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Last night I was sitting quietly in my living room staring at the dancing flames of my fireplace almost hypnotized by them but far from being lost in my thoughts; after having read several chapters from the book “Traditions in Wood” edited by Patricia Fleming. My mind was thinking about carving, waterfowling but most of all about family and history. Its pages are about the history of wildfowl decoys in Canada and it focuses on a specific time period, it touches on each province, the artists and also the hunters life stories. There is one page in particular, number 121; actually it is one image which struck me deep into my core where my passion for art and waterfowling is found.

It is a photo of Thomas Southam at the end of a day on Ashbridge’s Bay in Toronto after a successful harvest standing by a boat holding ducks in his hands with his shotgun resting on the edge of the gun-whale, I think it is a Winchester Model 1897, 12 gauge shotgun. It is a beautiful piece of history in its own right and it fires incredibly well, I have harvested several rock doves and ducks with the same gun. In this photograph, he was wearing a very simple sweater and trousers but his stature is that of a distinguished and content man, even though he lived during a period of tough economic times.

He shared the same era as my grandfather and his father, and in the photo I even see physical similarities; Thomas Southam was a great artist, racer, waterfowler and conservationists. The photo of him along with Patrica’s book (Thomas Carpenter & Ernie Sparks) make me want to disappear into my wood working shop and carve more duck decoys all through the night or until my hands become so sore I can no longer hold my chisels. This week I have collected some wood from a construction site and I can not wait to begin working on those pieces and make more decoys.

The book is a great read and I can not wait to finish it.

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I was standing very still inside the barn hidden behind its double doors; this was the second barn of three in the field. The old doors had just a wide enough gap between them allowing me to see the whole southern field.

My heart was racing and I was very excited, as soon as I got to the farm in the morning for the start of my hunt, I could hear geese calling out from the field below and I knew this was going to be very promising.

A few weeks ago I had spotted a large number of Canada geese very close to the creek but too far from the third barn for a shot with too much open ground to cover in order to get closer. That is without being seen by the spotting geese of course.

In the book “Hunting & Fishing in Canada –A turn-of-the-Century Treasury” The author of the chapter “Sport with Canada Geese” Ed. W. Sandys writes the following on page 84.

“Wild and shy to a degree, suspicious of every unusual sight or sound and craftiest of all feathered game, the Canada goose is no quarry for careless sportsman or eager novice. Yet there are several methods by which these feathered foxes may be outwitted readily enough, always provided that the sportsman is a well-informed, close observer, a man of much patience, and a fairly good shot.”

I studied the open ground and had identified an old bath tub filled with water, two large thorn bushes and some low ground leading to a small muddy trench running east to west twenty-five feet out and then of course the shrub line parallel to the creek.

Twice, I came out the back of the barn crouched down really low and moved along a small fence to the west and stood up very carefully behind some boards to identifying all the spotting geese and seeing how the group was scattered. I could not immediately decide if I needed to move in from the east or west. Deep down I knew which the best choice was but I just had to calm my nerves and make a decision. It was going to be the west!

It was about nine in the morning but the sun was already very bright and warm, which made it easy for the geese to spot me. I knew it was going to take time and that I would have to move very slowly if I was going to be successful.

So, I pulled down my balaclava over my face, checked all my zipper pockets and started to move. I swiveled around in the mud and went out the back of the barn for the third time, heading out the left side of the barn.

As soon as I cleared the right corner of the barn, I got down on my belly and started my slow stalk along the muddy soil, moving along the metal fence and passing underneath the last bar of the metal gate. I had a long ways to go, but I was going to take my time, breathe and ensure that there was no chance that the spotting geese would see me.
When I usually leopard crawl, my elbows are put straight into the ground with my arms curved upward and my shotgun or rifle is horizontally across and slightly lifted off the ground in the crease of my arms. The problem with this stalk is that the geese would see the glare from my barrel if not the movement.

So, I pointed the barrel toward the geese and used my forearm to lift it off the ground. By now, I had cleared the metal gate of the fence and was in open ground and in clear view of the geese. Speed was not important in this stalk, therefore I moved my body like a caterpillar using the ball of my feet to push myself forward.

After about every meter or two, I would put my face right down in the mud and tuck my hands in and wait for a few minutes. The Realtree pattern in my clothing made me blend right into the ground which was composed of mixed grass, hay and mud. I was also able to catch my breath.

Then I would push-off again with the ball of my feet and realign myself with my new cover which was a large thorn-bush large enough to hide a person kneeling down. I was breathing heavily not necessarily from all the crawling but from the excitement of getting so close to the geese.

It took me a while to cover about twenty-five meters, stopping, moving and observing. Now only one meter from the thorn-bush, the older and large spotting geese where getting nervous as they stretched their necks out further. They were only six meters on the other side of the bush.

Their instinct was telling them something but they could not see me, a few of them called out short calls (Cluck), similar to the turkey cut call . Alarming but not urgent, I had to move now before I was going to be seen. I loaded three shells, pumped the action and stood up lightning fast and the geese burst into the air, I fired off two shells into the closest bird and he spiraled and fell about 6 feet from the ground, I fired one more shell into another bird but missed. The gaggle had flown around and was now circling but they were too high for another harvest.

It was a great waterfowl hunt; I harvested a great bird and still had a full day ahead.

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Quick Tom

The truck drove slowly up the long dirt road between the north and south-western hay fields carefully avoiding the mud holes. The creaking sounds of the suspension faded into the country music that was playing low on the radio. Once we reached our spot, the driver put it into park and stopped at the top of the eastern ridge on the forest edge.

It had been raining for a few hours now and the temperature was starting to drop at about six degrees Celsius, we had lowered our windows, so that we could hear the nightly sounds and hopefully get a gobble or an owl hoot. I then carefully swung my door open, stepped out into the mud and moved my way to the back to the truck, unzipped my hunting bag and grabbed my crow caller.

It had been dark for about thirty minutes now and we were slowly sinking further into darkness. I cupped my hands around my mouth and started with a few owl calls and then waited a few minutes, then called again with my crow caller. This went on for a few minutes and would stop, listening with my hands cupped around my ears, and then I would start calling again. I was anticipating a call back from a gobbler but instead I heard crickets, geese from the lake nearby and some other nocturnal animals. The farmer had said that the field on our left was full of turkeys during the week and so we were attempting to find their roost.

After a few failed attempts, we packed up and made our way back to the cabin for the night. It was going to be a short sleep because we wanted to be back on site about half an hour before sunrise in order to get the best setup. Since I had not located the roost, we decided that in the morning we were going to still-hunt along the edge of the fields just like Ray Eye had done in his book. You must exercise a great deal of discipline while moving through the woods and fields, know your terrain, be patient as well as have a good eye.

Turkeys can hear and see extremely well and it is absolutely critical that you know and understand the game you are pursuing.

It was now five in the morning and I awoke to some nice song birds. Within minutes we had eaten breakfast, which was a few pieces of toast and a cold glass of milk, and then we loaded the gear into truck and drove back to the very same spot. My good friend was carrying my decoys in a bag, along with green mosquito netting for cover. I had my Quaker Boy slate caller around my neck, a set of binoculars and my pump-action Remington 870.

The hunt was on and we were extremely excited, we slowly moved our way east through some copse of trees between the east and western fields and as we broke the forest edge two deer leapt into the tree line to our right and disappeared. We decided to go up the left hand side of the field north-east of the truck and then cut across about half way through as there was a crest in the field leading to a point which offered a great shooting spot.

As we slowly made our way up the forested edge of the third field, I went down on one knee and completed Wade Bourne’s Fly down Cackle hitting my hat against the tree bark and boy it sounded authentic.

I must have alerted some animals nearby because within an instant of finishing my call a coyote came trotting along the field to our right and then when he saw us he disappeared just as fast as the two does. We did however find his meal left over’s which was a porcupine carcass. Several minutes had gone by and now after having seen some wildlife our senses were set to high gear and then almost every dark object in the fields looked like an animal.

We must have taken around forty more steps and had stopped by a pile of logs when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to our left. We instantly took a knee and stared at the large black mark in the center of the field down in the low ground. As we looked on, I noticed that it was lifting and lowering its head but it was too far out to make out what it was. I whispered “It looks like a coyote” but my friend was not so sure, so I handed him my binoculars and he focused on the animal. He was several hundred yards away down in the low ground. Behind him was a beautiful valley and on its crest there were very large trees mixed with pine and aspen, oak and birch.

To his north there was a very large hay-field and a small lake behind some more trees which formed a sort of barrier between the two features. To his south there was another field and it was on its southern edge where my point and best shooting spot was located. By the time my friend handed me the binoculars to have a look, he had already whispered back that it was a very large tom and he had a huge smile on his face. It seems that my calls had worked and he was spreading his wings in a feathered dance then moving slowly into the direction of my calls. He was all alone with no other turkeys in sight.

We kept very low and slowly moved back toward the southern edge and decided to place the two decoys twenty-five yards from the brush. My friend walked back to the logs some thirty yards to the west providing me with a safe and wide shooting arc. Ideally, I needed to be further east on the point but I could no longer move as the tom was closing in on my decoys and would have instantly seen me.

I tucked myself into the bushes on the edge of the forest my back facing south with my decoys slightly to my left to the west about fifteen yards out. I carefully placed my Remington 870 aiming directly to my front and lifted my slate caller and let out a few cutts, yelps and purrs. I would then lift my binoculars, look for the tom’s position and reaction.

At first I could see him moving toward me but then he would fade into the low ground, and I thought to myself “Damn! He saw me.” Then I would see this very long neck pop up like a submarine periscope and then disappear again behind the grassy knoll. It was quite comical. What I found very neat is that he never once communicated with me, not even a few clucks or a gobble.

There was one thing which was clear and this is that this tom was quick and he was in a hurry to see my hen decoys. He was now fifty yards out to my right, I had tucked myself away into a ball and pulled my camouflage hood over my head, I looked like a Real Tree bush with just my eyes moving, he was moving quickly but cautiously towards my two decoys. He would complete another feather dance which was just breath-taking and you could see his beard dragging along the ground. He would then tuck his head back in and move forward a few more steps, then stop and move yet again.

My heart was racing like crazy and I kept on going through my shot scenarios and wanted to insure I chose the best time to take my shot, so I waited for him to walk directly to my front, I slowly raised my Remington 870 and unlocked the safety using the slow push technique which Wade Bourne had shown on his video. It made no sound at all, took my breaths and when he was twenty-five yards out, I lined up my bead sight with his head and neck and let out a shot of number four.

It struck him by surprise and made him jump into a winged frenzy, I instantly leapt out of the bushes and while on my second step toward the bird I fired a second shot. Upon the second impact he spun around and the twenty-three pound beast fell to the ground. I had just harvested my turkey on the second day of this year’s season and it was all over in less than two hours. Brilliant!

I may never meet Wade Bourne, Ray Eye and Preston Pittman in my lifetime but they were all present during my hunt. Thank you!

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A few weeks ago I sent my tracker friend the web link for my new video on how to field dress a snowshoe hare. I had self recorded the process while I was out in the woods. At first his response to my email made me smile but I also found it quite complimentary. In just a few sentences he told me that I should have been born during the time of Ernest Hemingway and gave me reasons why.

In one of my previous blog entries, I wrote about old hunting books and their author’s and also focused on the writing styles and the fact that they are so different from today’s authors. Is hunting becoming just another fashionable sport? Or is it still a deeply engrained pastime found in our North American blood that is shared by families and friends?

Norman Strung in his book “Deer Hunting” calls himself a “Romantic” and I have to say I truly speak his language. It is quite a different romance then what we are used to, I like to believe it is rather a desire to keep things as they are in their original form. For me the word “Raw” is much better suited and it reveals the true origins.

When I read books on hunting and the outdoors, I become in sort a prospector who is panning for gold. I combine my extensive field experience with the theory that the books I have read provided me with, and then overtime I have developed in turn this natural ability to separate the gold from the black sands. I find myself collecting precious gold which is ultimately knowledge from books, videos and the types of sources available including more field experience.

Authors like Norman Strung and Larry Koller and many other authors listed on my OKB page have a gift to write great material, which is extremely rich in knowledge both in the theoretical and practical sense. Their pages are gold.

As a hunter I am constantly trying to learn more not just about hunting but about wildlife management systems and any element that surrounds this great sport. Great authors like the one’s I have listed make it possible for me to be closer in reaching my goal in becoming a wealthier man in knowledge.

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“You are what you eat!” There are several expressions about eating right that are used all over the world in several different languages and this is definitely one of them. It would also be fair to say that a great number of us have heard it at least once in our lifetime.

Understanding food and choosing the right types of foods and snacks to eat during your hunting trip has a direct impact on your mental and physical performance. Years ago as a young infantryman, I would spend several hours and sometimes days exposed to the elements such as snow-covered mountains in the Balkans. We patrolled over great distances all the while conducting very physical and mentally demanding work. Sleep was sometimes only a few hours and when it was time to eat, it was done quickly. This meant you had to eat and drink smart and also take into consideration small factors like the amount of noise you made and also being careful not to leave any traces of food or packaging.

My objective as a sport hunter today is not to have such a regimented life style anymore but to continue to make great choices with food and actually take the time needed to eat. I want to have lasting energy throughout the day, so that I can remain focused for a long time. Having a balanced food plan and a list of items you need to buy before going hunting is a process I use during my preparatory stage. This includes high energy foods that are good for you and provide you with the boost and nutrition your body requires to produce heat, feed your brain and muscles. Examples of this are beef jerky, dried fruits, fresh fruits, trail mix nuts. This may also include an emergency food kit like mine such as cans of sardines, spare water canteens and natural multigrain bars.

Still-hunting can be physically demanding and you burn a lot of calories moving through the woods especially on snowshoes. If you are sitting in a blind your body will also use up calories producing heat. This means calories being expended.

Some points such as not making noise while eating may apply if you are in a blind or tree stand but if you are still hunting, you can choose a nice spot to stop for lunch or go back to the car or truck. This makes it easier to dispose of your garbage and not having to carry it around with you in your daypack along with its scents. In one of the hunting magazines I was a subscriber to: “Chasse et Pêche” one snowshoe hunter and author wrote that during the winter months, he would light a fire during his lunch break just to warm up. This is a great idea but I would check with the park to see fires are permitted.

My experience has taught me that if I ate a muffin filled with processed sugar for breakfast at the start point of my day, my energy level would spike as soon as the sugar was absorbed into my bloodstream. As the morning went on however I would feel a crash and just be very tired. This would be an example of poor planning and eating, this could be dangerous if you are out alone in the woods. If you are hungry, your morale will be low and you will eventually become sluggish and tired. This will lead to mistakes being made, your body will weaken and hyperthermia may set in if you are exposed to the cold or wet. I drink a lot of water and stay hydrated; I also carry a bottle of Gatorade for extra carbohydrates and to replenish my electrolytes.

The night before I set out to hunt for the day, I normally have a hardy meal containing meats, vegetables, pasta and or rice. I also drink large amounts of water. Moisture is lost through sweating, going to the washroom and even your breath. Fluids are very important for our bodies.

Below is a list of food and snacks that I like to pack:

Natural granola bars
PowerBars
Trail mix nuts
Beef jerky
Water
Gatorade
Sweets or candies and gum
Canned beans
Sardines in water

Throughout the day, I will have small snacks like dried nuts and bars about every two hours or so and I make sure to drink around the same time. At lunch I have a meal which is normally a sandwich, packaged foods that are not difficult or noisy to open.  I also take into consideration the ease to pack and being lightweight, also that it does not leave too much garbage such as wrappings.

There are some great references on the web and books that are available to assist you in eating right while hunting. Every person has their own budget and system in place, feel free to suggest or comment on food ideas that can ultimately assist all small game hunters.

Bon Appétit!

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Many of us have had the privilege of being taught how to read at a very young age and this is without a doubt one of the most prized of skills that is quite often taken for granted. This ability to read allows us to unlock a door and step into a doorway of knowledge, and this know-how is found in books, magazines, pamphlets as well as the World Wide Web.

It is also a fact that some people posses’ academic and intellectual strengths that allow them to share and discuss the content of a specific topic that they have just read. This allows them in sort to plug into any conversation and in a sense project the impression that they may have understood or mastered the subject. This can be a definite asset if you are attempting to impress someone during an academic gathering or trying to earn points with your future father in law, but I believe in the realm of sport hunting it is only the tip of the iceberg. If you can read a book about bush craft and or hunting and then apply the knowledge in a practical way then you are truly gifted.

The people who are able to share this knowledge take great pleasure in doing so, and having the ability to read, learn, and practice then share this knowledge with others using an applied method as well as harvesting wild game is what I consider the true achievement.

There is also another element to this skill called reading and it is not just about going through the pages but rather reading your environment and this my fellow hunters can teach you things that so-called human masters cannot.

One of my favourite quotes written by Saint Bernard de Clairvaux a knight Templar from the 12th century is the following: “Trust one who has tried it, you will find more in woods than in books; trees and stones will teach you what you can never learn from masters”. This is so true, but thanks to some brilliant authors who wrote books about hunting and bush craft with publishing dates ranging from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, we are able to enjoy the wealth of knowledge from both the written and the practical world.

On my OKB page you will find a listing of some of the books that I have read about our sport and related topics. My findings have been that it is very difficult to find a great recent hunting book, that have been written in the last five years that contains the same wealth of knowledge and substance that you would find in books that were written throughout the years of the publishing dates mentioned above.

There is so much to learn and there is so much more to hunting than meets the reading eye.

(If you have read a great book recently and wish to share please write a comment)

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Ingredients: (Serves 4)
3 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
¼ tsp pepper and pinch of salt
4 duck legs or breasts cut into pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp finely chopped ginger root
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 scallions, white part thinly sliced, green part shredded
2 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 whole start anise
2 tsp black peppercorns
16-20 fl oz/450-600ml/2-2 ½ cups chicken stock or water
6 dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
8 oz/225g canned water chestnuts, drained
2 tbsp cornstarch

Method:
1. Combine 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the five-spice powder, pepper, and salt and rub over the duck pieces. Place 2 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a flameproof casserole, add the duck pieces and cook until browned, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
2. Drain the fat from the casserole and wipe out. Add the sesame oil and remaining vegetable oil and heat. Add the ginger root and garlic and cook for a few seconds. Add the sliced white scallions and cook for a few more seconds. Return the duck to the casserole.
Add the rice wine, oyster sauce, start anise, peppercorns, and remaining soy sauce. Pour in enough stock to just cover the duck. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer gently for 1 11/2 hours, adding more stock if necessary.
3. Drain the mushrooms and squeeze dry. Slice the caps; add to the duck with the water chestnuts, and let simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
4. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid to form a paste. Add to the remaining liquid, stirring, until thickened. To serve, garnish with green scallion shreds.

Reference:
Designed by Terry Jeavons & Company. Perfect Chinese.Parragon Books Ltd 2007.
Page 84 –Main dishes

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