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With my fingers slowly going numb, and my wool gloves socked from holding onto the drenched icy cold rope attached to the bow of the kayak. I kept pushing forward, my legs were burning with pain from pulling the kayak through the narrow frozen creek and breaking through the ice along the banks.

The wind was blowing in from the north, blinding me with its blizzard like snow flakes being carried along transforming the horizon into a greyish white haze, the trees in the distance had become just a black patch of nature. The darkness was moving in like a mist.

Ducks took flight around me as the ice cracked below my boots and the ice sheets cut into my shin bones. The sweat on my forehead dried instantly with the cold winds as my wind tears rolled down my cheek, it was now time to make my way home alone after a brutal few hours in this November weather.

You could smell the fresh waterfowl flesh from the birds lying in bowels of my boat, and as the kayak slid over the frozen mounds, the dirty water and weeds inside its hull would rock from bow to stern, moving the birds in a bloodied bath along with empty shells and the paddle blades.

The wind howled around me like a mad spirit and brought with it the smell of burning firewood from a distant shack. To me this was soothing and awoke old memories, from years ago, when my family would drive into my grandfathers home town. It would be in the middle of the night after a long highway drive, only a few days before christmas and quite often during a snow storm. The colourful seasonal lights were glowing in the dark from the nearby homes and the smell the burning wood fires filled the neighbourhood air.

Only one mile left and I would get closer to those glowing lights in the distance and to the warmth of the truck after an incredible afternoon of water fowling.

True comfort in the air indeed, just like the song by Jim Reeves “The Blizzard.”


As the cold rain drops fell all around me they made thousands of ticking sounds as they hit natural objects and finally the mud below, some drops managed to flow into my balaclava and drip into my eyes, I slowly raised my fingers and wiped them clear. With my every breath there was a faint mist forming in front of my mouth and then soon after it faded away like smoke from a pipe. For a brief moment it reminded me of my great uncles cherry flavoured tobacco. After having parked the truck on the muddy western side of the fence, I spotted thirty geese in the centre of the field, with no vegetation nearby that would provide cover for me to get close enough for a harvest. I had observed that when Canada geese land in fields, they always place themselves in the centre of the field giving them an all around view of their surroundings.

It was a beautiful fall day with its leaves bursting into bright red and orange colours. The wind would pick up once in a while and let out this loud whooshing sound as the breeze rolled down the slopes toward the southern creek. I made my way around the back of the truck in order to pick up my kit and prepare for my first still hunting approach, when all of a sudden I spotted six more geese on the northern side of the barn closer to my position. I was hoping to be able to use this third barn as cover to get as close as I could for a shot but this was no longer an option.

With my camouflage jacket now on and carrying my 870, I knelt forward and made my way across the muddy field down toward the tree line, kinda circling around their position. The spotter geese immediately saw me and began calling out short sharp alert calls but had not yet sounded a panicked call to set off a wave of flight. Instead the lead bird walked faster to the front of the barn and out of sight soon after the others followed.

Once the group was out of sight, I took advantage of this precious time and ran further down the slope with my boots sliding in the mud, while moving in and around some thorn bushes. I was in position in seconds, having followed a beaten down path of mud in the final stretch where the cows pass through. I had chosen the southern corner of the barn to take my shot.

I closed my eyes took two deep breaths to calm myself from all the excitement, then loaded my three Challenger BB shells, and pumped one into the chamber then pushed it on safe almost instantly. I slowly swung around the edge of the barn exposing just half of my face, this enabled me to spot the geese and register their new positions. Confident of my shot, I selected the largest bird of the group and raised up my barrel from a downward aim to the horizontal one in line with the ground. Very quickly I stepped out from behind the barn and this sent the whole flock into the air, when they were only a few feet off the ground I slow pushed the 870 off safe and released my shot.

Once the smoke and sound cleared the sky filled with geese, my harvest twisted in flight and fell back to the ground. I pumped the action all the way back to release my last shot shell but the expended shell casing jammed because of the plastic end expanding and this caused a few second delay and by the time I cleared it and was ready for another shot but it was too late, the group was gone.

With my 870 now unloaded, I ran out to the field and picked up my first goose harvest of this season. I was now ready to head back to the truck and drive over to the wetlands and setup for this late afternoon hunt to continue. My plan was to park on the opposite side of the rock formation from where I usually park, this would give me better cover for the vehicle which was now closer to the towering evergreen trees.

Moments later and now only meters from the water’s edge, I unloaded my kayak and decided to paddle through the swamp in an attempt to flush some Mallards or Wood ducks. I took out my callers and let out a few geese calls, wood duck and mallard calls.

Within minutes a single young goose who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere was now just above the tree line to my left, I lowered my paddle and placed my ready shotgun into my shoulder from its carrying rack, then pushed it off safe and using the pull-away lead technique I released my shot and the bird tumbled but kept its flight for over fifty meters in the shape of a downward arc and crashed into the top of a dead tree knocking off a piece of bark and hitting the ground moments later. My second harvest was confirmed. It was a very difficult shot because I was leaning sharply to my left in a sitting position with my body partially twisted.

I let out a few more goose calls and barely had time to get back to the shore to retrieve my harvest and place it in the truck when two more geese came in from the West flying in just over the tips of the highest pine trees coming right at me. Now standing on muddy soil, I selected the last bird. I knew this was going to be a frontal shot and for this I used the swing-though lead and released my shot with the bird tumbling and falling just meters from me and the water’s edge.

I was about to head back toward my kayak when another lone goose came flying in from a distance but toward my calls, this gave me sufficient time to get into a better standing shooting position, I was careful not to move too fast as to give away my position. I released another shot and my third harvest tumbled down into the thorn bushes below.

I repeated my third shot once again with yet another lone Canada goose who was also responding to my calls but this goose was actually calling back in short bursts compared to the others who flew in without a sound. My shotgun was empty having used up my three shells. Time seemed to have slowed down by now, so I loaded another single Challenger BB shell, pumped the action, shouldered the 870 then released my shot almost instantly with a pull away lead and my fourth and last goose of the day tumbled to the forest floor.

I was one bird short of my daily bag limit by the time my hunt ended. They were all incredible harvests and this magical afternoon will be with me for a very long time.

That night we enjoyed home-made Mallard and Canada Goose sausages.


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.


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.


The truck edges forward in its slow advance rolling over the sharp rocks, you can hear the rubber under stress from the weight of the truck. But then seconds later it is all over and the truck is brought to a complete stop. I swing it into park, unlatch the door, jump out and land on my two feet. It is a perfect landing, I have done this a thousands times before and then I look around my surroundings, stretch out my arms on either side taking in a deep breath.

Finally I was back where I belong in the Canadian countryside surrounded by farm fields, forests and the wetlands. My eyes see it all, I do not miss a thing, my soul absorbs its substance. Many years have gone by now and I have learned that I too have a special connection with nature. Today is my fourth time out this season for waterfowl but on this very day things seemed quite different, my knowledge reveals itself in my stature, calm and confident and as for nature well it just lives.

It is true that skill as a waterfowler will aid you in your hunts but it will never be the deciding factor on whether or not you harvest. I tell myself every time that it is what nature will offer you on that particular sortie, this is part of the excitement and challenge. The Canada geese may be in the fields waiting or not, they might be in the swamp or maybe not, the ducks might be hiding along the edge of the creek or not.

Yes for sure there will be game out there but where this is the true experience. After a great conversation with my farmer friend and getting the lowdown of the area, I step back into my truck and drive down the southern field across the creek heading toward the wetlands. Recently I have started to try something different, rather than spending several hours out in the bush, instead I leave later in the day with just two hours before sunset to set myself up in my kayak blind with my back to the forest on the northern side of the swamp.

My plan is to sit still in the boat until the ducks come in for the evening and attempt to harvest my limit before the time was up. Last year I wrote about the magical last thirty minutes of hunting which is the final thirty minutes after sunset. On my third time out this year, I barely had the time to push off the shore with my kayak and it was already raining wood ducks, some landing just feet from me. Hearing their wings swish through the air is just an incredible feeling followed by their landing splash.

I usually park several meters from the swamp, put on my waders and get my kit ready, I then sneak up to the shore to see if there are any birds. The small bushes and trees provide great cover for this, sometimes I harvest one of two birds and then go back to pick up the kayak to retrieve them. Sometimes I have to move in and around the beaver dams through the maze of swamp grass to find them. After this is when my waiting game begins, I will bring all the kit I need into the kayak and then paddle out through the swamp and setup. Generally, I choose a spot with tall grass or dead bushes or trees.

When the darkness finally covers the swamp and the fog moves in, it becomes a magical place. The shadows of the evergreen in the horizon create amazing silhouettes. The water below comes to life with beavers, bugs and fish. Strange sounds come out from the nearby woods and if you are a person with a rich imagination, it is enough to give you the shivers. It is a beautiful place with no words that can truly describe what your senses experience with every ounce in my body is filled with joy.

Then they start to flying in, woods ducks in small groups of three of four with the swish of their wings against the air as they circle all around, you slowly raise your shotgun and fill the sky with muzzle blasts of fire.

There is one thing that rings true, you are a Canadian woodsman.


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.

The Stamp


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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