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There is nothing better than spending a few hours along the river on an early Sunday morning for a waterfowl hunt. Especially after an incredibly stressful work week. I was a bit disappointed though because I was not going to be able to bring my kayak along with me. My truck was getting repaired. I knew this would limit my ability to get closer to the ducks, and I would be forced to stay on the muddy banks.

This means jumping over medium size distributaries and sometimes crossing wider parts of the river that is chest high and in icy cold waters. In situations like these, I usually find a large fallen tree several meters long that was left over by the beavers. I push it across at the narrowest part of the river, then I use the log as support in the deeper parts of the water. Once I am done I then move the logs out-of-the-way in case some boats come through after me. On occasions I can find recently built beaver dams and cross over them like a land bridge. I also sometimes use a walking stick for balance and to check the depth of the water before stepping in. Experience and good judgement have allowed me to continue to blog about it, even after having spent several minutes in icy cold water.

I am always very excited about getting a few hours to myself in nature, especially this time a year. The river and marshes this time of year are just spectacular along with the light snow fall. Also it gets so cold that fewer people come out later in the season. This makes it safer since there are less hunters and it also provides more available hunting spots to set up. You can also still hunt and attempt to flush the ducks for a couple of kilometres without ever meeting anyone.

I am always so appreciative to be able spend time outdoors and release the stress from our daily lives, but with hunting comes reality and this means that you will not always be guaranteed a harvest. The Canada geese have been hunted in this area of mine for several years now and as a result as soon as they clear the tree line along the river’s edge they increase their altitude and makes it a no go for shots.

As the Canada geese numbers decrease this time a year with only five weeks left to the season, I focus my attention on mallards, black ducks and teal. But these birds like to land in very isolated parts of the marsh where it is still open and not yet frozen over and these spots are quite often only accessible by water. So, after having spent the good part of an hour stalking the shores of the river, I turned toward the marsh and circled around its perimeter forming the shape of a ring. This is in knee-deep water and also sometimes using little mud islands that look like thousands of crane nests as land steps around the deeper parts.

I had taken a few shots at some ducks and missed, I soon realized after a few hours that this hunt was a total bust as far has getting a harvest, yet this was my reality for this Sunday. This can be extremely discouraging for any waterfowl hunter as well as exhausting. I knew that I was blessed having spent some amazing time outdoors and being able to shed the stress from the week, but rather disappointed about not harvesting.

What I found can be challenging to accept is the fact that on days like these, even after having spent time outdoors, you were still not able to harvest. Also even though you will have other times to go out, it is just simply discouraging. I find myself fighting against the negative energies of disappointment about not having harvested. Because ultimately every waterfowl hunter wants to bring home some birds. This I find can be especially hard on new members to the sport, because you want to harvest and not necessarily put your current abilities in question.

I will be going out again next weekend and this time I will be bringing my kayak. I am hopeful that I will be able to remedy this harvesting situation, in addition to continue my never-ending pursuit of being able to find the true balance between time at the marsh and having a successful harvest. Family and friends will consider you very lucky about having spent time alone in the great outdoors. But unless they share your passion for the sport they will not always be understanding to the fact that you are disappointed in your performance and that it may take a few hours to digest this fact. Then you ask yourself the question, is getting a harvest the definition of a successful hunt? Or are you simply a very lucky person to have had some time to yourself?

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With my fingers slowly going numb, and my wool gloves socked from holding onto the drenched icy cold rope attached to the bow of the kayak. I kept pushing forward, my legs were burning with pain from pulling the kayak through the narrow frozen creek and breaking through the ice along the banks.

The wind was blowing in from the north, blinding me with its blizzard like snow flakes being carried along transforming the horizon into a greyish white haze, the trees in the distance had become just a black patch of nature. The darkness was moving in like a mist.

Ducks took flight around me as the ice cracked below my boots and the ice sheets cut into my shin bones. The sweat on my forehead dried instantly with the cold winds as my wind tears rolled down my cheek, it was now time to make my way home alone after a brutal few hours in this November weather.

You could smell the fresh waterfowl flesh from the birds lying in bowels of my boat, and as the kayak slid over the frozen mounds, the dirty water and weeds inside its hull would rock from bow to stern, moving the birds in a bloodied bath along with empty shells and the paddle blades.

The wind howled around me like a mad spirit and brought with it the smell of burning firewood from a distant shack. To me this was soothing and awoke old memories, from years ago, when my family would drive into my grandfathers home town. It would be in the middle of the night after a long highway drive, only a few days before christmas and quite often during a snow storm. The colourful seasonal lights were glowing in the dark from the nearby homes and the smell the burning wood fires filled the neighbourhood air.

Only one mile left and I would get closer to those glowing lights in the distance and to the warmth of the truck after an incredible afternoon of water fowling.

True comfort in the air indeed, just like the song by Jim Reeves “The Blizzard.”

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The sky was filled with majestic dark clouds, it gave you the impression that I was going to be swallowed into the darkness of the night but it was only four in the afternoon and I had several hours ahead of me in the wetlands. The sun would break through between the clouds and their edges would then turn bright orange like they were burning, the colors all around me would change, the shadows became very clear and then as soon as it changed just like a wave it turned back to its yellows and browns once the sun was hidden again.

I sat in my truck for some time before my hunt was going to start, then took a few deep breaths, said a prayer and asked the powers that be for a great hunt. I was a very happy man. My experience has taught me that if you go out thinking your going try hard to harvest something, it will not happen, you have no control over nature. You have to use your knowledge and let things happen and if an opportunity presents itself then you must grasp that slice of time.

The sights and smells in the wetlands, would render any man humble and make them realize how small we are in this world. The endless isolated dark waters and the tall grass grow in a dangerous maze. We will come and go, but nature will always be there with its creatures and be so powerful as it is.

I dragged my kayak out of the truck bed, rigged up my gear, climbed into my waders and headed off down the muddy trail; my boots were instantly sucked into the mud which then released the swamp smell after each step. It was very slippery and at times, I would pull my boat onto the grass to facilitate the drag.

The water levels this year are very low in the wetlands, forcing me to work my way down the trail to the deeper waters several hundred meters away. Even with the rain we have had in the recent days it hasn’t helped and this makes paddling quite a chore through the weeds.

I placed my shotgun at the ready state with the safe on in its front mount of the kayak and then I pulled the boat through the swamp grass and weeds until I sank into my hips and then I would climb into the boat and push-off with my paddle once it was too deep. Every time I do this, I think of the scene in the movie “African Queen”, it is extremely hard work and requires an incredible amount of physical strength. The weeds wrap themselves around my paddle like a spider web and it makes it very difficult to move as well as exhausting, it is a battle to make it to the deeper waters.

Moments later I am floating through the tall grass, sneaking in and out of the waterways flushing wood ducks and green winged teal. I feel a sudden rush of freedom, the kayak gives me the ability to get within meters of the blue herons and they only burst into the flight once I am just feet away, this is exactly the skill I am using with ducks.

Right now the birds I see the most are, green and blue winged teal, wood ducks and Canada Geese, the mallards and black ducks are not as present.

Teal are incredible birds, flying very low and unimaginably fast, unlike mallards or black ducks they remind me of fighter jets, moving in formation with lightning speed. Any gunner who is able to take one down in flight has my instant respect; it takes quick movements and precision shooting and the ability to interpret the birds.

I paddled up and down the north-eastern side of the marsh, winding through grassy canals, flushing ducks. Sometimes I would stop paddling allowing myself to coast along and then stop inside a patch of tall swamp grass and wait several minutes, almost like an instant blind configuration.

Then if there were no ducks, I would move again. My kayak is so stable, I can switch from sitting in the boat to flipping onto my knees, which provides a better shooting base and I can also rotate for harder angled shots.

On my way back to the east, I paddled a few more stokes and then on my right a green winged teal burst into the flight, she then turned in mid-air and started maneuvering, through the cat tail which was shaped like of canyon. The teal was going to disappear into this water canal and I only had milliseconds to release my shot, I dropped my paddle that is rigged with bungee cord and carabiners so I do not lose it; shouldered my shotgun, pushed it off safe, angled my body to the left then fired my shot.

There is a reason why the wetlands call me back and it is not just the wildlife, I am unable to put it into words, you have to experience it.

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