Archive for September, 2013

September twenty-eighth was going to be one of my most amazing waterfowl hunts to date and I did not even know it yet. Just like the duck hunting commercial seen on television, I was already dressed and practically geared up, while still lying in bed at about four in the morning. The canoe was on the roof of my vehicle, strapped down just hours before on Friday night.

Time is of the essence because I still had a two-hour long drive heading north where I was supposed to meet my veteran waterfowl hunting friends by the bridge in their home town. They got permission from a neighbor who was allowing us to launch our two canoes from their shoreline, which was extremely generous but it was also a more strategic launch point giving us the advantage not only for the ducks and geese but we would be higher on the river with the current in our favor.

The fog was incredibly thick on Saturday morning and made for quite an interesting drive. On occasion I was able to use my head lights and this allowed me to see a little further which helped a lot because only twenty kilometers into my drive, I spotted a deer in the ditch to my right about to come out onto the road.

It was a large doe and she was turned sideways, her silhouette is what allowed me to see her with the fog because with the color of her fur she was practically invisible. As deer get older, their fur seems to have traces of grey, which makes them harder to see.

Once I got to the bridge we had not time to waste, so we drove to their friend’s place right away and had the canoes unloaded and filled with our kit and ammunition in no time at all. We were divided in teams of two and we began opening the farming gates and carrying the canoes down to the shoreline. This was all done in the dark, it is so important to have a working headlamp. My preference is the set which has red light option; it is not as hard on the eyes but just as efficient.

The fog was very thick, just like pea soup and we could barely see a few meters on the water surface, but this was familiar territory to us, so we climbed in and pushed off then paddled into the emptiness. The water below was black and very cold, we could hear the geese in the corn fields across the river, so we paddled a little faster and headed west directly for the island.

My hunting buddies had told me that there wasn’t as much duck traffic as per usual and that the Canada geese where much more active also that they had harvested two on Friday morning. The plan for the first part of the hunt was that each hunter would cut across the island from the eastern shore to the western side putting us directly into a dis-tributary which bordered a corn field in behind the very tall tree line.

So once we reached the eastern shoreline, we quickly disembarked, unloaded the canoes and cut across the island, the distance we had to cover was about fifty meters through tall grass and small brush. Every hunter had chosen their spot to put their kit and setup, our spots gave each one of us a wide; also a safe shooting arc. Now the waiting began. By now we were well within the legal time-frame of being able to shoot, which is a half an hour before sunrise, actually we were way beyond that time but the fog was so thick that it was still seemed dark.

When I was finally sitting still in my natural blind made up of tall grass and small brush on either side of me, it was quite neat to be able see the fog dissipate with the heat of the sun but it wasn’t hot enough yet to clear it all up. It was a very eerie morning and the fog ended up staying very thick until about ten thirty in the morning which was about the time our hunt ended.

The foggy ceiling was made up of several layers and the highest one was direct inline with the tree tops. You could hear the geese calling out and depending on the height of their V-shaped formation you would not see them until they broke the top of the tree line. I would complete a few duck calls and then some geese calls, I remember reading a book about goose hunting which said that Canada geese that are used to hunters and being hunted are not as vocal as younger birds or geese that are not used to being hunted. So I adjusted my calls accordingly by not over calling.

I could hear a gaggle coming in from the corn field to the west and so I called aggressively and called again about four times and then stopped. Our group could hear them now very clear, but it was difficult to tell which direction they were coming in from, then all of a sudden a group of twenty would fly in from the south-west and appear immediately through the fog. We carefully waited for the gaggle to come into shooting range and then we released a volley of shot, the geese dispersed. I had two shells left, so I pumped my action and three geese broke formation again and headed behind me, I swiveled around toward my back, released my shot pumped and released my last shell.

The lead bird fell hard, they were incredibly high and it was without a doubt my farthest shot into the sky this year and a successful harvest. It was an extremely large bird a beautify shot indeed. More geese came in every few minutes and we reloaded our three shells and released our shots repeatedly for several geese formations. More geese fell in confirmed harvests.

Now several minutes had passed and all went silent over the river again, we called out some duck calls and seconds later three mallards flew in for a fly pass and I released two shots and harvested one of them which landed to the north-east. My hunting partner to my left harvested a wood duck moments later.

This was waterfowl action like I had never seen before, the skies were extremely active. Silenced moved in again and occasionally we could hear crows calling out and flying in, there were also flocks of rock doves flying around in groups of thirty or more.

I sat still staring toward the top of the tree line, thinking about the birds which had just flown in, when all of a sudden a gaggle of twenty geese flew in coming from the south going east and flying right over me and not one goose called out. It was an incredible sight, just hearing the swish of their wings as they broke through the thick fog.
I released a shot into the lead bird but missed and my second shell jammed causing a stoppage. By the time I cleared it, pumping my action back then forward, it was too late.

It was almost like time was frozen and to see all these geese coming through the fog was like an illusion.

When I was younger my father took me to a Cirque du Soleil show and I remember we were sitting several rows up and watching the start of the show. The center of the stage was filled with white smoke and actors, dancers came onto the stage doing somersaults under the fog and you could see the fog move around with the movement of the dancers.

There were no words to describe it, magical perhaps, well I was living the same moment over and over again with the Canada geese flying in from all directions in and out of the fog, it was simply incredible and dream like.

It is not just about the waterfowl hunt and the harvests, there is something more powerful taking place in this rich Canadian wilderness. After several successful harvests, we decided to pack up and walk the rest of the island on foot heading north-east. Another hunter had harvested a goose and it landed in the water, so I volunteered to walk up the shore and get a canoe to retrieve the bird, while I was walking three geese flew in lightning fast at water level and I swung around instinctively pushed released my safety, and put a slight lead on the last goose and released my shot harvesting the bird and it crashed into the water.

At our mornings end we our group of four hunters had harvested nine Canada geese and two mallard ducks and one wood duck. It was an incredible waterfowl experience!

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I knelt very still on the south-western edge of the barn closest to the creek with just my head peeking out the bottom corner to the side toward the forest. But unfortunately for me there was too much open ground between the twenty geese and I. They were at the water’s edge and out of my shotgun range. I considered stalking them, by crawling on the muddy ground but it was not possible because the way the ground was shaped.

The geese which were on sentry duty had their necks stretched out and on high alert they were always adjusting their heads enabling them to have a complete view of their surroundings. Darn, if only I had some large rocks or tall grass I could have used as cover, this would have enabled me to get closer for the shot.

So, after taking several minutes to go through my plan, and since it still was very early and the start of a great waterfowl day, I thought I would take a chance. So I jumped up and started sprinting toward the birds hoping they would burst into the air toward me like they have in the past thus give me a clean shot or two. My gamble did not work; they actually lifted off and headed south out of range. This is alright; another group would eventually fly in, I just had to be patient. This was very different from sitting in a ground blind.

After all it was prime real-estate by the creek. So, I unloaded my tubular magazine of the three shells and headed back to the truck to prepare the canoe.

My initial plan was to drive up to the creek and park the truck on the north shore because the water level was quite high, then offload the canoe and portage it to the swamp which was about two hundred yards of rough terrain to the west. There I could attempt to harvest some mallards and wood ducks, then maybe use the canoe to recover them or even navigate through a few channels and flush some ducks.

It was very windy and it was about eleven degrees Celsius with scattered showers. Actually the rain would come down very hard for about fifteen minutes and then it would stop once the dark cloud passed and go back to slight drizzle.

By the time I got to the edge of the swamp, I put down the canoe and I walked in the same direction I took only a few weeks before when I saw several ducks flying.

Sure enough a two mallards shot out of the tall grass, let out calls and circled in behind me, each duck in their own direction, so I released one shot and missed, pumped the action and my second shell jammed. I cleared it and released my third shot but it was too late and both ducks were out of range.

I suspected I would have a jam even with the pump-action pushed all the way forward, I was using my left over Kent shells in my Remington 870, for me this was not a good mix. But I wanted to use up the shells and go back to my Remington Sportsman Fast steel #3 shot. In my district, it was the second official day of the duck hunting season but today was my first day out and therefore it was my opening day and it was important for me to do well and potentially harvest and not go home without a bird.

My day wasn’t starting well but then this is what hunting is all about, not allowing yourself to get discouraged and having the confidence in your abilities just like Wade Bourne wrote in one of his articles about successful waterfowl hunting.

So, I completed a second portage and brought back the canoe to the truck and left it sitting on the edge of the creek then decided to take a little break. After having had my sandwich and a drink of water, I started my way up the hill to the south in order to see if the groundhogs had been moving around up near the large boulders.

The creek separates the north and southern hay fields, and then in the middle of the southern hay-field which goes upward there is a large natural crest of with huge boulders and this is where the groundhogs have their den and network.

There is a very wide open area before I could reach the crest, by now I had several hundred of Canada geese flying in formation right above me and it was amazing to watch; when they called out it sounded like they were much lower than they actually were. Sound travels very well in the damp weather.

I kept on walking up the slope towards the crest keeping my eyes on the geese above hoping that a group would fly down to the creek or swamp to feed or to take a much-needed break.

I could have tried to call out using my goose caller but geese that are used to hunters do not like to call back as much and do not require so much calling.

Still walking in a southern direction, all of a sudden a group of five geese flew in from the east with their feet spaced out and their wings curved and ready for a landing. I immediately laid down flat on the ground and remained absolutely still. They were now right above me circling like turkey vultures and the lead bird turned toward the creek to the north but noticed my truck and the cattle, so he completed a gradual turn to the west toward the swamp, the two other geese behind him followed and abandoned a landing attempt at the creek staying very low but still out of my range.

The geese which were now in two flying groups moved toward the swamp calling out to each other, it was really neat. I was so excited, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest; finally the geese had come in and were now going to land exactly where I wanted them to land in the swamp.

The first two geese flew in and landed right away into the water around forty feet from the swamp’s edge but the three others kept on circling above calling out, as if they were completing a final fly over ensuring that it was safe to land.

I can remember that during one of my duck hunts I did not have any decoys in the water, after having called out a few come back calls, two common black and white golden-eyes flew in each completing a circle and broke their wings as if to come in for a landing, then they both completed a fly over and moved on. These were experienced and nervous birds and no strangers to hunters. This is a good example of the importance of being well concealed, using the right calls and having a good decoy layout.

Now that all five geese were in the water in behind small evergreen trees and swamp brush, I stood up very quickly and sprinted two hundred yards staying in the low ground hugging the edge of the creek which the swamp fed into heading south-west. The brush was also thicker along the edge of the creek thus providing cover.

Once I got within thirty yards of the edge of the swamp, I got down in a kneeling position, allowed myself to catch my breath loaded some shells into the tubular magazine and started my careful stalk behind the brush.

I now had to study each and every detail of the swamp foliage in front of me, every log under my feet as well as focus on the location of every goose because I now had ten eyes which could spot me.

I felt like a fox, lifting my feet very carefully without losing a boot in the thick mud trying not to make suction sound or even losing my balance while taking my next step. My free hand would grab onto small evergreen tree and prevent myself from falling over.

Every step was calculated and about every minute or so, I would lift my head and try to see in which direction the geese were swimming. They were now moving from my right going left heading south, passing in behind a dead tree stump one at a time.

Darn! I was no longer in a good shooting position, I now had to work my way back and relocate to my left or south and come back around, this was tremendous amount of work stalking through the swamp. By now I had closed in about thirty feet closer to the geese and I had to act quickly if not they would glide away into the tall grass and I no longer had my canoe by my side.

I waited for the first goose to pass and loaded a shell into the chamber, pushed the safety one and started to control my breathing and compensate my aim because of the ribbed shotgun barrel. Once the bead was perfectly line up with the bird, I slowly stood up from behind the swamp grass and released my shot into the first goose. It was about forty-two yard shot.

The goose flopped over instantly into the water and fell sinking half way below the surface, I pumped my action and released two more shots at the other geese but the last two shots were a miss.

I recovered my Canada goose with my canoe, it was a beautiful thirteen pound bird a great way to start my season indeed but my most important lesson was to have confidence in our abilities as hunters. Once again Wade Bourne’s wisdom and knowledge helped me again!

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Last Sunday I took a long drive heading north toward one of my favorite hunting grounds, and on this particular day I was aiming for woodchucks, pigeons and crows. But I also thought to myself it wouldn’t hurt to complete a scouting trip in the wetlands just bordering the southern fields of the farm, especially with the waterfowl season opening in just a few days. I brought my canoe along with me but I was pretty sure, I wasn’t going to be using it.

This year I am super excited about the upcoming waterfowl season which generally opens on the 21st of September in my zone. Just like an old movie wheel, I keep on playing images in my mind of ducks bursting into flight right in front of me or breaking their wings coming in for a landing.

I have already purchased all my ammunition and have gone through my kit about twenty times and I believe now I am ready. My ammunition of choice this year is going to be the Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed steel, #3 shot, and 2 3/4 length. It worked very well for me during last year’s season, when I had my longest shot and harvest. Last week I got my Quebec resident permit for small game, which comes up to 19 Canadian dollars, every year it goes up and two weeks before this I purchased my waterfowl permit and stamp at the post office downtown.

When I arrived at the farm, the owner had already gone to work, so I unloaded my kit and got ready for small game hunting. I used my Bushnell binoculars and checked out the landscape for any movement and started my way south to the wetlands.

The cattle were scattered all over the northern field, so I had to either go through or around them and with a two thousand pound bull staring me down, I decided to hug the tree line and the creek then cross over to the south once I finished my walkabout. The bull and I kept eye contact the whole time, he is a big boy but he wasn’t going to prevent me from getting to the southern fields.

Once I crossed the creek, I made my way to the southwest toward the tall grass and the few trees that stood by the water, staying in the low ground. The whole time I was checking out the rock formation on my left for woodchucks. The crows were nowhere near me, they are much smarter and call out when I am around, additionally they tend to fly in a box formation around me and avoid me all together; it is actually quite neat because they stay exactly out of shooting range of a shotgun. I suppose you could say they recognize me by now and I am pretty sure they do.

I slowed my walking pace right down as I was only twenty yards from the beaver lodge and on a log right next to its opening there were two common mergansers, this is a good sign and very promising for the season. I took, two more steps and a mallard hen exploded into the air in front of me heading north, I took ten more steps and two more mallards burst into the flight on my left heading southwest.

This went on for about ten minutes, every time I took a few steps I had ducks bursting into flight. Four even circled back right over top and I swore I could have reached out and grabbed them with my hands. The majority were mallards.

I had a huge smile on my face and the sight of the ducks flying around me was just incredibly beautiful; in the end I counted thirty ducks. Bonanza! I went home without a pigeon or crow but I was one happy outdoorsman.

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