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Archive for February, 2020


The trailer rolled downward on the concrete ramp into the dark waters below, my bare hands gripping the rope attached to the front of the boat. Following a sharp stop, the haul of the boat slid off the rails and splashed into the waves. The red tail lights were glowing underwater, it was such as neat effect. We were full of excitement, and would be soon heading into the unknown toward the wetlands.

This was going to be one of our last waterfowl outings for the season as in just a few weeks it was coming to its end. I really wanted us to have an amazing hunt and great harvest but I have found that if I do not dip into my knowledge, the weather and just focus on getting a harvest, we could go home without ever firing a shot. I did not want to jinx us. With the boat all loaded up with the kit, we set off to the West down the river.

I was sitting in the front and while I was getting my kit ready seeking a more comfortable position, the water was splattering in my face and I was taking it all in, just like the famous scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet at the front of the Titanic. The Jon boat, looked amazing with the camouflage skirting and the accessories attached to the frame, we were all setup for success.

There were several hunters out on this particular day, and I set a plan for us to go to one of my sweet spots, well away from the others. For many years, I hunted either land locked on the banks or from my kayak or canoe. In doing so, I learned and remembered all the spots were I harvested and what species of birds and their numbers were and where I had failed, where they came in the land in the mornings and late afternoons, right up to the thirty minutes past sunset.

It felt like I was gambling but deep down in outdoorsman repertoire, I had a good recipe going. We would alternate using the gas powered motor and the trolling motor depending if were approaching known areas where there were birds. There were geese flying in but still too high or they landed in areas where hunting was not allowed, so we pushed our way further West in the direction of the sweet spot.

Almost at the half way mark, we spotted a group of about twenty Mallards dabbling in some tall grass. At first we could not make them out as they looked like weeds near downed trees half submerged. We killed the motor and let the boat coast along with the current, I took out my binoculars and confirmed they were Mallards indeed. The difficult task was getting closer without spooking them. They were still quite a ways out and we had a good distance to cover, we switched to the trolling motor and closed the gap between them and us.

By the time we reached the distance of about two hundred meters, we killed the motor again and used the onboard paddle to keep us going straight and let the current bring us in naturally, we were right near the tall grass coming out of the water which provided great cover for our approach. With the boat now at a complete stop stuck in the mud, I considered climbing out and circling the group through the water, but quickly assessed that this plan would not be successful.

I loaded my three shells and cycled one into the chamber and placed the gun on safety to control my breathing. With my bead sight lined up, I released two shots into the group and when all the excitement settled. I had missed them completely, it was a near impossible miss but I sure did and could not explain it. It was like every pellet when passed each bird and they flew away to the South.

It felt like being kicked in the stomach by a horse, I could not even explain what just had happened or let alone my shot. The only thing, I could do is lick my wounds and pick up my abilities from the water and move on down to the sweet spot. Even my bud was in awe, it was either one of my worst shot or magic, but there is one thing we agreed on, we could not linger on what could have happened or should have done, it was the past. After all, we were heading to the sweet spot and it was going to be a gamble mixed in with my knowledge.

As the boat inched up the river, we kept our eyes locked on the banks and the skies to the North, for those few moments there was no activity. In an instant, I could hear geese calling out in small call bursts as to alert each other of approaching danger. We killed the motor again and I leaped out of the boat into the water about knee deep and began my stalk forward toward the calls. I was just on the other side of the banks and coming in at a North-westerly angle.

I lifted my head to take a peak and then signalled to my friend to secure the boat on the shore and get ready. I loaded three shells into my shotgun and slipped it into safe, I was now kneeling forward trying to keep a low profile behind the dead trees and swamp grass. When I raised my head, the birds had already seen the boat and burst into flight, I could not believe the sheer number of geese, there were well over fifty if not more.

I lined up my bead site and fired into the group and hit a Mallard hen who spun forward and fell back into the water. Some of my shot, went further and struck a goose that was behind the Mallard who also tumbled into the water, but was wounded. Very quickly I had to manoeuvre my way forward and circle around the swamp in order to track down the goose and finally harvest it. Following my shots, the skies filled with Canada’s who were now flying south.

I was hoping for my bud to be in a good position to cut off a few geese but he was unable to get into a good position in time before they flock got out of range. We knew from experience that later in the day the geese would come back to this area, hence the sweet spot. So, we unloaded our kit and setup for the afternoon with our mobile blind which was basically two stakes with a burlap sheet. It did not provide a lot of cover from the cold winds but it was sufficient for our concealment.

With about half a dozen duck and goose decoys setup, we sat and waited for several hours and had stopped to have a snack, unbeknownst to us a female wood duck swam into our decoys and we spotted it right at the last minute and released a shot and harvested our third bird of the day. Following the third harvest, I let out several goose and duck calls and then took breaks in between and for a while things started to quiet down, until about one hour before sunset all of a sudden waves of geese started to circle in and come for landings from all directions.

I hadn’t experienced this type of phenomenon in at least two seasons, the last time this occurred in a blind, we barely had time to reload three shells and release shots off. We were literally running out of shells and had to dig into our pockets quick enough to reload. I have had geese approach in small numbers but not like rain, this was incredible to experience again. One of the biggest challenges for a new waterfowler is not to get too excited and release shots at the geese before they are able to come into the decoy spread.

It is best to stay low in the blind and if you can tilt your head as to look up above you without moving too much. Get ready to select your shots and then point out to your bud your shooting respective zones, so that you do not cross into each others zones. We had determined this very quickly and as soon as the geese were into the spread and well within range, we began releasing shots, by the time the first volley of fire stopped two geese tumbled down and still more geese were coming in. We released another volley of fire and two more geese fell to the waters below. We also managed to harvest an additional male wood duck.

Once the noise and smoke cleared, I jumped into the water with my waders and began retrieving the harvests as sunset was fast approaching and the legal shooting time was coming to an end. Packing up decoys in deep water when the sun is setting is not the safest practice, so I wanted to do this also while we still had some light. Today, like many others were a good lesson, when you experience some misses, don’t get discouraged because if you tap into your knowledge then choose a well known spot where the birds come in, be patient aim straight and you will be rewarded.

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