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Posts Tagged ‘nature’


The other night we had just finished supper and we were in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen, when the door bell rang out. It was my neighbor; she had walked over from her place with a large plastic grocery bag, and a lovely smile. We answered the door and starting chatting for a few minutes and she mentioned the word moose in her first few lines, she did not even have to finish her sentence and I called out from the kitchen and said “Yes”. We all began to laugh really loud, I knew it was an offering and boy was I happy. Her brother had harvested a moose this season and she gave us the heart, it was big.

We were extremely appreciative and thanked her several times and then off she went. I felt bad, I could not let her go back empty-handed, so I went through my freezer and grabbed one of the jars of Canada Goose rilliettes we had made. Within minutes, I was on her door step and this time it was my turn to ring her door bell. When the door opened, she smiled and said “I knew it was you” and I gave her the jar and told her what it was.

It is an incredibly good feeling to give and seeing the other persons reaction, in addition when it is wild game you have harvested it makes it that much more special and I am sure this relationship will allow us both to eat well and appreciate natures gift.

Now let us try to find a recipe!

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Last Sunday I took a long drive heading north toward one of my favorite hunting grounds, and on this particular day I was aiming for woodchucks, pigeons and crows. But I also thought to myself it wouldn’t hurt to complete a scouting trip in the wetlands just bordering the southern fields of the farm, especially with the waterfowl season opening in just a few days. I brought my canoe along with me but I was pretty sure, I wasn’t going to be using it.

This year I am super excited about the upcoming waterfowl season which generally opens on the 21st of September in my zone. Just like an old movie wheel, I keep on playing images in my mind of ducks bursting into flight right in front of me or breaking their wings coming in for a landing.

I have already purchased all my ammunition and have gone through my kit about twenty times and I believe now I am ready. My ammunition of choice this year is going to be the Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed steel, #3 shot, and 2 3/4 length. It worked very well for me during last year’s season, when I had my longest shot and harvest. Last week I got my Quebec resident permit for small game, which comes up to 19 Canadian dollars, every year it goes up and two weeks before this I purchased my waterfowl permit and stamp at the post office downtown.

When I arrived at the farm, the owner had already gone to work, so I unloaded my kit and got ready for small game hunting. I used my Bushnell binoculars and checked out the landscape for any movement and started my way south to the wetlands.

The cattle were scattered all over the northern field, so I had to either go through or around them and with a two thousand pound bull staring me down, I decided to hug the tree line and the creek then cross over to the south once I finished my walkabout. The bull and I kept eye contact the whole time, he is a big boy but he wasn’t going to prevent me from getting to the southern fields.

Once I crossed the creek, I made my way to the southwest toward the tall grass and the few trees that stood by the water, staying in the low ground. The whole time I was checking out the rock formation on my left for woodchucks. The crows were nowhere near me, they are much smarter and call out when I am around, additionally they tend to fly in a box formation around me and avoid me all together; it is actually quite neat because they stay exactly out of shooting range of a shotgun. I suppose you could say they recognize me by now and I am pretty sure they do.

I slowed my walking pace right down as I was only twenty yards from the beaver lodge and on a log right next to its opening there were two common mergansers, this is a good sign and very promising for the season. I took, two more steps and a mallard hen exploded into the air in front of me heading north, I took ten more steps and two more mallards burst into the flight on my left heading southwest.

This went on for about ten minutes, every time I took a few steps I had ducks bursting into flight. Four even circled back right over top and I swore I could have reached out and grabbed them with my hands. The majority were mallards.

I had a huge smile on my face and the sight of the ducks flying around me was just incredibly beautiful; in the end I counted thirty ducks. Bonanza! I went home without a pigeon or crow but I was one happy outdoorsman.

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She flew gracefully over the water as she headed to my right, all the while letting out a screeching call. It was clear to me that she was drawing me away from her nest, where the red wing male had just landed seconds ago then disappearing into the brush at ground level near the edge of the fresh water creek. It wasn’t a straight flight climb either across the sky like a duck; it was almost like she was rolling over small slopes going up and down until she chose the appropriate tree branch to land on.

The water was cold and fast flowing to the east. Also the part of the creek where I stood was quite wide and made for a difficult crossing. I had been trying for about half an hour or so to get into a good shooting position for a harvest.

I was on my third try of doing some back and forth along the shoreline for about twenty yards in an attempt to flush out two of the red-winged blackbird males. Now on my knees, hidden behind some tall grass, I tried to get as low as I could to enable me to use the vegetation as cover but it was difficult to pivot in the damp mud.

This is when I looked up and saw one of the blackbirds land in front on a small tree directly across from my position.

I quietly loaded a shell directly into the Winchester 97 chamber through the ejection port and ran the action forward cocking the gun readying my shot. His movements were rushed and sharp as he called out frequently, very loud chirpy call. Like he was saying “Whooooo Weeeeeeee.” It sounded like it was practically rattling its tongue at the end of the distinct blackbird call. Some describe it as the following: conk-la-ree!

He could sense that something was not right; he had the same behavior that common house sparrows display when a cat comes to close to their feeder.

I brought up my body from behind the grass about at the height of the vegetation tip, slowly keeping my barrel directly on the bird; aligned my bead sight with the bird, then lowered the bead sight half way, controlled my breathing and released my shot.

It was my first harvest this season and a very challenging hunt indeed.

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Snow Goose Rillettes

Snow Goose Rillettes

Snow Goose Rillettes Recipe

Ingredients:
Snow goose legs & Breasts (2 birds)
1 can of duck fat
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons of sea Salt
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of Ground Allspice

Steps:

Sprinkle small amounts of sea salt and place 2 crushed bay leaves into a zip lock bag. Remove the skin from the snow goose breasts and legs and then place the pieces also into the bag. Then add 1 tablespoon of allspice into the bag and shake it once it is sealed. Put it in the fridge for 6 hours. Rinse the meat and tap dry. Preheat the oven to 110°C the pan.

Warm up the duck fat and put the goose meat in the fat. Cook uncovered for 3 hours.

Remove the goose legs from the fat. Let it cool. Strip the meat from the bone using a fork. Add about a cup and a half of duck fat to moisten the meat. Add additional salt if needed after a taste test and then put it in a jar.   Seal the jar tightly and put it in the fridge.

Great References:
The Cooking Book “Sauvage” Savourer la nature by Louis-Francois Marcotte, Pg: 54, ISBN: 978-2-89077-380-6

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It was the middle of the month of March now and the sun was extremely bright and very high in the sky almost directly above me and only a few minutes shy of high noon. The day was an amazingly warm wintery day, I could feel the warmth on my face and I had already stripped down a layer. The reflections from the sun transformed the surface of the snow into a very large mirror, with the temperature sitting at around one degree Celsius. I had been tracking snowshoe hare and a coyote tracks for the most part of the morning.

I made my way down the ridge to the north-west heading south and followed the coyote tracks right through the frozen swamplands then over the river and afterward headed to the south-west. The coyote tracks would be occasionally space out, at times you could only make out three paw marks and then there were gaps of about a meter and a half or so in length as the animal would break out into a trot; then around the thirty meters distance mark it had stopped at a watering hole very close to the beaver lodge and then it climbed up on a large boulder to have a better look around. The coyote then continued around the front of the rock formation on the southern edge of the forest and disappeared in the snowy cedar and pine.

It is incredibly rewarding to be able to read natures signs, almost like a book and piece together a story, of this lone coyote who roams the same pristine lands as I. The snow surface had hardened from last night’s freeze creating a thick crust of ice thus making it much easier to walk. Every few steps one of my boots would break through and after a few tough steps I would stand steady onto of the surface once again, just like the other creatures which were lighter than me.

My goal was to harvest a snowshoe hare but I was also on the lookout for the intelligent American Crow. Another hour had passed and once the snowshoe hare leads had gone dry, I put my focus on the Crows which were flying around to the north.

I followed them as they flew over head; which lead me directly into the bowels of the white wilderness and within minutes I was surrounded by trees and pure solitude. There was a small clearing in between the pine and maple trees, so I made my way to the opening and looked up through the tree canopy to the bright blue sky.

I let out a few crow calls using my hands also adjusting the shape of my mouth and within a few minutes some crows flew right over me but were too high to reach with my 870, then the murder circled away to the west. I leaned up against a large tree and used its branches as cover because I remembered that during one of my previous pigeon hunts, the birds saw me from above and by the time my shot rang out they had maneuvered around my pellets. It was incredible!

A few more minutes had passed and now I was turning around to start my way back to the farm when all of a sudden I heard a crow call out from above, I was able to tell right away the direction he was calling from even without having seen him yet and knew he was going to fly right over head in my direction.

I swung around one hundred and eighty degrees shouldered my shotgun did a quick visual check, released the push safety and shot all in one single motion and hit the crow directly in flight; he landed directly to my left only five meters away. He was a beautiful bird and it had almost as much meat as a teal duck. It was a great hunt and feast!

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Is it intelligence, awareness, instinct or just plain survival? Sometimes I wonder if game animals have access to our hunting season dates or just know when to come out. I like to consider myself a seasoned hunter but there are times when I go several weeks without harvesting.

This past fall I had an amazing waterfowl season but did not harvest a single grouse and now the season is closed as of January 15th, 2013. Two weekends ago, I went snowshoe hare hunting and saw tons of tracks but not one hare, yet on the same hunting grounds; I saw three grouse within twenty meters of me.

When I am out hunting at the farm and we notice the wild turkeys roaming the far hills to the west and I point out a large male. My friend says yes, “He is about five years old”; I can tell you, I have a tremendous amount of respect for that turkey. This means that he has survived at least four hunting seasons, predation, disease, competition, the elements, motor vehicles and everything which Mother Nature throws at him.

I will continue my lifelong quest to learn as much as I can about the game animals that we hunt and I hope I will live and share many more beautiful hunts but there is one thing which is certain and that is life will continue its course long after I am gone and nature will have its way.

There are secrets hidden deep within nature which we will never uncover, I know a hunter who has been going to the same hunting grounds for several years now and he knows of a majestic buck who roams this territory yet they are unable to harvest him. He only comes out at night, when hunters have long gone and during the day he is like a ghost in the woods.

There is one thing I have learned about hunting crows and pigeons, and that is they are able to identify my habits and who I am because as soon as I show up at the farm they fly away. The only way I can harvest one is if I break my routine and arrive earlier or later, disrupt my hunting pattern. Instead of preparing my hunting kit and heading out right away for the hunt, I walk around the farm and pretend to do farming activities, walk toward the cattle and sit by the fence and talk. This usually allows them to relax and behave like they normally do when I am not around.

We like to consider ourselves the most intelligent life form on earth, and yet we cannot speak with animals which may allow them to challenge this notion, but who is to say they don’t think the same.  Do they know?

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There I was standing in my kitchen by the fridge getting myself something to drink, the milk container carefully placed on the counter top, I opened the cupboard door with my other hand in order to reach in for a glass.

Glass in hand, I spun around and faced the milk then the glass slipped out of my grip; fell to the floor sending chards of glass everywhere. I was quite upset and let out a few swear words but after all it was done, I just had an accident. I was mad because I knew that it could have been avoided, if only I had been more careful or moved slower.

For every accident this is the unfortunate truth, they can be avoided but sometimes other factors weigh into the situation and cause them to occur. Road conditions, your mental state or even over confidence and many other reasons can be a trigger.

The only thing we can do is be prepared for them with the right tools, whether they be in the form of knowledge or hardware such as a first aid kit, field craft kit like matches, a compass and other important items.

With the river now covered in ice, my waterfowl season is over until the spring snow goose hunt. This means, I will be spending long hours in the forest practicing one of my favorite hunts during the winter months, looking for the snowshoe hare.

Every time I step into the cold white forests, an accident could occur and the one I wish to focus on this time is getting lost. I consider myself an experienced woodsman, and even though we do not wish for it to happen, getting lost is very real and in the winter especially being unprepared could prove to be deadly.

My experiences have taught me that the sooner you accept the reality that you are lost and that now you must deal with it; your situation will have already improved. Last year, I read a book about wilderness survival and the author wrote that if you are lost, and your family or friends have a general idea where you are then they will come and find you so stay where you are. Make yourself comfortable! There was even mention of bringing a cigar or cigarette along to smoke, my interpretation was maybe this is to help you relax and prevent your mind from wandering too much, thinking about family and about predators such as bears and wolves or other potential dangers such as hyperthermia.

We know that every situation is unique and in some cases you might have to attempt finding your own way back, in this case travelling earlier in the day is best, so that you avoid getting stuck travelling at night. Because of the poor visibility at night you could walk right off a cliff or ravine and add additional challenges to your current situation. Always make sure you stay current and practice your map and compass skills prior to setting out, in case your GPS fails. When I go hunting, I always let my family know where I will be, I also provide them with a map and emergency contact numbers along with a cut off time to call if they do not hear from me.

ShelterSo, for this situation or blog post, if I were lost, I would plan on staying where I am until I was found and therefore building a shelter is absolutely necessary giving me a chance of survival. It can also offer protection against the wind, rain, snow and ultimately provide some comfort in your current predicament.

For well over two decades, I have spent many nights out in the wilderness, during all seasons using all kinds of shelters, lean-to, 3 sided lean-to, ice shelters, A-frame ponchos tents with bungee cords, tents, arctic tents as well as without any cover at all.

The 3 sided lean-tos is one of my favorite and is the one that I will be illustrating for this blog entry. One of the reasons, I really like the lean-to is because if you have rope and a small axe, then your shelter can be built really well but tools are not always readily available during an emergency or accidental situation and yet a lean-to can be built without the luxury of tools and rope.

Paul Tawrell in his book on camping & wilderness survival book writes about panic and fear, he actually says, “keep your mind busy and plan for survival”. Building a shelter can help with this very element of fear and by focusing on building your shelter, you prevent your mind from racing.

I actually spent three days alone in the woods and worked constantly at perfecting my shelter; I even went to the extent of removing all the rocks one by one from my lean-to all the way down to the river’s edge. First we should focus on choosing a spot to build the 3 sided lean-to, you will need to find two large trees about 7 feet apart , each one having a limb stump on the same side  and at the same height. I like to have mine just above the waist height; the reason for this is that you do not want to lose too much heat during cold weather ensuring your heat/fire reflecting wall where you will provide you with the most heat.

If you are building a shelter in cold weather, find a naturally covered area with lots of evergreen trees and avoid slopping areas, so that water may not run down into your shelter. Avoid open areas where snow can blow in and cover you with snow.

Find a cross beam pole about 8 feet long which will hold poles for your roof, if you have rope secure the two corners and prepare yourself by finding as many roof poles about 9 feet long and as many as you need to complete your roof and secure them with snow and debris at the base. Heavy snow works well.

For the two sides of the shelter find gradual sized logs and place them up against the side of the shelter and use snow and vines to hold them in place. Once all the three-sided framing is in place, if you have a poncho or even in some cases a parachute, place it over the roof part and cover it with snow and cedar and pine boughs and layer it, some even recommend using latticework in order to secure your shelter.

Once the outer part of your shelter is ready, you can now start focusing on the inside, you can make a rectangular mattress like shape with snow and then cover it with lots of evergreen boughs to provide a pocket of air between you and the snow. This creates a natural mattress and will help with keeping you dry and warm. If you have lots of wood readily available you can also place two small logs vertically the length of your body and then place small sticks across from top to bottom, then place cedar branches above this thus making a natural bed.

Now that the 3 sided lean-to shelter is complete, you can now focus on building the fire reflector wall. Bernard Mason in his book “Camping Craft” shows the distance from your lean-to entrance and the fire wall being at about 7 feet away. This is acceptable and shall reflect the heat back into your lean-to but will also be at a safe distance away.

The reflector wall can be built using two or four posts, two at each end spaced out from each other and by placing several logs about 6 feet long between them thus creating the wall, the fire is then placed and started in the inside part of the wall facing you. A teepee fire will work just fine, also make sure you choose your wood carefully for example choose Ash, Birch, dogwood or oak, you want to use wood that will burn for a long time provide good coals but also produce lots of heat once the flames have died down.

There are many great resources on the Internet as well as great books available and even companies that offer survival courses. On my OKB page, there are several books listed which I have read and used as references throughout the years.

Stay warm and be safe!

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