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Posts Tagged ‘learning’


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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The paddle blades cut through the cold waters, one stroke at a time, water dripping onto the hull of the kayak then rolling off back into the dark waters, it was incredibly peaceful. The bow of the kayak was gliding through the tall grass; ever so often I had to pull hard on one side to keep the boat aligned with my chosen spot for this waterfowl hunt. On the Northern side, there was a wooded area between me and the large wetlands and to the South was the river.

I like this area very much because you can only access it by boat and you do not get a lot of other hunters too close to your natural blind. And it is the place where I shared a great hunt last year with other passionate waterfowlers, along with great stories and laughter. After a final push, I slid right into the large fallen tree.

I Leapt out of my kayak and tucked it under the gap just above the water’s surface and the lower part of the tree with the kayak locked into the muddy bottom . With the boat secure it was now time to prepare myself for the hunt. I quickly moved around the tree, climbed over the easiest section and got tucked away behind the largest part. The fallen tree is large on one side, and get smaller near the East, I can stand behind it and three-quarters of my body is hidden. Then I simply lean forward with my 870 in position and place three shells at the ready on top of the log, which is wide enough to be a natural table.

The view is spectacular and as the day slowly comes to its end, the lights across the river sparkle like Christmas lights in the distance, with bright yellow and orange, reds and whites. With still an hour and a half of daylight, I was in heaven and ready for the harvest. Now that I was nice and settled in, I started to call out with a few goose and duck calls and also observed several few geese and ducks flying about along with several seagulls.

Within minutes the shots started to ring out, especially the newer hunters who were shooting into the air and made it sound like I was back in the Balkans; birds were flying scattering and ending up in every direction. I kept on calling and then after a few minutes took a break and just observed.

I was thinking about my last hunt on farmland and how I missed a bird that was close range above the trees using my new full choke. It does take getting used to, even with experienced shooters. As mentioned in the videos, that I posted on my Twitter account, with a full choke under a forty yard shot you want to keep the bead directly on the bird and not lead too much compared to a Modified choke which I had been using for the past few years, where you tend to lead as much as five inches from the birds bill.

After a few minutes of keeping an eye on the horizon and a few more calls, I finally got my break with a Canada moving in from the North-West to my right, he was about twenty-seven yards out, I instantly shouldered my 870, pushed it off safe and released the shot in one single motion.

There is no doubt that there was some practice and patterning that had taken place with the pigeons over this summer but it paid off, I love my full choke. My goose tumbled forward and into the dark waters and I had harvested my first bird of the season, this is it, I was finally off to a great start.

I better get my Rillettes jars ready!

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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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There was a strong breeze coming in from the west that brought with it some cold air; for a moment I felt a chill down my back while descending the ridge toward the creek. The sun was out and the birds were singing and you just felt this renewed source of energy in the air, what an incredible day I had chosen to visit my friends farm and hunt small game.

I was on the lookout for woodchucks and rock doves. By the time my descent had finished I was now standing at the edge of the creek, the water was still incredibly cold with the water levels higher than usual caused by the melting snow and ice.

I crossed over to the other side choosing my path carefully stepping on the large boulders just below the surface of the crystal clear water, high enough to prevent my socks from getting wet, also not to allow the water to reach the top of the boot which was just below the knee.

It was now time for the climb to the rock formation at the top of the southern ridge, it is a really enjoyable walk but I am alway cautious passing through the wall of evergreen, because the cattle have carved out pathways that they use frequently and I would not want to surprise a young bull into a face to face encounter.

As the years go by and as you spend more time outdoors hunting small game it is inevitable that you will make mistakes which causes you to lose out on a few harvest opportunities. I find the trick is once the frustration has been released through a few swear words and licking your wounds; you then decide to learn from them. Observe and then you promise yourself that you will not be doing this twice. The mistakes I mean.

One example of this is, a few years ago I was walking up the whole length of the creek in late October trying to flush ducks and after several hundred meters I was starting to get discouraged and tired of still hunting. Not one duck in sight, as soon as I let my guard down and started walking tall and ordinarily, I scared off two mallards and they got away before I could get a shot off because of the tough angle of the shot.

This has happened to me with Grouse, Woodcock and also Woodchucks. I walked right into their still stance trap and then boom in an explosion of speed they were gone. Once you become an expert in their habitat I believe you get to know when you should flick the on switch for still hunting alert mode.

So on this particular day I put my theory to the test, I made my way through the cattle trail and got up to the rock formation. I could have walked right up to the crest and looked around and gaze over the horizon like a king over his kingdom but every single game would fly off or run for cover. Of course the red squirrel and crow alert calls wouldn’t help.

So, instead I leaned forward and just popped my head over the crest and I found myself practically staring into the eyes of a woodchuck who was sun-bathing just meters in front of me. I put myself in reverse fairly quickly and lowered myself into the low ground and took a few deep breaths. Loaded a shell into my 870, clicked the safety on and then started to lift the top part of my body just above the crest looking right back into the woodchucks eyes.

Lined up my bead sight with the vitals, completed my three breaths then slow pushed my safety off. Moments later I released my shot and harvested my first spring woodchuck. That night I pan-fried some nice thighs in maple syrup with Cajun cowboy spices from Canadian Tire. It was delicious.

Two years ago, I guided a friend duck hunting in my canoe, he was in the front ready to shoot and I was paddling us through a maze of weeds, but because I had learned so much about ducks and their habitat and knew the swamp extremely well, I had also observed like a hawk and mentally recorded certain gold pot spots. I had it down to a science. I knew exactly when he should shoulder his shotgun and be ready. On this day we did not make same mistake twice. Instead we made nice Mallard dishes.

Take your time still hunting on foot or paddling through the weeds, when you feel it, you will know when to flick on the switch and be extremely observant and be ready.

The results are very rewarding and a confirmation that you are learning. Observation just like conservation is paramount.

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