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Posts Tagged ‘marsh’


Mallard Creek

The rocks were spitting up into the wheel wells releasing sharp metallic sounds into the air, as I rolled down the dirt road. The morning was cool with the temperature sitting at around minus one degrees Celsius and the sky was starting to have a nice blue color to it with very little clouds. I was surrounded by farm fields with lush forest on their edges displaying its bright yellow and red colors mixed in with the evergreen. There were rock formations and endless rolling hills along with small lakes; the view was just stunning and very calming. The sun was just high enough, so that I could take in every sight and sound of the country side.

There were three deer in the field behind the wired fence with its weathered wooden posts on my right to the north-east feeding close to the tree line; it was a doe and two fauns. There were also kit of pigeons circling around some barns; I could also hear the calls of Canada geese as they flew over the trees heading south.

If you choose to hunt duck in the morning and wish to use the darkness as cover, then this can prove to be a very rewarding harvest indeed and advantageous because you are already in position when the ducks fly in. However getting up at four in the morning and being on the shores of the rivers and lakes, for the half an hour mark prior to sunrise is great but it is not entirely necessary.

Two weeks ago, I was out waterfowl hunting and I had arrived later in the morning. I was calling in a flock of geese when suddenly about ten mallards burst into flight about twenty meters behind the geese in the tall grass and it was already about half past nine in the morning.

After about an hour-long drive, I was now at the farm and ready to start my day.

The field to the south-west of the farm which was connected to a large swamp had been partially flooded by the rising waters from the rain and from the beaver dams. And the last time, I was out I did not have my canoe with me, therefore I was unable to push deeper into the marsh or even to retrieve any birds I may have harvested; so my shots were well calculated, this way the birds landed on solid ground. Oddly enough, I went home that day having harvested two pigeons.

I was better prepared for shots over water on this trip having brought my canoe with me, now the only tricky part was figuring out how to get my canoe down to the creek alone with all my gear. I knew that I was very capable of portaging on my own for very long distances but this terrain was very difficult.

So, once I got to the farm, I decided to open the metal gate and drove down the muddy truck trail down the hill closer to the creek in the south. By now the cattle had started to gather around me, as they are very curious animals, so I waved and called them through in front of me offering me some space to work with and then once they were a safe distance away near the electric fence, I unloaded my canoe, collected my kit and moved down to the creek a few meters away.

My plan was to place the canoe at a very narrow part of the creek and work my way up in a south-westerly direction toward the larger body of water in the marsh. This way I could shorten my portage distance and this would also offer me the element of surprise over the ducks because the brush was much thicker on the northern side of the south-western field. This was also the spot where I would come out to the mouth of the open water section in the marsh. It would also enable me to damage the beaver dam on my way up the creek in order to check for beaver activity in preparation for my trap line setup which would take place in about three weeks.

So, I flipped the canoe off my shoulders having carried it from the truck and then throwing my hips into the opposite direction I carefully lowered the canoe into the water with the bow end first and then the stern. I then placed my shotgun near the front of the canoe with the barrel facing to the front and with my paddle put across both gunwales I lowered myself into the middle part of the canoe sitting on my knees and then pushed off the shore with my left hand pulling on a large branch. The creek was only a few feet wide and a few inches deep with very thick mixed woods canopy right over me consisted of alder and other swamp trees. Although I had my paddle and did make use of it, I was able for the most part inch forward simply by pulling myself along grabbing various tree stumps with beaver teeth marks and thicker branches hanging over my head and my side.

It was tough work and the branches and leaves were breaking off and filling the bowels of the canoe as I continued forward though the dark cold water, I had to constantly duck my head down and even with my valiant efforts, I got several branches go right up my nostrils or slap me across the face. I would put my paddle down to my left and grab the thick vegetation on both sides and like a rower arm gesture, I pulled myself forward. Sometimes the bow would get caught on a thick root and I had to push myself or backstroke really hard with the paddle, and then push forward again. The water swirled and bumbled up with its air pockets like boiling water and as the bottom of the canoe scraped the wood below the surface it let out a screeching sound.

I felt like Charlie Allnut from the movie “African Queen” fighting my way through thick brush and up the creek, except I was all alone just me and the raw Canadian wilderness. I fought my way up forty meters or so then I made it to my first real obstacle, the beavers had built a series of dams, which were packed up like a wall of mud and sticks several inches high, so I would grab my paddle and take two or three hard stokes and I would ram the dam wall with the bow until it lifted the front of the canoe and then I would jump out placing my right or left foot onto the sticks and pull the canoe using the gunwales over the mud wall and back into the elevated part of the creek once again in the water. All the while keeping my eyes open for the beavers, because they have a nasty bite and can jump at your legs, just like Penn Powell described in his CBC Archive interview about his beaver attack.

After battling the creek for well over an hour and crossing four more dams, I finally got to open water of the marsh and I was slowly floating only meters from the beaver lodge. While crossing the last dam, I used a very large pointed boulder which I found in the mud, stepped out the canoe onto the last dam wall and punctures a hole into the mud and sticks then the water instantly started to flood and water the pressure did the rest of the work which flowed from west to east into the creek below, which would make my return a little more enjoyable.   I continued to paddle closer to the beaver lodge, holding the paddle carefully with both hands and taking very gentle strokes, now I had to focus on my silent approach through the wider part of the marsh and the open water. In doing so, I paddled my way through the wider part of the marsh and after thirty meters or so; I noticed that even after I called out a few greeting and feeding duck calls, there were no ducks or geese in this area. So, I decided to make my back down through the creek to the other lake, this time with the help of the current, it was much quicker and less work.

I had to re-load the canoe back into the truck and drive fifteen minutes away to another larger lake, and this time I decided to leave the canoe in the truck bed for now. I stealthily made my way to the shore of the lake using the vegetation as cover, reloaded three shells in the Remington 870, chambered a round and placed it on safe and this is when I spotted the beautiful hooded merganser directly to my front about twenty meters away, swimming along then occasionally diving and coming back up to the surface almost at the opposite side of the shore line to the west. He had a beautiful black and white color.

I skillfully lined up my bead sight with the merganser; with just my barrel sticking out of the tall grass, pushed off the safety catch and released my first shot. “Vlam!” As soon as the steel shot hit the water surface the merganser dove and disappeared below the surface. It was a miss!

The noise of the first shot startled four mallards which immediately took flight on my right hand side going south toward the left and flew right over just a few feet above surface of the water where the merganser had dove right in line with my arc of fire. So I applied the “Majority Method” lead or forward allowance as written in John Brindles’ book Shotgun Shooting and techniques and technology.

The mallards were in a diamond-shaped pattern in the air and so I took aim at the front of the last bird and released my second shot after pumping the action, ejecting the empty shell and the bird tumbled into the air, it was like time was still, almost in slow motion, the bird fell to the water surface below splashing crystal like drops into the air, creating shock waves over the calm lake surface. Once it resurfaced with its bright blue colored feathers and white and brown underside it looked very healthy. I cleared my shotgun of the last and remaining shell and then paddled over to pick up the mallard with my canoe.

It was a great harvest!

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The cold early morning water was splashing up against the side of the boat, with my left hand tight against my thigh holding the rope which was attached to the canoe being dragged at the back with its guts filled with our decoys and kit bags. The waves were very rough and we were all taking turns keeping an eye on the “V” shaped waves which formed and were slowly tempting the canoe almost caressing it, and then every few waves large amounts of water would almost fill up the canoe, and then the bow would lift up again and the deck plates would collect the crystal like water drops.

The river was filled with darkness and the water was freezing cold, it made you appreciate the comfort of the boat. It was still very dark out and we were moving right along the shore going North West up the river toward our duck hunting spots. The lights all around us were flickering orange, red and yellow surrounded by lush forest and swamps grass. I longed for the warmth of the fireplace and a nice hot drink but the excitement of the hunt was a much more powerful attraction indeed.

It had been raining now for the last two hours and it was slowing turning into a light drizzle. After our thirty minute boat ride, we finally reached the launching spot and the pilot brought the motor almost to a stop in order to coast toward the shore with the underside of the boat slowing down with the help of the thick weeds and tree stumps below the water’s surface. The hunter at the front leaped out into the water and pulled us in using the rope to the font of the boat and then stabilized it by pushing down on the tip of the bow with his two hands.  One at a time we hoped out of the boat and then got our shotguns out of their carrying cases, grabbed some shells and then got kitted up with our backpacks and decoy bags and prepared ourselves for the crossing over land to the embankment where our respective hunt spots had been marked.

There was a serpent shaped trail of tall grass which had been padded down by other hunters to get to the embankment, so two of us pulled the canoe onto the shoreline and slid it along like snow sled on the moist grass. It was hard labor but instead of complaining about the pain in our shoulders and arms, we focused on the prize and thought of the early French fur traders who must have suffered tremendously during similar portages.

An additional twenty minutes had passed and we were all in our shooting positions and now it was time to lay out your shells and prepare your kit for the hunt. I slowly unloaded my decoys from my duffle bag and launched them into the water and tall grass. Once they were in the position, I moved back into the high grass and created a natural blind and placed myself into a comfortable shooting position. I took a few breaths in order to relax and wait for dawn, when the sun just breaks the horizon.

We did not have to wait too long and the teal starting flying in from all directions, they were incredibly fast ducks and some were flying in very low to the water, then circling around and then coming in for a landing. Just like last year’s hunt the birds flew in over top and you could hear the feathers cut through the thin morning air right above you. They were beautiful; I would compare them to fighter jets flying over head in perfect unison.

Just one week before opening day, I watched a duck hunting video produced by Knight & Hale and my focus was to improve my “Call Back” and my “Feeding” calls based on their recommendations; and it worked like a charm, the ducks came in low, reacting to my calls and then as one of them came in low to touch down near my decoys I instinctively fired a Remington #3 steal shot into the air with a slight lead and harvested my first teal of the season. It was a brilliant hunt, they are fast birds indeed. Teal’s the Deal on opening day!

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The Muskrat looks like a very large rat which is very well adapted to aquatic life, similar to the beaver it can hold its breath up to fifteen minutes while under water. There size varies between 18 and 25 inches once fully grown and is sexually mature at about 1 year.

The muskrat is considered to be one the most widely distributed furbearing animal in North-America and their fur makes them very popular with trappers.  In my illustration the muskrat is sitting on a log to feed, there is also cattail nearby which it uses to build its lodge which is one of three types of shelter that it uses. The Floating Set trap is one of the best methods to trapping muskrat, the water needs to be deep enough for the trap and a #120 Conibear works very well.

My painting of a muskrat

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The mornings are much cooler now around here and many people do not want to see the summer go; the majority still wished they could keep their bathing suits and the BBQ’s on just a while longer.

Mother Nature however has her usual scheduled plan and unfortunately colder weather is part of the package, but let us not forget that with this also come the beautiful fall colors, if this is of any consolation.

Now, tucked away in every community throughout north-America there is a very interesting breed of people, the waterfowlers and with smiles from ear to ear, they on the other hand welcome the month of September and its cold weather. The waterfowl season is about to start!

Our northern environment without a doubt provides us with some of the most spectacular scenery and with this comes an opportunity for family, friends and fellow sportsman/woman to practice the sport they love.

Below, I have added the link to Environment Canada webpage: Migratory Birds Hunting Regulations, 2011-2012 – Summaries.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/rcom-mbhr/default.asp?lang=En&n=8FAC341C-1

On the main page you can click and choose your province or territory in the menu bar found on the left hand side of the page then you can consult the following information: Summary, Helpful Tip, Open Seasons in Quebec, Hunting Districts, Bag and Possession Limits in Quebec, Measures in Quebec Concerning Overabundant Species, Report Your Migratory Bird Bands. (Mine is Quebec, but yours will list the information for your selected choice)

So head on down to your local Post office, purchase your permit and have a safe and great season.

Report Your Migratory Bird Bands
Call 1-800-327-BAND (2263) or go to: www.reportband.gov

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