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Posts Tagged ‘creek’


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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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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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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The headlights of the truck lit up the dirt road as we made our way down the hill toward the boat launch site on the northern shore of the river.

Just a few minutes had passed now and we were already parked and unloading our gear, decoy bags, shotguns and our backpacks. Prior to stepping out of the truck, I always check and make sure that my LED head lamp is placed over top my tuque and that I turn it on during morning duck hunts because we often work and get ready in the dark until we get to our hunting spots.

We removed the straps holding down the canoe to the roof of the truck, then lifted and spun it around at the same time placing it on the ground. We carefully filled it up with our gear and carried the canoe down to the water’s edge. It was a cold morning with the temperature sitting at around minus five degrees Celsius but there was no wind and the water was dead calm not a ripple in sight. The sky was very clear and had a purple color to it with the sun sitting just below the horizon, you could also see all the prominent stars.

I stood up by the canoe picked up my life jacket and turned it inside out, so that the black inside part was facing out and I then climbed into the bow of the canoe which was now facing directly south and being held by the other hunter.

We pushed off quietly and started paddling across the wider part of the bay; our plan was to cross the larger part of the bay and head in a south-easterly direction. On the other side there was a steep embankment with a trail that we could use to get to the small inner islands and end up in distributaries.

Once we reached the other side of the bank and worked our way through the trail pulling the canoe by its strap, we noticed that our primary waterway was frozen over with around an inch of ice. We now had to prepare our decoy placement, so the canoe was pushed onto the ice and as we climbed in our weight it caused the canoe to break through the thin layer of ice and then we started paddling and breaking our way through the ice moving toward the center of the waterway.

Once in the middle using just our paddle blades, we broke the ice into a very large circle shape and then placed our decoys and electronic duck Mojo into the water on its twelve-foot pole. With the decoys setup in a scattered formation, we slowly made our way back to the shoreline and to our respective shooting spots. We were about fifteen meters apart, now in a kneeling position; I collected some deadfall and several broken branches and built a small blind in front of me along with some foliage.

This would create a natural looking barrier between the duck decoys and my shooting position; if needed I could lower myself in behind the shelter so that if the ducks flew in for their initial fly over, they would not see me. One thing that I have observed is that if you call out several duck calls and attract ducks toward your decoys, mallards will fly in from several directions and quite often they are in groups of two or three and sometimes more depending on your location. I have seen twenty mallards all bunched up together in flight.

So stay low and wait for them to come in within shooting range. You need to study their flight pattern and within a few seconds judge whether you will have a close shot or you may have to take a long shot. It may seem like at times that you are anticipating and trying to interpret what direction they may take, their wings formation and shape in flight can tell you a lot about their next move. We waited for the half an hour mark before sunrise and then whispered to each other that it was now time, we started calling hard with some combo calls letting out comeback calls and feeding calls. Within minutes two mallards flew in from the south-west and came in low between me and the decoys about fifteen meters out.

I quickly lined up my bead site and released a shot of #4 my first mallard fell onto the ice surface and slid a few inches then stopped.

We kept on calling and more ducks flew in but then gained altitude and landed further to the east near the shoreline where the ice was thinner and had open spots. The other hunter on my left decided to work his way up the bank to the east and attempt to harvest the ducks that landed minutes earlier on our left.

I took a quick look around and above then called again, several comeback and feeding calls, soon more ducks came in very high from the south-west, so I released another shot, it was a miss, pumped the action and fired a second shot hitting the last duck in the group of four; the duck froze in mid-air and plunged several meters into the ice surface piercing a hole the size of the bird then got stuck below the surface.

I called again with a very loud comeback call and then waiting around ten minutes and called again with some feeding calls. Two more ducks came in from the south-west then dropped down circling around into the water hole were the decoys were floating. I fired another shot and hit a mallard hen, the bird froze in the air, dropped and landed on the opposite shore line of the water way. It was my longest shot this season and a successful harvest.

It was a fantastic hunt!

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My rubber boots were slowly sinking into the dampened sand as I stood by the creek, my hands now resting in the warmth of my pockets while I checked over my channel set.

It was a beautiful morning with a slight breeze blowing in a north-westerly direction; the temperature was sitting at around six degrees Celsius. And I had just finished placing my log with my three nail channel set using a 330 Conibear trap across the creek. Now I could rest and carefully inspect my setup ensuring that it had all the fine details like the guide branches and that the forks were in their rightful upward positions.

I was surrounded by lush forest on both sides of the creek almost at the mouth of the culvert. Once satisfied, I took a moment and stared into the bottom of the creek bed and could see the glittering minerals that resembled gold dust and I could hear the poetic flowing sound of the creek current splashing along the rocks. It was perfect.
 
A very curious Whiskey Jack kept me company as he leapt and flew from branch to branch; circling me. The Grey Jay’s company was very special indeed especially for trappers particularly when trapping marten or fisher. To me there is nothing rawer and more Canadian at its metaphysical level, all the while culturally nutritious, being surrounded by this wilderness engaged in an activity that you appreciate so much.

I sure hope that in time I can do my part in managing wildlife, so that future generations can benefit of rich moments like these, which can not be acquired through our material world.

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The cool autumn morning air swirled into the truck as I rolled down the country road with my window down listening to John Anderson “Seminole Wind”. It was still dark out and I had planned to drive out and arrive at the farm just before sunlight to have an edge on the ducks, hares and grouse. At dawn they might still be moving about looking for food.

As I got closer to the farm, I turned off the radio and could now only hear my tires on the gravel road along with a few song birds. I took my foot off the gas pedal to slow down without breaking and then turned up the main road to the barn.

By the time I unhooked the electrical fence and drove up the lane way to park the vehicle at the top of the ridge my friend was already outside ready to greet me. We had a hot cup of coffee, and then chatted away about the local news. The sky was pink now and the rock doves were flying just a few feet above us heading south dancing in the wind. To the west a rafter of eastern wild turkeys were playing around in the fresh cow dung looking for seeds, actually they were pretty close to the cattle but that did not seem to bother the young bulls too much.

It was going to be a perfect day with a mixture of sun and cloud, maybe even slight rain but that kind of weather is great for ducks and the temperature was sitting at about thirteen degrees Celsius. On my way in, I had been preparing myself mentally for the approach and having a good hunt, not focusing too much on what I was going to harvest but rather just try to enjoy this time I was going to have alone through the trails in the woods and along the creek.

The fall colors were brilliant, bright reds and yellows surrounded you with the forest just glistening with diamond like light flashes as the water seeped through the cracks of the leaves, rocks and deadfall on the forest floor.

I had decided to start off the morning with grouse, heading west toward higher ground and following some of the trails up to the top of the hill through the woods. So, I packed up the truck put on my gear grabbed a few shells along with my 870 and cut across the western hay-field.

The panoramic view at the top of the hill was stunning and offered a full view of the two southern hay fields where the cattle herd was gathered, the creek running west to east and then the swamp. When hunting grouse I find that the still-hunting method works best for me; essentially I am walking-up the grouse both to get them to burst into flight or get them to drum, so that you can spot them and shoot.

Sometimes if you get lucky you can see them sitting high on a stump or just off to the side of the trail near the forest floor just meters in front of you. If this should happen to you don’t try to get up too close in which case you will scare them into flight and render your shot a difficult one. Try to take the shot from where you’re standing and avoid fast movements. It sometimes depends on which kind of shotgun shell shot you use and how far you are from the bird. # 6 works well for me and I have harvested grouse that were a fair distance away.

Still-hunting requires a lot of focus and careful stalking, which in my case is very slow walking through jagged rocks and deadfall that are hidden under the leaves. It can be slippery and at times dangerous for your ankles. So, after a nice hike through the trails, I decided to turn south and head through the woods down to the creek and follow it back to the barns to the east and try to harvest some rock doves.

The descent was steep, so I unloaded my shotgun and moved my way down the side of the ridge sometimes pushing up against trees so I would not fall over. By the time I got to the edge of the creek, I reloaded my shotgun with some #2 shells and started to walk leisurely to the east through some tall grass and over the beaten down mud trail that the cattle used to navigate back and forth between the fields. 

This part of the creek was wider and you most definitely needed waist-high waders to go through the water, so I chose to stay on the northern side. I had to pull my boots out of thick mud several times and make sure that I stepped on solid ground to avoid falling over. My boots once removed from the muck would release the swamp gas odor into the air.

I started to still-hunt again now that I was closer to the wider part of the creek and further away from the tall grass. I was scanning all around with my 870 at the ready in my shoulder looking into the small brush piles along the sides of the creek, I had only taken four more steps when all of a sudden a “Splash” sound came from my right, I turned my head and saw two black objects shoot up from the water and burst into flight towards the west. I swung my body around one hundred and eighty degrees and identified them as two mallard ducks; I instinctively chose the bird to my right as I was taught. When there are several birds, pick only one out of the group and focus on it for the shot and if you are fast enough then aim for another. The one on my right was closer.

The duck was about fifteen yards away now and about four feet from the ground; I pushed my safety catch off and fired a single shot of #2 into the bird. The duck turned upside down and the wings seem to freeze and the duck fell down to the ground. The mallard flapped its wings a few more times and then lay still. I put my 870 on safe, ran over to the duck and hooked it onto my belt and headed back to the truck.

I made my way east a little further along the edge of the creek in case there were more ducks and turned north toward the truck. At the truck I unlocked the tailgate and laid my gear down along with the mallard and had another chat with my friend. A few minutes had gone by and I was getting ready to head home and call it a morning. There were three curious cows that came to the front of the truck not far from where we were standing, one of them began licking the headlight on the driver side.

This made us laugh as we continued to talk, when all of sudden my friend yelled out and ran frantically over to his tractor which began to smoke. There had been an electrical short in the wiring and there were flames coming from the motor. I ran over as well and noticed that the flames and smoke were intensifying.

We fought the fire for what seemed to be only a few seconds and had it out fairly quickly, allowing us to detach the battery connections. I suppose then that being in the right place at the right time applies to hunting and farming too.

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870 & Chuck

My hip was carefully placed up against the tailgate of the truck in an attempt to avoid shaking too much, so that I could focus better with my binoculars. I was looking toward the eastern field and standing just meters from the farm-house; scanning north to south and concentrating in and around the new hay bales which were freshly cut and rolled.

It was thirty-one degrees Celsius and the heat was almost unbearable. The cattle were down by the creek getting some shade under various deciduous trees, while others waded through the cool waters. Once in a while some cloud cover would move in and with it a fresh breeze would blow in, changing the colors of the various weeds and hay.

Earlier in the morning, I had climbed over the electric fence then headed down diagonally through the northern field closest to the farm-house and cut across the hedge row near the creek, just meters from the road. I then looped around to the south-east back into the other field where there was an opening for the tractors.

I had noticed the groundhog several weeks ago in the field to the east but the weather did not roll in my favor with heavy rains. I was forced to abandon my hunt because the groundhog had retreated below the ground.

The network consisted of two main den entrances at the start of the slope toward the west and with two other escape holes one near the fence to the east and the other in the center of the field where the grass was much darker and just high enough to provide good cover.

Only a few minutes had passed and finally I made out what I thought was a small brown animal on its hind legs. So, I adjusted the center focusing wheel on the binoculars and confirmed my findings. I slowly unzipped my right pocket on the orange hunting vest and pulled out my cell phone and checked the time, it was almost three in the afternoon and it was now going to be cooler and the animals would start coming out now; birds too since I had only seen two yellow warblers and four grackles.

I packed away my phone and binoculars, zipped up my pocket and then grabbed a single shell from my ammunition box on the tailgate and headed down the road to the north. I had to move quickly because I did not want the chuck to move underground.

As I made my way over to the eastern field, I was studying the low ground and aligning the groundhog with each hay bale, thus identifying which bale offered the closest shot and then chose the right bale to use as cover.

I decided on the second bale since it was slightly further away from the groundhog but directly in line with me. I moved in through the tractor opening for the second time of the day and turned in toward the low ground. Once in a while I would stop, catch my breath, because I was speed walking and crouched over. I normally pace myself and take about five to six steps then stop, listen and observe, breathe then set off again.

I was closing in on the groundhog and he still couldn’t see me. By the time I reached the first hay bale, I was only thirty meters out and the shot was possible one but I could not guarantee a confirmed harvest. I also wanted my shot to end up in the dirt and not go over the fence toward the tree line.

So, I stopped, took a knee along with a few deep breaths and prepared myself for the shot that would soon come. I leaned over to the right hand side of the bale and noticed that the groundhog was still standing on watch with its head very high above the hay. I then turned back in toward the center of the hay bale and got down on all fours and leopard crawled over to the hay bale to left or east.

I would crawl, and then stop; look up just popping my head above the hay line to make sure the groundhog was still there and then I would inch forward again. Twice I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead with my hunting hat. My forearms were cut and burning because of the grass blades and various insects. It was only six meters away but it took me a while to get across to the other bale.

Once I reached the second bale, I slowly stood up and had a look over the top of the bale and checked that the groundhog was still there. This time it heard something and let out a whistle but did not move instead it stretched its head further up for a better look much like me.

I loaded one shell into my Remington 870, lined up the bead sight with the target using the hay bale as a stabilizer and focused on my breathing. Once I was ready, I took the weapon off safe using the quiet push method, and then slowly squeezed the trigger…Vlam! Grass and dirt spat up, the groundhog was ejected from the den and fell flat on its back side.

I had harvested one of the largest groundhogs this year and it was now time to head back to the truck and find the groundhog on the southern field near the second barn. I took the time to reflect on the hunt and feeling good about having helped a farmer with his varmints. I decided to bury this harvest using one of the abandoned holes in the field closets to the fence.

My painting of Ron's Coyote

A couple of hours had passed and I was now back at the truck having a drink of water planning my next hunt in the southern field. The cattle had moved in closer to the barns for the evening, therefore shooting was no longer an option at least in the southern field; I had to prepare myself and maybe pack up for the day and head home.

I checked my 870 for a third time after my initial shot and cleared it to make it safe, then I carefully placed it on the ground near the truck on its cloth gun case. I then pulled out a granola snack bar and began to relax.

Once in a while, I would look toward the south then over to the east. The birds were singing louder now, the red wing black birds and grackles were flying in low to feed off the grain on the ground nearby.

I took another drink from my water bottle then placed it down on the tailgate and this is when something caught my eye to the south-east. I could not make it out at first as it stealthy made its way out of the tree line to the south just behind the fence about forty meters from where my harvest was buried. It blended in perfectly with the hay color.

As it got closer and within range I was now able to identify my visitor, I could see its ears were straight up and its fur had a healthy golden shine. The animal would stop; look with its tail straight down near its hind legs. It was incredible! I had seen this animal many times before but I was fascinated, this time it was much different.

It was only two hundred meters away just on the other side of the fence, she moved with such grace and prudence. Coyotes are very intelligent and extremely beautiful animals with an incredible sense of smell. It had picked up the scent of my harvest and she was going to get a free meal; this is something that I love about nature. The simple fact that nothing goes to waste and I was quite aware that my harvest would not last long in the soil.

The coyote was moving in toward my harvest and I snapped to; so I grabbed my binoculars and headed down to the creek to circle around. We were like two cowboys in a duel moving in toward each other but by the time I got to the edge of the creek, amid the excitement the coyote caught my scent and disappeared into the hay, through the fence and into the wilderness.

I did not consider this encounter a failure but rather an awesome experience with an amazing animal. For that very moment I was proud as always to be part of this northern wilderness with this Canis Latrans.

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