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Posts Tagged ‘duck’


Last Sunday I took advantage of some spare time and drove out to the river to see if I could spot a few ducks in open water. With not very many days left in my waterfowl season, I wanted to see if mother nature would give me a last go, until next fall.

After having spent about two hours walking along the shores of the river and through the wetlands, it was clear that my waterfowl was nearing its end. The ice was getting thick and the open waters of the river were well out of range with the ice about forty meters wide from the edge of the shore and about two inches thick.

There was no doubt that the view was spectacular and the wind blowing in was refreshing and complimented the snowy banks of the river, just a perfect match. It is always a bitter-sweet feeling, knowing that my waterfowl season is coming to a close.

The year’s season was an interesting one and to be honest, as I went out on all my outings during this season, I seem to have lost count of my harvests and had the impression that I hadn’t had as good as season as last year, especially with the warmer weather lingering longer at the start of the season.

On my drive home from the river, I was happy about the idea of getting back into a warm spot but knew I would miss my days on the river until next fall. Over the next few days, I took out my harvests out of the freezer and let them defrost and then marinated the meat over night and began the lengthy process of making our Rillettes.

It is pretty neat to feel how much pride comes from making delicious traditional Rillettes with your own harvests, and also being able to share it with friends and family who appreciate them, especially during the holiday season.

Twenty one jars later and a clean kitchen, I can now look back on all the great moments of my season with satisfaction and pride as well as the lessons learned and only hope for the best next fall.

Remember to be safe and happy new year to all of you who share this passion of ours.

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“The darkness and the cold envelops you like a blanket, the wind howls and makes sounds like that of wicked spirits calling out. Tis the season of toxic mud gases and weeds that weigh a ton, and wrap themselves around your paddle like mad fingers who wish to pull you down into the depths of the black waters. A few more powerful strokes and the harvest might be yours or not, it is unyielding and painful yet so rewarding. It is healing, it is medicine for the soul.” CSGH

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There is no better way to treat your soul than spending time in the woods, it is not only refreshing but it also allows you to recharge your inner battery. You are free of all the city madness and its sounds. With the snow melt now in effect, and the sun coming out in full strength I couldn’t have asked for a better day to spend time in the elements.

I decided to bring a friend along and we were going to try our luck with rock dove and woodchuck, since their seasons are open all year round in my hunting zone in Quebec. The rock doves are incredible flyers and can perform amazing aerobatics in the air and sometimes can avoid shots thus making it a true challenge, pigeons also learn quickly and recognize danger and can fly away without offering a chance of a harvest.

After a couple failed attempts on the rock doves, I chose to give them a few minutes to calm down and swing back into our wooded area, so we set off to the other side of the creek and head south to try my luck at the woodchucks in the rock formations atop of a hill. The creek current was faster than usual with the water icy cold as there were still ice and snow chunks floating down along with a few Mallard ducks and three Canada geese.

The creek was too wide and we only had our hip waders on, and the depth of the creek was too deep. There were no boards available to make a makeshift crossing, but nature has a way of providing. And in our case it was a land bridge, made by one of the most impressive builders in the animal world, a beaver.

The dam is about eighty meters long and makes for a great land bridge, and it was only six hundred meters West of our current spot, the tricky part was getting there because the bush was extremely thick. I used this opportunity to share my knowledge of moving through the brush, looking for directional signs, such as the position of the sun and the vegetation, for example such as broken twigs, and on our way back we located our foot steps in the mud and snow as guidance.

The forest floor was saturated with snow and mud; sometimes you found yourself sinking into mud holes that resembled quick sand, holding on small trees and walking on the mud islands and downed trees worked great. Also early in the spring, if you are planning on following a creek I tend not to get too close to the edge as the ice sheets overlap the river and if you are not careful, there is nothing but water below the sheets of ice, that have become thinner with the increased temperatures in the spring.

It is a great idea to use a tall walking stick for balance, while crossing the dam wall and ensure that every step is on solid parts of the dam, being aware of the spillway. Once we had reached the other side it was simply magical, just the wind and birds keeping us company. The view overlooking the ridge was just breath-taking. Total mastery of the woodlands is not just a positive feeling but it is also incredibly rewarding. Their dams are not a barrier, but rather a passage.

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Almost every time I take a friend along with me waterfowl hunting, either they get too cold or wet and it ruins their first experience. Now unless they truly fall in love with the sport, it seems they never want to come back out. Why? I hope it is not because I am bad company, just kidding! It is simply that they are cold and wet. Now I am always well equipped and usually have a spare set of hip waders, warm jackets and gloves as well as toques or balaclava to lend. But the reality is that every living person has different levels of tolerance for cold, bad weather and being wet. I suppose this is why I end up going out quite often alone, because it would take some very incredible conditions to break me.

When ever I put on my waders, I break a sweat even if I am well dressed underneath with sweat absorbent clothing and good socks. Also unless you put on your waders at home before leaving it can be very unpractical and uncomfortable to put them on in the field. I like to have good pants underneath my waders with pockets and a sweater that looks presentable when going into the gas station or local store either before or after a hunt. Imagine having a pair of comfortable pants like jogging pants or a light pair of stretch trousers that would be made of a quick dry material. They could have waterproof pouches as front pockets fitted with zippers to keep your permits and licenses dry and safe.

The other nuisance part of waders is the fact that unless your socks are knee-high, you are constantly having to pull them up as they tend to slip and slide down until they are a wet ball under the ball of your feet. How about having comfortable trousers attached to the pair of socks. The socks could be made using Merino wool or a similar material which can breathe, dry quickly and be very comfortable and offer some cushion effect to the feet inside the waders.

How about even going further and having an outfit that is similar to a onesie but instead of using all the same material, you would start off at the bottom with very good socks, attached to the stretch trousers at the ankles and then attached at the waist of the trousers would be a sweater or similar long sleeve shirt that can absorb moisture, odours and dry fast. Heck you could even design it with your own camouflage pattern. Waders often have designs that have a front pouch with zippers or magnets to keep the flaps closed.

My model of waders made by Allen, even have an inside small zipper pouch that I love this is where I put my keys and phone. Designers could take it to another level and add additional chest level waterproof pouches on the sweater part, either to waders or top part of the onesie. I have seen onesie fleece outfits for fishing but the fleece is not resistant to water and you can get cold fast, also the socks are not attached on certain models.

I would love to see a three section design from sock, trousers to shirt. It would be a perfect outfit to wear under the waders and possibly my friends would continue to come out with me more often. I would call it the STS design and give a name like “The Beast”.

Until then stay warm and dry and most of all safe!

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District F in Quebec is where I hunt my duck and geese; this year opening day is scheduled for September 20, 2014. What I like to do before opening day is spend a few afternoons or early mornings in the wetlands and fields then check out their whereabouts and activity.

This helps with the overall planning and preparation stage but also testing the gear like the duck boat and kayaks, and other equipment in addition checking the water levels and the wetlands to see if anything has changed from the previous season.

Where I hunt waterfowl it is public land anyone can set up a blind and hunt on opening day. A common practice in my area is for hunters to mark off a small section with a sign which has a name and the year of the season, this lets others know that this spot has been taken.

Most waterfowlers will respect this and move on to the next spot, unfortunately not everyone is respectful or let alone safe. Signs have been removed and thrown into the water and some hunters are so dangerous during opening day they are a hazard to themselves and to others shooting in every other direction, and when shooting starts a half an hour before sunrise, well you can imagine the situation. There have also been incidents when some hunters, even push-off others out of a certain areas, which is known to be opened to the public.

So when it comes to opening day, is it worth it? Does it deserve all the hype? I do not think so. I prefer to wait a few days and once the storm has settled, when the temperatures drop, this is the time to hit the waters. The cold weather will keep the trigger happy gunners inside and the seasoned waterfowlers will be able to enjoy a safe outing and possibly harvest a few birds.

The season closes on January 3rd, 2015 in my district, so there will be lots of time to be on the water and break through the ice with an axe to get to the ducks. Don’t forget your waterfowl permit and stamp and in my district make sure your small game permits are still good.

For more information on your district, PMU’s or zone for waterfowl hunting check out the Environment Canada website.

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The eagles tail feathers and wings were spread wide open and pointing downward as the bird danced in the wind high above the dark blue waters of the Ottawa river. We had decided to take a late afternoon drive in the country to enjoy the sights and sounds then finish near the water’s edge to enjoy the sunset; little did we know it was going to be an evening to remember for a long time.

At first we could not make out what the eagle was after as it dove several times down to the choppy waters, dipping only its powerful claws into the frozen depths then with a splash, it would spring up back into the air several meters and swerve around to regain control and almost hover above the exact spot where it dove moments earlier. We pulled over on the right hand shoulder of the road or south and quickly turned on the four-way flashers.

There was an incredible hunt unfolding right in front of us and we were not about to pass on this amazing experience, it wasn’t until we moved up a little closer that we realized the eagle was after an American black duck which was rolling in and out of the waves on the river’s surface with one broken feather on its wing bent straight up; the eagle had managed to grab its prey but the duck dove below the surface just long enough to break away from the deadly talons.

The eagle dove down four more times with incredible speed and precision but the duck hen dove instantly below the surface and disappeared momentarily into the darkness sending the eagle back into the sky. The musculature of the bald eagle was so impressive even without the help of binoculars, its legs were stretched right out and its claws were clearly visible. After several more attempts the eagle, which was now showing signs of fatigue from fighting the strong winds, gracefully glided to a nearby willow tree and set itself down on one of its highest branches then looked around.

Then without any warning the bald eagle leaped into flight and faded toward the horizon heading south-east to Ontario.

Lucky duck indeed!

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I knelt very still on the south-western edge of the barn closest to the creek with just my head peeking out the bottom corner to the side toward the forest. But unfortunately for me there was too much open ground between the twenty geese and I. They were at the water’s edge and out of my shotgun range. I considered stalking them, by crawling on the muddy ground but it was not possible because the way the ground was shaped.

The geese which were on sentry duty had their necks stretched out and on high alert they were always adjusting their heads enabling them to have a complete view of their surroundings. Darn, if only I had some large rocks or tall grass I could have used as cover, this would have enabled me to get closer for the shot.

So, after taking several minutes to go through my plan, and since it still was very early and the start of a great waterfowl day, I thought I would take a chance. So I jumped up and started sprinting toward the birds hoping they would burst into the air toward me like they have in the past thus give me a clean shot or two. My gamble did not work; they actually lifted off and headed south out of range. This is alright; another group would eventually fly in, I just had to be patient. This was very different from sitting in a ground blind.

After all it was prime real-estate by the creek. So, I unloaded my tubular magazine of the three shells and headed back to the truck to prepare the canoe.

My initial plan was to drive up to the creek and park the truck on the north shore because the water level was quite high, then offload the canoe and portage it to the swamp which was about two hundred yards of rough terrain to the west. There I could attempt to harvest some mallards and wood ducks, then maybe use the canoe to recover them or even navigate through a few channels and flush some ducks.

It was very windy and it was about eleven degrees Celsius with scattered showers. Actually the rain would come down very hard for about fifteen minutes and then it would stop once the dark cloud passed and go back to slight drizzle.

By the time I got to the edge of the swamp, I put down the canoe and I walked in the same direction I took only a few weeks before when I saw several ducks flying.

Sure enough a two mallards shot out of the tall grass, let out calls and circled in behind me, each duck in their own direction, so I released one shot and missed, pumped the action and my second shell jammed. I cleared it and released my third shot but it was too late and both ducks were out of range.

I suspected I would have a jam even with the pump-action pushed all the way forward, I was using my left over Kent shells in my Remington 870, for me this was not a good mix. But I wanted to use up the shells and go back to my Remington Sportsman Fast steel #3 shot. In my district, it was the second official day of the duck hunting season but today was my first day out and therefore it was my opening day and it was important for me to do well and potentially harvest and not go home without a bird.

My day wasn’t starting well but then this is what hunting is all about, not allowing yourself to get discouraged and having the confidence in your abilities just like Wade Bourne wrote in one of his articles about successful waterfowl hunting.

So, I completed a second portage and brought back the canoe to the truck and left it sitting on the edge of the creek then decided to take a little break. After having had my sandwich and a drink of water, I started my way up the hill to the south in order to see if the groundhogs had been moving around up near the large boulders.

The creek separates the north and southern hay fields, and then in the middle of the southern hay-field which goes upward there is a large natural crest of with huge boulders and this is where the groundhogs have their den and network.

There is a very wide open area before I could reach the crest, by now I had several hundred of Canada geese flying in formation right above me and it was amazing to watch; when they called out it sounded like they were much lower than they actually were. Sound travels very well in the damp weather.

I kept on walking up the slope towards the crest keeping my eyes on the geese above hoping that a group would fly down to the creek or swamp to feed or to take a much-needed break.

I could have tried to call out using my goose caller but geese that are used to hunters do not like to call back as much and do not require so much calling.

Still walking in a southern direction, all of a sudden a group of five geese flew in from the east with their feet spaced out and their wings curved and ready for a landing. I immediately laid down flat on the ground and remained absolutely still. They were now right above me circling like turkey vultures and the lead bird turned toward the creek to the north but noticed my truck and the cattle, so he completed a gradual turn to the west toward the swamp, the two other geese behind him followed and abandoned a landing attempt at the creek staying very low but still out of my range.

The geese which were now in two flying groups moved toward the swamp calling out to each other, it was really neat. I was so excited, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest; finally the geese had come in and were now going to land exactly where I wanted them to land in the swamp.

The first two geese flew in and landed right away into the water around forty feet from the swamp’s edge but the three others kept on circling above calling out, as if they were completing a final fly over ensuring that it was safe to land.

I can remember that during one of my duck hunts I did not have any decoys in the water, after having called out a few come back calls, two common black and white golden-eyes flew in each completing a circle and broke their wings as if to come in for a landing, then they both completed a fly over and moved on. These were experienced and nervous birds and no strangers to hunters. This is a good example of the importance of being well concealed, using the right calls and having a good decoy layout.

Now that all five geese were in the water in behind small evergreen trees and swamp brush, I stood up very quickly and sprinted two hundred yards staying in the low ground hugging the edge of the creek which the swamp fed into heading south-west. The brush was also thicker along the edge of the creek thus providing cover.

Once I got within thirty yards of the edge of the swamp, I got down in a kneeling position, allowed myself to catch my breath loaded some shells into the tubular magazine and started my careful stalk behind the brush.

I now had to study each and every detail of the swamp foliage in front of me, every log under my feet as well as focus on the location of every goose because I now had ten eyes which could spot me.

I felt like a fox, lifting my feet very carefully without losing a boot in the thick mud trying not to make suction sound or even losing my balance while taking my next step. My free hand would grab onto small evergreen tree and prevent myself from falling over.

Every step was calculated and about every minute or so, I would lift my head and try to see in which direction the geese were swimming. They were now moving from my right going left heading south, passing in behind a dead tree stump one at a time.

Darn! I was no longer in a good shooting position, I now had to work my way back and relocate to my left or south and come back around, this was tremendous amount of work stalking through the swamp. By now I had closed in about thirty feet closer to the geese and I had to act quickly if not they would glide away into the tall grass and I no longer had my canoe by my side.

I waited for the first goose to pass and loaded a shell into the chamber, pushed the safety one and started to control my breathing and compensate my aim because of the ribbed shotgun barrel. Once the bead was perfectly line up with the bird, I slowly stood up from behind the swamp grass and released my shot into the first goose. It was about forty-two yard shot.

The goose flopped over instantly into the water and fell sinking half way below the surface, I pumped my action and released two more shots at the other geese but the last two shots were a miss.

I recovered my Canada goose with my canoe, it was a beautiful thirteen pound bird a great way to start my season indeed but my most important lesson was to have confidence in our abilities as hunters. Once again Wade Bourne’s wisdom and knowledge helped me again!

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