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Posts Tagged ‘creek’


photomania-86e404f0c9383d7d7134359ff451344aThe morning fog was still very thick and the sun was trying hard to push through, it was an incredible view, especially with the steam fog coming up from the creek. The time of day was perfect to get ready for my approach toward the Mallards that were dabbling at the creek crossing. I could not head directly south through the field because the birds would surely spot me coming down the ridge out into the open giving me no chance of getting within a fair shooting range. Also I could not come in from the West along its tree line to my right because there was only one single large piece of old farming machinery with a single wheel and a metal seat left, which would provide no cover for an approach.

I had decided that the best way would be to sneak up and come in the from the left going along the electric fence shaping the letter “L”. So I got my kit ready and started to move away from the truck toward the bushes over the electric fence and started a slow jog along the first side of the hedges. By the time I reached the first corner of the field, I had slowed my pace down to a stalk, the ground is very wet filled with thousands of small mud islands and knee-high grass. This is perfect habitat for the common snipe and woodcock, who often burst into flight just feet in front of you and zig zag and usually land only meters from you but in very difficult places to spot them.

By the time I reached the creek on the Eastern side, I hugged the electric fence and dense hedges and started the laborious work of still hunting the Mallards. It is not just about not making noise and not being seen. You are walking on uneven ground, which is full of mud traps and you can not afford to slip with your shotgun even if it is unloaded because you do not want to get mud in the mechanism or barrel end. You are always having to control your breathing to not allow yourself to get too excited or out of breath from covering large distances such as farm fields. These factors will impact your shot accuracy.

In addition, if there are ducks dabbling nearby and you have spotted them, be sure that there are others that you haven’t seen and they will trigger an alert to the others. You must be constantly be scanning every piece of brush and the waters and especially if it is a Mallard hen, they blend in so well into their surroundings due to their brown coloration. By now I had covered well over two hundred meters and had finally reached the largest tree and final bush between the ducks and I.

In order to get the best angle for the shot, I had to move away from the brush line and out into the field to form and arc, all the while moving into position I loaded my three shells and placed one into the chamber sliding the pump-action forward, my finger was resting on the trigger guard only milliseconds from taking my shots. My barrel was aimed toward the ground but the 870 was already well shouldered.

I slowly raised my barrel and spotted the Mallard drake through the thin brush, I swung out two steps to the right and the three Mallards burst into flight, I released my first shot and the drake spun forward in mid-air and came down crashing, I quickly pumped the 870 action and released my second shot into the second bird which was a Mallard Hen but she spun in mid-air and I missed her, by the time I chambered the last shot it was too late. Their distance was too great between then and I now and that this point I would be only sky busting, so I made the shotgun safe.

I crossed the creek picked up my first harvest of the day and continued on toward the wetlands.

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During my migratory bird season, when the Canada geese usually fly in toward the farm where I hunt, more specifically the South side, they quite often choose the two best spots in that area. Either they land across the creek on the edge of the ridge at the start of the hay-field or they land on the North side just shy of the tree line close to the creek.

Both positions offer a great view of the surrounding open ground, which enables the spotter geese to identify a threat and call out if danger is approaching. But it is also near the creek and the swamp which is in the back toward the South-West. In addition there is plenty of food.

It is not by coincidence that they select these two preferred spots and this is why is pays off to be observant. As a waterfowl hunter once you have chosen your approach plan, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and adapt to get close enough to your birds for a harvest.

In my last post, I mentioned that I like to change some things during my hunts to see what works and what doesn’t, this also includes changing my plan of approach during my still-hunts. Just like the geese, I too have a preferred path which I use to close the gap between the geese and I when I stalk them and this is always done on my knees or leopard crawling.

On this particular hunt, I noticed that only six geese came in and flared their wings and landed near the creek facing north. I decided that coming in from the East would be very challenging, having noticed where the spotter geese were standing. So, I changed up my approach plan and worked my way in from the West completing the top part of my approach heading down a ridge and coming up from the opposite side of my usual approach path.

There I lined myself up with an old barn that I used to cover in order to gain more ground. From a bird’s-eye view try to picture a perfect slice of pie superimposed over the field and the tip being where the geese are located, by this time I had now traced the outline of the triangular slice and was coming up the one of the side legs of the triangle heading toward the tip.

The only problem was that now there was nothing but open ground and still several meters to the geese. Once I reached the corner of the barn, I looked through the board gaps and studied the geese position and the spotter geese and decided that coming from the Eastern side would be best. So, I looked to the ground and took several breaths, took three shells and slid them in the buttstock holder and placed the rest in my right pocket and buttoned it shut.

I lowered my face mask then got down on my belly and started to crawl forward toward the East. The first few meters were extremely tough and it was incredibly warm, also making my way over a log. Every few meters, I would stop and place my face into the ground and breathe in a rhythm to control my breathing and not allow myself to get too exhausted.

Once in a while I would slowly lift my head about five inches and check my alignment to ensure I was still in line with the birds. The farm field is full of uneven ground which is perfect to slip into a small trench and gain more ground. On my final approach, I was only pushing with the ball of my feet to propel myself forward and then using my elbows to lift my body of the ground and push ahead.

I was able to get within twenty-five meters of the birds and slide in behind an old upside down claw foot bath tub, which was most likely used to for the cattle to drink a long time ago. I loaded my three shells and pumped the action and placed the 870 on safe. Now I had to figure out how to get to my knees without getting too high and giving away my position. After a couple of minutes, I raised my barrel and rested it on the tub and aligned myself for the first shot.

It did not take long for the birds to call out and burst into the air and with just inches from the ground, I released my shot into the closest goose and it tumbled to the ground with a broken wing. I had to release a second shot into the same bird and while pumping the action to release the second shell and load the third, the spent shell jammed before I could clear it for the third shot and possibly another harvest. It was too late and the others had already set considerable distance between them and I. Quite often with my Remington 870 even if cleaned and pumping the action properly, I find that the shorter shells extract better with my pump-action; one day I hope to be able purchase the new Versa max. This will for sure eliminate the expended shell jams and with the semi-auto action I might be able to release my shots quicker and possibly harvest two or three geese in one single approach.

Just the same I was extremely satisfied with this harvest and the approach. It can be said that in a blind setup, one can harvest a greater number of birds yet I find that still-hunting is so much more rewarding and so far it has proven to be a very positive start of the season with this feathered fox.

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My boots entered the cold muddy waters as I stepped through the creek heading in the direction of the southern field; I was closing the gap between the large boulders and I. For today the weather network had called for thunder showers along with strong winds but this hadn’t materialized yet and I still had some time to be out in the open, while walking up the ridge. I arrived at the farm late in the morning just before noon and had a great chat with my farming friend, we talked about family and the farm.

With the incredible amounts of rain that we have had this past spring and summer, there has been lots of growth and abundant hay but not necessarily quality hay. I am always concerned for the cattle and that they will have enough food for the winter. Once I reached the southern field, I leaned forward while walking to give myself a lower profile. When ever I come up to large boulders or groupings of small trees, I keep a sharp eye for small brown objects which move quickly, and these can be a woodchuck.

I raised my head from time to time to get a better look, a nice breeze came in and I instantly picked up the scent of the wet cedar, it was awesome. It was natures way of providing its form of aromatherapy. I kept pressing on and once I caught my breath I walked right through the green curtain of trees following a well used cattle trail.

I barely had the time to lift my head again and I had already triggered an alert with the first woodchuck of the day, who dove into his hole. In this situation, I usually wait a few minutes, as they tend to come back out and investigate in order to identify if you are in fact a threat or just another animal.

I stood tall and placed my shotgun perpendicular to my body and slipped in behind a wide tree. Every few seconds, I would take a deep breath and tilted only my head forward and glanced at the woodchuck. The woodchuck was coming out again, but only its head was out of the ground and it was not a sure harvest shot. I wanted a clean harvest because I was planning on having a great meal later in the evening.

Now with the woodchuck standing half outside the hole, I carefully raised my 870, loaded a shell pumped the action and fired my shot. I had my first confirmed harvest of the day and loaded the woodchuck in my game bag. I pumped the action again and ejected the empty shell then looked up at the sky to check out the darker cloud formation coming in from the West. I headed right toward the opening in the field and made my way back to the creek, this is when I spotted another woodchuck further up the ridge to the south-west.

He was positioned in front of the large boulder but it was too late, he had made me and ran back into his hole. I had considered circling and coming around from the back using the tree line and the high ground but it was too late. I finally decided to go back to the truck place my first harvest into the cooler then try for a second try at the large boulder woodchuck.

Thirty minutes had gone by and I was now lighter with the first harvest in the cooler, had a drink of water and set off again. I was keeping my eyes open for the cattle, because I did not want to cross the creek with them too close to me. I stepped over the electric fence surrounded by tall wild grass and headed down another cattle path between two barns and back across the creek.

This time, my plan was to circle to the right, heading toward the swamp and using the low ground and small bushes as to cover more ground without being spotted. I had stopped just prior to the creek and used my binoculars to confirm that he was back on top of the boulder. He was indeed and facing the north-east with this back to my front. This was perfect, I moved through the low ground winding in and out of the brush and finally hit an open area. He had spotted me and jumped down from the boulder and back around the front back into his hole. My initial approach worked for a while but he keen eyes had spotted me.

I still pressed on and bent forward again and got really low to the ground, I was now on his right and about twenty meters out. I got down on my knees and placed my 870 in my left hand and used my right hand as support as I crouched and moved up to a large bush growth on a smaller boulder just meters before the woodchuck hole. It provided great concealment and now with my controlled breathing, I raised my head like a periscope and noticed the woodchuck had come out and turned sideways just a short distance from the opening of his hole.

I dropped a shell into the breach slid the action forward instantly locking a shell then slid the push safety on. I raised my head once more and then carefully positioned myself into a good firing position, pushed released the safety off, then let out my shot. The second harvest of the day was confirmed and just in time because the storm had moved in and the presence of lightning was my queue to head home for the day.

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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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