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I was sliding in and out between the dense cedars bows and small swamp trees pushing forward, raising my hand at about the height of my face to prevent the branches from poking me in the eyes. I have had this happen to me many times before with a random sharp branch either hooking my toque knocking it into the mud below or either spiked me right in the eye. Not a very pleasant experience at all, it felt like I had scratched the inside of my eye then pushed it back. When ever I placed my finger on the particular eye to check for damage or blood I always felt a deep throbbing.

Upon arrival at the farm I heard loud quacks coming from the wetlands and I knew that several mallards had made this their home, their numbers ranged between five and twelve. The cattle were moving across the creek toward the Southern fields to my left thus blocking my access to the wetlands from the eastern side, so I chose to cut through the dense brush on my right and move in a South-Westerly direction. The approach that I chose would make me crest the wetlands from the northern side along the edge of the massive beaver dam, where it connects with the edge of the forest.

My kayak was still in the truck bed back at the barn over six hundred meters away, I often use it to retrieve my birds that are downed in the deeper parts of the wetlands but the bush was too thick for me to pull it through. The forest floor was soaked and full of hundreds of streams and its current was moving very fast because the heavy rains we have had in the last several days which broke part of the dam and created a natural spillway which was feeding into the forest floor.

It was very treacherous, even with hip waders you had to be very sure where you were going to place your next foot step, so that you did not go under or get stuck. For this, I always grab onto a large branch and if at all possible step on a fallen log, which acts as a mini bridge. You could also use large roots or little mud islands formed by grass mounds that were partially submerged. Manoeuvring was very tricky, because I had to make sure my 870’s sling did not get stuck in the low hanging trees or avoid a slip and put mud into the end of the barrel.

The deeper I pressed on into the woods the thicker the brush got and I was following my simple curved line pattern between the trees to ensure I was always heading in the right direction. With the principles of still-hunting, I would stop and listen for the duck calls then orientated myself toward the sound and kept on moving forward. Once you set off in this type of bush, you can not let your imagination run wild or let panic set in, you must stay sharp and not let any detail out of your mind.

Sometimes, there are large black areas at the base of fallen trees, they can look like a wolf den or a black bear standing still. But most often than none it is a dead tree rotting its way back into the earth. Now when you hear a large branch cracking close by, then this I believe deserve a second look, it could be a deer moving around you or any other large mammal. After several minutes of struggling to through the last muddy parts, I could now see the dam through the trees.

I stopped for a moment took a few deep breaths and then started to slow down my approach even more up to the dam wall. Not only did this make it quieter but it also allowed me to listen for the Mallard hen calls and close in accordingly for the potential shots. Once I reached the dam periphery, my boot placement was even more calculated because, one false move and I was going to fall into the cold waters and with waders it is like having a weight belt around your waist.

In addition, I could not place myself on the dam wall because the ducks would surely spot me, so I had to walk along its edge on the opposite side of the water dam and use the overgrown wild grass as cover. You see, Mallard ducks will call out if there is danger but they might not necessarily fly away immediately like wood ducks, in some cases they will swim further away from the sound of danger and only take off if it is physically visible.

This is exactly what the group of Mallards did and I had to move quicker along the edge to keep up with them, and wait for them to swim back within range or move and place myself in a better position from the shore. All that walking in water caused my socks to slip off inside my boots which is a common problem in waders, I think next time I would rather wear socks that sit higher around my knees and this would prevent them from sliding off, I would also place a bandage on the inside of each leg to prevent the boot lip burn on the inside of my leg which is caused by the inner rubbing of the boot edge.

It was a wonderful fall day, with the singing winds and dancing leaves with their absolutely stunning colours and the sound of the cool waters passing through my hands as I placed them deep into the beaver dam to grab a perfect carved stick for balance. Here I was, in the heart of the Canadian wilderness sneaking up to the Mallards with only them and I hidden amongst the swaying golden swamp grass. I had finally spotted the ducks and was now readying myself for the shot. My right hand was grasping the cold steel of my Remington 870, and I was one hundred percent absorbed in the moment and felt and incredible sense of joy and pride of being Canadian. A feeling of total mastery of the woods.

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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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This afternoon I was standing in my kitchen staring out the glass doors like I do almost every day. Checking to see if there was anything new down at the creek. Yesterday, I had spotted two muskrats swimming around and courting in the water, fighting the currents with their fine tails and hind feet. It was so neat watching them swim up, staying along the shoreline, never swimming up the middle and once in a while stepping up onto a mud flat and then returning back into the water.

Their little shiny brown eyes did not miss a thing, I tried sneaking up to them a few days ago and they dove instantly and did not resurface like a loon meters away; they were gone for a while and it really took a while to spot them again. It was the little V-shaped waves on the surface of the water that gave them away as they are usually just below the surface, like beavers.

All of a sudden a mallard drake and hen flew in circling around the tree tops and then breaking their wings heading West. I don’t think I can ever get tired of watching them coming in for a landing, everyone is unique, they are more than fine pilots they are artists in their executions.

When they finally hit the water, I heard the splash and then almost in an instant I lost sight of the hen. The drake was swimming right toward where I was standing behind the glass door, coming down the creek hidden behind some small trees and bushes. I carefully slid the door open and starting stalking the drake, and using the trees as cover trying to get a closer look at the couple down by the water’s edge.

My heart was racing, I was so excited to be able to get so close. I believe that every time I sneak up and observe them, I learn something new that can help me during my waterfowl seasons. I was so mesmerized by the drake that I was startled when out of nowhere the hen started a crazed wing dance on the surface of the water, coming right at me. She was jumping in and out of the water, repeating the up and down motion, it was so violent, she was moving right toward to the bend in the creek. Beating her wings and using her feet to lift. Water was splashing everywhere, it reminded me of a Canada Goose cleaning ritual.

What ever she was doing it was working, she caught me totally off guard and I found myself chasing her along the shore. For a moment I was confused, I had just seen her fly in, and now she was acting like she had just been shot and was wounded unable to fly. She crashed landed into a mud flat then struggled into the grass.

Damn, I was so convinced, I was running after her, I swore I could have caught her in my hands. Then without warning she took off again, keeping a very low profile to the ground and crossing the dirt road diagonally then landing in the creek on the other side. For a second I lost sight of her again, so I too crossed my front lawn and headed to the creek, then boom. She shot up and went straight toward the sun and then twisted to the east in athletic form and headed right back to where she had started her crazed dance and landed.

From across the road, I watched her land and moments later she headed into the muddy grass flats and seconds later she came back out toward the water with six ducks behind her. I stood there, threw my hands into the air and burst into laughter. She had just played me and I fell for her. She drew me away from her little one’s with the wounded dance and it worked like a charm.

She had just distracted me, then made me chase her putting some distance between us and her ducklings. In the end she was off and back into the water headed toward the old beaver dam all in the safety of the depths before I could ever reach them again.

Nature is brilliant!

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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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Quick Tom

The truck drove slowly up the long dirt road between the north and south-western hay fields carefully avoiding the mud holes. The creaking sounds of the suspension faded into the country music that was playing low on the radio. Once we reached our spot, the driver put it into park and stopped at the top of the eastern ridge on the forest edge.

It had been raining for a few hours now and the temperature was starting to drop at about six degrees Celsius, we had lowered our windows, so that we could hear the nightly sounds and hopefully get a gobble or an owl hoot. I then carefully swung my door open, stepped out into the mud and moved my way to the back to the truck, unzipped my hunting bag and grabbed my crow caller.

It had been dark for about thirty minutes now and we were slowly sinking further into darkness. I cupped my hands around my mouth and started with a few owl calls and then waited a few minutes, then called again with my crow caller. This went on for a few minutes and would stop, listening with my hands cupped around my ears, and then I would start calling again. I was anticipating a call back from a gobbler but instead I heard crickets, geese from the lake nearby and some other nocturnal animals. The farmer had said that the field on our left was full of turkeys during the week and so we were attempting to find their roost.

After a few failed attempts, we packed up and made our way back to the cabin for the night. It was going to be a short sleep because we wanted to be back on site about half an hour before sunrise in order to get the best setup. Since I had not located the roost, we decided that in the morning we were going to still-hunt along the edge of the fields just like Ray Eye had done in his book. You must exercise a great deal of discipline while moving through the woods and fields, know your terrain, be patient as well as have a good eye.

Turkeys can hear and see extremely well and it is absolutely critical that you know and understand the game you are pursuing.

It was now five in the morning and I awoke to some nice song birds. Within minutes we had eaten breakfast, which was a few pieces of toast and a cold glass of milk, and then we loaded the gear into truck and drove back to the very same spot. My good friend was carrying my decoys in a bag, along with green mosquito netting for cover. I had my Quaker Boy slate caller around my neck, a set of binoculars and my pump-action Remington 870.

The hunt was on and we were extremely excited, we slowly moved our way east through some copse of trees between the east and western fields and as we broke the forest edge two deer leapt into the tree line to our right and disappeared. We decided to go up the left hand side of the field north-east of the truck and then cut across about half way through as there was a crest in the field leading to a point which offered a great shooting spot.

As we slowly made our way up the forested edge of the third field, I went down on one knee and completed Wade Bourne’s Fly down Cackle hitting my hat against the tree bark and boy it sounded authentic.

I must have alerted some animals nearby because within an instant of finishing my call a coyote came trotting along the field to our right and then when he saw us he disappeared just as fast as the two does. We did however find his meal left over’s which was a porcupine carcass. Several minutes had gone by and now after having seen some wildlife our senses were set to high gear and then almost every dark object in the fields looked like an animal.

We must have taken around forty more steps and had stopped by a pile of logs when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to our left. We instantly took a knee and stared at the large black mark in the center of the field down in the low ground. As we looked on, I noticed that it was lifting and lowering its head but it was too far out to make out what it was. I whispered “It looks like a coyote” but my friend was not so sure, so I handed him my binoculars and he focused on the animal. He was several hundred yards away down in the low ground. Behind him was a beautiful valley and on its crest there were very large trees mixed with pine and aspen, oak and birch.

To his north there was a very large hay-field and a small lake behind some more trees which formed a sort of barrier between the two features. To his south there was another field and it was on its southern edge where my point and best shooting spot was located. By the time my friend handed me the binoculars to have a look, he had already whispered back that it was a very large tom and he had a huge smile on his face. It seems that my calls had worked and he was spreading his wings in a feathered dance then moving slowly into the direction of my calls. He was all alone with no other turkeys in sight.

We kept very low and slowly moved back toward the southern edge and decided to place the two decoys twenty-five yards from the brush. My friend walked back to the logs some thirty yards to the west providing me with a safe and wide shooting arc. Ideally, I needed to be further east on the point but I could no longer move as the tom was closing in on my decoys and would have instantly seen me.

I tucked myself into the bushes on the edge of the forest my back facing south with my decoys slightly to my left to the west about fifteen yards out. I carefully placed my Remington 870 aiming directly to my front and lifted my slate caller and let out a few cutts, yelps and purrs. I would then lift my binoculars, look for the tom’s position and reaction.

At first I could see him moving toward me but then he would fade into the low ground, and I thought to myself “Damn! He saw me.” Then I would see this very long neck pop up like a submarine periscope and then disappear again behind the grassy knoll. It was quite comical. What I found very neat is that he never once communicated with me, not even a few clucks or a gobble.

There was one thing which was clear and this is that this tom was quick and he was in a hurry to see my hen decoys. He was now fifty yards out to my right, I had tucked myself away into a ball and pulled my camouflage hood over my head, I looked like a Real Tree bush with just my eyes moving, he was moving quickly but cautiously towards my two decoys. He would complete another feather dance which was just breath-taking and you could see his beard dragging along the ground. He would then tuck his head back in and move forward a few more steps, then stop and move yet again.

My heart was racing like crazy and I kept on going through my shot scenarios and wanted to insure I chose the best time to take my shot, so I waited for him to walk directly to my front, I slowly raised my Remington 870 and unlocked the safety using the slow push technique which Wade Bourne had shown on his video. It made no sound at all, took my breaths and when he was twenty-five yards out, I lined up my bead sight with his head and neck and let out a shot of number four.

It struck him by surprise and made him jump into a winged frenzy, I instantly leapt out of the bushes and while on my second step toward the bird I fired a second shot. Upon the second impact he spun around and the twenty-three pound beast fell to the ground. I had just harvested my turkey on the second day of this year’s season and it was all over in less than two hours. Brilliant!

I may never meet Wade Bourne, Ray Eye and Preston Pittman in my lifetime but they were all present during my hunt. Thank you!

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I don’t know about you but when ever I come back from a hunt, all I want to do is share my experiences in great detail to my family and friends. Even if sometimes they may be pretending to be interested but are not really listening, as long as they say “Really” or “Neat” once is a while that works for me. After all not everyone understands hunting.

When I post a hunting story of mine on my blog, I want the readers to be there and share the experience with me, breathing in the fresh air, being surrounded by the elements. Now imagine yourself learning about turkey hunting at its best and yet at the same time feeling that you are also right there with the author.

This is the way Ray Eye’s book on practical turkey hunting is written. Being a turkey hunter and having successfully called in several Tom’s in various weather conditions, this book is awesome and the strategies are extremely practical.

I only have five chapters left and I find it very difficult to put the book down. Throughout the chapters, Ray demonstrates his true character and his perseverance to learn and master the art of turkey calling and hunting starting from a very young age. He is without a doubt a seasoned veteran and a well-respected turkey hunter. 

The book: Practical Turkey Hunting Strategies: How to Hunt Effectively Under Any Conditions is a must read. Ray has been very generous in sharing his knowledge. I can not wait for the spring turkey hunt to start now and add his flavor to my hunt.

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