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Archive for May, 2016


This afternoon I was standing in my kitchen staring out the glass doors like I do almost every day. Checking to see if there was anything new down at the creek. Yesterday, I had spotted two muskrats swimming around and courting in the water, fighting the currents with their fine tails and hind feet. It was so neat watching them swim up, staying along the shoreline, never swimming up the middle and once in a while stepping up onto a mud flat and then returning back into the water.

Their little shiny brown eyes did not miss a thing, I tried sneaking up to them a few days ago and they dove instantly and did not resurface like a loon meters away; they were gone for a while and it really took a while to spot them again. It was the little V-shaped waves on the surface of the water that gave them away as they are usually just below the surface, like beavers.

All of a sudden a mallard drake and hen flew in circling around the tree tops and then breaking their wings heading West. I don’t think I can ever get tired of watching them coming in for a landing, everyone is unique, they are more than fine pilots they are artists in their executions.

When they finally hit the water, I heard the splash and then almost in an instant I lost sight of the hen. The drake was swimming right toward where I was standing behind the glass door, coming down the creek hidden behind some small trees and bushes. I carefully slid the door open and starting stalking the drake, and using the trees as cover trying to get a closer look at the couple down by the water’s edge.

My heart was racing, I was so excited to be able to get so close. I believe that every time I sneak up and observe them, I learn something new that can help me during my waterfowl seasons. I was so mesmerized by the drake that I was startled when out of nowhere the hen started a crazed wing dance on the surface of the water, coming right at me. She was jumping in and out of the water, repeating the up and down motion, it was so violent, she was moving right toward to the bend in the creek. Beating her wings and using her feet to lift. Water was splashing everywhere, it reminded me of a Canada Goose cleaning ritual.

What ever she was doing it was working, she caught me totally off guard and I found myself chasing her along the shore. For a moment I was confused, I had just seen her fly in, and now she was acting like she had just been shot and was wounded unable to fly. She crashed landed into a mud flat then struggled into the grass.

Damn, I was so convinced, I was running after her, I swore I could have caught her in my hands. Then without warning she took off again, keeping a very low profile to the ground and crossing the dirt road diagonally then landing in the creek on the other side. For a second I lost sight of her again, so I too crossed my front lawn and headed to the creek, then boom. She shot up and went straight toward the sun and then twisted to the east in athletic form and headed right back to where she had started her crazed dance and landed.

From across the road, I watched her land and moments later she headed into the muddy grass flats and seconds later she came back out toward the water with six ducks behind her. I stood there, threw my hands into the air and burst into laughter. She had just played me and I fell for her. She drew me away from her little one’s with the wounded dance and it worked like a charm.

She had just distracted me, then made me chase her putting some distance between us and her ducklings. In the end she was off and back into the water headed toward the old beaver dam all in the safety of the depths before I could ever reach them again.

Nature is brilliant!

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There was a strong breeze coming in from the west that brought with it some cold air; for a moment I felt a chill down my back while descending the ridge toward the creek. The sun was out and the birds were singing and you just felt this renewed source of energy in the air, what an incredible day I had chosen to visit my friends farm and hunt small game.

I was on the lookout for woodchucks and rock doves. By the time my descent had finished I was now standing at the edge of the creek, the water was still incredibly cold with the water levels higher than usual caused by the melting snow and ice.

I crossed over to the other side choosing my path carefully stepping on the large boulders just below the surface of the crystal clear water, high enough to prevent my socks from getting wet, also not to allow the water to reach the top of the boot which was just below the knee.

It was now time for the climb to the rock formation at the top of the southern ridge, it is a really enjoyable walk but I am alway cautious passing through the wall of evergreen, because the cattle have carved out pathways that they use frequently and I would not want to surprise a young bull into a face to face encounter.

As the years go by and as you spend more time outdoors hunting small game it is inevitable that you will make mistakes which causes you to lose out on a few harvest opportunities. I find the trick is once the frustration has been released through a few swear words and licking your wounds; you then decide to learn from them. Observe and then you promise yourself that you will not be doing this twice. The mistakes I mean.

One example of this is, a few years ago I was walking up the whole length of the creek in late October trying to flush ducks and after several hundred meters I was starting to get discouraged and tired of still hunting. Not one duck in sight, as soon as I let my guard down and started walking tall and ordinarily, I scared off two mallards and they got away before I could get a shot off because of the tough angle of the shot.

This has happened to me with Grouse, Woodcock and also Woodchucks. I walked right into their still stance trap and then boom in an explosion of speed they were gone. Once you become an expert in their habitat I believe you get to know when you should flick the on switch for still hunting alert mode.

So on this particular day I put my theory to the test, I made my way through the cattle trail and got up to the rock formation. I could have walked right up to the crest and looked around and gaze over the horizon like a king over his kingdom but every single game would fly off or run for cover. Of course the red squirrel and crow alert calls wouldn’t help.

So, instead I leaned forward and just popped my head over the crest and I found myself practically staring into the eyes of a woodchuck who was sun-bathing just meters in front of me. I put myself in reverse fairly quickly and lowered myself into the low ground and took a few deep breaths. Loaded a shell into my 870, clicked the safety on and then started to lift the top part of my body just above the crest looking right back into the woodchucks eyes.

Lined up my bead sight with the vitals, completed my three breaths then slow pushed my safety off. Moments later I released my shot and harvested my first spring woodchuck. That night I pan-fried some nice thighs in maple syrup with Cajun cowboy spices from Canadian Tire. It was delicious.

Two years ago, I guided a friend duck hunting in my canoe, he was in the front ready to shoot and I was paddling us through a maze of weeds, but because I had learned so much about ducks and their habitat and knew the swamp extremely well, I had also observed like a hawk and mentally recorded certain gold pot spots. I had it down to a science. I knew exactly when he should shoulder his shotgun and be ready. On this day we did not make same mistake twice. Instead we made nice Mallard dishes.

Take your time still hunting on foot or paddling through the weeds, when you feel it, you will know when to flick on the switch and be extremely observant and be ready.

The results are very rewarding and a confirmation that you are learning. Observation just like conservation is paramount.

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