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The sun was high in the sky and it was simply a beautiful drive out to the farm with only a slight breeze coming in from the West. The truck slowly made its way up the dirt road like it has a hundred times. During the spring time though I had to carefully manoeuvre the steering wheel, so that the tires did not veer off forcing the truck into the mud fields to the East. The pre-existing tire tracks had two miniature creeks developing right down the middle of each one from the melting snow, this made it a delicate drive. At the main gate of the farm, the electric fence had already been opened, making it a little easier to get to my favorite parking spot.

This was also indicative that the cows were out in the field and not sitting around the main barn, this was positive. When I get to the farm, I always like to know the cattle whereabouts because they can impact the choice of a shot or not, especially when hunting rock dove. Too close is a no go for a shot.

Rock doves can fly in and adjust their flight path to their entry spot into the landing zone. They are always checking for potential danger and maneuvering accordingly. For example if I am standing by the main gate with my orange hunting vest and they spot me, they will circle in from the North and come in from the forest edge using the cover to mask their approach for the landing. Rock doves can fly in straight overhead or often circle in from either side from where you are standing completing wide arcs.

I like to try to harvest them while high in flight or when they are really close to the ground. About an hour had passed since I got to the farm and I was already walking along the edge of the forest when I came upon an old kitchen chair. I fixed the back rest placed it near a large tree and sat down for a few minutes. It was heavenly and I was taking in the view of the valley and low ground of the farm and also watching the cattle graze. When you take the time to observe cattle, you realize how remarkable they truly are as animals.

While sitting and looking out a thought crossed my mind. I told myself, I just have to be patient and maybe the rock doves will come back as they had flown away while I was sneaking through the woods earlier. Speaking from experience, it is more challenging for a young hunter to stalk the pigeons and take shots for a harvest, but it can also be done using patience and concealment, just sitting and waiting. Very similar to duck hunting, you can walk and flush them or you can set up and sit by the edge of the swamp and the ducks will eventually fly in and offer a shot. Sure enough two rock doves came in, looped around over head and I just sat very still and waited.

Once they circled directly in front of me to the south, I waited for the first one to come within two feet of the ground and I released my shot. He fell into the mud and small feathers floated into the air at the point of impact. I was pleased with my first harvest of the day and was anxious to go pick him up. I cleared my Remington 870, stood up and made my way toward my harvest, I carefully stepped over the electric fence which was just about waist high and climbed over. I walked for about another four meters and all of a sudden my boots hit a slippery spot and up I went. It all happened lightning quick. I was in a horizontal position almost still in the air with my back facing the ground and then I came down hard and landed on my full right hand side.

I was completely soaked in a soup of mud, urine, water, cow manure and hay. I could not believe it, this was my first fall in a long time and I was drenched in cow soup. After a good loud laugh and a quick check over for injuries, I got up and just like a cow getting a good scratch on the barn walls, I walked along one of the old barns and rubbed the gunk off my clothing as best I could.

I had my first harvest alright for the day but I also had a manure filled soup to go with it!

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I drove carefully through the creek, it was going to be a quick crossing; just minutes before I had put on my Allen waders and walked across it to see how deep it was, this also let me find the sharp rocks sticking out of the muddy bottom.

As the tires pushed through the creek, three mallards that were hidden in the dense grass burst into flight heading westward, they were climbing gradually but their flight lightning fast, one drake and two hens. I was heading to the edge of the marsh to the south-east.

When I first arrived at the farm I noticed the southern field was empty with no Canada geese in sight. I wasn’t sure how my hunt was going to turn out on this fall day but I always try to be creative and remain optimistic.

The cows were scattered all around the barns and open fields, I was hoping for a good day but there were no birds in sight. I took a few deep breaths and with my binoculars in hand, I started to scan the landscape. Over a kilometer away in a south-westerly direction, I noticed long black objects poking out the swamp grass, they were moving very little but just enough that I could make out the difference from the tree stumps left by the beavers and a goose neck.

I stood there on top of the ridge for a few more minutes, raised and lowered my binoculars several times trying to get a better look at the thin black sticks. Once I cleared the creek, I turned toward the west and moved along the ridge driving in the low ground, and my plan was to park away from my start point for my stalk.

With the truck now parked exactly where I wanted it, I opened the driver door and stepped out onto the moist field. It was a cold windy day, so I put on my Remington hunting jacket and zipped it up just below the chest pouch fitted with a magnetic strip of my waders giving me easy access to my shells.

With my 870 ready and placed on the field floor I took three Challenger shells and loaded them and pumped one into the chamber and placed the safety on. The whole time I was kneeling beside the truck, I kept my eyes on the cattle more particularly the big black bull.

They were only a few meters away and I only had small spruce trees and dead tree stumps, between them and I and they got pretty weary with me crawling around them.

I now had to move my way closer to the water’s edge without triggering any panic among the geese, especially the one’s on watch. As I came around the front of the truck and headed to the water, I would sneak up behind some trees, then move my way around to freshly cut stumps left by the beavers. The ground beneath me was transforming into a muddy sludge mixed in with rotten pieces of wood and rock.

With my green balaclava pulled over my face; every few steps I would stop and check my alignment with the spotter geese and then adjust my movement forward, so that they could not see me.

I was now only twenty meters away but it felt like a longer distance than this as I could no longer finish my approach slouched forward. I had to get down on my hands and knees, and with every pace forward, I would meticulously place my shotgun onto swamp grass mounds just high enough to keep my barrel cleared of the muck.

A few weeks earlier I had observed my cat stalking some common house sparrows in the tall grass. Everyone of her muscles were moving in a calculated fashion then very often she would stop and just watch, then adjust her position again and move forward with only her front legs and then minutes later she would bring in her bag legs forward, thus allowing her to jump forward with the maximum reach allowed. It was incredible that a large black object like her could move ahead closer to the birds without sending them into flight.

I was now knee-deep in the cold waters, my hands were breaking through the very thin layer of ice and then sinking into the muck, my fingers were starting to burn because of the cold waters but I was so focused on my approach that I did not give much thought to my uncomfortable movement.

I finally got into the position but my left boot was stuck in the mud, I had to figure out how to shift my hip forward and get into a good shooting position without getting too high. I grabbed a chewed beaver stump placed my fingers carefully around tip and pulled myself up.

This was all done in an exaggerated slow motion, so that I did not alert the spotter geese. I could hear one of them calling out nervous short calls. But before I could shoot, I needed to get one final look at the main group of geese in behind the marsh grass and ensure that my first shot was going to be perfect and safe.

The group formed a sort of broken circle with three geese lined up with two on each side. I took several deep breaths then looked down into the water, my heart was beating like crazy and I was breathing like I had just run several kilometers.

I was ready and had all my shots planned out, I did the slow controlled push-off of my safety button just like Wade Bourne had shown in one of his videos. I slowly raised myself up behind thin branches of a dead tree that came up out of the water like a cypress tree in the shape of the letter “y”, my ruse worked for a few seconds until the geese started calling out aggressively and pushing off into flight. I released my first shot when the birds where just inches off the water and my shell shot snapped the first three geese and brought them down. I aimed for the head and neck just like turkey hunting.

I could not believe it, I had just brought down three geese in one shot, the first one fell hard into the water and the two others spun and flipped back into the water right after, the first two were down but the third tried to fly again and I released a second shot.

With three harvested, I turned to my right or north-east and released another shot and hit a fourth bird and it fell and spiralled hard into the water. I had to reload, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out two more shells and loaded them then pumped and twisted to my left now in a full standing position I released another shot and brought down the largest bird of my harvest.

Once the water calmed below my feet and the empty shells floated near my boots, I had five Canada geese lying in front of me and I could not believe what had just happened.

I had just reached my daily bag limit in a matter of seconds and I was in total disbelief, my years of work to becoming a better waterfowler had just materialized before me and the future could only be brighter.

It took me several minutes to get the birds back to the truck and then drive back to the barn on my way home. While loading my kit in the back of the truck, six rock doves flew in from the east heading west over the barn by the cattle gates.

I grabbed my 870 and snuck in behind the southern barn and made my way around the front, the pigeons where flying just two meters above the ground in formation. I loaded one shell of number three and released a single shot into the flock, taking down two birds.

I have gone weeks without a single harvest but days like these taught me to never give up and learn as much as you can and spend as much time as you can in the field. It does not matter where you are in the world, after all it is in our blood and I understand!

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A strong wind from the east was blowing in toward west and then spiraling around through the copses of trees behind me. It was a perfect day at the farm and the temperature was sitting at about twenty-one degrees Celsius; it wasn’t warm but I was quite comfortable and very excited about my half day hunt at the farm.

As I walked through the tall grass and lifted one leg after the other to pass over the electrical fence heading south down toward the three barns, five rock doves circled round and landed on the first barn on the ridge of the roof.

They could see me but they did not move, some where facing south others north, but they were well aware of my presence. It wasn’t until I took a few more steps forward that they flew off toward the second barn and landed on the far side of its roof, closest to the edge of the forest.

The farmer had told me earlier during our conversation that there were five rock doves playing around but he did not know their whereabouts, however I know they seem to like the barns and that this was a likely place to start looking for them. The first barn was abandoned and broken, making it an ideal place to have a nest and to provide shelter, not just for the doves but also woodchucks and rabbits.

I took a few more steps, stopped and then looked around; I wanted to make sure I knew where all the young bulls were before I crossed the field in an attempt to harvest the rock doves at the second barn. The cattle were scattered all over the field and I always make sure I have a clear path to safety in case one the bulls comes running.

Once I had everyone in place exactly where I wanted them, I got down really low ran across the field and came up to the second barn from an angle using its gable roof as cover, the rock doves never even saw me sprinting across the open ground and by the time I caught my breath I was just beneath them.

I loaded a shell into the chamber of my Remington 870 and clicked it into safety, and shouldered my shotgun into a good firing position. I stepped away from the barn taking two steps backward and this movement sent the rock dove into the air, I focused on the one to my right, followed through and released my shot.

I was leaning right back and aiming directly straight up into the sky above me, the pigeon spun around in an incredible aerobatics display and flipped twice more and fell to the ground below only four meters to my right. It was a great harvest and a great start to an afternoon.

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It had been several weeks since I had gone to the farm to hunt pigeons; and I was really looking forward to spending some time in the woods. The past few times I was out the birds were either too fast for my shot on that particular day or they would simply spot my orange safety vest and then fly away to the neighboring farm even before my kit was ready. If this occurred I would not see them again until it was time for me to head home.

This past winter, we had several days in a row when the temperatures dropped below normal and it was a wicked cold. As a result the farmer would wear a heavier coat which happened to be orange. Part of his daily routine was to feed grain to some of the younger cattle; he would come out with a white bucket and wore his orange vest.

Within minutes of this feeding routine, the pigeons would fly in, swarm the cattle then help themselves to the grain. This pattern occurred daily for quite some time without interruption and the pigeons got used to the routine and the color orange.

So, on the day that I arrived and put on my orange vest, they did not pay too much attention to me, in fact they were quite bold. This allowed me to sneak in and line up several precisions shots and by the end of the afternoon I had harvested two large pigeons and enjoyed a good pan-fried feast that night with maple syrup and Montreal spices.

Color, habits and patterns are very important elements to hunting and its success if applied well. If you are out hunting a specific type of game and it is not working, do not be afraid to change-up your game and adapt to their habits, habitat and remember always wear orange vests.

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The pigeons flew in very fast over head from the south in a flock of seven or more, circling around and breaking apart into smaller teams of two or three and then eventually the lead bird flying ahead for a few seconds, playing in the winds, maneuvering with skill and grace.

They wanted to land in the mud filled with corn but they were hesitant after spotting my truck with the canoe strapped to its roof and I had just opened the driver’s side door. This sent them even higher into a panicked flight, circling two more times near the southern barns before setting off to the east and over the tree line.

I would have to wait now a few minutes for them to come back and attempt to harvest a few. So, I jumped out of my seat and began unpacking my kit for the morning hunt and laying it out neatly on the tailgate.

I reached into my backpack and took out my new Tasco binoculars which I had purchased just a week ago at SAIL. I brought them up and focused in on the low ground and open fields near the creek to the south. The cold air and winds were in my favor today but there were no geese down in the low ground near the creek, this was their usual spot, but I did hear a few of them call out from above but were too high for a shot.

I continued scanning the ground and I immediately noticed the ripples in the water close to where the cattle cross the creek and there were three mallards dabbling in the water.

My initial plan for the day was to try for pigeon and then check out the open areas south of the third barn near the creek and look for woodcock, duck or geese. Now that I spotted the three mallards, two drakes and one hen, I knew that I had the time needed to come up with a plan of approach as long as something did not scare or alert the birds.

I zipped up my jacket, put on my balaclava and then loaded three shells into my Remington 870 and stood still for a few minutes looking at my two approach options, either coming in from the west from the low ground in behind the third barn and potential harvest a duck from the western corner of the barn. Maybe… I thought, but a few weeks ago, I got stuck in this same situation and the geese spotted me and flew away and had plenty of time to put some distance between me and them. There was too much open ground to cover for this choice.

So I chose to come in from the east and run up the shrub line along the creek and move my way up along its shore to the cattle crossing area. Almost a year earlier I had harvested a mallard hen in the exact same spot.

I checked over my pockets and kit and then slipped under the electric fence and started my way down through the rough terrain and across the field moving away from the ducks circling around from the east. It was quite a detour but it allowed me to move in from the left. I made about forty steps and as soon as I got into the wet grass, I flushed a woodcock which flew directly in front of me but I did not take the shot because the mallards were more interesting for a meal being a larger bird. The shot would send them flying away into the air.

Now that I had reached the shrub line and was right on the edge of the creek, I slouched forward and slowed my pace right down. I was now in the final approach and did not want to spook them into flight. My shoulders were at the same height as the tallest bushes and this provided me with the cover that I needed to close the gap between them and me.

I must have covered around thirty meters, before I had a chance to straighten up for a look, and a mallard I hadn’t seen let out a two quacks then burst into flight. This set off a second duck which was only two meters in front of me and both flew away incredibly fast. I loaded a shell into the chamber pushed the safety on and started running after the ducks for about four meters and aimed but they were too far, then all of a sudden splash another mallard shot up on my left and started to gain some distance. I aimed and released my first shot at the bird and it dropped, swerved and then flew even higher.

Now around twenty meters away, I pumped and released my second shot. In my mind I thought this shot was too far and that the mallard will get away and as soon as my shot reached the bird its head leaned forward and the duck tumbled to the ground below. I could not believe the shot.

I made my 870 safe and ran through the shallow part of the creek and started to look for the bird because it fell in the high grass. I applied what I wrote in my last blog and traced back my shot from where I was standing using my arm as a pointer and then completed five back and fourths sweeping the grass, the duck was lying in a small recess in the ground. It was a magnificent mallard drake with beautiful coloration.

A great harvest and a sure long shot!

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A flock of Red-winged blackbirds and a few European starlings were chanting and flying around from tree top to tree top, through the pine and cedar woods to the north. Then following a strong breeze that blew in from the west, they would fly over to the nearest barn, as if they were being scooped up by the wind. You could hear their claws gripping the aluminum sheets on the roof as they slipped down its side. And then down they went to the lower brush to the east changing direction in flight with incredible agility allowing them to land directly where there was grain spread out on the muddy ground.

It was a beautiful day out in the country and the temperature was at about sixteen degrees Celsius with a strong breeze coming in from the west bringing along with it some dark grey clouds, that would momentarily hide the sun. Once the clouds had passed you could feel the heat on your face again, the sky then had a light blue color to it. The change of colors in the fields as the clouds cleared was stunning with the sun breaking through and this is a very important time to try and spot game.

On the drive in to the farm, I had noticed quite a few groundhogs all along the highway on the earth mounds on each side of the road and in and around the barns scattered over the countryside. I knew that the “Siffleuse” were active. In Quebec groundhogs are also known as the “Marmotte Siffleuse” because it stomps its feet and whistles if you get too close or when danger lurks.

After having spent the most part of an hour talking to the farmer about the local news over a nice hot cup of coffee, I decided to sight in my rifle scope taking a few shots into a safe shooting pit using a target that I built using Styrofoam. Using a modified sighting technique similar to that which Stephen Archer demonstrates on his Internet instructional video. Now that my grouping was nice and tight, I was ready for the days hunt. The fact that there was no varmint activity beside the cluster of barns to the east, made me change my plan and move toward the larger field to the west staying close to the northern tree line.

The farm consisted of a total of six barns and the network of holes all around them including the very large rock pile to the east had seen no groundhog activity for the past few weeks.

So I set off and was still-hunting for about thirty minutes to the west, until I came up to the wired fence, so I unloaded my rifle, jumped over the small creek and then got down on one knee and lifted the wire with my left hand and pushed my unloaded rifle under the fence and then using my right hand I pushed myself underneath the wire to the other side making myself as low as could.

On the other side of the fence there was dark mixed forest vegetation in the shape of an island between the east and west fields. Immediately to my front was one of the largest hay fields split in two by a ravine and at its top there were clusters of rocks with a network of groundhog holes where I had harvested some varmint last summer.

I also remember seeing some groundhogs hidden on the tree line on the other side of the field toward the south. So, once I made it past the wired fence and stood up in a standing position, I started to still-hunt across the field, loaded my rifle and placed it on safe. About half way across the field I noticed the groundhog sun-bathing on one of the largest rocks on the south side of the tree line.

He was looking right at me and had a great field of view to the north. So, I crouched down and moved across the field in the low ground. At this point I was almost kneeling and it was hard work making it across the field without my head and shoulders going over the crest. I was studying the trees to see which one had the widest trunk, so that I could use it to close in. I found a tree just wide enough to conceal me from the groundhog and I was able to close the gap between us. I would stop quite frequently get down and move slightly to my right towards the west as I was now heading south and I could still see the varmint sun-bathing on the large boulder just inside the tree line.

Once I reached part of the distance for my shot and was just meters from the cluster of rocks, I placed my left hand on the damp ground and moved forward some more than placed the rifle stock using my right hand onto the ground ensuring my movement was stealthy. I then moved into the prone position and started inching forward using the leopard crawl, placing myself in the perfect shooting position.

My heart was racing for several minutes now and I was practically out of breath from all the movement across the field, meanwhile the whole time I was also watching out for the cattle herd and its large bull just over the crest of the ravine.

Now in position behind the rocks on the edge of the forest only twenty-one yards out with my T-Bolt stock and barrel facing the large boulder in the south. Even though I was in position, it did not feel quite right and I had to reposition myself without setting off the groundhog into a whistling alarm causing him to retreat into his den.

So, I moved back inching myself backward using my entire body, I was practically slithering almost lifting myself off the ground using my forearms and the ball of my feet and then moving myself forward back into what I thought was the best shooting prone position.

I started to take my deep breaths and hold my breathing for a few seconds and then release and then breathing in again, this way I was controlling my chest movements. I did this three more times and on the third breath I released half of the air and steadied the Browning T-Bolt like a solid rock.

Once I reconfirmed my cross hairs were perfectly lined up with the groundhog’s vitals, I slowly released the trigger with the tip of my finger and the shot rang out “Snap” then I heard the thump and the varmint tumbled off the boulder near its den entrance.

This was the first groundhog harvest of the season, within minutes of returning to the barn to show the farmer my harvest, all the cattle started moving toward the boulders and rock formation and soon the entire herd filled the western hay-field.

I know that cattle are naturally curious animals but I have never fully understood why the cows always come over to the spot where I just harvested my groundhogs as long as there is no obstacle preventing them from doing so.

It was a great day to be a Varminter indeed!

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Kit & George Harrison wrote in their book “The Birds of Winter” “that pigeons and doves are not really gallinaceous (chicken like) birds. They are plump birds with short necks, small heads, and short bills that are ideal for pecking at seeds, which account for 98 percent of their diet. Strong fliers, they can evade predators on the wing. The fact that they are gregarious and are often found in large flocks in winter is undoubtedly a survival tactic to facilitate finding food and cover and to avoid predation.”

The majority of us might recognize them as pigeons or pests, with black, grey and sometimes even white feathers but to me the rock doves are an awesome bird and a very enjoyable small game hunt, gregarious and evasive indeed.

What I really like about rock dove hunting is that it’s open all year round in Quebec under small game and it can be a really fun and a challenging sport. It involves careful still-hunting, great stalking skills and also approach tactics when dealing with your advance to your shot.

Sometimes, I find myself at my friend’s farm hunting duck, grouse or even snowshoe hare but either the weather is not cooperating or other negative factors can affect my choice of game, such as large farming equipment or dogs making noise. One thing I can always count on as a backup activity is rock dove hunting. Easily scared off, they will often fly away for twenty minutes or more but they will always come back.

At the farm, they will normally stay close to a barn where their nests are located and then they will fly around feeding on seeds near the cattle. For my approach, I like to pretend that I am going about my normal business chatting with the farmer or just walking around, actually what I am trying to do is place myself strategically for my advance to my shooting spot. Just like crows, they are watching you and they see very well. Once they burst into flight, it takes a skilled shot gunner to get a confirmed harvest as they are extremely quick and almost seem to dance around your shot.

I find that one rock dove is plenty of meat for one meal with an average size of 11 to 13 inches but with several rock doves you can make very nice dishes such as: Salmis De Pigeons. I have included a picture of a rock dove that I field dressed for supper.

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