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By the time we crossed the creek, heading South-West toward the edge of the wetlands, the sun was already out with the winds blowing at a steady pace. This was a pretty neat experience for my bud as this was my buddy’s first ever waterfowl season, although he was a deer hunter, we even went to purchase our waterfowl stamps/permits together at the Post office.

This was a big deal for me too, being able to share my passion with a good bud and yet once again I got a chance to be a guide, sharing all my knowledge about ducks and geese. Moments before, I had mentioned to him that sometimes Canada’s can fly in for a landing without ever letting out a single call, and to keep an eye in the sky for they may fly in undetected and this is exactly what happened.

My bud had brought a second pair of  boots to wear for crossing the creek and then left them by a large boulder for later and switched to a lighter pair of boots to make his advance. During this exact moment, three Canada’s flew in from the South-East and headed straight for the wetlands, almost right over head. They completed one fly over doing a half circle then tucked in their wings and dove down into the dark waters behind large bushes.

I waited for my buddy to come up by my side, as I was ahead and then we both caught our breaths and discussed our approach based on their current position. We knew they had landed in the water but did not have any idea in which area of the wetlands. Once ready, I got up and started running in the low ground with him following behind, along the creek and moving closer to the brush using small pine trees as cover. We stopped again just before the water and loaded our shotguns and then left our small kit bag by a tree to make ourselves lighter.

I knew from experience that when Canada’s land in the wetlands and if I am able to stalk them, I almost always have a successful harvest, and the hunter who positions himself on the Western edge always has the upper hand, just by the contour shape of the wetlands periphery.

By now we had to get down on our knees as we continued our advance on all fours, still using the brush as cover. I purposely let him circle around and position himself to my left or West. This time was his and I was going to pour all my waterfowl knowledge and experience into his every move and direct him through whispers.

We were now directly inline with the waters edge facing North and now we had to find the Canada’s exact spot. We carefully took turns looking up while standing inline with a pine tree trunk, within seconds we spotted them about thirty seven meters out, I had numbered the birds verbally and had instructed my bud to take the one on the left first then work his way down.

We got back down on the ground in the prone position and chose our own parallel paths on the muddy floor and started to press towards the waters edge even closer, I looked over often to ensure that my buddy, was always up on me by a few meters. When he moved, I stopped and looked, then I would move forward and he would get ready, this went on for about four meters. And just like a Python, I lifted my body off the muddy ground and slid over a log and got right into my final position.

Following a thumbs up signal, he slowly made his way up to his knees and got into a good shooting position, on my second hand signal, he sprung up and sent the birds into a flight frenzy, he released his first shot and I followed with a second and the first bird spun forward and landed back into the waters, the two remaining Canada’s took flight in opposite directions.

I kept my eye on the one to my right, who eventually completed a large circle, I immediately took out my caller and began to call out aggressively and the bird swung around and came right back over top. I yelled out that the goose was coming back around. In all the excitement, I grabbed a shell from my pocket and attempted to load it and it fell in the water. My buddy kept his aim at the bird the entire time and once in range, released another shot, by then I had chambered, aimed and fired my shot and the goose, froze in mid air tucked in its wings and came crashing down from high above within meters of the first harvest. It was an incredible explosion of water, it was a massive bird.

By now the third bird had also circled around giving us the chance to reload and fire two additional shots right ahead of the bird and we can see that it took the hits with bursts of white feathers flying out, but the Canada kept on going in the direction of the Easter field high above the tree line, I could see that the bird was going down but it was well out of sight by now. I yelled out to my buddy telling him that the Canada will come down for sure, and that we will need to find it.

He was so excited also, he climbed the small muddy ridge and went after it and ended only half way to the creek and soon started to make his way into the tall grass to start the search. I laughed out loud and told him, the bird is much further away. Just like you would in deer hunting, if you do not see the animal after your shot, allow yourself a few minutes to calm down before you go searching the harvest or you will get lost in the brush and tall grass.

With my waders on, I pushed into the wetlands and collected the two harvests and set off to join my buddy near the creek crossing, we decided to start a box search following a planned break but upon making our way across the creek, there he was several hundred meters from the wetlands directly on the edge of the Easter field.

It was a great harvest no doubt, but I was more overwhelmed with pride and happiness for my buddy. He was exceptional and knowing that we shared this first waterfowl hunting experience together is simply awesome. It was his time and it belonged to him!

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There is hunting, then there is hunting, a way of life that transcends all earthly boundaries, politics, religion or level of worth or even power. It is hunting that provides healing, solidifies family relationships along with its traditions and in the end is defined by sustenance.

When I look at the stats on my blog and see the readers from all over the world, it is clear to me that there are no borders to our passion, you can be a Gazelle hunter in Central-Africa or a bird hunter in the Middle East or a wild boar hunter in America.

I can be deep in the Canadian wilderness pursuing my game and when I take a moment to look up at the sun through the clouds, I realize that I am not alone and that under the very same sun in a different time zone either in a desert or in a lush jungle, someone is sharing my love for hunting.

Thank you to all the readers from all over our world.

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Two weeks ago when I set off on my last hunt, I started to sing as I was driving my truck, rolling up and down over the hills on the road. It was liberating, heck my window was all the way down and I was singing so loud. I am sure I looked quite silly but this mattered not. I believe there is more to it, then just the song and the joys of singing. I was asking the powers to be all around me to provide a great harvest and positive vibes. Almost like a prayer, after all there is no shame in this.

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The words go like this “Oh Lord of the skies give me a great harvest, give me a Canada Goose, or a Mallard Drake or maybe a Green Wing Teal” Then I go on asking for solid shooting and good wishes and about how thankful I am about being able to hit the wetlands, all the while trying to rhyme, so that it sounds fair.

You know the darn thing is, that it seems to be working, and I think I shall continue this new tradition of mine. Anyhow today was an exceptional day in the snow, it was so mild with the temperature sitting at about five degrees celsius. The wetlands were simply incredible. And once again I was all alone, absolutely no-one. Like I wrote in my earlier blog entry, as soon as the deer season is over, and the winter moves into the forest along the river and the nearby wetlands the area becomes deserted. I don’t understand it, because there are less geese no doubt but the duck season is still open for until the start of the month of January. There was a slight rain fall and the fog was starting to move in by early afternoon as I made my way to the pathway between the bays.

The pass was almost all frozen over because normally the water level comes up to your waist and in some places even higher and you have to wade through the water carefully because there are sometimes 2 x 4’s with nails from blinds that were built the year before. There’s a local beaver that has moved in and began building along the pathway, which now makes it easier because it makes a land bridge. Today was incredibly mild and as I was walking through the pass I can see the cranes takeoff and fly away from their nearby nests.

My objective was to get to my new hunting spot where I’ve been before, this spot is quite beautiful but the most strategic part about it is that there is an opening from the river which leads to a large creek that moves inland. Mergansers and Mallards seem to like this spot and if I call properly, they usually come in flying or swimming along. There are also large trees that create a natural fence line between me and the river, so on my way up to the natural blind, I can jump shoot all the way along. Mergansers will fly in and then dive under and look for food, this is the perfect time to move into position from large tree to tree.

Then when they resurface, I freeze and hold, then when I get close enough, I jump out and they burst into the air for a quick harvest. Within the first two hours I had harvested two birds. The tricky part was retrieving the birds when they fell back into the cold waters, the ice sheets attached to the shore were already several inches thick and when I stepped out onto the ice I would break through to my knees, this was no problem but when the current brought the sheets of ice back in, they would crash into my shins.

So, I leaned forward and pushed them off, some pieces were as large as a dining table, now two birds in the bag by mid afternoon the fog started to thicken and was quite a sight. The black tree trunks and branches would zig zag through the fog like veins in an arm and it was quite something to see, my gut instinct was telling me that it was now time to start making my way back to the truck. I still had about a forty minute hike through rough terrain with water traps. Besides, I was not alone there were three large coyote paw marks and no other human boot tracks to be seen.

As I broke the tree line and headed toward the bay, I swung around to look back at the forest and it was completely engulfed with white fog. This sight would make the hair on any man’s neck rise. My inner senses and timing could not have been any better, it was as if the wilderness was closing its doors on me, even with time to spare before legal shooting time was over, the message was clear.

Once over the beaver dam, I started following another smaller creek along the way, attempting to jump shoot one more duck before the end, but as I made my way north, my eyes spotted a white tail and slight brown colour moving lightning fast along the water edge. It was a cottontail, I swung around instantly and the rabbit took two more hops and dove into a bush with just its hind legs coming out the back.

I released my shot and it was all over in just a few seconds. I was so excited to retrieve the Cottontail, I unloaded my 870 and leapt through the creek right over the bush and just about fell over in the snow and mud. There is no better way to end the day, it is moments like these when we can truly take the time to appreciate what nature has offered and it makes up for the times that one can be discouraged and have doubts in one’s abilities as an outdoorsman or outdoors woman.

I wish you all the best on your back-end of the waterfowl season and a great small game season!

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The truck edges forward in its slow advance rolling over the sharp rocks, you can hear the rubber under stress from the weight of the truck. But then seconds later it is all over and the truck is brought to a complete stop. I swing it into park, unlatch the door, jump out and land on my two feet. It is a perfect landing, I have done this a thousand times before and then I look around my surroundings, stretch out my arms on either side taking in a deep breath.

Finally I was back where I belong in the Canadian countryside surrounded by farm fields, forests and the wetlands. My eyes see it all, I do not miss a thing, my soul absorbs its substance. Many years have gone by now and I have learned that I too have a special connection with nature. Today is my fourth time out this season for waterfowl but on this very day things seemed quite different, my knowledge reveals itself in my stature, calm and confident and as for nature well it just lives.

It is true that skill as a waterfowler will aid you in your hunts but it will never be the deciding factor on whether or not you harvest. I tell myself every time that it is what nature will offer you on that particular sortie, this is part of the excitement and challenge. The Canada geese may be in the fields waiting or not, they might be in the swamp or maybe not, the ducks might be hiding along the edge of the creek or not.

Yes for sure there will be game out there but where this is the true experience. After a great conversation with my farmer friend and getting the lowdown of the area, I step back into my truck and drive down the southern field across the creek heading toward the wetlands. Recently I have started to try something different, rather than spending several hours out in the bush, instead I leave later in the day with just two hours before sunset to set myself up in my kayak blind with my back to the forest on the northern side of the swamp.

My plan is to sit still in the boat until the ducks come in for the evening and attempt to harvest my limit before the time was up. Last year I wrote about the magical last thirty minutes of hunting which is the final thirty minutes after sunset. On my third time out this year, I barely had the time to push off the shore with my kayak and it was already raining wood ducks, some landing just feet from me. Hearing their wings swish through the air is just an incredible feeling followed by their landing splash.

I usually park several meters from the swamp, put on my waders and get my kit ready, I then sneak up to the shore to see if there are any birds. The small bushes and trees provide great cover for this, sometimes I harvest one of two birds and then go back to pick up the kayak to retrieve them. Sometimes I have to move in and around the beaver dams through the maze of swamp grass to find them. After this is when my waiting game begins, I will bring all the kit I need into the kayak and then paddle out through the swamp and setup. Generally, I choose a spot with tall grass or dead bushes or trees.

When the darkness finally covers the swamp and the fog moves in, it becomes a magical place. The shadows of the evergreen in the horizon create amazing silhouettes. The water below comes to life with beavers, bugs and fish. Strange sounds come out from the nearby woods and if you are a person with a rich imagination, it is enough to give you the shivers. It is a beautiful place with no words that can truly describe what your senses experience with every ounce in my body is filled with joy.

Then they start to flying in, woods ducks in small groups of three of four with the swish of their wings against the air as they circle all around, you slowly raise your shotgun and fill the sky with muzzle blasts of fire.

There is one thing that rings true, you are a Canadian woodsman.

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I believe that our ability to observe is more than just a skill which can be learned; and that for some it is truly natural; being able to process what we see differently and sometimes seeing what others around us can not.

Our sight combined with our other senses can enhance our hunts and give us the advantage we need in being able to harvest.

I am always trying to find ways to improve my observation so that it becomes almost instinctive. I really enjoy taking friends along on a hunt and quite often they simply come out for the pure enjoyment of nature and its wonders, from the deciduous forests in the valley to the wetlands along the Ottawa.

When we are out, I often point out a dark shadow or some movement in the swamp and almost always there is a grouse or a duck hidden away and sometimes it is quite a distance away. Being observant can really add some great flavor to the time spent in the wilderness.

Movement or shadows which are out-of-place help in being able to observe and identify game but also knowing patterns and habits. Just a few days ago a group of European starling flew in and landed right on my lawn then started working away at the worms and ants.

There is one particular red ant hill near the front of my property which is quite large and six of the starling bounced over right onto the ant hill and started to do a very strange wing flicking dance.

They took turns jumping inches off the ground like their feet were in hot water and then plucking down into the dirt with an ant in their bill. They then turned their heads into their wings as if to break the ant before eating it.

Now this is the first time I have observed this, I could not tell if they were preventing ants from coming up their wings or if it was some ritualistic dance to kill the ants before consuming them. It was fascinating to observe.

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This year I did not harvest a deer in the fall; however I did add more knowledge to my repertoire for the next season. During many of my deer hunts, I either came across bucks that were too young, sporting small spikes or saw several does but did not have a tag for one.

One thing is for sure, I love deer especially white-tailed deer which is the predominant species of deer in my area. They are just incredible mammals and I never tire of seeing them in the evening by the road or across the creek in the woods near my home. I also learn so much more every time I pursue them in their environment.

This week I just finished a great book “White-Tailed Deer” written by Mark Raycroft. The photographic images were stunning and its text was very informative. As a biologist with several decades of research and proven time in the field, the author has collected some incredible knowledge, and like many books that I have read, I either want to challenge the author’s words in the field or learn from them.

Mark wrote that through experience he noticed that deer do not snort and or run off using their runways if only one of their primary senses is triggered. They are rather curious animals and will try to find out more about what you are, and see if you are a potential predator or not.

An example would be if a deer has heard you in the woods but may not have seen you, or smelt you then they may not raise their white tails and flee but rather in some cases circle around you in dense woods or come closer to you in an open field while keeping eye contact. I have experienced this many times in the woods. I found this to be a very interesting find and I want to put this theory to the test.

In addition he wrote about the fact that deer are very selective about their bedding which is sometimes used during the day to chew on their cud, rest but also keep watch for predators. The locations of the bedding are often found on slopes, with evergreen vegetation thus providing them with cover. I see this as allowing themselves to capitalize on the benefits of high ground which enables them to have a better chance to escape before being spotted by predators.

So with this newly acquired knowledge, I put on my boots and headed out to an area in the woods where I knew there were several does in a winter yard not far from my home.

I took my time walking along the creek and through the woods; my goal was to try to get as close as I could to one of the deer without triggering all the primary senses together triggering a raised white tail flush.

I was able to approach the doe within thirty meters from across the creek. She had seen me from far but was not alarmed, and we maintained eye contact the whole time until she heard my foot steps in the snow getting closer. This is when she stood up, snorted, raised her white tail and ran off heading south up the hill. She was bedded down under a spruce tree on a slope. Five more deer that were hidden near her took off up the hill as well. It was a textbook case and I had just lived it.

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I am constantly searching for ways to improve my chances at harvesting game, especially during the waterfowl season. For example, we know that scouting days before the season is a great method of increasing your chances in getting a harvest; learning where the birds are, but also identifying where they set in specific spots on the river or fields. Study their flight routes at dawn and dusk, locating where they feed in the fields.

Weeks before the hunting season some waterfowlers I know watch more videos and read more magazines, books and articles online, in order to add to their knowledge and ultimately have a better understanding on the birds, their feeding, flying and resting habits. It is also a great way to spend time with friends off-season and a time to share stories and get pumped up for the upcoming season. This type of information you get from shows or articles, also introduces new technologies, new laws, regulations as well as new products that can assist in improving your chances. However, this knowledge is also acquired through years of experience, especially if you hunt in the same areas.

There is however one reality to hunting which every hunter knows and this that there is no guarantee, some days you will go home without a harvest, even if you execute a perfect plan, best blind setup, brilliant decoy spread but the birds just do not come in or if they do, their numbers are less, harder shots or maybe they just simply fly too high.

It is a lot of work, money and time making your way to the river or fields and when these lulls occur, it can be incredibly discouraging for hunters, especially to hunters that are new to the sport.

If this happens to you, don’t worry, you are not alone. Things will pick up and you will have incredible hunts. I once read a book about turkey hunting and the author wrote that when you are sitting at the base of a tree, calling and waiting for the turkeys to come into your decoys, and you do not see a bird and it feels like you have been waiting for an eternity and you just want to leave. He wrote wait fifteen more minutes, who knows you might get lucky.

This is a true formula indeed, it has happened to me on several different hunts, I start heading back to my truck to shut down for the day without a harvest and then right at the last-minute an opportunity presented itself.

Last night, I was on the river and there were ducks and geese around but we were experiencing a lull, we were getting close to the end of the hunt with only the last thirty minutes left and all of a sudden a group of seven geese came in low in the dark sky without calling or making a sound and they were in the perfect shooting height, angle and speed.

Fight the urge of shutting down early because it is getting dark, you are tired, wet and discouraged, who knows what the very last legal minute might bring.

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