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The heal of my waders slid in the fresh mud off the bank into the shallow black waters of the creek, my left hand was raised as to prevent the low hanging branches from scratching my face with my right hand cradling my Remington 870. Within a few steps, I was immersed into the edge of the woods. I was in pursuit of the famed Rock Dove.

I had a look through the trees into the neighbouring field and saw nothing but fresh wild grass and hay, there were black birds, and common house sparrows, and red wing black birds flying about in the absolute nature. Once my feet were placed firmly at the bottom of the creek, I swivelled to the front and back and my eyes to get a better glimpse.

The fast flowing current was slipping around my boots and like a serpent continued into the heart of the woods, on either side there was thick brush, rich in color and sounds, it was place where the love for the woods is moulded into your soul.

I stood their very still and saw a ripple in the waters just up a little ways, a beaver came swimming towards its dam in total silence, gliding through the water with a purpose all the while very weary. Be humble in the woods and respect the environment for it can teach us great things.

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My thirst to never stop learning is what has made me into the bird harvester that I am today, but it is not just about education and information or field experience, it is also about pure observation. As waterfowlers bird species and their flight is knowledge that you must add to your bag if you wish to harvest in confidence.

Have you ever noticed that when drive with a deer hunter, they can spot almost every deer on the side of the road and they can tell you the size and sex of the animal and they get excited every time they see one. Beside all the fun of seeing them, it is an acquired skill because most people just see landscapes. Also it is not about just seeing a deer randomly standing there. There is the weather, time of day and what they feed on and their behaviour and habits.

I find myself doing the same all year round for all birds and it keeps me busy, I am also noticing that I am getting really good at it; so that I can spot ducks at great distances and can tell you the type of birds they are based on their flight and coloration and placement of wings on their bodies or even their calls.

I take in every detail and this is crucial to success on any hunt. Pigeons are by far one of my favorite, because like many other bird species they have incredible eye sight and their flight capabilities are just out of the world, I would say similar to that of Teal. I can recall one Teal hunt, I had four birds closing in, heading directly toward me, and I as soon as I raised my barrel and released the shot, every single one of them spread and flipped like the infamous Matrix move and believe or not I missed them. Arial aerobatics that to this day baffled my mind.

I am so fortunate that in my hunting zone in the province of Quebec, Rock dove hunting is open all year round and not only do pigeons taste amazing, it provides the necessary preparation and skill development needed for duck and goose harvesting. Farm pigeons can be taken from the ground or top of barns but I prefer sky shots in flight.

Observe, learn and adapt and you will harvest more birds and waste less shells. There is more than meets the feather!

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I stood there very still for a moment in time on top of the valley of my dear friends farm; waiting as the cool air from the southern breeze made its way up the ridge toward me. Once it enveloped me it felt as though it had cleansed me of all life’s impurities and in doing so, it showed me that no matter from our modern world had any significance in the wild. I was free and the feeling was an overwhelming sense of joy and mixed emotions.

In the woods being surrounded by its raw beauty and ruthlessness, I was free of judgment, free to roam its narrow passages through the dense brush and the dark black waters of the nearby creeks, all the while my soul was being lured further in by the diving beaver as it made its way to the dam.

All my senses were at a heightened state, the sound of the flowing water and the calls of Red-Winged black birds pulled me deeper into the bowels of this vast wilderness. Though my stay as a guest was only for a few short hours, I returned home refreshed.

The smell of smoke from a distant chimney blew in over the vast open fields and as I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, for a moment in time, I found myself standing back in the dark rolling valleys of the Balkans with the sounds of distant gunfire stamped into my memory for all of eternity.

patrol

I love the wilderness for it provides all the ingredients for a sound soul. For I can not wait to return again and in time, I too will become part of this very same southern breeze, and possibly have the chance to share my wisdom through a whisper for the next generation of Canadian outdoor enthusiasts.

I am an old soul and for this I am sure and I feel it through my bushcraft, I have come to realize that I may live now amongst us today but my being is that of a time long ago.

This blog entry is dedicated to all veterans and their families from all over the globe.

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As a regular “Joe” amongst the millions of hunters from around the world, I know one thing and this is that I am incredibly fortunate to be alive and able to work. With this luxury I can afford to put funds aside so that I can purchase new supplies or tools for our shared passion. But for me this means having to save up over several months, so that I can afford my new tool in my sights and this is the Stoeger M3500. I believe that with the results of my research and experience in the field, it is one of the only shotguns that can handle my punishment in the field.

A few nights ago, I watched a historical documentary about Mountain Men and their adventures in the West. One of the guests on the show was historian Robert Utley, who I loved listening to. He said that for the Mountain Men to be able to survive in the wilderness, they required several sets of qualities, some of these were strength, courage, endurance, fortitude and dexterity of mind and body. Not only is this incredibly insightful but I think these qualities also apply to the modern day outdoorsman/woman and along with wilderness survival skills, I also believe that humility should be part of this package.

Last weekend I took my family to an expensive special event and with the cost of living being very high today, I tapped into my Stoeger fund, now this might put me back a couple of months from my eventual purchase but the memories were simply irreplaceable. In the fall once the leaves begin to turn red again for another waterfowl season, I know that I will have my Stoeger in hand in the wetlands along with my humility along with my memories.

Robert also shared that mountain men had to deal with every manifestation of nature of human and wildlife activity, and this I know we as modern day hunters share this as well.

Have an amazing small game season.

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My wadders hang silently in the garage by the d-ring, empty shells lay in a cracked red bucket on the cold cement floor. The shotgun now locked away in its cabinet with a fresh coat of gun oil, the smell flowing through room and being absorbed into the wood of nearby furniture.

As I look on at a vintage photo of goose hunters, I wished that objects had voices, so that they could tell stories, that if not shared would be lost in the space which surrounds us. Stories that are worth sharing, cause it is part of who we are as waterfowlers and for me a proud Canadian outdoorsman.

Those are the very same wadders I wore on a special spring snow goose hunt north of Quebec City a few years ago with good friends. It was early in the afternoon and we had just brought down a few snow geese into the fields but one bird fell into the St Lawrence river and was being carried away.

The current was roaring to the south and the bird would disappear down on its shores, I could not let this one go. It was quite a ways out and amongst the huge ice blocks, but I had to retrieve the goose. So I stood up from my blind, unloaded my shotgun and left it behind with the other guys and ran after my bird.

First I headed toward the shore, cut through some brush and within seconds I was all alone. I kept on running along the banks for several minutes, like a boy chasing a plane. The terrain was getting more difficult to navigate and I was having to jump up and down ridges, sinking into the mud and eventually I jumped over a couple of tributaries.

All the while running after this famed goose, I could see that the current spirals were spinning the goose toward the shore but still quite a ways out. When I could, I reached out for a large twig that I had found on the ground which had a long enough branch and two angled branches at its end like human fingers.

Finally when the current slowed because of the huge ice blocks, I leapt into the St Lawrence dark waters up to my waist prodding at the bottom of the river to make sure I was not stepping into emptiness. Now only within a few meters, I managed to catch the goose with the wooden claws and pulled in the harvest.

On my way back when I breached the brush line and raised the bird into the air showing the boys that I had got it. I was a proud fellow and they burst out into a joyful laughter. These are memories of a lifetime, better yet this is a story that will not remain locked into those Allen wadders for eternity.  

 

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There are no doubts that crows are intelligent species, especially when you observe their ability to use other objects placed into their bills to retrieve food found in difficult places. I believe the same can be said about Rock doves or pigeons, the simple fact that they were used to carry messages during wars and also seen in their social behaviour speaks volumes.

In the province of Quebec it is an interesting time of year right now for small game hunting, as the season is nearing its end at the end March and a new cycle begins; snowshoe hare, cotton-tailed rabbit along with coyote will soon close, but pigeon is open all year round. In addition, nothing compares to a pan-fried pigeon with Montreal spices, it is just as delicious as Mallard duck breast.

I have proven over time that pigeons are extremely observant and can identify specific vehicles and people, for example when ever I get to my friends farm for a morning or afternoon hunt, if the pigeons spot me before I do, they generally leave the area and do not return until it is time for me to leave. So, as mentioned in previous blog entries, I have to change my arrival, either I pretend to be the farmer by carrying a white bucket for seed but in my case it is empty, or park my truck in the low ground at the entrance of the farm.

This way, I can get my kit ready and sneak up the side of the tree line and barns for a good shot. On Saturday, I took a chance and parked near the house and jumped out and walked up to the barn to have a quick look before getting my kit ready. I played around with the Beagle and gave him a few hugs and then started to get ready.

There were three pigeons down in the mud not far from the cattle feeding away at some left over corn from the cow feed. Unfortunately they spotted me first and flapped their wings aggressively and dove to the right into some evasive flight and disappeared over the tree line to the East. Well darn it, I hadn’t even unpacked my kit and my potential harvests were gone.

At least I thought so, when I heard some claws scratching the aluminum roof of the barn to my right, and there he was the odd one out, looking down at me. He was a character, he had this funny look in his eyes and was checking me out the whole time. It seemed like something out of a cartoon movie, he looked a little funny.

I kept my eyes locked with his and we were in a deep stare, I started to move slowly to the edge of the barn, so that part of the roof would cover my movement and all the while I swung my 870 around and popped a shell into the chamber and pushed locked the safety in one single motion like I have done thousands of times.

He called out and then flapped away but banked to the West and landed near the cattle, this is a no shot zone. So, I watched him land and bounce around the cattle, this gave me some time to head to the East and loop around the barn and into the woods off to the North. The snow was still thick and I was sinking pretty deep and quite frankly it was noisy and simply frustrating as I kept tipping over. So I chose to walk along the tree line and leave an open shot to the South facing the open fields.

Something scared the odd one out into the air and he seem to accelerate when he noticed me in my shooting position, just like crows if you aim at them and they are used to being shot at, they break their flight and conduct evasive flight, Canada geese do this as well. This puts your shooting skills to the test and if you are not quick or skilled you will miss.

I swung around in the mud and completed a full pivot all the while conducting my lead and released my first shot, the pigeon was hit but spun around and headed into the pine trees to land in the North, which is quite unusual as they prefer trees that are open without many leaves. It was like he was trying to lose me or trick me into not seeing him like snowshoe hare do as well.

So I waited patiently, all the while keeping my eyes on the large bulls just meters away. My patience paid off, the pigeon set off a second time and this time I completed a downward swing in my lead and released my shot. In seconds, I had harvested my first pigeon of the day and he landed just meters away. Some feathers were still floating down from the aerial point of impact, it was a difficult shot but a harvest just the same and great practice for fast flying ducks like Teal.

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The snowmobile plowed through the soft snow leaving a large cloud of mist in our trail, which turned into billions of crystals that glistened as the sun rays pierced through. Following a few turns around the frozen lake, the temperature gauge lit up on the dash and we knew something wasn’t right.

We pulled off the trail closer to the shore and lifted the hood and confirmed the worse, something was wrong and we were losing coolant and we only had barely enough to make it back to the cottage which was well over a kilometer away.

I volunteered to walk back, making the sled lighter thus giving my friend a better chance of making it back to the trailer. We lowered the hood, started the motor and within seconds, I was standing all alone surrounded by pure snow-covered wilderness.

I was like a child that had just received one of the best gifts in the world, the feeling was overwhelming, I couldn’t resist, I raised my arms into the air and started to skip up the lake kicking the fresh snow with my boots.

I would breathe in, closed my eyes and listened to the stillness, it was incredible. Once I hit the halfway mark, I left the openness of the lake and started my way into the woods to the west. I felt alive, it is very difficult to put into words but its like you become part of the forest, it is no longer this cold hostile environment that has the ability to arouse primal fears.

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Within minutes, I had found snowshoe hare leads and began to follow them along the edge of the lake through the thick spruce and pine growth. Once I was within a few hundred meters of the cottage, I began to set some snares, rubbing the wire against the spruce tree trunk, to shape the wire and get rid of my scent.

This was perfect, before I knew it several hours had passed and time no longer had the same meaning as it does in the city. In the province of Quebec, a certified hunter can use snares for snowshoe hares under their small game license. 

I wish everyone an incredible new year!

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