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Posts Tagged ‘canada geese’


Upon my return from work today, I completed a little walk around the house checking up on my flowers that I had planted just a few days ago. As I approached the front window well, I heard a few sharp whistles and I knew right away it was out-of-place, it was some sort of distress call from a bird. At first it was quite faint but then, as I approached the basement window, I could hear it again and this time it was much clearer.

I was expecting to find a young common house sparrow, but when I looked down amongst the stones, there he was a golden treasure. It was a small gosling only a few weeks old, it had a beautiful yellow coloration and its web was black and oily with nice sharp claws.

This gosling was a beauty, and just as soon as I stepped into the window well, it approached my foot almost instantly. We had a connection; I picked it up in my hands in order to return it to the creek but that was not the safest place for a little goose. The creek near my place is full of predators, I knew that the female was sitting on her nest down the creek by the beaver dam but I did not want to disturb her.

So, I walked down to the creek with the gosling calling out sharp bursts of chirps. I placed it in the water, it called out and swam away, then turned right around and came right back to me. I started talking to it in a soft voice and told it to swim up the creek near its nest but the bugger did not want to have anything to do with the water.

So I decided to help it out even more, I knew that the nest was only one hundred meters down the creek, so I picked up the gosling and placed it further up in the creek toward the south-east. This was going to be an experiment, so I placed the gosling back into the water and it started to call out again this time there were two different types of chirps, several short and then one long and the longer call was sharp and loud.

I whistled a few times to provoke the female and attempted a few clucks and then sure enough after a few attempts I got a faint response coming from the tree line just meters from the edge of the creek but on the other side, further down on my left from where I was standing.

At first the gosling started to swim back and head onto the bank toward me but when the female goose let out a few short faint calls, it was enough to catch the attention of the gosling who used its loud longer chirp and it was followed by the female short honk. The gosling then responded with the loud longer chirp and this went back and forth for about four times.

This was perfect my gosling placement along with its long distress chirps, the female goose called back from its roost but never broke the tree line; her call was working. That gosling headed straight for her call near the beaver dam and I had successfully reconnected the gosling with the female.

This was an extremely rewarding treat. I may be a seasoned waterfowler but that brief encounter with the gosling was so mesmerizing and observing nature communicating was simply amazing. It made me appreciate even more the work that “Ducks Unlimited” and many other similar organizations achieve every day.

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Every year when spring comes upon us, the tributary near our house brings all kinds of life to us in its winding ripples; hooded mergansers, beaver and Canada geese but also a lot of water.

With the snow melt, the water rises rapidly and within just a few days our point is lost to the cold currents, and if I am lucky a few logs are washed up onto the property, which turn out to be great firewood. This year was an exceptional year, and in just one short week we got two days of rain then some snow melted lightning quick, which resulted in even higher water levels.

The grass on the edge of the waterway still has its mix of light and dark brown colours, and of course lots of mud between the snow patches but it makes for good nesting. European Starling, Red wing blackbirds right down to your common house sparrow are eating away, mating and getting their nests ready.

I have a bird feeder on the edge of the property that I keep filled with wild bird food and thanks to the common grackles that are such messy eaters they put some all over the ground. This of course has attracted other critters, such as chipmunks and squirrels.

It has also caught the attention of a pair of Canada geese, I named respectively Charlie and Charlotte. Every morning, I put out the left over bread from our breakfast to my crows. I usually throw the bread out the back door and then call out three times. The crows come flying in from all directions, land out at safe distance, call out back at me and to the other crows and then come in for the bread. If I forget to feed them, they fly over my roof to the front of the house and around our car and call me out.

The geese have watched me feed the crows over a period of two days and then once they have considered me no longer a threat, they decided to come in and enjoy some bread as well. The male would keep watch as the female fed hastily, then they would take turns on watch duty.

After a few days the Canada geese feeding pattern changed again, they would swim up the creek and come up the bank to feed at the bird feeder but this time around seven in the evening just before dark and feed for only a few minutes then disappear back into the dark waters.

One more week has gone by and right on schedule the Canada geese show up on the bank near the feeder right about seven in the evening and feed on the left over seeds and grain.

Yes, if you feed birds they will come and they will get used to you, but there is much more to it, then just feeding. These Canada geese impress me with their impeccable timing, and I know it is not instinct. There is a hidden science to their ability to base habits with time, because at seven in the evening at this time a year there is still a good hour of so of light.

It may be a question of time but I will figure out their understanding of timings.

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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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The black waters of the Ottawa River were quite visible with its ice only forming on its shores. The waterfowl season was still very active and only closing in just a few weeks. Now that the temperatures have started to drop the only visible ducks were American Black ducks, Mallards along with scattered groups of Canada geese found in the open areas of the marsh and river.

There were also Barrow’s Golden eye ducks but they had a tendency to move rapidly to the middle and deeper parts of the marsh.

I was out on the banks heading east along the northern side closest to the marsh and it was just an incredible experience, mallards and black ducks were flying in and landing just meters to my front. I had to get right down low in order to stalk, using the trees and tall grass in an attempt to get closer.

I had my sights on a mallard couple which had landed on the edge of the ice; I managed to get up really close. I was readying myself for a shot, when all of a sudden I spotted a group of five mallards to the west or right. They were floating down toward me heading east, and I could see them appear and disappear between the trees, they were in a better position.

There was a very cold wind blowing in from the south on the river; yet my hands were warm as they are conditioned for the cold, besides I do not like wearing gloves when I am shooting, especially when working with the safety. Once I got moving my hands would feel like they are swelling up and then they eventually warm up within minutes they felt like mittens.

I stood up and moved closer to the pathway leading to the right, once in position, I stood up lightning fast and the ducks burst into flight, I selected one duck and released my shot.

A female mallard tumbled down to the water; it was my first harvest of the day. I retrieved the bird and continued down the shore of the river. I was really happy with my harvested duck, and was planning on heading further east when I spotted a flock of twenty or so Canada geese, floating near some dead trees which were submerged.

I set my sights on the geese and like a fox I got even lower and started my really slow stalk. What I did not realize is that there were a few mallard’s just meters in front of me in a small channel in behind the tall grass. I would have walked right on top of them heading toward the geese hadn’t I seen them.

So instead I carefully moved forward and stood up once I was within a fair shooting distance, unfortunately a well hidden duck which was on my left spotted me first, let out a call and the group took off and heading north.

I stood still and watched as they circled and came right back to my left, heading west. I moved really slow careful not to startle them further west or higher.

When I flushed the ducks, they didn’t seem to be bothered so much by the sound of breaking ice under my boots but rather by what they saw as a potential danger in the movement around them. If you were seen, the ducks would burst into the air in seconds; what was interesting is that they circled around across the marsh to the north then came right back at me. I was now standing and I repositioned myself but I did not move fast as to scare the birds higher and out of range.

I noticed behavior similarities between mallard ducks and snowshoe hares, they both circle when flushed and both seem to wait until the last second before bursting into flight or leaping away. Almost like they were hoping you would walk or paddle right by them during their freeze pose.

Sure enough they came looping right back off to my left, I slowly raised my shotgun lined up my bead sight with a duck and released my shot.

The bird froze its flight in mid-air and crashed into the water below. It was a brilliant harvest and a great way to end my afternoon. That night we had pan-fried duck with Montreal steak seasoning.

The marsh in the winter time is a magical place.

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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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Last Sunday, I went out to the farm on the lookout for groundhogs and rock doves, but there was no such activity; however there were quite a few black birds. Upon my arrival, I stood in the mud facing the southern fields looking over the partially flooded areas from recent the snow melts and showers.

It was a very windy day and the rain which was predicted by the weather network had turned into a mist, and the sun was also much stronger early in the afternoon bringing up the overall temperature.

I was hidden between a hay bale and a cattle wagon, the fields to my front and sides combined made the shape of the letter “T”. Separated by a creek and mixed trees, I had a very clear view of the southern part. Several minutes had passed and I could now hear a flock Canada geese calling out, short but numerous confident calls, every bird in the flock were calling out; in this first wave I counted fifteen geese.

They flew in from the northwest and flew in around my front to the south and landed in the field to the east, they had cupped their wings and ended up all facing the flooded area in the adjacent field. They were strategically placed in the high ground allowing them to see the flooded area over the tree tops.

Within seconds a second wave of four geese flew in calling out with the same sharp shortened calls and completing a full circle scan of the fields and headed straight down on the flooded area.

Then a third wave of two geese cupped their wings and dove sharply then landed right next to the second wave, beating their wings aggressively seconds before setting foot, slowing them right down for a smooth landing.

It was fascinating to watch, because when the first wave had seen the second and third waves land and some of them had already started swimming in the shallow waters with a couple of mallard ducks.

The first wave immediately called out with the long goose calls which we are all familiar with, then they lifted off, completing a full circle over the three fields and ended up right near the flooded area for their final approach for the landing. Bring all three waves together in the same area.

Now many of us have seen Canada geese fly in for a landing, and it is a beautiful thing to watch unfolding but the majority of us might not put that much more thought into what had actually occurred in front of us.

Observation is an incredible tool during the off-season, and it is the small details that can help improve your hunts.

The geese were constantly communicating with one an other, if at anytime danger presented itself, all the birds would be alerted and would take flight immediately.

Some of the geese once on the ground had already stretched out their heads and were keeping watch for the rest of the birds. Also these Canada’s came in three groups; each wave doing its own aerial scan of the ground below prior to landing and the first wave in particular landed in the adjacent field to the east using the high ground to watch for danger even before second and third wave had landed.

So, if you are a still hunter or even hunting from a blind, you do not want to be caught moving around right away because although some birds may have landed there is a good chance there are others.

Listen to the calls and watch their body language, if the Canada geese start swimming around or laying down in the ground, they are starting to get more relaxed or trying to get warm or now shifting their focus on rest and feeding. If you can identify the birds on watch thus avoiding them if possible and you get closer for your shot, then a time like this would be best. This way if they burst into the flight, they will not be as far and as high allowing for straight and effective shots.

With practice you will be able to interpret their calls by the length, type and by the loudness of it whether or not they have detected your presence.

Observe, listen and take notes, soon enough you will start seeing patterns which will benefit your approach and hunts.

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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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