep an eye on the cut fields, once they’ve been planted, that’s when we really keep an eye on it. And we’ve got to let all the wheat establish before they get a chance to chew it all up. So, usually I’m pretty good at staying on top of them and we don’t get a call from the farmers, but I get calls from our farmers all the time where they’re –
Ramsey Russell: You’re not just chasing them out, you’ve got a permit for taking them daily?
Rob Hall: So certain fields – So basically the way that it works is if during our season where we adhere to your standard hunting rules –
Ramsey Russell: Like now, during hunting season, standard hunting rules –
Rob Hall: Standard bag limit, standard all that kind of stuff as long as you’re within the municipal laws.
Canada Goose Season Bag Limits & General Info
And the purpose of that is to try and move the resident goose populations around, thin them out potentially, so that when the migraters come through, there’s less of a reason for them to stop and not migrate further.
Ramsey Russell: How do the hunting season around here run? September 1st you got a certain bag limit?
Rob Hall: So basically here in Ontario, we have the 2nd week of September, you have what we refer to as early goose season, it’s 10 days, you have a bag limit of 10 geese per hunter per day. And the purpose of that is to try and move the resident goose populations around, thin them out potentially, so that when the migraters come through, there’s less of a reason for them to stop and not migrate further. So that’s the way it was originally marketed to me by park or by wildlife Canada and that’s kind of the way that we’ve been pushing it. So our regular duck season opens roughly around September 24th and runs until January 9th. And then we have another Canada Goose season, it’s only a week long in March when they’re migrating back and it’s usually the last week of February, 1st week of March. And again, the purpose of that is to entice, again resident geese that haven’t moved all winter to spread out and then that way when the big migraters start coming back, they don’t see these giant populations of geese that mean safety and food and they just pass over the area and go straight back up north.
Ramsey Russell: I see, isn’t that something? How did you go from a non-hunting or almost anti-hunting household, a little boy that went out with his mama and chased geese off of golf courses, how did you evolve into a hunter? You’re obviously a goose hunter, the last couple of days to prove that. How did that come about?
Rob Hall: Having kids, everybody has this in my generation, all these urbanite hipster kids have this grandiose idea as soon as their kids are born that we’re going to feed them in a better way, we’re not going to use grocery store meat, we’re going to use ethically raised, it’s going to be better for the kids, yada, yada. And I find that’s what has brought most of our new generation of hunters into the scene is this grandiose idea that I’m going to be able to save money and feed my kids doing this.
Ramsey Russell: That’s how you started.
Rob Hall: That’s exactly how I started.
Ramsey Russell: So, how old are your children?
Rob Hall: My daughter’s 15.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s when this whole thing started, 15 years ago?
Rob Hall: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: More than half your life you spent as a non-hunter, just goose control, but non-hunting goose control.
Rob Hall: The only reason I’d have excelled at this is because of the experience of controlling the geese getting them out of the places that we’ve been trying to get them out of when you were hunting, you don’t want them in these places anyway, we want them over here. So it’s the opposite side of the hunting spectrum.
Remembering First Goose Hunts
When I was on my third trip back, I knew it was just something that was going to be a part of my life.
Ramsey Russell: Do you still remember your first time you goose hunted? Shot first limit of geese, wasn’t that long ago?
Rob Hall: No, not at all.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about it.
Rob Hall: The first limit or the first –
Ramsey Russell: Both.
Rob Hall: The first limit was kind of an interesting story because we were only about 2 or 3 hunts into it and we went out and I scouted, I found a nice spot, a couple of miles back into the forest out in a cornfield, we loaded up all of our gear on the sleds and we went out there and started cracking away and before we know it, we had our 40 bird limit and we had to bring 40 geese back through a kilometer worth of knee deep snow back to the truck.
Ramsey Russell: Joy.
Rob Hall: When I was on my third trip back, I knew it was just something that was going to be a part of my life.
Ramsey Russell: Something you’re going to stick with. Let’s talk about the last couple of mornings hunting. I want to talk about some of your techniques and some of the areas you hunt and how you choose to hunt an area and what goes into hunting those area and selecting those areas because the last couple of mornings have been very different, we hunted a field, bumper to bumper traffic on 2 sides of that section, a farm on the other, they’ve been hunted by others. So let’s start there, what was it about that field? Why are the geese going there? Why do you like to hunt that field? How do you decide to hunt that field? Because there’s a lot of consideration on where the blind went and what the wind was doing and where the bird wanted to be.
Rob Hall: So to be completely honest, I’ve never hunted that field before. There is a roost pond and what happens is that all the birds just kind of tuck into the same roots and then they just go to the same feed repeatedly and if you can’t get into that feed and bust it up, then there’s nothing you can do until they eat that section of field, clean.
Ramsey Russell: They’re just going to stick with it.
Rob Hall: They just don’t stop.
Ramsey Russell: Until it’s cleaned out.
Rob Hall: So, what I did was we just kind of keep making phone calls from a farmer, figure out who owns it, who farms it and then we get the full blown permission and then we go. The main consideration that I have when we set up in places like this is safety, making sure that we don’t drop a goose in traffic, something doesn’t go wrong, you set it up so that you can’t have a mistake. So that is part of why there’s so much consideration into exactly where the blinds go where they face because you still have to play the wind for the birds to work properly.
Ramsey Russell: For example, we talked a lot about guns and stuff like that. But you all actually got laws to where not only do I need permission to hunt your property, if I’m hunting my shot, can’t fall on your property.
Rob Hall: Yes. So that’s very specific for that –
Ramsey Russell: And in a very fractionalized landscape. That’s dicey.
Rob Hall: Well, that’s very difficult and this is where it causes a huge problem for a lot of the people before us. The difference is, is we’ve taken a completely different approach to this and at the end of the day, it’s almost a business, so we’re treating it like a business. The night before we knock on neighbor’s doors, we explain to them what’s going on, if we’re worried about shot passing over borders, we make sure they’re okay with it. We explain to them ballistics, when we’re still – unfortunately here in Canada, 99% of what we shoot is still steel. So 75-100 yards, you got nothing to worry about anymore. So, it’s just taking the time to explain what’s going on so that these people have a positive experience the next morning versus waking up to complete chaos and wanting it to stop.
Ramsey Russell: When we set up the first morning, we’re looking over a quarter mile away from a fence and a farm and she had migrant workers and asked, would we donate some of the geese for her workers? But the geese wanted to be off to our right up on a rise, they tried working that way. You want to place it up against a bush up against not a bush, but a clump of trees, you wanted to for a reason. Why was that? Because I mean, well, look, we beat the brakes off those geese, they came in but that ain’t where they wanted to be, we talked them into coming there. But why did you set up there?
Rob Hall: Again, it was a safety concern, not just safety but –
Ramsey Russell: What about the public visibility?
Rob Hall: Well, that was the main thing if we’re on a main traffic artery. So if we put a frame in the middle of the field, well, people are driving to work and it’s semi dark and all of a sudden we jump up and all these muzzle flashes, the next thing you’re going to – we may cause a car accident. So this is again one of the reasons why we choose some of the places that we choose, so that it’s just out of the limelight and we’re not causing an issue for everybody.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever had any run ins with anti-hunters?
Rob Hall: Yes, sir.
Ramsey Russell: How did does that go down around here?
Rob Hall: Usually, it goes down with a visit from the police and it usually goes over completely fine.
Ramsey Russell: The anti’s don’t come up and say anything to you, they just call the police.
Rob Hall: 9 times out of 10, they don’t say anything. They’ll call the police, the police will come, we have a law here where you’re not – it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re not allowed to interrupt with a lawful hunt. So once I prove to the police that it’s a lawful hunt, we basically continue going and 9 times out of 10, they stand around with us on the side of the road and watch the show. And if the anti at that point is still unhappy and has a big set of cojones, then they usually show up and that’s –
Ramsey Russell: What do they say then?
Rob Hall: Oh, you name it.
Ramsey Russell: But if you had to describe to a police artist or do they all kind of fall in the same description?
Rob Hall: Yeah, pretty much, they all look like you’re either your blue haired –
Ramsey Russell: Trump voter? Not Trump, Trudeau voter? Blue haired Trudeau voter?
Rob Hall: Yeah, or the classic glasses crew cut, new balanced dad shoes, that’s being sent over by his wife.
The New Generation Hunters
Being a new generation hunter you’re always drilled in, you need a 12 gauge, you need a big gauge, you need big shells, you need nitro, you need all this stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s has nothing to do with it, if you can’t shoot.
Ramsey Russell: Black jean, black shirt, black belt, black shoes, white skin.
Rob Hall: Yeah, my wife sent me over, you guys got a stop. But again, it’s just about diffusing the situation, if you’re not going to have a civil conversation with me where I can explain to you the laws, then I’m just going to walk away and you can watch the show. So, it’s taken to develop a thick skin because at the end of the day, we’re not doing anything wrong, illegal or immoral. So you just got to learn to take the yelling.
Ramsey Russell: And this morning we set up on another field, but we were not on the X, we were maybe around W maybe somewhere between F and U. But the birds, we were able to coax enough down and put them on the ground to pretty much finish our limits. And what was going on this morning?
Rob Hall: Well, the big problem is, is some of the areas, it’s such a problem because with all the land changing hands, sometimes you can’t find who the owners are or it’s a numbered corporation. So basically, we thought the bean field was ours and upon further inspection realized that it wasn’t one of our landowners. So rather than trespass, we went into the field beside it that we had permission and just tried to pull him off the X and hope for the best. It’s not something –
Ramsey Russell: We did. I mean, I was very dubious of the situation when I realized that corn was knee high, I’m like, this ain’t going to work.
Rob Hall: No, they’re pretty smart.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it was 5 or 6 of us calling, they kind of gave us good enough look, a lot of them got down in the decoys but a lot of them came just 15, 20 yards off the deck.
Rob Hall: The secret is, is once you start pushing a 100 full bodies or more, then they’ll start paying attention to you in this area. The problem is, is they’re used to seeing anywhere from 700 to 2500 birds in a feed and if you’re not where they want to be and you don’t have that amount of birds, then you better hope and pray, so we got lucky this morning.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, what do you think about those Boss Shot Shells?
Rob Hall: They’re something else.
Ramsey Russell: What do you normally shoot? 3inch steel, BBs or –
Rob Hall: 3inch steel, BB whatever I can get my hands on.
Ramsey Russell: And those were 3inch ounce and a half copper plated bismuth 4s, those are golly whoppers.
Rob Hall: I’m a new generation hunter and I’ve never experienced lead hunting before. So whenever we hunt with an old timer and they talk about the way it used to be, I had no idea until yesterday when you handed me those shells. And I can tell you right now if we were allowed, if we could get those a lot more readily available here in Canada, there’d be a lot more dead birds and a lot less birds landing in neighbor’s yards.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about that little 28 gauge, those were maybe three quarter ounces number 4 BBs.
Rob Hall: I’m thinking I need to learn to shoot better. Yeah, those little sub gauges are – again, being a new generation hunter you’re always drilled in, you need a 12 gauge, you need a big gauge, you need big shells, you need nitro, you need all this stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s has nothing to do with it, if you can’t shoot.
Ramsey Russell: When I was cleaning out the back of the truck, we come back in on your truck today and behind the driver seat was a little box of 20 gauge, those aren’t yours.
Rob Hall: Those are my son’s.
Ramsey Russell: Your son, does he hunt?
Rob Hall: Yes, sir. He does.
Ramsey Russell: How important is it to you that he hunt? And what’s important to you about him hunting?
Rob Hall: So, hunting for me, reminds me of simpler times when we would chase geese off golf courses. So the hope is that my son gets the same sort of family connection off of us going goose hunting that I got from goose control with my mom. And the other thing is, is without getting as many Children into this as possible, our days where I am, are numbered.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s what I was kind of leading up to. Do you talk to him in a blind? How many of his classmates hunt?
Rob Hall: Not very many. We try and expose as many kids as we can because I find that’s the best way is, we can have the most unreceptive adult and their kid shows a minute, little bit of curiosity and are you really going to say no to your kid? So now you have to start learning. So this is the thing is, it’s once people have been introduced properly, most people don’t have an issue with hunting.
Goose Numbers in the Toronto Area
When we did goose control, where there was a formula for taking a square foot measurement on the ground and counting the amount of feces that you had to estimate your population.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever been privy to formal survey numbers of how many geese are in this basin, around Toronto?
Rob Hall: No.
Ramsey Russell: Half million, million, 10 million?
Rob Hall: No. However, I do my own studies –
Ramsey Russell: So I would just say gazillions.
Rob Hall: When we did goose control, where there was a formula for taking a square foot measurement on the ground and counting the amount of feces that you had to estimate your population. So I’ve kind of done that, but with the amount of geese in an area and at any given time during this migration, you’re looking at anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 to even 40,000 birds. It’s hard to tell because you can’t –
Ramsey Russell: Per what area, per mile?
Rob Hall: No, not per mile, per – we’re talking for the greater Toronto area.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, that’s a lot of bird.
Rob Hall: It is.
Ramsey Russell: Let’s just say 50,000lbs, that’s a lot of tons of goose feces daily, I can’t do the math on it.
Rob Hall: Yeah, and I’m probably being light on my estimates. The one golf course down from where we are when we did the goose control for it, had a resident population of 500 to 1500 geese just for the winter. There were so many of them they could keep the water hole open.
Ramsey Russell: The world is full of surprises, I’ve spent the last 7, 8 weeks chasing birds all over Canada, big, little, middles, browns, whites and I really did not expect that some of the very best kind of goose hunting in terms of just sheer excitement and numbers of birds decoying would be right here in the shadow of a big metropolitan area like this, here you think wild geese, wild places. And I look back at this book, you showed me the other day traditions in wood, a collection of old wooden decoys man, there is a profound waterfowling history in this region or there was 100 years ago.
Rob Hall: Somehow it’s been erased from existence. So, there’s all kinds of private clubs there where turn of the century, they flooded lakes and they have navigational rights, but it’s just nobody talks about it.
Ramsey Russell: You said, there was old market gunning blinds, you showed me a map with old market gunning blinds, is that Lake Ontario?
Rob Hall: Yes, sir. That’s down in the financial district in Toronto.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what is now the financial district and there won’t be any hunting down there anytime soon, will it?
Rob Hall: No, sir. If you want to see some neck collars, that’s where you got to go.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. Do you ever worry that your kid or do you ever ask yourself, will your kid be able to enjoy the hunting like you’re enjoying now?
Rob Hall: Every day, that is my biggest fear is that –
Ramsey Russell: Why do you think?
Rob Hall: We lose fields annually to development and the farmers – we have our best section of fields right now, they’re doing an archaeological study in and the farmers aren’t allowed to plant because –
Ramsey Russell: Looking for cultural artifact preceding of shopping development or something.
Rob Hall: Exactly. They’re doing some retirement homes. But there’s no more land to build on around here, that’s just Toronto is expanding too fast and that’s the reality is eventually they’re going to outgrow all these places and who knows where these birds are going to go.
Ramsey Russell: This conversation is the same general, suburbanite, urbanite, anti-hunting type thought for ethos that I’ve seen worldwide. Let’s displace quality habitat with civilization and urban sprawl, let’s not hunt a bird because it’s uncivilized. They’re generating 2.2lbs of goose shit daily, so let’s ship thousands of elsewhere, so somebody else can deal with it, we don’t have to get our hands bloody. And in the end let’s continue to create an artificial environment where we’re going to have way too many geese and nobody left to hunt them.
Rob Hall: Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: And then we’ll be where Netherlands is to were, don’t tell nobody, we’ll round them up about the hundreds of thousands, we won’t tell the newspaper about it, we’ll round up 100,000 of them at a lake and just go gas and bury them in the local land field.
Rob Hall: That’s exactly where we’re heading, unfortunately.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy, that’s absolutely crazy.
Rob Hall: Because they think there’s got to be a better way.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. What have we got planned this afternoon and tomorrow morning?
Rob Hall: Looks like we’re going to go try and sit on a little duck hole and shoot some wood ducks if they want to play nice. And then tomorrow morning we’re going to go and try and shoot some geese out of a wheat field.
Ramsey Russell: Be nice to get lucky to see a black duck while I’m here.
Rob Hall: Yeah, we would.
Ramsey Russell: You all have got black ducks around.
Rob Hall: We do. They’re just not as prevalent, so they’re usually around the water more likely.
Ramsey Russell: Interesting. Well, I’m going to tell you this, I sure have enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed it, Char has enjoyed it. We’ve had a great time here hunting in Toronto, it is a very amazing place to hunt this entire – I guess this pipeline stretches from James Bay, clear down to Ottawa with those rivers down there and it’s a very ripe area with lots of migratory and resident birds in it and thank you very much. Folks, you all been listening to Rob Hall here on the outskirts of Toronto a little bit thinking about it, isn’t it? You think of Canada being just wild and remote and Mayberry RFD but it’s not, some of the best goose hunting is right here around some of the biggest metropolitan areas, but times are changing. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.