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I was sliding in and out between the dense cedars bows and small swamp trees pushing forward, raising my hand at about the height of my face to prevent the branches from poking me in the eyes. I have had this happen to me many times before with a random sharp branch either hooking my toque knocking it into the mud below or either spiked me right in the eye. Not a very pleasant experience at all, it felt like I had scratched the inside of my eye then pushed it back. When ever I placed my finger on the particular eye to check for damage or blood I always felt a deep throbbing.

Upon arrival at the farm I heard loud quacks coming from the wetlands and I knew that several mallards had made this their home, their numbers ranged between five and twelve. The cattle were moving across the creek toward the Southern fields to my left thus blocking my access to the wetlands from the eastern side, so I chose to cut through the dense brush on my right and move in a South-Westerly direction. The approach that I chose would make me crest the wetlands from the northern side along the edge of the massive beaver dam, where it connects with the edge of the forest.

My kayak was still in the truck bed back at the barn over six hundred meters away, I often use it to retrieve my birds that are downed in the deeper parts of the wetlands but the bush was too thick for me to pull it through. The forest floor was soaked and full of hundreds of streams and its current was moving very fast because the heavy rains we have had in the last several days which broke part of the dam and created a natural spillway which was feeding into the forest floor.

It was very treacherous, even with hip waders you had to be very sure where you were going to place your next foot step, so that you did not go under or get stuck. For this, I always grab onto a large branch and if at all possible step on a fallen log, which acts as a mini bridge. You could also use large roots or little mud islands formed by grass mounds that were partially submerged. Manoeuvring was very tricky, because I had to make sure my 870’s sling did not get stuck in the low hanging trees or avoid a slip and put mud into the end of the barrel.

The deeper I pressed on into the woods the thicker the brush got and I was following my simple curved line pattern between the trees to ensure I was always heading in the right direction. With the principles of still-hunting, I would stop and listen for the duck calls then orientated myself toward the sound and kept on moving forward. Once you set off in this type of bush, you can not let your imagination run wild or let panic set in, you must stay sharp and not let any detail out of your mind.

Sometimes, there are large black areas at the base of fallen trees, they can look like a wolf den or a black bear standing still. But most often than none it is a dead tree rotting its way back into the earth. Now when you hear a large branch cracking close by, then this I believe deserve a second look, it could be a deer moving around you or any other large mammal. After several minutes of struggling to through the last muddy parts, I could now see the dam through the trees.

I stopped for a moment took a few deep breaths and then started to slow down my approach even more up to the dam wall. Not only did this make it quieter but it also allowed me to listen for the Mallard hen calls and close in accordingly for the potential shots. Once I reached the dam periphery, my boot placement was even more calculated because, one false move and I was going to fall into the cold waters and with waders it is like having a weight belt around your waist.

In addition, I could not place myself on the dam wall because the ducks would surely spot me, so I had to walk along its edge on the opposite side of the water dam and use the overgrown wild grass as cover. You see, Mallard ducks will call out if there is danger but they might not necessarily fly away immediately like wood ducks, in some cases they will swim further away from the sound of danger and only take off if it is physically visible.

This is exactly what the group of Mallards did and I had to move quicker along the edge to keep up with them, and wait for them to swim back within range or move and place myself in a better position from the shore. All that walking in water caused my socks to slip off inside my boots which is a common problem in waders, I think next time I would rather wear socks that sit higher around my knees and this would prevent them from sliding off, I would also place a bandage on the inside of each leg to prevent the boot lip burn on the inside of my leg which is caused by the inner rubbing of the boot edge.

It was a wonderful fall day, with the singing winds and dancing leaves with their absolutely stunning colours and the sound of the cool waters passing through my hands as I placed them deep into the beaver dam to grab a perfect carved stick for balance. Here I was, in the heart of the Canadian wilderness sneaking up to the Mallards with only them and I hidden amongst the swaying golden swamp grass. I had finally spotted the ducks and was now readying myself for the shot. My right hand was grasping the cold steel of my Remington 870, and I was one hundred percent absorbed in the moment and felt and incredible sense of joy and pride of being Canadian. A feeling of total mastery of the woods.

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Last weekend we went snow shoeing into the woods with our local ski club. The conditions were ideal, the sun was high and bright with very little wind. Our goal was to head out onto the trails for about two hours and at the halfway point, we were going to make a fire in a snow pit and have marsh mallows and heat up some pre-cooked sausages.

Along the way we picked up some dead branches, peeled off some strips birch bark and slowly made our way through the woods. I was keeping my eyes open and taking in every detail. I saw some deer tracks, snowshoe hare leads and also some coyote droppings throughout our snow shoe hike. Once we got to the halfway point one of the group leaders dug out a pit and laid out some pieces of wood to create a base in a small clearing and then started the main fire for cooking our food and treats. The birch bark fumes filled the air and it was just heavenly.

I took this opportunity to show some of the younger members of our team how to start a smaller fire using a flint stone and a knife with a steel blade. I was joking with them about how easy they make it look on television. This whole experience was just a fun way to learn and enjoy each others company out in the wintery-woods. In a survival situation fires can be an incredible psychological boost, used for scaring off predators, drying clothes and cooking and many more positive applications.

First I used both my hands and created a flat snow base in front of me and then moulded the snow into a very small circular wall around my base to protect it against the breeze. I then laid down my birch bark strip with the curved edges into the snow to hold it down and then carefully peeled off the thin skin off the bark which looks like a silk skin. I put the end of the flint rod closest to the bark and started to strike down. It was a long strike down with the knife blade as I tried to maximize the sparks that hit the surface of the bark but this failed. The iron oxidized too quickly.

It took about thirty strikes before it actually almost took, I then tried with some toilet paper strips that I had ripped up into even longer thin pieces, this almost caught fire but it was not perfect. What is amazing using this method which has been used for centuries is that even if the flint stone gets wet, it still works and it is very easy to transport in your kit. I then took out some dryer lint that was kept in a ziplock bag and then laid it out flat onto the birch bark strip. After just four strikes it caught fire and bingo we had ourselves a nice little fire. We added smaller twigs in a teepee shape to allow air to circulate and the flames to expand.

Everyone in the group thought it was such a neat experience and you could see the immediate positive impact of having a nice fire started in this cold wilderness. After about an hour of wonderful time spent in the woods, we broke apart the larger pieces of burning wood from our fires and buried them into the snow until there was nothing but a pile of slush. It was time to head home.

What an incredible day it was and a great basic lesson in wilderness survival.

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The strong winter winds blew south, across the front field picking up the soft snow which lay on the surface of the ice crust. It spun it around like a dust cloud, the white powder spiralled into the air a second time, then it was violently brought down to the shores of the creek. I was standing in my kitchen looking out at the creek, when all of a sudden I noticed a large black object surface in the middle of the black waters current and climb with ease onto the ice surface through an opening.

Nature was calling, and I had a good idea who it was but I was being drawn out anyways, I had to go outside and check it out, even if it was wickedly cold. I always take a long stick or a ski pole just in case he may lunge at me because they do have that ability. If you get too close it just takes one slap of the tail and he is up close and fast. Just listen to the archived CBC interview of Penn Powell from Port Hope. It does not matter what size the animal is, I always get excited and either I use my binoculars for a close look or I just simply walk out to the creek and investigate. The large beaver was out, he was busy cutting branches off of a smaller tree and then bringing the sticks under water and jamming them into the bottom of the creek to feed at a later time.

It is going to be a busy spring for this fellow, and for now he can continue his evening work but I will be looking for the signs and if a dam is built, good old trappers will need to get to work.

If you have had the privaledge of seeing how a dam is built, then you quickly realise how remarkle this builders truly are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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She flew gracefully over the water as she headed to my right, all the while letting out a screeching call. It was clear to me that she was drawing me away from her nest, where the red wing male had just landed seconds ago then disappearing into the brush at ground level near the edge of the fresh water creek. It wasn’t a straight flight climb either across the sky like a duck; it was almost like she was rolling over small slopes going up and down until she chose the appropriate tree branch to land on.

The water was cold and fast flowing to the east. Also the part of the creek where I stood was quite wide and made for a difficult crossing. I had been trying for about half an hour or so to get into a good shooting position for a harvest.

I was on my third try of doing some back and forth along the shoreline for about twenty yards in an attempt to flush out two of the red-winged blackbird males. Now on my knees, hidden behind some tall grass, I tried to get as low as I could to enable me to use the vegetation as cover but it was difficult to pivot in the damp mud.

This is when I looked up and saw one of the blackbirds land in front on a small tree directly across from my position.

I quietly loaded a shell directly into the Winchester 97 chamber through the ejection port and ran the action forward cocking the gun readying my shot. His movements were rushed and sharp as he called out frequently, very loud chirpy call. Like he was saying “Whooooo Weeeeeeee.” It sounded like it was practically rattling its tongue at the end of the distinct blackbird call. Some describe it as the following: conk-la-ree!

He could sense that something was not right; he had the same behavior that common house sparrows display when a cat comes to close to their feeder.

I brought up my body from behind the grass about at the height of the vegetation tip, slowly keeping my barrel directly on the bird; aligned my bead sight with the bird, then lowered the bead sight half way, controlled my breathing and released my shot.

It was my first harvest this season and a very challenging hunt indeed.

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Wild PigSeveral months ago, I was sitting in a waiting area of a Chevy truck dealership having just helped myself to a hot cup of coffee. Then comfortably placed in my seat I was waiting for my turn, I can remember turning my head to look around at all the new trucks, and like many others before me I noticed the magazine rack. I remember thinking to myself that “gosh nothing would be of interest to me in that pile of magazines maybe just a few about fashion or cooking topics.” but this is when I spotted the one with a big game hunting title on its cover.

So, I carefully folded and placed my right foot overtop my left knee and brought down my elbows at the same time that I was opening the magazine. I skimmed read through the first few pages that were filled with advertisements, some for rifle scopes and various other hunting accessories. I turned a few more pages and this is when I landed on the picture a model hunter sitting by his trophy in a faraway place, along with a great article. For many of us this was nothing but a far away dream, imagining what it would be like to hunt like Jim Shockey.

I can remember dreaming about how incredible this would be to travel to a remote place in our vast wilderness to hunt for wild game trophies. You would be facing the elements, challenging mind and body in pursuit of a majestic or dangerous game and as a reward being able to claim your trophy.

I am very passionate about sport hunting, especially small game and most of us hunt for the sport but also for the food and for the experiences we share with family and friends. These hunts could take place anywhere, on family land, private or public property. Some of us have our annual deer or moose hunting trips, others are all about waterfowl or upland birds but deep inside us it is hard to put the rest the idea that a great classic hunt could be within reach and that it can in fact be a very realistic dream that we can achieve at least once in a lifetime.

It is almost the end of November now and the holidays are coming up, the small game season is in full swing and the waterfowl season will be coming to its close very soon in just a few weeks on the 21st of December. But for me time seemed almost surreal. I was then just nine days ago sitting in my truck driving at dawn heading north into the snowy Canadian wilderness. I was driving into the unknown toward my first great classic hunt. It was a gift in every sense of the word and a dream come true.

Then just a few hours later, I found myself all alone in the woods staring down a snowy trail surrounded by two hundred acres of wilderness. No guides, just me and the elements in pursuit of my majestic game, the wild pig.

I was standing on frozen ground with the soles of my rubber boots making cracking sounds as I broke through the thin layer of ice and snow that covered the leaves and branches. I had just re-adjusted my footing in order to get a better look around. I could see my every breath as the water vapours condensed.

There was a light snow fall and the wind was blowing in a north-easterly direction, it would come in like an ocean tide and brush the surface of the treetops and as it passed through the mixed woods, it rustled the remaining leaves and branches which cause it to sound like a small engine passing through. But my knowledge has taught me that when you are stalking game, this is the best time to move as the wind and noise that is generated from the forest masks your footsteps, which is really advantageous while still hunting. It is also important to note the direction of the wind because it can help mask your scent or bring an odour towards you. On a good day, I can sometimes smell the same scent of a wet dog and this quite often turns out to be animal which is not too far. The temperature was sitting around minus five degrees Celsius.

If you are gamer and you are familiar with the Xbox Cabelas Dangerous hunts 2011 game and for a few seconds during your game if you let your character just stand still in the snow, the sights and sounds were quite similar. The cold, and late autumn smells filled the air, the forest surrounding me was dark and had an eerie feel to it. I was very much alive and every sense in my body was at a heightened state.

I turned and faced the south and found more trails which lead over a ridge, it was almost magical and I could picture that at any time now a fox, coyote or hare could pass directly in front of me. I went down on one knee near a large tree for cover in order to have a better look around with my binoculars.

Time seemed like it froze as I was being absorbed by the cold wilderness, it was just me and the elements. For that short moment in time, I found myself back in the mountains of Bosnia and although there was no small arms fire or mines sticking out of the ground, I was living the exact same feelings, cold and isolated yet it was a very calming feeling which filled my entire body.

I was alone in pursuit of the famed wild boar a gift a loved one had offered me; it was the one dream of a classic wild game hunt and I was living every second to the fullest. I had spent six hours in the woods and only around four in the afternoon when nightfall was creeping up and it started getting dark, this is when I noticed a sounder of wild boar to the north-west about three hundred meters away.

The hunt was on, I now had to come up with an approach strategy, and I did not want to allow myself to get too excited. So, I got down on one knee brought up my binoculars and studied the ground in front of me as well as the whereabouts of the entire group of wild pigs.

They were feeding in an open area just on the edge of the forest to the northwest, and I needed to get as close as I could without alerting them for my shot. So with my approach plan set, I crouched down and started a slow sprint using the trees as cover, leapfrogging from large trees to boulders, until I got within seventy-five meters. I was now on my hands and knees crawling to the last and largest boulder between the boars and I, which was now only fifty meters away. I always take my gloves off for the shot, so I wiped the mud and snow off my fingers and prepared myself for the shot.

I got myself into the prone position and started to control my breathing in order to catch my breath after covering all that rough terrain. My farming friend had always taught me to be patient before every shot and if you’re lucky the animals may move toward you and get into a better position for your shot.

It was getting dark out and I did not want to track my game, so I wanted to ensure I had a clean and quick shot. I was now so focused on the boar to my front that I did not immediately notice a young elk sneak up on my left behind a tree just meters away. But his presence was a blessing as it startled the group of boars and they came up over the small ridge and were now just twenty-five meters away.

There were six of them now moving from my right to left and feeding, I picked out the largest of the group and lined up my Tasco scope cross-hairs directly in line with its vitals and I followed the boar adjusting my aim accordingly.

Even with a perfectly sighted in scope, quite often hunters will tend to hit lower than where they were aiming, therefore I compensated for this but not by much. The boar moved a few meters ahead and started feeding again. The boar was perfectly set sideways, with my fore-stock sitting on the rock, I re-aligned the cross-hairs with the vitals and pushed the lever forward on the .303 taking the rifle off safe and with my last breath of three and with my lungs now half empty I released the shot.

The boar jumped into the air and darted for the heavier thickets, I kept my eyes glued on the wild pig as it sprinted about forty meters along with two other boars and then it tripped, fell and flipped over a log and lay motionless. It was a brilliant harvest and it was the end to my first classic hunt. Incredible!

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