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Posts Tagged ‘decoys’


The waterfowl season duration in the province of Quebec is just shy of four months long, roughly from early September to almost Christmas. But it doesn’t mean that as soon as the season is over and you drop your gear that you need to stop thinking about waterfowl for the rest of the year.

After all this is one of the main reasons for my blog’s existence, on the contrary you keep on learning by observing all year-long. And in some cases keep on hunting other smaller game like pigeons and crows both are hunted using the same skills and techniques.

Every day while driving to work I go by several farming fields and watch the geese fly in during the early morning hours from the safety of the river where they spent the night.

One thing that never changes in their physical behaviour, is that they always pick the middle ground, right dead center of every field. This is indeed a perfect choice, and in every sense of the choice it is provides a clear view of any danger coming in for the spotter geese and also a large landing area as well as plenty of food.

I love hunting geese from my kayak, canoe or from a blind. But I also enjoy the challenge of stalking them like a human fox. But usually the numbers in harvest are not as great as if you were in a blind.

For the stalking method, I start on the edge of the field and move my way in and get all covered up with my Real Tree jacket and gloves and lay down flat on my belly and crawl as close as I can to the birds, once in position I snap to my knees and send them into flight and attempt to harvest them.

Knowing where they land and how they setup in the middle ground allows me to study the ground and have a successful stalk and potentially a harvest.

I don’t own enough decoys yet to set up in the field with a decoy spread but if I did, the middle ground is where I would potentially be setup for my blind or in a surrounding zone aiming toward the center.

I love the summer but I can’t wait until September!

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This year the Canada goose season in my hunting district for the province of Quebec started on the 6th of September for farmland only until September 18th and will open in the wetlands on the 19th of September until January 2nd, 2016. The second set of dates starting the 19th also includes ducks and other birds like Snipe. For more information on the dates and bag limits you can consult the Environment Canada website.

Every year, I head to my friends farm and come back with a few birds depending on the weather for the start of the season. However this year I wasn’t so lucky, so for now I will wait for opening day in the wetlands.

However this did not prevent me from attempting to call in some geese and try to communicate with them. There was something which was really interesting this time and this was that when I was calling in from the field nearby the mallard hen ducks in the marsh several hundred meters away would call back every time I finished my goose calls.

At first I was not convinced so I let out a few more Canada goose calls in three separate segments then waiting almost ten to fifteen minutes between calls and sure enough the ducks would call back. It was a very low pitch quack, it sounded like two to three long quacks.

Now I might speak duck and goose but I sure do not understand, however I can interpret and if I were a goose then the ducks message was telling me that if I needed a place to stay for the evening with water and food, well I have come to the right place.

This was very neat and if I was a goose who was beat then it would be a great place to spread my wings and land.

I wish everyone a great season!

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GooseThe winds on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river were incredibly strong; with hundreds of birds flying over head. The sights, smells and noises were so powerful and something out of this world.

I was about to start my two-hour treat alone, all the other hunters including the guide and his chocolate lab went back to the camp for a quick nap.

They asked me if I wanted to come along but I pleasantly declined. The Saint Lawrence with its strong currents, ice flows all such beautiful scenery, the basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré it was all mine to savour.

The decoys were well placed and the digital callers were calling out, doing their jobs attracting waves of birds.

I looked around, starting applying all the basics techniques of a stand up blind hunting.

A group of thirty snow geese flew in overhead and then swung around and came back heading north right above me.

Then three birds dropped down lower and swung around losing height.

When I noticed that one of the birds came even lower, I swung out from underneath the burlap and fired right into the bird’s chest.

It flipped over and flew fifteen meters to my left and landed in the high grass.

I unloaded and existed the blind and went to retrieve my harvest.

Sometimes it all happens so fast if you do not see your bird landing in the bushes below, for a moment you are not sure if you lost it or not, this is without the dog of course.

Now back in the blind with my harvest, I stood for a few more minutes for what seemed an eternity then a group of forty snow geese flew in from the north, right over top and not one bird called out.

So I stood still and bent my knees to get lower, then another gaggle came up along the west side and almost hovered over my spot.

I waited for the perfect opportunity, looking up in an awkward fashion, with my upper body twisted.

I moved away from the front part of the burlap and set myself in a good shooting position and then I unloaded in the bird which was the closest. It tumbled in the air, kept on flying and landed in the river.

The tide was out now about sixty meters and large pieces of ice which covered the dark waters just weeks before broke apart and littered the bottom of the Saint Lawrence creating a maze of ice and mud, rendering it incredibly dangerous to retrieve my harvest. I marked off the spot where the bird landed on the edge of the Saint Lawrence and called on the guide and his dog.

It was an amazing thing to watch, the relationship between the guide and his dog and within fifteen minutes the dog completed several section searches disappearing into the ice and mud sometimes out of sight for several seconds and then there he was with my beautiful white bird in its mouth.

It was a proud moment for many, nature is so fascinating.

 

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Crow hunting is really making a come back in Quebec but it is still not as popular as it was in the 1960’s when they had serious competitions located both in the United-States and Canada. José Boily with his TV show Québec à vol d’oiseau has done great job in bringing back the interest into the sport of crow hunting and cooking. He filmed a really great segment on crow hunting and its cuisine; his shows are really entertaining but also educational.

I started hunting crow a few years ago and never used decoys or an actual caller, I just used my mouth and hands to copy various crow calls and managed to call in just a few, they were really intelligent and kept their distance, just outside my shooting range.

I thought to myself it was now time to get the right kit for some serious crow hunting, but just like any other type of hunting, it takes time and money to build up your accessories and kit in order to have a fun but also a successful hunt.

The other night I went out for supper with some friends and I had the pleasure of meeting a very generous American named Troy. It was a great night full of stories some about trapping and hunting.

I went home that night thinking of ways to improve my hunts, especially crow hunting, I decided crow and owl decoys would be my next purchase list. Little did I know, within days of meeting Troy, he had a gift for me.

Three crow and one great horned owl decoy, I was so happy, it was an awesome gift. I plan on trying out my new set using the “Crow Fighting” setup and hopefully enjoy a great meal. The American crow may be hunted under your Quebec small game permit and the dates are July 1st, 2013 to April 30, 2014. (Dates may vary depending on your zones)

Check out my video on how to field dress a crow.

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Last night I was sitting quietly in my living room staring at the dancing flames of my fireplace almost hypnotized by them but far from being lost in my thoughts; after having read several chapters from the book “Traditions in Wood” edited by Patricia Fleming. My mind was thinking about carving, waterfowling but most of all about family and history. Its pages are about the history of wildfowl decoys in Canada and it focuses on a specific time period, it touches on each province, the artists and also the hunters life stories. There is one page in particular, number 121; actually it is one image which struck me deep into my core where my passion for art and waterfowling is found.

It is a photo of Thomas Southam at the end of a day on Ashbridge’s Bay in Toronto after a successful harvest standing by a boat holding ducks in his hands with his shotgun resting on the edge of the gun-whale, I think it is a Winchester Model 1897, 12 gauge shotgun. It is a beautiful piece of history in its own right and it fires incredibly well, I have harvested several rock doves and ducks with the same gun. In this photograph, he was wearing a very simple sweater and trousers but his stature is that of a distinguished and content man, even though he lived during a period of tough economic times.

He shared the same era as my grandfather and his father, and in the photo I even see physical similarities; Thomas Southam was a great artist, racer, waterfowler and conservationists. The photo of him along with Patrica’s book (Thomas Carpenter & Ernie Sparks) make me want to disappear into my wood working shop and carve more duck decoys all through the night or until my hands become so sore I can no longer hold my chisels. This week I have collected some wood from a construction site and I can not wait to begin working on those pieces and make more decoys.

The book is a great read and I can not wait to finish it.

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Four years ago while out hunting the eastern wild turkey during the month of May, I was a victim of a poaching incident. My decoys were setup in their rightful spot. Just twenty-five meters in front of me on the edge of my friend’s farm field. I was tucked away nice and low inside the tree line facing south with the dirt road just fifty-five meters away.

I had been in my shooting position well over two hours and managed to call in two hens and a large tom. Once the male turkey was within shooting range, I had slow pushed my safety off and was only milliseconds from taking my shot. The turkey had a long beautiful beard; unfortunately this is when another shot rang out and hit my bird which caused it to jump into the air yet only wounding the bird, it leaped and disappeared into the woods to the east.

The poacher had total disregard for my safety and I know he saw my decoys, additionally it was on private property, and his shot was right in my direction as he was hidden behind a dead tree to my front on my left. He took a shot from a distance of only forty meters. Luckily for me he was a poor shot but my season was a total bust as it was nearing its end, and I could no longer take any more days off, as for the turkey he was injured and I went home empty-handed.

I still get very mad when I think about the incident but this blog entry is not about the poacher and my lost turkey but rather the proximity of the danger and yet I was able to go home alive and un-injured that afternoon.

Turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting share some similarities and one of them is the fact that hunters are not obligated to wear the orange safety vests. Birds can see very well in color, therefore not wearing the vest gives us hunters an advantage. However this adds a whole new level of risk and potential for danger because if you are concealed in camouflaged attire and you find yourself moving around in the woods or open fields, a hunter can mistake you for game.

During the turkey hunter’s awareness course, they teach us to avoid wearing red, white or blue which are the colors of the male turkey head. We are also instructed on methods used to carry your decoys into the field either using a large bag or other safe methods of transportation such as bins, so that the plastic birds do not attract shots from other hunters.

Some experienced hunters suggest setting up your decoys the night before once you have located the roost using crow or owl calls and chosen your spot. This way you can avoid the risk of being shot during their setup and layout in the early morning hours often done in the dark. Additionally if you see another hunter approach your chosen shooting position, yell at them to alert them of your presence, do not stand up or wave your arms.

Another safety item I wanted to write about is methods on how to carry your successfully harvested game out of the field. Now that the hunt is done and you have successfully harvested your game, we should also take into consideration safety of transporting your harvest for registration. (This applies to turkeys, deer and moose) For more information on game registration please visit the ministry site.

I have often seen proud hunters, once they have harvested their bull moose, if they are in a remote area, they will often cut the moose into quarters which may be a necessity depending on where you are hunting but then the hunter will also attach the moose antlers across their backs attached the backpack. To an inexperienced hunter you could look like a moose moving through the bush and be shot. A good friend of mine’s father built a very light carrying wagon with bicycle wheels as an alternative, this way he avoids damaging his back muscles but also he can also place his game on the wagon and cover it with a tarp. Using this method the hunting party is much less of a moving target because the large body parts of a moose or deer are not exposed to the eye to see.

Once your hunt is done you may also want to consider putting your orange safety vest back on and maybe even carry a second pair which you can then attach to your turkey or game. The location of your hunt can also be a positive player toward your safety, for example if you are hunting at an outfitter who has exclusive hunting rights on that particular piece of land, then the likelihood of you being shot could be reduced, however in my case I was hunting on private property and was still shot at by a poacher.

Using motorized vehicles such as four wheelers and other such vehicles can also be interesting, when removing game from the hunting grounds. The sound of the motor will alert other hunters to be careful and make them aware that they are not alone in the bush.

Crown land during deer season can be a very dangerous place, because there are a lot of new eager hunters that are ready to harvest their first ten pointers during the first fifteen minutes of their hunt. Always be vigilant and practice safe hunting, know where your partner is at all times, maybe you can carry two-way radios to help with this. Know what is beyond your shot. I was out boar-hunting a few weeks ago, and I had many opportunities to hit my wild boar but I waited for the pig to be in a perfect shooting position with a ridge as a backdrop to catch my bullet, which was by the way through and through, therefore had to potential to hit another game or worse.

Always practice safe hunting techniques, whether it be handing of a firearm, setting up your decoys, or carrying your game out of the field. I was once told a story about a bear hunter who harvested his game and carried it out of the bush on his shoulders; he was shot five times and killed by other hunters. I know his cousin very well.

Please practice safe and ethical hunting and do not rely just on your hunting and wild turkey safety courses, conduct research, spend as much time as you can in the field, talk to experienced hunters, guides and outfitter owners and get informed, never stop learning.

When you are dead there is no cool factor, people who practice safe and ethical hunting are great hunters indeed and have my utmost respect.

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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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