Archive for January, 2016

The cold enveloped me like a blanket as a strong breeze blew in from the south through the trees making sounds similar to that of distant whispers of the men that have passed before me in these dark wintery woods. I was all alone. My boots were crushing through the thin crust of snow and then sinking into the cold waters of the creek below; I was alive in this Canadian wilderness stalking the elusive hare.

Following their leads, I was pushing deeper into the darkness. Then suddenly to the south, I saw white and silver flashes in the sky through the cedar. Just in front of me were fifteen wild turkeys foraging for food through the snow, but to them I was invisible, having stalked within meters.

I was hoping to see the dark eyes of a snowshoe hare staring right at me amidst the evergreens, but now my curiosity was drawn to the flashes in the sky which turned out to be five rock doves. They circled several times and finally landed in the dead tree just twenty meters away. My left hand was cradling the cold steel of my great uncles break-open Iver Johnson sixteen gauge shotgun. My right hand having just adjusted my tuque which got caught in a low branch was now moving toward the pocket of my orange vest in order to grab a #6 paper shell.

Now that my focus was on the Rock doves, I had to figure out how to move further south to get into the best position to harvest a bird. I wanted to get a safe shooting position as to not hit any wild turkeys because they were out of season. There was a large broken tree just ahead and a large rock formation behind me. If I passed around the front of the tree, they would surely see me and fly off, so I had to make my way around the north side without breaking off any small branches coming out of the log.

Any sound or sudden movement would send them into flight. After several minutes of hard work, I was now in a good spot for taking a shot, angled just a few feet above the horizon directly in line with the large branches that they were resting on.

I loaded the shell which slid right into the chamber and then swivelled the gun shut, bought it up to my shoulder and then with my right thumb pulled back on the hammer. With my cheek pushed up against the comb, I lined up the bead sight and released my shot. The whole forest instantly came to life, the turkeys flew in every direction and the pigeons pushed off toward the south, except for the bird I chose.

Time seemed to have slowed down and the pigeon puffed open toward the sun, spread its wings and floated down like a parachute along with the snow flakes to the surface of the snow on the ground. I opened my mouth to exhale and as my breath condensed into a mist I could taste the smell of the old paper shell which had just been fired, awakening moments of past hunts by previous generations.

The rock doves circled around yet again and came right back to another dead tree to the east. The woods were silent once again.

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Merganser Snap

My hand slowly wrapped itself around the black rubber handle found at the top of my back pack, then with great care I lifted the bag and brought it over to my right hand side to improve my shooting position, I did not want to move too quickly.

The open zipper of the main pouch exposed its content. Sitting above my black gloves and warming pads was a large blue ziplock bag full of two boxes of shells. Some #3 and some BB left over from my snow goose hunt north of Quebec city.

I was all dressed up and resting on the bank of the river, waiting for the flocks of Canada’s and merganser ducks.

It had taken me well over forty minutes to get into position, having pulled my kayak across a farming field and through a creek.

Its total weight was about eighty pounds, which included my kit and the boat. I had rigged up a shoulder strap made of rope to make it easier to pull like a sled. Even then I would have to take short breaks to catch my breath and see the whereabouts of the waterfowl.

This was a new location for me an my hunting partner and we had received  permission from a local farmer to hunt on his land. After spending the morning hunting geese in the field nearby we decided to set ourselves up on the bank at the edge the north field and call in some birds.

My traditional wooden double reed duck call was wet and I was concerned that it would not work very well. So I let out a few calls and indeed they sounded horrible, my partner and I laughed as I said “This is not going to work.”

I barely had time to finish my sentence and four common mergansers flew in with incredible speed and as they slowed to land into the water, I heard a snap of their wings, from what I believe was the feathers reacting to the air and to the sudden stop.

Unlike other ducks that I have observed, common mergansers have an incredibly accurate and controlled flight and can literally land on a dime even if it means turning in a complete opposite direction. They have great eye sight too, because they can spot one of their own in the water from high above and land right near them.

We waited for the two pairs of ducks to come in closer to shore and watched as they took turns diving then resurfacing.

The ducks took turns flapping their wings while sitting on their back sides with their chests lifted out of the water as they were bathing themselves. When they finished this dance, they would push forward and snap their wings one last time and lower their upper bodies back into the water and then swim off again. The final snap of the wings made the identical snapping sound of when they landed. It was quite a remarkable sound, like breaking a small twig.

On the count of three our partner and I called out our birds and as we lifted our barrels the birds took flight just inches off the water. Several shots rang out and two birds fell into the water.

In the end we harvested three Canada geese, one snow goose and four mergansers. This was our final day of the season.

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