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Posts Tagged ‘dark’


The sky was filled with majestic dark clouds, it gave you the impression that I was going to be swallowed into the darkness of the night but it was only four in the afternoon and I had several hours ahead of me in the wetlands. The sun would break through between the clouds and their edges would then turn bright orange like they were burning, the colors all around me would change, the shadows became very clear and then as soon as it changed just like a wave it turned back to its yellows and browns once the sun was hidden again.

I sat in my truck for some time before my hunt was going to start, then took a few deep breaths, said a prayer and asked the powers that be for a great hunt. I was a very happy man. My experience has taught me that if you go out thinking your going try hard to harvest something, it will not happen, you have no control over nature. You have to use your knowledge and let things happen and if an opportunity presents itself then you must grasp that slice of time.

The sights and smells in the wetlands, would render any man humble and make them realize how small we are in this world. The endless isolated dark waters and the tall grass grow in a dangerous maze. We will come and go, but nature will always be there with its creatures and be so powerful as it is.

I dragged my kayak out of the truck bed, rigged up my gear, climbed into my waders and headed off down the muddy trail; my boots were instantly sucked into the mud which then released the swamp smell after each step. It was very slippery and at times, I would pull my boat onto the grass to facilitate the drag.

The water levels this year are very low in the wetlands, forcing me to work my way down the trail to the deeper waters several hundred meters away. Even with the rain we have had in the recent days it hasn’t helped and this makes paddling quite a chore through the weeds.

I placed my shotgun at the ready state with the safe on in its front mount of the kayak and then I pulled the boat through the swamp grass and weeds until I sank into my hips and then I would climb into the boat and push-off with my paddle once it was too deep. Every time I do this, I think of the scene in the movie “African Queen”, it is extremely hard work and requires an incredible amount of physical strength. The weeds wrap themselves around my paddle like a spider web and it makes it very difficult to move as well as exhausting, it is a battle to make it to the deeper waters.

Moments later I am floating through the tall grass, sneaking in and out of the waterways flushing wood ducks and green winged teal. I feel a sudden rush of freedom, the kayak gives me the ability to get within meters of the blue herons and they only burst into the flight once I am just feet away, this is exactly the skill I am using with ducks.

Right now the birds I see the most are, green and blue winged teal, wood ducks and Canada Geese, the mallards and black ducks are not as present.

Teal are incredible birds, flying very low and unimaginably fast, unlike mallards or black ducks they remind me of fighter jets, moving in formation with lightning speed. Any gunner who is able to take one down in flight has my instant respect; it takes quick movements and precision shooting and the ability to interpret the birds.

I paddled up and down the north-eastern side of the marsh, winding through grassy canals, flushing ducks. Sometimes I would stop paddling allowing myself to coast along and then stop inside a patch of tall swamp grass and wait several minutes, almost like an instant blind configuration.

Then if there were no ducks, I would move again. My kayak is so stable, I can switch from sitting in the boat to flipping onto my knees, which provides a better shooting base and I can also rotate for harder angled shots.

On my way back to the east, I paddled a few more stokes and then on my right a green winged teal burst into the flight, she then turned in mid-air and started maneuvering, through the cat tail which was shaped like of canyon. The teal was going to disappear into this water canal and I only had milliseconds to release my shot, I dropped my paddle that is rigged with bungee cord and carabiners so I do not lose it; shouldered my shotgun, pushed it off safe, angled my body to the left then fired my shot.

There is a reason why the wetlands call me back and it is not just the wildlife, I am unable to put it into words, you have to experience it.

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I was standing very still with my binoculars surveying the low ground over on the eastern field, trying to find any early signs of woodchuck presence. I set out to the farm shortly after lunch knowing that the groundhogs preferred to come out and move later in the afternoon. The wind was blowing hard in a north-easterly direction and the low dark clouds moved quickly through the sky and caused the field to change color. The spots where there was fresh dirt turned over or where a broken fence post lay played visual tricks on your eyes.

The air was chilled and the temperature was at about plus two degrees Celsius, the weather station had predicted about two centimeters of snow and this definitely was not ideal weather for the chucks. But I had seen about four others in nearby fields located at the other farms. As soon as it started to snow, the ice pellets started bouncing off the mud and the car parked on the side of the road, the sky got dark quite fast.

I had no choice but to sit and wait it out until the sky cleared. Twenty minutes had passed and the sun finally broke though. Still no sign of the woodchucks and I did not blame them especially with this weather being so un-predictable.  So, I decided to turn my focus on the Red Wing black birds and Rock Doves.

The farmer had scattered some grain for his cattle along with a few hay bales and this had drawn in a flock of Red wing black birds; this presented a fun challenge as they can be a difficult bird to harvest because they are easily alarmed and they travel in flocks so if you startle one bird they all disperse.

On the southern field and its northern side of the creek, were three old barns where I had harvested one of my first woodchucks of last summer. The first two barns were smaller and bunched together with only a few meters apart resting on the slope but the third barn was about thirty meters away and closer to the creek on leveled ground near the forest’s south-western edge.

The pigeons, red wing black birds along with robins and starlings were all gathered in the flooded field to the south of the third barn. So, I decided to descend the southern ridge and move my way along the electrical fence between the first two barns and begin a very slow and muddy stalk to the third barn towards the birds.

Earlier in the afternoon I had noticed the cattle were still feeding on the north side of the western field which was connected to the southern field with no fence separating the two. If you were to include the eastern hay field combined they would create a “U” shape around the main farming complex. As a general rule and as a question of respect, I always kept a safe distance from the cattle especially since they had several new calves this year and I was quite aware that this could change the whole dynamics of my current situation.

As I carefully stalked toward the third barn, I was constantly keeping watch for the larger bulls that were part of the drift of cattle. I made sure; I was stepping on solid ground and not sinking into the mud and always watching up the ridge to my right. The only time I did not have control over my position was between the second and third barn. So as I approached the western side of the second barn and made my way over a worn out wired fence. I positioned myself so that I could see the eastern side of the third barn to my front, the creek to my left and on my right the southern edge of the western field where the mob of cattle were feeding.

After several minutes of hard stalking I was now inching into position, and the birds were now within shooting distance lined up in my sights. Unknown to me for the first few seconds, I was also being stalked and considered a moving target. My right eye caught some movement and when I turned my head, I found myself face to face with a two thousand pound bull and he was only forty meters away.

He had seen me come down the ridge on his left and he had subsequently moved in parallel into the middle of the field were there was a slight depression and caused him to disappear momentarily; from there he could protect his drove of cattle and calves.

We were both looking right at each other and for those who thought cattle can not see very well; I just proved it they sure can. He lowered his head and was swinging it aggressively left to right letting out these incredible huffs that came from deep within the beast. He had this thick white saliva dropping out of its nose and from around its mouth and I can assure you it did not take me long to get the message. Just like in the Spanish Corrida de Torros, he dug his front legs into the fresh mud and lifted large chunks of dirt and then would lower his head into the mud and rub the saliva into the ground.

The charge was coming but I had anticipated this and only had six meters to cover back to the second barn or a fifty meter dash to the tree line to the west, so I slowly moved backward to the northern side of the barn and took cover behind the old wired fence and made my way back around the first barn and then behind the electrical fence.

Once I showed the bull, my intentions were to stay clear and move away, he just locked his eyes on me and continued to move large chucks of dirt under his hooves, letting out huffs and puffs.

I finally circled the bull from the east behind the protection of the electrical fence, and then I talked to him in a gentle voice complementing him on the way he protected his drove. He was an absolute stunning bull, pure black, the true definition of power and I will never forget his huffing and puffing, it was so deep like a fog horn and it made every bone in my body shake.

Awareness is so important during any hunt.

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I was sitting dead still in the wilderness, which enveloped me with its bright autumn colors like flames from a fire. The snowflakes were falling onto my jacket sleeve making a faint “tock” “tock” sound then it would disappear, and then run off into its water form down the crease. It was cold, windy and the snowfall was becoming heavier. The forest was so alive and for my ten hours that I spent in this environment, I was in my element and part of something so familiar. 
 
The leaves and small branches to my left were being rustled by a red squirrel, as it skipped in and out of the foliage, then along a fallen tree. He was so nervy, he would stop and then jump up on its hind legs look around and then let out a short cheep and then sprint on.
 
He would disappear into the autumn leaves and then reappear a few feet away, let out the sound of a short thump and cheep and then again he would sprint. My leg was cramping up and I had to move in order to get into a more comfortable position and this set “Red” off, he raised his tail and let out a long cheep and thump every time he would raise his tail, followed by another long high-pitched cheep. It made me feel like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and so I promptly whispered “Go away you bugger you will let the other animals know that I am here!” 

If you are able to still hunt without setting off “Red” in the bush then you are truly a master and I applaud you. It does not mean that he or she is necessary pointing you out, it could be another squirrel or small rodent trespassing or a larger animal like a mink. My eyes were wide open and I was scanning in all directions and adjusting my head to see, I was also investigating every sound, broken branch or leaves blowing in the wind.

This is when I spotted him, he came from behind me and cut across the trail and then he too disappeared under the leaves and then sprinted across the forest floor onto a fallen log. I was sitting right on the edge of the swamp on a slope shaped like the letter “u” with the northern and southern sides being the high ground. The mink was scouting for food and he was moving right for the water, he was lightning fast and made it to the swamp and began to swim very quickly in search of food.

I took out my mini binoculars and followed him around for a while; it was such a neat sight until he got too close to “Red”. The American mink is much larger than its European cousin and the red squirrel had no chance, he made a lot of chuckle and cheeping sounds then performed quite a dance around a smaller tree scratching the bark but the mink just faced him and then moved to the south of “Red’s” position, and disappeared into the woods.

It seems as though nature took its course and “Red” was not going to be his next meal or fight but the hierarchical order had been re-enforced. The mink was the dominant one and although he does feed on small mammals and rodents “Red” was not meant to be dead.

As for me my hunt continued until dusk.

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Boreal Forest

When people speak of the taiga, they generally refer to the boreal forests found in the northern regions of our globe. The fact remains that it is the same forests that are also found in the southern regions of North America and Eurasia and this boreal forest wraps itself around the globe like a northern belt. In the Americas it starts in northern Canada and spans almost all the way to the United States border and some experts believe it is around one thousand kilometers wide.

This global belt is the home of thousands of species of bugs, birds, mammals and all kinds of micro organisms. Firstly to the natives it was their home and to the early explorers it was an unforgiving land full of riches. To the modern scientists who work with universities and various organizations or even the government it is an endless encyclopedia of knowledge. As a hunter this vast expanse is a source of adventure, challenge, discovery and constant learning.

At first glance the forest may give you the impression that it could be a nice place for hiking and camping but it can also be quite dark and intimidating to someone who is unfamiliar with this biome. This is why with the use of education and awareness; conservation should become the ultimate goal. This way the forest can remain one of the most beautiful places on earth. Through your eyes you can transform it into a more comfortable environment, then in a sense it becomes familiar ground, which is no longer dark and gloomy when you see it for the first time. I can still remember my first time during a compass and orienteering course, as we stood on the edge of the boreal forest with my peers and we all stared at this dark wall of trees and it was so mysterious and frightening yet we were about to take a plunge into its depths to test our skills.

What intrigues me is this silent attraction that the boreal forest possesses over us. Is it the splendor of the fall colors or is there more to this mystical attraction? What is it that attracts people who have experienced traumatic events, adventure types or even hunters? This forest is very alive indeed and it does possess mystical forces*. This draws visitors for various therapeutic or even adventurous reasons and for us hunters, I know that it is more than just the harvest it is the whole experience of being in the elements at least for me it is.

The following video was taken during one of my small game trips in the boreal forest while hunting the elusive snowshoe hare late in November. Near the end of the video we were being shadowed by a large moose and we made sure to stay close to the larger trees and slowly move away from the nearby swamp and closer to the trail. * Read my blog entry: Her

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