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There I was standing in the middle of a forest with its floor filled with watering holes, it would have been heaven for wood ducks but the woods were empty. The autumn coloured leaves sparkled underneath the crystal surface of the water, it was just magical. The winds were extremely powerful blowing in from the West and as it enveloped the forest there was howling winds through the trees emitting strange eerie sounds. With the rattling of the branches and the trunks rubbing up and down against each other.

There was an intense cold with snow drifts sweeping in, I kept my eyes not only on the edge of the wetlands for ducks but also on the trees, as it was the perfect conditions for tree limbs to come down. I was scoping this part of the forest because of its proximity to the shore of the river and only meters away was the edge of the wetlands.

The dominant species of duck in my area are teal and mallards, but the teal do not always land in my zone, they rather fly nervously in groups of ten or more and then loop back to the very deep parts of the water and well out of reach, I might have a chance if I snuck up with my kayak. But the mallards it is a different story, they are extremely resilient to the cold and are found until late in the season even if there is lots of snow on the ground, they are generally hidden close to shore in the tall grass. If you are a jump shooter type of hunter, then walking along the shores in a stealthy fashion you are sure to get a harvest or two.

When I set off on a hunt from my house later in mid-season, I have to pass over a bridge in my community and there is a beautiful waterway which snakes all the way to the river and I always sneak a peek over the barrier down on the muddy shores near the golden grass and if I can spot a few mallards, this is usually a good sign for my hunt on the river.

I have been coming to this area for several years now, and I used to be able to go just a few meters with my kayak and then launch off and start jump shooting from my boat. But since the beavers have moved in and with the changes to the environment this whole area is becoming a mush of swamp grass and only small segments of open water. A couple of years ago, I was out in a large area body of open water and I was able to climb out of my kayak and stand on my own two feet without sinking. I was standing on a mud island and over time it was very physically challenging to paddle in this soup. A paddle was now useless, what I needed was a long push pole.

Once I cleared the edge of the forest, I was now facing the Eastern side of the wetlands and I knew there were mallards dabbling further down, because if I were a mallard this is where I would have wanted to be about thirty meters from the shore. There was a small body of open water in the shape strange looking shoe. It was surrounded by golden coloured tall grass and some small wetland brush with several crane nest sticking out of the surface like oversized ant hills but they generally have a large ring of deep water around them and can be very dangerous with waders on.

Today I was going to try something new with my approach, I was not going to come in from the southern banks of the river and then circle around to the north to sneak up on the ducks, I was going to come cut diagonally from my start point, but this meant cutting off the top edge of the wetlands on foot, which meant he depths could range from my hips to the my knees with hidden pockets of dangerous depths. But my knowledge of the area helped me navigate and with over an hour of tracking through the muck, and pulling myself forward and out using large vegetation, I made it to my starting area.

At one point, I was startled by a small crane species and I raised my shotgun and was ready to release my shot but my experience caught me and I had identified the species within milliseconds which caused me to lower my shotgun. This is a skill that you will master even while off-season, find unique identifiers about each species of bird and learn to identify them before they are out of sight and you will see that in time you will be very accurate.

As I approached the edge of the bank, I took a short break, all that sloshing around was physically demanding and my breathing was very heavy. I looked over to the northern side and spotted several large dark animal like movements in the dark waters. They looked like dabbling ducks but I could not make it out for sure, I had to get closer.

I knew my approach was going to be a difficult one as I was already up to my knees in water surrounded by tall grass and small waterways which had depths unknown. It had begun, my sights were now on that body of open water beyond the tall grass well over thirty meters out. I would lift one foot ensure it was on a secure mud base then move the next leg forward, it was without a doubt treacherous.

I pushed forward and when I lost my balance from the suction of the water and mud vacuum on my waders, I would pull hard on a clump of tall grass and pull myself forward and out back onto a solid mud base. All the while keeping a low profile and my shotgun out of the water.

My backpack was not heavy but the straps were getting tight on my shoulders and causing them to get fatigued. There was no dry place to put down my pack, so I slowly slid it off my shoulders and down into the water and it bloated with water and stayed a float. I took note of the unique vegetation around it, so that I could spot where I had left it as I made my way closer to the edge of the open body of water which was now only ten meters away.

Only a few more steps forward into the dark unknown and now the weeds were wrapping themselves around my arms and shotgun like daemons wanting to take me down to the depth of the bowels of the dark waters. Combined with my sheer fatigue, I would force my shotgun forward which tore the weeds free.

On my final step, I slowly lifted my head and confirmed my findings, there were in fact about twenty ducks dabbling, I carefully selected the mallards closest to me. Then I lowered myself back behind the weeds and golden grass, I carefully slid my pump-action just a few millimetres in order to glance at the loaded shell in the chamber and then slid another shell into the magazine for a total of three ready.

I looked down at the water took a few deep breaths and got myself ready for the shots, then in an instant I raised myself above the grass and caught the ducks completely by surprise, they stretched their necks out called out and burst into the air, in a single motion, I pushed off the safe and released my shot into the closest bird and the mallard spun forward and flipped back into the water, I released a second shot and missed the group.

In a matter of a few seconds, it was all over, I had harvested my first mallard but the others were now sky-high heading east. The recovery was a tricky one indeed with water up to my chest, my Remington 870 was completely submerged in water but I was not going to let my orange foot duck be swallowed up by the black waters.

Once I got back to the safety of the river bank with my mallard in hand, soaking went and fatigued, there was no more humbling experience than this moment, it was just me and the northern elements. I am not sure where your imagination takes you when you think of folkloric tales of our great Canadian wilderness. I had just lived it, the cold dark waters all alone surrounded by raw wilderness and I not only mastered it but it was now flowing in my very veins.

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Several years ago when I first started writing my blog about small game hunting, I published a blog entry where I mentioned a unique form of big game hunters. I found it discouraging that some of them considered small game hunting a childhood pass time. Like small game was a stepping stone to big game hunting.

There seems to be this competitive edge amongst a small number of big game hunters which attracts an unpleasant arrogance and this unquenchable thirst to bag the largest trophy no matter the numbers. It is no longer about tradition, the stories, the stored meat for food to share with your friends and family on special occasions.

Through this practice companies have thrived commercially promoting products and practices through such platforms like television and social media. There is nothing wrong with promoting products but do so while working with wholesome sportsmen and women. As a passionate outdoorsman, my objective is not to judge, as there is plenty of this out there for us hunters.

It is simple, I take pride in the fact that over the years through my blog entries and stories about small game that my hunting has remained traditional at its core. All that I ask is that next time you are out, practice the sport with some modesty and as time passes you will soon realize that it will no longer matter if you have one rack in your den or twenty, this will never quench your fix. Because the fix has nothing to do with hunting but rather the persons construct.

Small game is an incredible form of hunting in its own right and by no means is it a stepping stone. Just ask the skilled Palombier found in the south of France or the accomplished bird hunters in Lebanon.

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Upon my return from work today, I completed a little walk around the house checking up on my flowers that I had planted just a few days ago. As I approached the front window well, I heard a few sharp whistles and I knew right away it was out-of-place, it was some sort of distress call from a bird. At first it was quite faint but then, as I approached the basement window, I could hear it again and this time it was much clearer.

I was expecting to find a young common house sparrow, but when I looked down amongst the stones, there he was a golden treasure. It was a small gosling only a few weeks old, it had a beautiful yellow coloration and its web was black and oily with nice sharp claws.

This gosling was a beauty, and just as soon as I stepped into the window well, it approached my foot almost instantly. We had a connection; I picked it up in my hands in order to return it to the creek but that was not the safest place for a little goose. The creek near my place is full of predators, I knew that the female was sitting on her nest down the creek by the beaver dam but I did not want to disturb her.

So, I walked down to the creek with the gosling calling out sharp bursts of chirps. I placed it in the water, it called out and swam away, then turned right around and came right back to me. I started talking to it in a soft voice and told it to swim up the creek near its nest but the bugger did not want to have anything to do with the water.

So I decided to help it out even more, I knew that the nest was only one hundred meters down the creek, so I picked up the gosling and placed it further up in the creek toward the south-east. This was going to be an experiment, so I placed the gosling back into the water and it started to call out again this time there were two different types of chirps, several short and then one long and the longer call was sharp and loud.

I whistled a few times to provoke the female and attempted a few clucks and then sure enough after a few attempts I got a faint response coming from the tree line just meters from the edge of the creek but on the other side, further down on my left from where I was standing.

At first the gosling started to swim back and head onto the bank toward me but when the female goose let out a few short faint calls, it was enough to catch the attention of the gosling who used its loud longer chirp and it was followed by the female short honk. The gosling then responded with the loud longer chirp and this went back and forth for about four times.

This was perfect my gosling placement along with its long distress chirps, the female goose called back from its roost but never broke the tree line; her call was working. That gosling headed straight for her call near the beaver dam and I had successfully reconnected the gosling with the female.

This was an extremely rewarding treat. I may be a seasoned waterfowler but that brief encounter with the gosling was so mesmerizing and observing nature communicating was simply amazing. It made me appreciate even more the work that “Ducks Unlimited” and many other similar organizations achieve every day.

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As a kid growing up in central Africa in the ninety eighties was an experience that changed me for ever. I realize now even as an adult more than thirty years later that it was an absolute privilege to have lived on the periphery of the “Cite” in a row house, which was in an area where the majority of the locals lived. My life experiences were not just limited to living in a large home along the ocean with its extremely high walls or in the confines of the housing compounds owned by oil companies.

This meant going for days without electricity or running water but experiences like these enabled you to grow as a person and appreciate the true meaning of life. I learned the local language in less than a year and soon I was running free for hours into the neighbourhoods and shanty towns bare feet with my brothers. My parents were teachers and my father taught biology at one of the local high schools.

You got it, this meant that during the school year he needed to collect toads for the dissection classes; this was my job. So at a very young age, I would collect an empty can of powdered milk, a rake and a machete, then head out on my adventures to find toads. Now why would you need a rake and machete for that? Well where you found toads there were almost always pit vipers. I knew exactly where to find toads, under rocks or the papyrus or bamboo forests.

I would lean into the brush or flip a rock, if there was a viper, I would pin the snake with the rake and neutralize it with my machete, and then collect the toads. My best friend and I would normally be greeted by a snake hiss. There were all kinds of species of snakes but the most common was the pit viper and their hiss was a warning indeed and I learned to understand their body language. But ultimately it was more than just a sound of the tongue once it had left the Jacobson gland, it was a form of snake communication, “You reach in for the toad and I will bite”.

In the years that followed, upon returning from a weekend jungle trip, my parents had bought my brothers and I, a young crocodile as a pet, it was less than a meter in size. We kept it in the back yard and its temporary residence was a large empty sail boat hull. My brothers and I had best attempted to re-create its natural habitat along with a mud bank and water inside the boat. If we wanted to transport it out, for our friends to see, we would place the rake in the water, and as the crocodile would bite down on the metal part along with a fierce splash of water, and once its jaws had a good grip, we would lift it out of the boat and let it roam around the yard for a few hours.

If our dogs got too close, the crocodile would bend its body bringing its tail around for a strike and soon it would let out the infamous hiss. It was a fascinating pet and as long as you stayed away from its jaws, life was just normal in central Africa. Crocodiles are ordinary reptiles and I soon discovered that the hiss was not just a verbal warning like the pit vipers but also of course a form a communication because it did not always result with the animal clapping it jaws, it simply communicating.

Now this makes for wonderful childhood stories but what does this have to do with small game hunting in north America? Well for the past couple of years now in the spring, we have had two resident Canada geese setup a nest just across the creek from our home in the country and well where do think they feed? On my lawn. As long as they do not get too aggressive, I am fine with having two natural lawn mowers. And just like a coyote if you physically show them you are more dominant through verbal or physical gestures then they leave you alone. I suppose I should write don’t try this at home.

All wildlife adapt to their environments and with my family running around the back yard, this has become their new norm. The Chin Straps stay only lasts a few weeks and once the goslings are old enough they move along… well until the next year. The male’s role is to keep watch and you guessed it, if you get too close, he lets out a hiss, just like the snake and crocodile but the Canada also lets out some deep soft honks from his throat with it bill partially opened.

For the Canada geese, just like communicating with a child, I usually get down on my knees to limit my physical expression as aggression, putting myself at the same level as them and in this case the wild goose and then imitate his soft deep honk and hiss and I have confirmed something once again about this “hiss” it does not always trigger a physical response, it can be interpreted as aggression but a rather a form of warning.

Many outdoorsman/woman are some of the most experienced conservationists and have a deep understanding wildlife behaviour and communication, some without even noticing it, it is just another piece of the puzzle in our sport.

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Hang on! Before I start typing, let me turn on Kane Brown -Heaven on “Youtube”…ok now I am ready.

Like many outdoorsmen and women out there, I love to watch videos about hunting, my favourite one’s have to be about waterfowl, either from ground blinds or jump shooting from a canoe or kayak.

Not only do I pick up on new tips and tricks but I also really enjoy watching some of the great hunts that have been captured on film, in addition I love having some great laughs, especially when watching “Outlaw” videos on Dippin’ and Huntin’ geese.

It brings back memories of dippin’ with my buds when I was younger, sharing awesome moments.

Many of those videos out there often host a guide or two and their role is vital to a successful hunt with regards to the harvesting of game. I am normally the hunter out there and it has been like this for years and I have also made some great vids too with my GoPro but in the past couple years, I have had several opportunities to be a guide. I always had my doubts about my abilities as a guide but after having taken several buds on successful duck and Canada goose hunts and now this weekend turkey hunting, I am slowly transforming into a seasoned guide.

Knowledge is definitely a large part of being a great guide, but also having the right equipment for example turkey decoys, a tent/blind and a good turkey caller is key, especially for my upcoming weekend. Then there are other attributes like having confidence about your decisions, and having a great understanding of the game that you are pursuing and its environment.

There are many other important factors to being a guide, like having the ability to take responsibility for the mistakes made because in some cases even if it may not always be said, the hunters will lay the blame on you as the guide for their unsuccessful harvests, even if it was mother nature’s doing.

My whole life I have been surrounded by institutions that solely exists based on theories and this just does not work out in the field. Part of being a guide is also earning confidence and trust from the hunters, and this is easily obtained by being modest and having proven field experience, this can be as easy as having great stories based on field time or a simple picture of you with a harvested Turkey or geese in your den.

This will not be my last blog about being a guide because it is simply an intriguing subject and so vast. Until next time remember to be respectful of your guide and keep in mind their proven field experience and learn to trust their instincts.

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As I lifted one snowshoe and placed it in front of the other through the thick powdery snow, I found myself venturing deeper into the wintery woods. With the smell of fresh pine dancing through the cool air, this had to be heaven.

You take a moment and close your eyes then breathe it in, you are absolutely surrounded by the darkness of the coniferous forest which contains all of its mysteries that nature has to offer, far away from all that is logical to the rational mind. The time had come, I found a hare lead and began to navigate further into the thick brush, with large amounts of snow falling upon my shoulders but I kept on pushing ahead.

It did not take long before I found fresh tracks and green droppings, I was close but I could not see any black pearl eyes yet. I knelt down and got closer to the forest floor and focused on the hidden dark areas. I felt a strong presence, something was watching me but I could not yet see it. I took two more steps forward and glanced to my left, there he was the white ghost in the darkness with his black pearl eyes. Neatly tucked away behind some spruce boughs.

A true treasure of the Canadian wilderness, staring right at me with the utmost intensity, nature is cold and ruthless but contains some of the most incredible images, those not always understood by the rational mind.

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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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