Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2011


I was standing very still with my binoculars surveying the low ground over on the eastern field, trying to find any early signs of woodchuck presence. I set out to the farm shortly after lunch knowing that the groundhogs preferred to come out and move later in the afternoon. The wind was blowing hard in a north-easterly direction and the low dark clouds moved quickly through the sky and caused the field to change color. The spots where there was fresh dirt turned over or where a broken fence post lay played visual tricks on your eyes.

The air was chilled and the temperature was at about plus two degrees Celsius, the weather station had predicted about two centimeters of snow and this definitely was not ideal weather for the chucks. But I had seen about four others in nearby fields located at the other farms. As soon as it started to snow, the ice pellets started bouncing off the mud and the car parked on the side of the road, the sky got dark quite fast.

I had no choice but to sit and wait it out until the sky cleared. Twenty minutes had passed and the sun finally broke though. Still no sign of the woodchucks and I did not blame them especially with this weather being so un-predictable.  So, I decided to turn my focus on the Red Wing black birds and Rock Doves.

The farmer had scattered some grain for his cattle along with a few hay bales and this had drawn in a flock of Red wing black birds; this presented a fun challenge as they can be a difficult bird to harvest because they are easily alarmed and they travel in flocks so if you startle one bird they all disperse.

On the southern field and its northern side of the creek, were three old barns where I had harvested one of my first woodchucks of last summer. The first two barns were smaller and bunched together with only a few meters apart resting on the slope but the third barn was about thirty meters away and closer to the creek on leveled ground near the forest’s south-western edge.

The pigeons, red wing black birds along with robins and starlings were all gathered in the flooded field to the south of the third barn. So, I decided to descend the southern ridge and move my way along the electrical fence between the first two barns and begin a very slow and muddy stalk to the third barn towards the birds.

Earlier in the afternoon I had noticed the cattle were still feeding on the north side of the western field which was connected to the southern field with no fence separating the two. If you were to include the eastern hay field combined they would create a “U” shape around the main farming complex. As a general rule and as a question of respect, I always kept a safe distance from the cattle especially since they had several new calves this year and I was quite aware that this could change the whole dynamics of my current situation.

As I carefully stalked toward the third barn, I was constantly keeping watch for the larger bulls that were part of the drift of cattle. I made sure; I was stepping on solid ground and not sinking into the mud and always watching up the ridge to my right. The only time I did not have control over my position was between the second and third barn. So as I approached the western side of the second barn and made my way over a worn out wired fence. I positioned myself so that I could see the eastern side of the third barn to my front, the creek to my left and on my right the southern edge of the western field where the mob of cattle were feeding.

After several minutes of hard stalking I was now inching into position, and the birds were now within shooting distance lined up in my sights. Unknown to me for the first few seconds, I was also being stalked and considered a moving target. My right eye caught some movement and when I turned my head, I found myself face to face with a two thousand pound bull and he was only forty meters away.

He had seen me come down the ridge on his left and he had subsequently moved in parallel into the middle of the field were there was a slight depression and caused him to disappear momentarily; from there he could protect his drove of cattle and calves.

We were both looking right at each other and for those who thought cattle can not see very well; I just proved it they sure can. He lowered his head and was swinging it aggressively left to right letting out these incredible huffs that came from deep within the beast. He had this thick white saliva dropping out of its nose and from around its mouth and I can assure you it did not take me long to get the message. Just like in the Spanish Corrida de Torros, he dug his front legs into the fresh mud and lifted large chunks of dirt and then would lower his head into the mud and rub the saliva into the ground.

The charge was coming but I had anticipated this and only had six meters to cover back to the second barn or a fifty meter dash to the tree line to the west, so I slowly moved backward to the northern side of the barn and took cover behind the old wired fence and made my way back around the first barn and then behind the electrical fence.

Once I showed the bull, my intentions were to stay clear and move away, he just locked his eyes on me and continued to move large chucks of dirt under his hooves, letting out huffs and puffs.

I finally circled the bull from the east behind the protection of the electrical fence, and then I talked to him in a gentle voice complementing him on the way he protected his drove. He was an absolute stunning bull, pure black, the true definition of power and I will never forget his huffing and puffing, it was so deep like a fog horn and it made every bone in my body shake.

Awareness is so important during any hunt.

Read Full Post »


At the start of every hunt, one of my preparatory steps is getting all my documents and cards ready, so that I am stacked for my outing. This can include maps of the hunting areas, my federal firearms card, and a copy of the firearm registration certificate for the gun that I will be using on that particular day, my permits, and sometimes a copy of the hunting regulations. In Quebec, where I most often hunt it is not necessary to carry your hunter’s card with you during the hunt but if I was hunting in Ontario, I would carry my non-resident permit and the Ontario outdoors card.

Now even though it may only take me a few minutes to complete this process, every hunter that has taken part in the Federal Firearms and hunters courses knows that there is both a lot of time and money invested into acquiring all the permits and cards. Furthermore there is also the purchasing of hunting equipment and all of this is mixed up with the anticipation of finally being able to practice the sport you love.

Ok! Now I am ready but where can I hunt? There are several methods to finding out where you can hunt, you can call the Ministry of Natural Resources or consult their websites, you can book with an outfitter, and you can hunt on crown land, on friends or family farms or wooded properties if permitted by law. Sometimes you can discover great hunting spots just by speaking with other hunters or store owners in your area. This is not always easy because some of them treat their sites like a great fishing spot and do not wish to share their secrets.

When I first started hunting in my region, I found it difficult to locate great hunting spots even with the resources listed above, besides I did not have many friends that were hunters or that owned land. So, I did some searching on my own and in time I discovered a series of great spots for hunting, especially for waterfowl.

These Quebec hunting sites were all located along the 148 on the shores of the Ottawa River (Rivière des Outaouais ) and the majority have parking spots available. The sites may vary some being accessible only by boat and others on foot. In order to find these hunting sites, look for the following sign boards.
These sign boards are found at each of the parking lot entrances and show you a wealth of information including the access paths with an informative legend.

The legend shows the wetland boundaries, the pathways in orange, the boundaries for public access land, parking locations and the boundaries for the land belonging to Ducks Unlimited. Also part of the legend is a series of activities listed; the one’s that have a check mark beside it indicates which activity is permitted for that specific site. The board signs also have usually thirteen regulations listed under the code of ethics for people using that site. There is also the following number listed on the sign in order to get more information: 1-800-565-1650.

I have translated some examples of the code of ethics for the persons using the sites: Use the paths and managed access ways that are provided. Do not damage the agricultural terrain, do not use motorized vehicles in the wetlands, follow all the laws with concerns to safe weapon handling and to the type of vehicles or boats being used, keep a safe distance from any building or residence including other hunters, respect others persons lookouts or blinds. Use non-toxic shot (Steel as an example) and pickup all your spent shotgun shells, respect all the laws and regulations that are in place for specific species, the zones and the seasons for that time of year. With concerns to hunting, immediately pick up your harvested game, either using a floatation device or boat or a dog that can retrieve game, Do not put up more than one sign per hunter site, At the end of the fall season pickup and remove all blinds, lookouts and caches from the site, share the site with others for example: Fall hunters for migratory birds, or bird watchers in the springtime etc, pick up and remove any garbage at the end of your outing.

I have not only enjoyed great migratory bird hunting because of the awesome work being done by the following organizations: Ducks Unlimited, The North American Waterfowl Management plan, Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec, but I have also enjoyed quiet walks amongst bald eagles, blue herons and hundreds of bird species.

Conservation is key to this spot!

Read Full Post »


I was now lying on my back, my upper body propped up slightly by the seat in my layout blind with my Remington 870 resting by my side. The ammunition boxes were neatly stowed by my right thigh along with my camera and digital recorder. The sky was filled with a bright reddish pink color and the sun was now slowly rising.

There had been a slight snow fall mixed with isolated showers between two and four in the morning and the temperature was now one degree Celsius but the sky was beginning to clear with very little clouds. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing; since we had now lost some of our cover. After all concealment was a key factor toward our success that we could not leave out.
 
We had just spent the last hour setting up hundreds of decoys in the shape of a large tear drop along with our digital callers. And it was now time for a rest and wait for the guide’s queue. I must admit, I was so filled with anticipation the night before that I only slept for an hour or so therefore I took advantage of these precious few minutes to get some shuteye.

So I laid back and shut my layout blind flaps and stared directly into the sky through the mesh, took a few deep breaths then shut my eyes. Once in a while I would open them and a have a look at the vast sky. I would spot a few Canada Geese flying in at about two hundred feet and then land in the field to the south. At first it was a gaggle of six or so birds, then twenty but within a few minutes as the sun got warmer the numbers increased to the hundreds.

The goose calls intensified as the morning went on and soon the sound broke the early silence, and with this so did their numbers almost to the point where I could no longer hear the coyote calls from the field to the east. Goose calls could drive a man mad if they were to be exposed to the sound over several days.

I slowly turned my head to the left and stared at the farm-house over a kilometer away to the North West. I could see a very faint dark cloud, it was drawn out over the silo and then over the forest on the northern edge of the farm field. It did not take long, and then eventually the entire horizon was teeming with these dark clouds some in the distinct “V” shape, others made up of a series of overlapping “V” shapes.

I was wordless and electrified, we now had thousands of birds flying some three hundred feet above us and some were starting to circle and call back to our decoys and callers. I took a quick glance to the north-east and noticed this winged vortex; it spanned from the top of the tree line to several hundred feet in the air, I was dazed. It was as large as a cumulonimbus cloud.

As the birds would turn into the sun this black cloud would become instant white and the effect was extremely hypnotic. It was the famed snow goose. Some of the bird’s right above us were now circling over head like vultures and dropping altitude tucking in their wings just like ducks. I would compare their aerial dance to someone who was stepping into a hot bath pointing the ball of their feet into the boiling water as if they were testing the temperature.

Once convinced, a few more birds would drop and circle yet again now just a few hundred feet above us. I could feel my heart wanting to burst, I felt so focused, and it was like living a dream, it seemed so unreal. Then a smaller gaggle of seven birds turned aggressively and dropped down some more now their wings were turned inward and very tight to the bodies floating directly into our shooting arcs.

As soon as they were in range the guide called out and our flaps opened with lightning speed the first volley of shells rang out and our first two white wing black tips dropped in the field.

If you are willing to see, the great migration has a lot to teach us.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: