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Posts Tagged ‘birds’


The waterfowl season duration in the province of Quebec is just shy of four months long, roughly from early September to almost Christmas. But it doesn’t mean that as soon as the season is over and you drop your gear that you need to stop thinking about waterfowl for the rest of the year.

After all this is one of the main reasons for my blog’s existence, on the contrary you keep on learning by observing all year-long. And in some cases keep on hunting other smaller game like pigeons and crows both are hunted using the same skills and techniques.

Every day while driving to work I go by several farming fields and watch the geese fly in during the early morning hours from the safety of the river where they spent the night.

One thing that never changes in their physical behaviour, is that they always pick the middle ground, right dead center of every field. This is indeed a perfect choice, and in every sense of the choice it is provides a clear view of any danger coming in for the spotter geese and also a large landing area as well as plenty of food.

I love hunting geese from my kayak, canoe or from a blind. But I also enjoy the challenge of stalking them like a human fox. But usually the numbers in harvest are not as great as if you were in a blind.

For the stalking method, I start on the edge of the field and move my way in and get all covered up with my Real Tree jacket and gloves and lay down flat on my belly and crawl as close as I can to the birds, once in position I snap to my knees and send them into flight and attempt to harvest them.

Knowing where they land and how they setup in the middle ground allows me to study the ground and have a successful stalk and potentially a harvest.

I don’t own enough decoys yet to set up in the field with a decoy spread but if I did, the middle ground is where I would potentially be setup for my blind or in a surrounding zone aiming toward the center.

I love the summer but I can’t wait until September!

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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 spiraled 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 become 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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Casting the Creek


A good friend mine who also appreciates the outdoors asked me what I was doing after work today and so I told him I was going fishing in the creek near my home. I had a very big smile on and so did he. I could not wait for the work day to finish. I never catch much but the fish do bite and it is a great way for me to learn different techniques.

My grandfather had left me two Canadian Tire fishing rods and an amazing fishing box with vintage hooks and lures; actually it is full of treasures. I was all set now, having picked up my permit just a few days ago and the weather was also cooperating with a slight breeze and nice cool air blowing in from the east and the temperature sitting around twenty-two degrees Celsius.

It is such an addictive feeling when the fish bite and you feel the rod handle tilt in the palm of your hand. I try letting the line loose, then pull up little at a time, or slowly reel it in and see the fish come up to the surface. Sometimes, I open my hand right up and barely hold on to the rod and when the fish bite or poke at the line, I can feel the slight tug, what an incredible feeling it is.

I must have spent about two hours by the creek and the mosquitoes sure had a feast but it did not bother me one bit, I was too focused on fishing and taking in the life of the creek as well as the incredible view of dusk.

Today I had a special visitor a rather large beaver swam up the middle of the creek and almost directly in line with my hook. I watched him swim right up from the east and I did not move an inch.

He didn’t see me until he was only a few feet from me, I then I pulled up my line let my hook splash the surface of the water to let him know I was there, he slapped his tail and dove instantly, and it was such an incredible experience, I watched him come up right up the creek.

This creek has so much life, I have personally seen over thirty species of birds including mallard ducks, hooded mergansers, cranes and herons. There are also resident muskrat, mink and squirrels, deer and wild turkeys.

It is not just the fishing that makes me feel refreshed and offers so much pleasure; it is also knowing that this creek puts on a spectacular show at the end of every day.

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I believe that our ability to observe is more than just a skill which can be learned; and that for some it is truly natural; being able to process what we see differently and sometimes seeing what others around us can not.

Our sight combined with our other senses can enhance our hunts and give us the advantage we need in being able to harvest.

I am always trying to find ways to improve my observation so that it becomes almost instinctive. I really enjoy taking friends along on a hunt and quite often they simply come out for the pure enjoyment of nature and its wonders, from the deciduous forests in the valley to the wetlands along the Ottawa.

When we are out, I often point out a dark shadow or some movement in the swamp and almost always there is a grouse or a duck hidden away and sometimes it is quite a distance away. Being observant can really add some great flavor to the time spent in the wilderness.

Movement or shadows which are out-of-place help in being able to observe and identify game but also knowing patterns and habits. Just a few days ago a group of European starling flew in and landed right on my lawn then started working away at the worms and ants.

There is one particular red ant hill near the front of my property which is quite large and six of the starling bounced over right onto the ant hill and started to do a very strange wing flicking dance.

They took turns jumping inches off the ground like their feet were in hot water and then plucking down into the dirt with an ant in their bill. They then turned their heads into their wings as if to break the ant before eating it.

Now this is the first time I have observed this, I could not tell if they were preventing ants from coming up their wings or if it was some ritualistic dance to kill the ants before consuming them. It was fascinating to observe.

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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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The red and yellow colors of the fall foliage were breathtaking and the wind was blowing in strong and seemed to be coming in from all directions. The wind currents would sneak in and out like a slithering snake up through the grass and go over the tree tops and then come back around and hit us in the back.

I opened the passenger side door and hopped out of the truck with my right hand still on the inside door handle for leverage and then I made my way to the back in order to load my kit into the Jon boat. We then took turns loosening the straps to lower the boat into the water while sliding it off the trailer guides.

I suited up into my waders and with the rope guided the boat into the water up to my waist, I can confirm that Aquaseal did the job; no more leaks and my inner trousers were dry.

The three of us were very happy and excited about the hunt ahead, yet we all shared some concerns regarding the winds. Before leaving the house we worked on the decoy weights to ensure our spread did not get affected by the wind, and that the birds would not float away.

Once the boat was loaded up with the kit, the group jumped into the boat, then we took off across the open waters to the wetlands heading south-east; it took us about fifteen minutes to get to our chosen spot.

During our decoy setup my friend did not want to use a traditional decoy spread like a W or V shape layout, he rather use a long spread of geese consisted of about twelve geese and then creating a large landing strip in the middle between us and the geese. We then scattered ducks closest to our blind and to our left.  The landing strip was about thirty-five feet wide and no birds on either ends, leaving it open from the left and right.

It worked really well, once the geese started coming in, they circled above completed several turns in the air and came down meters in front of us. We were facing south with our backs to the north and the geese were flying in from the east and west.

On the signal of the lead shooter, we stood up and the birds burst back into flight, this is when we released our shots just feet from the water’s surface. Seeing geese flying in from above is just amazing and it is something I could watch over and over again.

We knew that there was one particular group of about twenty geese that flew in for the evening in the area where we setup and that this was great opportunity and a good hunt during the last thirty minutes of legal shooting, but instead on this particular afternoon we got small groups of two, three, four and sometimes five birds fly within minutes of each other, some geese would call and others not.

It was an incredibly charged hunt, between the waves of geese, we barely had enough time to fumble through our shells and get three loaded back into our shotguns then it was already time to shoot again.

In the end we had harvested ten magnificent Canada geese and I considered this hunt to be one of my best hunts on the wetlands so far this year.

I am always searching for ways to improve my harvests but also keeping the hunts safe, one thing our group does is that when we are in a standing blind configuration, we always identify our shooting arcs, so that no one crosses over into the other shooters lanes.

When recovering the birds with the assistance of a dog, depending on the scenario, we either unload our shotguns or put the safety on and ensure they are always pointing in safe direction. At times I have found myself on my hands and knees leaning forward pulling the dog and the bird back into the boat and this is working in a very tight space. In a situation like this for example, I would immediately unload before moving around in the blind.

Another practice our group uses for quick shotgun shell access is that we empty the shell box into our front pocket and leave the flap open, this way you can reach in and grab a shell and make it ready to put into the shotgun chamber or load into the tubular magazine. I also carry and twenty-five shell belt, which allows you to have a full shell box placed into a belt and when firing your three shells, you can easily grab one shell and reload quickly from the belt into the shotgun, making it ready for the next shot.

It is incredibly easy even for an experienced hunter to get over excited when seeing several birds coming in to your spread. Take deep breaths, calm right down and take your time and make every shot count, aim for one bird at a time. Depending on the size of the geese and distance sometimes it may take two shots, especially if you have a pump shotgun, make sure you pump the slide action right back and forward to eject the empty shell and load a new shell. If this is done properly, especially with three-inch shells you can avoid jams, which may result in a miss.

Keep it safe and have a great rest of the season!

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Crow hunting is really making a come back in Quebec but it is still not as popular as it was in the 1960’s when they had serious competitions located both in the United-States and Canada. José Boily with his TV show Québec à vol d’oiseau has done great job in bringing back the interest into the sport of crow hunting and cooking. He filmed a really great segment on crow hunting and its cuisine; his shows are really entertaining but also educational.

I started hunting crow a few years ago and never used decoys or an actual caller, I just used my mouth and hands to copy various crow calls and managed to call in just a few, they were really intelligent and kept their distance, just outside my shooting range.

I thought to myself it was now time to get the right kit for some serious crow hunting, but just like any other type of hunting, it takes time and money to build up your accessories and kit in order to have a fun but also a successful hunt.

The other night I went out for supper with some friends and I had the pleasure of meeting a very generous American named Troy. It was a great night full of stories some about trapping and hunting.

I went home that night thinking of ways to improve my hunts, especially crow hunting, I decided crow and owl decoys would be my next purchase list. Little did I know, within days of meeting Troy, he had a gift for me.

Three crow and one great horned owl decoy, I was so happy, it was an awesome gift. I plan on trying out my new set using the “Crow Fighting” setup and hopefully enjoy a great meal. The American crow may be hunted under your Quebec small game permit and the dates are July 1st, 2013 to April 30, 2014. (Dates may vary depending on your zones)

Check out my video on how to field dress a crow.

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