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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on hunting’ Category


During my migratory bird season, when the Canada geese usually fly in toward the farm where I hunt, more specifically the South side, they quite often choose the two best spots in that area. Either they land across the creek on the edge of the ridge at the start of the hay-field or they land on the North side just shy of the tree line close to the creek.

Both positions offer a great view of the surrounding open ground, which enables the spotter geese to identify a threat and call out if danger is approaching. But it is also near the creek and the swamp which is in the back toward the South-West. In addition there is plenty of food.

It is not by coincidence that they select these two preferred spots and this is why is pays off to be observant. As a waterfowl hunter once you have chosen your approach plan, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and adapt to get close enough to your birds for a harvest.

In my last post, I mentioned that I like to change some things during my hunts to see what works and what doesn’t, this also includes changing my plan of approach during my still-hunts. Just like the geese, I too have a preferred path which I use to close the gap between the geese and I when I stalk them and this is always done on my knees or leopard crawling.

On this particular hunt, I noticed that only six geese came in and flared their wings and landed near the creek facing north. I decided that coming in from the East would be very challenging, having noticed where the spotter geese were standing. So, I changed up my approach plan and worked my way in from the West completing the top part of my approach heading down a ridge and coming up from the opposite side of my usual approach path.

There I lined myself up with an old barn that I used to cover in order to gain more ground. From a bird’s-eye view try to picture a perfect slice of pie superimposed over the field and the tip being where the geese are located, by this time I had now traced the outline of the triangular slice and was coming up the one of the side legs of the triangle heading toward the tip.

The only problem was that now there was nothing but open ground and still several meters to the geese. Once I reached the corner of the barn, I looked through the board gaps and studied the geese position and the spotter geese and decided that coming from the Eastern side would be best. So, I looked to the ground and took several breaths, took three shells and slid them in the buttstock holder and placed the rest in my right pocket and buttoned it shut.

I lowered my face mask then got down on my belly and started to crawl forward toward the East. The first few meters were extremely tough and it was incredibly warm, also making my way over a log. Every few meters, I would stop and place my face into the ground and breathe in a rhythm to control my breathing and not allow myself to get too exhausted.

Once in a while I would slowly lift my head about five inches and check my alignment to ensure I was still in line with the birds. The farm field is full of uneven ground which is perfect to slip into a small trench and gain more ground. On my final approach, I was only pushing with the ball of my feet to propel myself forward and then using my elbows to lift my body of the ground and push ahead.

I was able to get within twenty-five meters of the birds and slide in behind an old upside down claw foot bath tub, which was most likely used to for the cattle to drink a long time ago. I loaded my three shells and pumped the action and placed the 870 on safe. Now I had to figure out how to get to my knees without getting too high and giving away my position. After a couple of minutes, I raised my barrel and rested it on the tub and aligned myself for the first shot.

It did not take long for the birds to call out and burst into the air and with just inches from the ground, I released my shot into the closest goose and it tumbled to the ground with a broken wing. I had to release a second shot into the same bird and while pumping the action to release the second shell and load the third, the spent shell jammed before I could clear it for the third shot and possibly another harvest. It was too late and the others had already set considerable distance between them and I. Quite often with my Remington 870 even if cleaned and pumping the action properly, I find that the shorter shells extract better with my pump-action; one day I hope to be able purchase the new Versa max. This will for sure eliminate the expended shell jams and with the semi-auto action I might be able to release my shots quicker and possibly harvest two or three geese in one single approach.

Just the same I was extremely satisfied with this harvest and the approach. It can be said that in a blind setup, one can harvest a greater number of birds yet I find that still-hunting is so much more rewarding and so far it has proven to be a very positive start of the season with this feathered fox.

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There is nothing better than spending a few hours along the river on an early Sunday morning for a waterfowl hunt. Especially after an incredibly stressful work week. I was a bit disappointed though because I was not going to be able to bring my kayak along with me. My truck was getting repaired. I knew this would limit my ability to get closer to the ducks, and I would be forced to stay on the muddy banks.

This means jumping over medium size distributaries and sometimes crossing wider parts of the river that is chest high and in icy cold waters. In situations like these, I usually find a large fallen tree several meters long that was left over by the beavers. I push it across at the narrowest part of the river, then I use the log as support in the deeper parts of the water. Once I am done I then move the logs out-of-the-way in case some boats come through after me. On occasions I can find recently built beaver dams and cross over them like a land bridge. I also sometimes use a walking stick for balance and to check the depth of the water before stepping in. Experience and good judgement have allowed me to continue to blog about it, even after having spent several minutes in icy cold water.

I am always very excited about getting a few hours to myself in nature, especially this time a year. The river and marshes this time of year are just spectacular along with the light snow fall. Also it gets so cold that fewer people come out later in the season. This makes it safer since there are less hunters and it also provides more available hunting spots to set up. You can also still hunt and attempt to flush the ducks for a couple of kilometres without ever meeting anyone.

I am always so appreciative to be able spend time outdoors and release the stress from our daily lives, but with hunting comes reality and this means that you will not always be guaranteed a harvest. The Canada geese have been hunted in this area of mine for several years now and as a result as soon as they clear the tree line along the river’s edge they increase their altitude and makes it a no go for shots.

As the Canada geese numbers decrease this time a year with only five weeks left to the season, I focus my attention on mallards, black ducks and teal. But these birds like to land in very isolated parts of the marsh where it is still open and not yet frozen over and these spots are quite often only accessible by water. So, after having spent the good part of an hour stalking the shores of the river, I turned toward the marsh and circled around its perimeter forming the shape of a ring. This is in knee-deep water and also sometimes using little mud islands that look like thousands of crane nests as land steps around the deeper parts.

I had taken a few shots at some ducks and missed, I soon realized after a few hours that this hunt was a total bust as far has getting a harvest, yet this was my reality for this Sunday. This can be extremely discouraging for any waterfowl hunter as well as exhausting. I knew that I was blessed having spent some amazing time outdoors and being able to shed the stress from the week, but rather disappointed about not harvesting.

What I found can be challenging to accept is the fact that on days like these, even after having spent time outdoors, you were still not able to harvest. Also even though you will have other times to go out, it is just simply discouraging. I find myself fighting against the negative energies of disappointment about not having harvested. Because ultimately every waterfowl hunter wants to bring home some birds. This I find can be especially hard on new members to the sport, because you want to harvest and not necessarily put your current abilities in question.

I will be going out again next weekend and this time I will be bringing my kayak. I am hopeful that I will be able to remedy this harvesting situation, in addition to continue my never-ending pursuit of being able to find the true balance between time at the marsh and having a successful harvest. Family and friends will consider you very lucky about having spent time alone in the great outdoors. But unless they share your passion for the sport they will not always be understanding to the fact that you are disappointed in your performance and that it may take a few hours to digest this fact. Then you ask yourself the question, is getting a harvest the definition of a successful hunt? Or are you simply a very lucky person to have had some time to yourself?

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wetlandsNature is ruthless in all of its beauty. There exists a place on earth for everyone where you are free of judgement and the negative energies of the world. For that moment you are king, nature is powerful and a healer. Out there you can scream a loud and not a soul will hear you or call back. Once you have conquered your fears and solitude only then have you truly understood the spirit of a woodsman. CSGH 2016.

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Two days ago I was reading an online article published by a hunting site, the honest author wrote about waterfowl hunting and how sometimes you can leave the hunting site full of frustration directed at your missed shots and the desire to improve for the next time. Particularly when trying to harvest Canada geese in flight or readying themselves for a landing.

I find it extremely interesting how some authors always need to write and emphasize the number of years of experience they have and choose their best hunting examples to try to educate you on the types of shot sizes you should use and of course write about the importance of patterning. Like many have written before, each gun fires differently or does it?

The other evening while on the water, I felt something very different from the many other waterfowl hunts I have experienced. There was a greater sense of know how and I felt a higher level of calm and as a result if I missed a duck or goose, it did not matter because I knew that I would get the next as I have done before.

Authors and experts write about the best practices when it comes to our sports fundamentals and yes these are important but they remain theories until applied. Once you are on the ground this is when the actual event happens, real life happens. Birds turn and do not land or behave differently and then it is all about you and your personal skill and your gun.

What I felt out there in the wetlands wasn’t that I was becoming a better hunter a so-called expert like those authors, but rather I was living the reality of being out there with geese and ducks and nature at its best. I understood that sometimes there will be missed and sometime successful harvests but that over time I have captured a better sense of understanding about our sport and as a result have gained maturity and field experience that of a veteran waterfowl hunter. Learning and improving based on the fundamentals but also living every experience and correcting the mistakes.

I have missed a lot of birds but I am also the same waterfowl sportsman that took down three adult Canada geese in a single shot last season. It is important to learn the fundamentals, for example choosing the right shot for the right time of the season when the geese are a little heavier. Applying the right amount of lead depending on the bird’s flight, but then there is the bit that not too many people wish to share and that is the knowledge you acquire on your own while on the water, true field experience that is quite often kept as secrets of the sport.

When you go to an outfitter, they help you harvest birds, they may talk about the winds or something but they do not necessarily share the true skills. Sure you go home with some geese or ducks but did you truly harvest the experience and digest the time that took place did you grasp the know how for the next time.

On your next hunt if you are still skybusting, stop shooting and take a few minutes to focus and see what you can change to improve your chances.

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A few nights ago on a dark and raining evening I sat down and began to browse the Internet, I was looking up vintage hunting paintings and sketches as well as black and white photos. Some were trophy photos and others told stories. Stories of time long ago, a way of life, experiences that I have shared and lived in my own way.

There was one sketch in particular that struck me more than the others, it was titled “Chasing a Cripple” it is a black and white drawing by W.L Wells. I found that this image like many others captures the true essence of a duck hunter attempting to retrieve his crippled game.

I stood there looking at every detail in the drawing and I found myself re-living a moment from last years season, when I was retrieving my crippled teal duck and then I began to type what I felt deep at the core.

“The darkness and the cold envelops you like a blanket, the wind howls and makes sounds like that of wicked spirits calling out. Tis the season of toxic mud gases and weeds that weigh a ton, and wrap themselves around your paddle like mad fingers who wish to pull you down into the depths of the black waters. A few more powerful strokes and the harvest might be yours or not, it is unyielding and painful yet so rewarding. It is healing, it is medicine for the soul.”

The season starts in two days and I can not wait.

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Environment Canada is doing a great job with its migratory bird program and for me purchasing my migratory bird permit has become a very important tradition in September.

One can purchase it online but I still love the feeling of walking into the post office downtown.

Opening those large metal doors and walking in amongst the attractive people in suits and dresses, my walk is poised and confident, a proud outdoorsman. The interior of the building is simply majestic with its high ceilings and beautiful framed historical stamps fill the walls. 

I stand in line and wait for my turn, some are sending money, others letters and me purchasing my migratory bird permit.

It is not just about paying and getting a piece of paper with a stamp, it is a privilege. After filling out the forms and paying, I walk out and hit the sidewalk with pride. I am excited about the season ahead about sharing it with great friends and family.

My harvests could be in lush fields or the dark waters of the river, either way it is a powerful experience that those before me have lived, cherished and shared for centuries. It is a sacred activity that goes beyond first impressions and judgement; it is exclusive and very personal.

In the confines of your family you become a legend with life experiences and stories that are worthy of campfires and passed through the generations.

Last weekend I went through my backpack, my Remington and got everything sorted and cleaned, I am hoping to have an incredible season.

We have good friends coming for a visit soon and I wish to offer them some great tasting sausages and Rillettes.

So in closing, I hope that your permit purchase this year is as special as mine and I wish you all a safe season and wonderful harvests. 

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It has been a few weeks since I have blogged about our beloved sport; but the subject was never far from my thoughts or soul. For fourteen days, I walked two hundred and fifty kilometres on part of the Saint James’s trail (Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle) France; more accurately a pilgrimage on the Rocamadour variant.

God knows, no pun intended that I had lots of time to think and reflect about everything, including my upcoming seasons and blog articles. While on the “Chemin,” I was constantly reminded of the beauty of nature and its magnificent wildlife. The hares in France were so large in size that their ears resembled that of a coyote and the palombe (wood pigeons) also impressed me with their size, flight and ability to blend into their environment.

When walking in the open fields alone with no one in sight for miles, I openly called out to the French crows and hawks to see if I would get a response. The crow calls were very different and not as pronounced as their north American cousins. They also did not call in three’s. Furthermore, they did not seem interested in having a conversation with me, unlike they do here.

As for the hawks, they usually called back but it took two or three tries before I got a response. While on the Saint James trail, it was not unusual to spend several hours walking through French forests and even though they also had maple and oak trees just like us, the forests in the region where I walked seemed very damp and dense and very eery at times.

The forest density changed just like our forests from very open pine forests to extremely thick mixed woods. Some trees grew in small groupings of three to five trees with every grouping spaced out. I walked through many private hunting territories in close proximity to agricultural areas, and only saw two deer and was particularly amazed by their rather small body size.

One night while sitting in a French restaurant, I met a fellow boar hunter and eventhough we lived in two different countries seperated by a great sea, we shared the same passion, the same knowledge and as a result we bonded like two brothers. 

It was an incredible experience and I will return for sure, but now my focus is to enjoy the rest of the summer and get ready for the fall. And as for my walk through the amazing French countryside and its forests or as John Muir put it: The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.

My fourteen day walk through the French countryside and wilderness shall be part of me for a lifetime.

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