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Posts Tagged ‘cold’


There is nothing better than spending a few hours along the river on an early Sunday morning for a waterfowl hunt. Especially after an incredibly stressful work week. I was a bit disappointed though because I was not going to be able to bring my kayak along with me. My truck was getting repaired. I knew this would limit my ability to get closer to the ducks, and I would be forced to stay on the muddy banks.

This means jumping over medium size distributaries and sometimes crossing wider parts of the river that is chest high and in icy cold waters. In situations like these, I usually find a large fallen tree several meters long that was left over by the beavers. I push it across at the narrowest part of the river, then I use the log as support in the deeper parts of the water. Once I am done I then move the logs out-of-the-way in case some boats come through after me. On occasions I can find recently built beaver dams and cross over them like a land bridge. I also sometimes use a walking stick for balance and to check the depth of the water before stepping in. Experience and good judgement have allowed me to continue to blog about it, even after having spent several minutes in icy cold water.

I am always very excited about getting a few hours to myself in nature, especially this time a year. The river and marshes this time of year are just spectacular along with the light snow fall. Also it gets so cold that fewer people come out later in the season. This makes it safer since there are less hunters and it also provides more available hunting spots to set up. You can also still hunt and attempt to flush the ducks for a couple of kilometres without ever meeting anyone.

I am always so appreciative to be able spend time outdoors and release the stress from our daily lives, but with hunting comes reality and this means that you will not always be guaranteed a harvest. The Canada geese have been hunted in this area of mine for several years now and as a result as soon as they clear the tree line along the river’s edge they increase their altitude and makes it a no go for shots.

As the Canada geese numbers decrease this time a year with only five weeks left to the season, I focus my attention on mallards, black ducks and teal. But these birds like to land in very isolated parts of the marsh where it is still open and not yet frozen over and these spots are quite often only accessible by water. So, after having spent the good part of an hour stalking the shores of the river, I turned toward the marsh and circled around its perimeter forming the shape of a ring. This is in knee-deep water and also sometimes using little mud islands that look like thousands of crane nests as land steps around the deeper parts.

I had taken a few shots at some ducks and missed, I soon realized after a few hours that this hunt was a total bust as far has getting a harvest, yet this was my reality for this Sunday. This can be extremely discouraging for any waterfowl hunter as well as exhausting. I knew that I was blessed having spent some amazing time outdoors and being able to shed the stress from the week, but rather disappointed about not harvesting.

What I found can be challenging to accept is the fact that on days like these, even after having spent time outdoors, you were still not able to harvest. Also even though you will have other times to go out, it is just simply discouraging. I find myself fighting against the negative energies of disappointment about not having harvested. Because ultimately every waterfowl hunter wants to bring home some birds. This I find can be especially hard on new members to the sport, because you want to harvest and not necessarily put your current abilities in question.

I will be going out again next weekend and this time I will be bringing my kayak. I am hopeful that I will be able to remedy this harvesting situation, in addition to continue my never-ending pursuit of being able to find the true balance between time at the marsh and having a successful harvest. Family and friends will consider you very lucky about having spent time alone in the great outdoors. But unless they share your passion for the sport they will not always be understanding to the fact that you are disappointed in your performance and that it may take a few hours to digest this fact. Then you ask yourself the question, is getting a harvest the definition of a successful hunt? Or are you simply a very lucky person to have had some time to yourself?

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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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A young man, who was born during the winter months, once told me that his favorite time of year was the winter. I remember smiling and acknowledged that it was indeed a beautiful time of year but like many hunters, in my mind I didn’t just picture the months in the calendar for that particular time of year but I also identified the hunting seasons.

Everyone loves the summer months that’s for sure, especially after the long winter we had this year, but I ask myself is it possible that people who are born in a particular season, do they have this natural connection to that period of time?

Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the hot weather in July and August but I just adore the fall, with its cool air and incredible odors, and I will let you in on a secret, I was born in the fall. For me without a doubt September and October are one of the most incredible months of the year and not just for its colors and weather, these two months are the soul of waterfowl hunting.

I have spent a good two weeks getting my kayak rigged up with camouflage and other kit using Velcro readying for the upcoming waterfowl season and even though I am truly enjoying the sun about as much as a groundhog who is sunbathing. I feel like a bull in a rodeo cage waiting to be released, I just know that it is going to be an incredible duck and goose season this year, I can smell it in the air.

On that note have a great rest of the summer!

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A few weeks ago, I decided take my brother-in-law out snowshoe hare hunting, it would be a great way for us to spend time in nature together. It was sure nice to have company on this hunt and for him it would be an enjoyable day on snowshoes.

The conditions were not the best, it was a cold windy day and the snow was quite deep with a thin snow crust on its surface.

We both had our own pairs of snowshoes, I gave him the more modern pair which were narrower but were fitted with gripping teeth under the toe of the boot. The teeth are great when you are crossing a frozen creek or lake covered in ice.

Myself I had an old pair of Michigan snowshoes fitted with an old leather binding set. It worked out for this hunt but at times it was quite frustrating, falling and fighting the snow with the older shoes.

The front part of my snowshoes would sink deep below the surface and every time I lifted my foot for the next step, I was shoveling heavy snow. Also in the deep woods, sometimes the shoe or its webbing would get stuck on branches or logs hidden under the snow.

This would cause me to fall over and it took time to get back up.

There many things that went wrong that day. The older leather binding was weak and provided no support around the front and back of the boot causing it to slip around from left to right or the other direction.

The movements of my boots alone caused the tail of the shoe to angle outward and this put me off-balance. Additionally, the front of the Michigan’s had been sinking down first making lift my heavy shoe and dump the snow. The front parts of these shoes were flat instead of being angled upward.

Another unpleasant problem was as I was struggling to lift my shoe out of the snow it would spit up frozen snow up my back-end and if I hadn’t been wearing waterproof pants that day I would have been soaked.

My brother-in-law let me break trail because one advantage was that I had a much wider base. The newer snowshoes worked great but they sank deeper because his steps where not very wide.

I have used all kinds of snow shoes and have spent many hours in the brush and although I enjoyed using my traditional shoes, and wish to continue to use them, I was going to improve them and test the shoes out in the field.

Since our last hunt I bought myself a new pair of leather bindings and watched a YouTube video showing how to attach the harness for the type of snowshoe I was using. I used the videos method but ended up improvising for my types of hunts, basically the harness is secured in several other places making it more stable with some 550 cord. I was in business.

I put on the pair and stepped out for a test run around the house down by our creek and into the woods. It was perfect; I tried jumping, running, turning sharply, bending over and even moving over logs.

Last night I was surfing the web doing research on trapper history. I found a neat painting on a site whereby the artist painted the trapper on snowshoes but they were turned around with the pointy end facing the front. This would provide the width and stability needed in deep snow and you would not shovel heavy snow.

What if? I asked myself, I have another pair of snowshoes; it is worth a try by placing the snowshoes the other way around with the tail in the front.

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There I was standing in my kitchen by the fridge getting myself something to drink, the milk container carefully placed on the counter top, I opened the cupboard door with my other hand in order to reach in for a glass.

Glass in hand, I spun around and faced the milk then the glass slipped out of my grip; fell to the floor sending chards of glass everywhere. I was quite upset and let out a few swear words but after all it was done, I just had an accident. I was mad because I knew that it could have been avoided, if only I had been more careful or moved slower.

For every accident this is the unfortunate truth, they can be avoided but sometimes other factors weigh into the situation and cause them to occur. Road conditions, your mental state or even over confidence and many other reasons can be a trigger.

The only thing we can do is be prepared for them with the right tools, whether they be in the form of knowledge or hardware such as a first aid kit, field craft kit like matches, a compass and other important items.

With the river now covered in ice, my waterfowl season is over until the spring snow goose hunt. This means, I will be spending long hours in the forest practicing one of my favorite hunts during the winter months, looking for the snowshoe hare.

Every time I step into the cold white forests, an accident could occur and the one I wish to focus on this time is getting lost. I consider myself an experienced woodsman, and even though we do not wish for it to happen, getting lost is very real and in the winter especially being unprepared could prove to be deadly.

My experiences have taught me that the sooner you accept the reality that you are lost and that now you must deal with it; your situation will have already improved. Last year, I read a book about wilderness survival and the author wrote that if you are lost, and your family or friends have a general idea where you are then they will come and find you so stay where you are. Make yourself comfortable! There was even mention of bringing a cigar or cigarette along to smoke, my interpretation was maybe this is to help you relax and prevent your mind from wandering too much, thinking about family and about predators such as bears and wolves or other potential dangers such as hyperthermia.

We know that every situation is unique and in some cases you might have to attempt finding your own way back, in this case travelling earlier in the day is best, so that you avoid getting stuck travelling at night. Because of the poor visibility at night you could walk right off a cliff or ravine and add additional challenges to your current situation. Always make sure you stay current and practice your map and compass skills prior to setting out, in case your GPS fails. When I go hunting, I always let my family know where I will be, I also provide them with a map and emergency contact numbers along with a cut off time to call if they do not hear from me.

ShelterSo, for this situation or blog post, if I were lost, I would plan on staying where I am until I was found and therefore building a shelter is absolutely necessary giving me a chance of survival. It can also offer protection against the wind, rain, snow and ultimately provide some comfort in your current predicament.

For well over two decades, I have spent many nights out in the wilderness, during all seasons using all kinds of shelters, lean-to, 3 sided lean-to, ice shelters, A-frame ponchos tents with bungee cords, tents, arctic tents as well as without any cover at all.

The 3 sided lean-tos is one of my favorite and is the one that I will be illustrating for this blog entry. One of the reasons, I really like the lean-to is because if you have rope and a small axe, then your shelter can be built really well but tools are not always readily available during an emergency or accidental situation and yet a lean-to can be built without the luxury of tools and rope.

Paul Tawrell in his book on camping & wilderness survival book writes about panic and fear, he actually says, “keep your mind busy and plan for survival”. Building a shelter can help with this very element of fear and by focusing on building your shelter, you prevent your mind from racing.

I actually spent three days alone in the woods and worked constantly at perfecting my shelter; I even went to the extent of removing all the rocks one by one from my lean-to all the way down to the river’s edge. First we should focus on choosing a spot to build the 3 sided lean-to, you will need to find two large trees about 7 feet apart , each one having a limb stump on the same side  and at the same height. I like to have mine just above the waist height; the reason for this is that you do not want to lose too much heat during cold weather ensuring your heat/fire reflecting wall where you will provide you with the most heat.

If you are building a shelter in cold weather, find a naturally covered area with lots of evergreen trees and avoid slopping areas, so that water may not run down into your shelter. Avoid open areas where snow can blow in and cover you with snow.

Find a cross beam pole about 8 feet long which will hold poles for your roof, if you have rope secure the two corners and prepare yourself by finding as many roof poles about 9 feet long and as many as you need to complete your roof and secure them with snow and debris at the base. Heavy snow works well.

For the two sides of the shelter find gradual sized logs and place them up against the side of the shelter and use snow and vines to hold them in place. Once all the three-sided framing is in place, if you have a poncho or even in some cases a parachute, place it over the roof part and cover it with snow and cedar and pine boughs and layer it, some even recommend using latticework in order to secure your shelter.

Once the outer part of your shelter is ready, you can now start focusing on the inside, you can make a rectangular mattress like shape with snow and then cover it with lots of evergreen boughs to provide a pocket of air between you and the snow. This creates a natural mattress and will help with keeping you dry and warm. If you have lots of wood readily available you can also place two small logs vertically the length of your body and then place small sticks across from top to bottom, then place cedar branches above this thus making a natural bed.

Now that the 3 sided lean-to shelter is complete, you can now focus on building the fire reflector wall. Bernard Mason in his book “Camping Craft” shows the distance from your lean-to entrance and the fire wall being at about 7 feet away. This is acceptable and shall reflect the heat back into your lean-to but will also be at a safe distance away.

The reflector wall can be built using two or four posts, two at each end spaced out from each other and by placing several logs about 6 feet long between them thus creating the wall, the fire is then placed and started in the inside part of the wall facing you. A teepee fire will work just fine, also make sure you choose your wood carefully for example choose Ash, Birch, dogwood or oak, you want to use wood that will burn for a long time provide good coals but also produce lots of heat once the flames have died down.

There are many great resources on the Internet as well as great books available and even companies that offer survival courses. On my OKB page, there are several books listed which I have read and used as references throughout the years.

Stay warm and be safe!

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Canada Goose

With the four doors open, I carefully removed each strap which was holding down the canoe to the roof; releasing their individual locks with my key for the ammunition box because the lever locks were too tight to unlock with my fingers. I then placed the straps inside the cab and climbed up into the back of the flatbed, setting myself under the canoe facing the cab rear window. With my knees slightly bent I then picked up the canoe onto my shoulders placing them exactly into the grooves of the yoke stabilizing the bow and stern with both hands on each side of the gunwales. I then spun the canoe around in the air, made my way to the back of the truck and once I was facing the river to the south, I jumped off the tailgate onto the wetlands muddy ground. I threw my hips once again into the opposite direction pushing up with my right arm, then lowered the canoe onto my thighs and gently placed it into the swamp grass to my left.

It took me just a few minutes to load my paddle, shotgun, life jacket and backpack with all the necessary my kit I would need into the guts of the canoe. I moved toward the bow and grabbed its carrying strap, and started pulling the canoe through the tall grass heading south-east.

When I first got to the wetlands, I carefully scanned the sky, tree line and marsh, which included two large bodies of open water. There was a very strong wind mixed with rain blowing in my direction of travel. I knew that it would be tough work coming back once the hunt had ended. I finally chose to go to the large body of water to my left, which had lots of vegetation which had grown in since the previous year; it was filled with swamp grass, mud islands and concentrations cat tail.

Once I reached the edge of the water, I set off with one foot in the canoe and the other outside the boat and pushed myself along using the small mud islands and vegetation as steps. It was hard work but I managed to find and follow a larger water trail which had formed in the middle. There were thousands of small water trails like a maze. With the strong winds and freezing waters any mistake could prove to be deadly.

After several hundred meters of pushing and paddling, I finally reached my first large portion of open water. I now had the time to orientate myself using two large distinct trees found near the river and a community water tower to the north. I programmed my global positioning system along with my compass then put them back into the backpack. The wind had turned the canoe diagonally towards the south but I was still going into the direction I was aiming for because I had seen about six teal ducks fly around very quickly and then land on the northern edge of the marsh.

I grabbed a hold of my paddle, took control of the canoe and made my way another fifty meters. I Passed a large patch of grass mixed with cattail to my right, it resembled a small island and the grass was high enough I could not see through. On the other side directly to my front was an even larger space of open water leading to the river with just a small river bank separating the two. There were also hundreds of small mud islands and patches of grass with thick weed roots.

I had no idea how much activity was waiting for me on the other side, so I placed myself really low into the canoe, stopped paddling and rested the paddle on the yoke and my left thigh then loaded three shells into my Remington 870, chambered a shell and instinctively put it on safe using the push button.

My chosen spot for waterfowl was perfect; there was a mallard out into the open to my left but too far for a shot, two groups of teal flying around in circles right above me to my front and roughly thirty Canada geese to my right behind two large mud islands. My heart began to race and I could feel the pounding in my chest, my breathing was also going steady, but I had to control my excitement and focus on my approach. I made myself even smaller in the canoe and stopped moving.

The canoe was once again being pushed along in their direction with the wind blowing in from the north-west. I was afraid of making noise with my paddle, so I carefully reached in over the gunwale with my left hand and placed it into the freezing water, grabbed hold of some weed roots and pulled myself toward the geese. I was now very close only thirty meters away.

The feeling was incredible; I was like a fox stalking its prey, it was a very intense moment. With the wind pushing and pulling along the weed roots with my hand almost numb, I made it across a small part of the open water until I reached the opposite side of the island directly across where twenty of the geese were gathered. With the ducks flying nervously above me but too high for a shot, something alerted the geese which were on watch duty and two or three of them began to call out. I could hear splashing, I could see several of them through the tall grass moving away to deeper water and then soon after the whole flock burst into the flight.

They took flight in all directions but they did not know where I was, so it took them a few seconds to get organized and finally choose one set path and that happened to be directly over me circling to my left heading north-west.

Canada Geese are large birds and they are quick but not as fast as a duck, which gives you a few milliseconds more to react. I shouldered my shotgun twisted my body to the left and released a shot into the air, and missed a bird by the fraction of a feather. I pumped the action, took a quick breath and applied the skills I learned. Chose one bird out the flock; placed my bead sight directly in line with the chosen bird adjusting my forward allowance accordingly then releasing the second shot.

It was almost the exact shot placement which I used for the Eastern wild turkey that I had harvested. I was aiming directly for the neck and the shot filled the air and the bird which was twenty meters high froze in mid-air like a statue and with its head tilted toward the water it fell to the surface. It was a hard fall! I cleared the last remaining shell from the Remington 870 and then paddled over to recover the harvest.

It was a long hard paddle and push back to the truck against the strong winds, having at times to step out of the canoe with one leg or use the paddle as a push pole but in the end it was well worth the effort. I had just harvested a beautiful twelve pound Canada goose.

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When I thought of the good pair of boots for the sport, I first made a list of my requirements. The price for sure, the fit, the color, its durability, the warmth, the height of the boot; waterproof or not and also, I wanted to know if I must put them on site or could I drive with them?  I wished for them to be very light and also offer great ankle support and if possible without laces, which is not always practical during the cold winter days.

So, my adventure began, I purchased a very expensive pair of SWAT team style boots and within a few weeks, the sole detached at the front and once the water got in the leather began to break down and the boots were no longer usable. The laces were also replaced several times throughout my hunts. Also just in case you asked, yes the boots were treated with an expensive product which did not work. I have used several leather army boots acquired through surplus stores and although they look fantastic with their Vibram soles, however they were only good for dry terrain, I also used GORE-TEX socks. A few winters ago, I purchased inexpensive NAT’s boots which came with only one repair kit, within two years; I had punctured them while walking on rough terrain with jagged rocks and sharp branches. They were incredibly light and the price was right but they unfortunately did not survive my punishment. I also found them extremely wide and it was difficult to drive when going from one hunting spot to another.  The warmth was acceptable but my toes still froze while in the tree stand last fall and during the winter snow kept on getting into the upper part of the boot and my socks were soaked several times. A friend of mine suggested Canadian Mukluks’ boots, but I have used them in the past in the winter and I found my feet sweat quickly during heavy walking or snowshoeing with the inner liner and the outer part gets wet and freezes up. One advantage with Mukluks is that snow does not get in around the top part of the boot.

I have tried about five different pairs of boots and none of them have been able to deliver for my hunting style, which is hunting all year round, in all seasons in extremely tough terrain. My boots of choice right now are and the pair I love the most that I inherited from my grand-father, which is your very basic rubber garden boots and depending on the weather, I just add layers of wool socks.

Until I find the perfect pair of boots, I will continue live by the principles of a farming friend of mine, every year he buys himself a new pair of insulated rubber green or black boots. I have seen Le Chameau boots and also the RUT MASTER from Irish setter and similar styled boots, I am very impressed.

Until my next purchase, I will keep on walking and doing research.

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