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Posts Tagged ‘nature’


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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Wild PigSeveral months ago, I was sitting in a waiting area of a Chevy truck dealership having just helped myself to a hot cup of coffee. Then comfortably placed in my seat I was waiting for my turn, I can remember turning my head to look around at all the new trucks, and like many others before me I noticed the magazine rack. I remember thinking to myself that “gosh nothing would be of interest to me in that pile of magazines maybe just a few about fashion or cooking topics.” but this is when I spotted the one with a big game hunting title on its cover.

So, I carefully folded and placed my right foot overtop my left knee and brought down my elbows at the same time that I was opening the magazine. I skimmed read through the first few pages that were filled with advertisements, some for rifle scopes and various other hunting accessories. I turned a few more pages and this is when I landed on the picture a model hunter sitting by his trophy in a faraway place, along with a great article. For many of us this was nothing but a far away dream, imagining what it would be like to hunt like Jim Shockey.

I can remember dreaming about how incredible this would be to travel to a remote place in our vast wilderness to hunt for wild game trophies. You would be facing the elements, challenging mind and body in pursuit of a majestic or dangerous game and as a reward being able to claim your trophy.

I am very passionate about sport hunting, especially small game and most of us hunt for the sport but also for the food and for the experiences we share with family and friends. These hunts could take place anywhere, on family land, private or public property. Some of us have our annual deer or moose hunting trips, others are all about waterfowl or upland birds but deep inside us it is hard to put the rest the idea that a great classic hunt could be within reach and that it can in fact be a very realistic dream that we can achieve at least once in a lifetime.

It is almost the end of November now and the holidays are coming up, the small game season is in full swing and the waterfowl season will be coming to its close very soon in just a few weeks on the 21st of December. But for me time seemed almost surreal. I was then just nine days ago sitting in my truck driving at dawn heading north into the snowy Canadian wilderness. I was driving into the unknown toward my first great classic hunt. It was a gift in every sense of the word and a dream come true.

Then just a few hours later, I found myself all alone in the woods staring down a snowy trail surrounded by two hundred acres of wilderness. No guides, just me and the elements in pursuit of my majestic game, the wild pig.

I was standing on frozen ground with the soles of my rubber boots making cracking sounds as I broke through the thin layer of ice and snow that covered the leaves and branches. I had just re-adjusted my footing in order to get a better look around. I could see my every breath as the water vapours condensed.

There was a light snow fall and the wind was blowing in a north-easterly direction, it would come in like an ocean tide and brush the surface of the treetops and as it passed through the mixed woods, it rustled the remaining leaves and branches which cause it to sound like a small engine passing through. But my knowledge has taught me that when you are stalking game, this is the best time to move as the wind and noise that is generated from the forest masks your footsteps, which is really advantageous while still hunting. It is also important to note the direction of the wind because it can help mask your scent or bring an odour towards you. On a good day, I can sometimes smell the same scent of a wet dog and this quite often turns out to be animal which is not too far. The temperature was sitting around minus five degrees Celsius.

If you are gamer and you are familiar with the Xbox Cabelas Dangerous hunts 2011 game and for a few seconds during your game if you let your character just stand still in the snow, the sights and sounds were quite similar. The cold, and late autumn smells filled the air, the forest surrounding me was dark and had an eerie feel to it. I was very much alive and every sense in my body was at a heightened state.

I turned and faced the south and found more trails which lead over a ridge, it was almost magical and I could picture that at any time now a fox, coyote or hare could pass directly in front of me. I went down on one knee near a large tree for cover in order to have a better look around with my binoculars.

Time seemed like it froze as I was being absorbed by the cold wilderness, it was just me and the elements. For that short moment in time, I found myself back in the mountains of Bosnia and although there was no small arms fire or mines sticking out of the ground, I was living the exact same feelings, cold and isolated yet it was a very calming feeling which filled my entire body.

I was alone in pursuit of the famed wild boar a gift a loved one had offered me; it was the one dream of a classic wild game hunt and I was living every second to the fullest. I had spent six hours in the woods and only around four in the afternoon when nightfall was creeping up and it started getting dark, this is when I noticed a sounder of wild boar to the north-west about three hundred meters away.

The hunt was on, I now had to come up with an approach strategy, and I did not want to allow myself to get too excited. So, I got down on one knee brought up my binoculars and studied the ground in front of me as well as the whereabouts of the entire group of wild pigs.

They were feeding in an open area just on the edge of the forest to the northwest, and I needed to get as close as I could without alerting them for my shot. So with my approach plan set, I crouched down and started a slow sprint using the trees as cover, leapfrogging from large trees to boulders, until I got within seventy-five meters. I was now on my hands and knees crawling to the last and largest boulder between the boars and I, which was now only fifty meters away. I always take my gloves off for the shot, so I wiped the mud and snow off my fingers and prepared myself for the shot.

I got myself into the prone position and started to control my breathing in order to catch my breath after covering all that rough terrain. My farming friend had always taught me to be patient before every shot and if you’re lucky the animals may move toward you and get into a better position for your shot.

It was getting dark out and I did not want to track my game, so I wanted to ensure I had a clean and quick shot. I was now so focused on the boar to my front that I did not immediately notice a young elk sneak up on my left behind a tree just meters away. But his presence was a blessing as it startled the group of boars and they came up over the small ridge and were now just twenty-five meters away.

There were six of them now moving from my right to left and feeding, I picked out the largest of the group and lined up my Tasco scope cross-hairs directly in line with its vitals and I followed the boar adjusting my aim accordingly.

Even with a perfectly sighted in scope, quite often hunters will tend to hit lower than where they were aiming, therefore I compensated for this but not by much. The boar moved a few meters ahead and started feeding again. The boar was perfectly set sideways, with my fore-stock sitting on the rock, I re-aligned the cross-hairs with the vitals and pushed the lever forward on the .303 taking the rifle off safe and with my last breath of three and with my lungs now half empty I released the shot.

The boar jumped into the air and darted for the heavier thickets, I kept my eyes glued on the wild pig as it sprinted about forty meters along with two other boars and then it tripped, fell and flipped over a log and lay motionless. It was a brilliant harvest and it was the end to my first classic hunt. Incredible!

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The headlights of the truck lit up the dirt road as we made our way down the hill toward the boat launch site on the northern shore of the river.

Just a few minutes had passed now and we were already parked and unloading our gear, decoy bags, shotguns and our backpacks. Prior to stepping out of the truck, I always check and make sure that my LED head lamp is placed over top my tuque and that I turn it on during morning duck hunts because we often work and get ready in the dark until we get to our hunting spots.

We removed the straps holding down the canoe to the roof of the truck, then lifted and spun it around at the same time placing it on the ground. We carefully filled it up with our gear and carried the canoe down to the water’s edge. It was a cold morning with the temperature sitting at around minus five degrees Celsius but there was no wind and the water was dead calm not a ripple in sight. The sky was very clear and had a purple color to it with the sun sitting just below the horizon, you could also see all the prominent stars.

I stood up by the canoe picked up my life jacket and turned it inside out, so that the black inside part was facing out and I then climbed into the bow of the canoe which was now facing directly south and being held by the other hunter.

We pushed off quietly and started paddling across the wider part of the bay; our plan was to cross the larger part of the bay and head in a south-easterly direction. On the other side there was a steep embankment with a trail that we could use to get to the small inner islands and end up in distributaries.

Once we reached the other side of the bank and worked our way through the trail pulling the canoe by its strap, we noticed that our primary waterway was frozen over with around an inch of ice. We now had to prepare our decoy placement, so the canoe was pushed onto the ice and as we climbed in our weight it caused the canoe to break through the thin layer of ice and then we started paddling and breaking our way through the ice moving toward the center of the waterway.

Once in the middle using just our paddle blades, we broke the ice into a very large circle shape and then placed our decoys and electronic duck Mojo into the water on its twelve-foot pole. With the decoys setup in a scattered formation, we slowly made our way back to the shoreline and to our respective shooting spots. We were about fifteen meters apart, now in a kneeling position; I collected some deadfall and several broken branches and built a small blind in front of me along with some foliage.

This would create a natural looking barrier between the duck decoys and my shooting position; if needed I could lower myself in behind the shelter so that if the ducks flew in for their initial fly over, they would not see me. One thing that I have observed is that if you call out several duck calls and attract ducks toward your decoys, mallards will fly in from several directions and quite often they are in groups of two or three and sometimes more depending on your location. I have seen twenty mallards all bunched up together in flight.

So stay low and wait for them to come in within shooting range. You need to study their flight pattern and within a few seconds judge whether you will have a close shot or you may have to take a long shot. It may seem like at times that you are anticipating and trying to interpret what direction they may take, their wings formation and shape in flight can tell you a lot about their next move. We waited for the half an hour mark before sunrise and then whispered to each other that it was now time, we started calling hard with some combo calls letting out comeback calls and feeding calls. Within minutes two mallards flew in from the south-west and came in low between me and the decoys about fifteen meters out.

I quickly lined up my bead site and released a shot of #4 my first mallard fell onto the ice surface and slid a few inches then stopped.

We kept on calling and more ducks flew in but then gained altitude and landed further to the east near the shoreline where the ice was thinner and had open spots. The other hunter on my left decided to work his way up the bank to the east and attempt to harvest the ducks that landed minutes earlier on our left.

I took a quick look around and above then called again, several comeback and feeding calls, soon more ducks came in very high from the south-west, so I released another shot, it was a miss, pumped the action and fired a second shot hitting the last duck in the group of four; the duck froze in mid-air and plunged several meters into the ice surface piercing a hole the size of the bird then got stuck below the surface.

I called again with a very loud comeback call and then waiting around ten minutes and called again with some feeding calls. Two more ducks came in from the south-west then dropped down circling around into the water hole were the decoys were floating. I fired another shot and hit a mallard hen, the bird froze in the air, dropped and landed on the opposite shore line of the water way. It was my longest shot this season and a successful harvest.

It was a fantastic hunt!

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The triumph of a hunt is not only measured in having successfully harvested a game bird or waterfowl as a trophy. We should also remember the time spent out in nature, actively practicing the sport we love; additionally there is also the possibility that you could bring home a bird and have a wonderful meal with friends or family.

But before this can be done there are several steps that need to be completed. Ultimately, your decision on how to proceed with the processing of your harvest is the main factor of the final outcome. For example if you staying at a hunting camp and you know that you will be there for several days, then you might not even freeze the meat, once the bird has been field dressed. It could be cooked at the camp within the first few hours following the harvest. This way you can enjoy a nice meal during the hunting trip or decide to bring some home as well. Some hunters just remove the breast meat rather than use the whole bird, which could include the legs and some of the internal organs or even the tongue.

This is done by removing all the feathers on the belly portion of the bird, then slicing through the breast skin, peeling it back and then with a sharp knife, placing the blade point at the top of the breast bone and cutting down each side. Moving from top to bottom. You could end up with two great strips of duck meat.

If you wish to do both, field dress but also keep the feathers and parts of the bird, so that a taxidermist may mount it, then I recommend you conduct the necessary research and see what is needed in order to obtain a great trophy.

If you are out hunting waterfowl and it involves some travelling then it is your obligation to keep at least one wing fully feathered and attached to the bird. This way if you are stopped by a game warden, the wing will enable them to properly identify the species.  For more information or questions, you can consult the following Environment Canada web link concerning transportation of migratory birds.

Field dressing is described as the process of removing the internal organs of a bird or mammal which has been harvested during a hunt. These steps better prepare the meat for cooking, but also facilitate the transportation of the game and decrease your chances of spoiling the meat or getting sick.

I am continuously trying to find ways to improve my skills and one of the methods I use is finding great books to read. My most recent find is the “Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia Volume 7 Birds. It is an incredible book full of knowledge about birds, and the part that interested me the most for this particular blog post is bird anatomy.

It is not necessary to be a surgeon in order to field dress game but it is important to be able to identify the main organs, so that you may conduct a proper field dressing process in a safe manner and prepare the game correctly for transporting and ultimately cooking.

My field dressing kit consists of a very sharp knife with a short but extremely sharp blade, and it does not exceed three inches and has a hooked blade tip for cutting the windpipe and this also allows me to be able to detach certain organs from internal tissue. I have several cheese cloth bags to keep the insects and dirt off the game but plastic bags from the grocery store will work just fine too. I have a box of latex gloves, this way I avoid direct contact with the blood or skin. A cooler filled with two ice packs to keep the meat cool during my transportation. A box of large size Ziploc bags can be quite handy.

During the field dressing of a game bird or waterfowl the first thing I do, is inspect the bird for any abnormalities, checking if the bird is sick or very small. This could help in identifying for spots or even removing flees, and seeing if there are there patches of feathers missing. Then I proceed with removing the feathers from the bird except for one wing. I always complete this process outside avoiding unnecessary mess in the kitchen. The tailgate of the truck or even a cutting board at the hunting camp makes for great work surfaces, having water in a bottle or tap close by is also really great to help clean the bird as well as your hands.

I then place the bird on its back and cut down the center of the breast bone breaking the rib cage and then pushing down on both sides thus flattening and opening the bird as illustrated in my painting.* Be careful as the breast bone is very sharp and thin which can cut your fingers or a broken rib and small bones can poke your hands or fingers and cause you to bleed. This makes it easier to identify the organs. When working with the digestive system, I am also very careful not to sever the intestines, so that its content, excrement or urine does not touch the meat. The heart or gizzard can also be removed for cooking, however, I would do research on the birds’ environment and identify whether or not is recommended to eat. (May contain high levels of lead)

I hope you have great season and wonderful meals too.

Rock Dove Anatomy

Rock Dove Anatomy

*1. Trachea, 2. Crop, 3. Flight Muscles, 4. Heart, 5. Liver, 6 .Gizzard, 7. Lungs, 8. Small intestines, 9. Pancreas, 10. Cloacal opening

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The front part of the keel was slicing through the water making sputtering sounds as the canoe pushed through the thick weeds with the momentum from my last powerful stroke. With my right hand wrapped firmly around the grip, I slowly lifted my shoulders and arms readying myself for the next stroke. I brought the tip of the blade down into the water once again and with my left hand at the throat of the paddle; it pierced the surface of the cold black water. As I pulled hard, launching the bow forward, I could see the reflection of my gold ring sparkle in the underwater emptiness.

Just moments before I had navigated through a narrow passage of swamp grass, and found myself in a small bay with a beaver lodge directly to my right to the south surrounded by jagged logs sticking up out of the muddy water with scattered miniature islands of weeds and bog soup.

The beaver lodge was an active one; it had several fresh mud slide markings left by the beavers belly and paws as it brought branches to the upper part of the lodge and then slid down like a child on its water slide.

There was a strong wind blowing in a south-easterly direction, pushing me along and like the current of a river and it swallowed me whole, then within seconds I could see the leaves from the deciduous trees fluttering to my right on the bank. Staying close to the edge of the shoreline enabled me to avoid a hard fight with the winds but also capitalize on the hidden ducks.

The smell, sights and sounds of the fall enriched my hunting experience and as I pushed forward and slowly disappeared in the bowels of this amazing Canadian wilderness. Memories of my grandfather and the many trips to the family camp flood my soul.

This was teal country indeed, and with my shotgun stowed by my right knee loaded with three shells which included the one in the chamber, I was at the ready for the duck flight bursts. My paddle strokes allowed me to glide several meters and with the wind at my back; I would alternate putting down the paddle then shoulder my Remington 870 for about half a minute and then switch back to the paddle once I started to lose speed.

All my senses were at a heightened state and my breathing was controlled, taking only deep breaths thus preventing myself from getting too excited ensuring safe and solid shots. Once I reached a short distance passed the lodge toward my first mini island of tall grass, I heard a sharp whistle and three teal burst into the flight to the south-east only meters in front of me.

With my Remington 870 shouldered, I pushed off the safety catch and fired my first shot at the third and last bird but he reacted to the muzzle blast and dove to the right in flight and flipped on its side and then swerved back to its left just like a rock dove and then blending in with the tree line and I lost sight of the bird, it was a miss. Pumping the action, I now changed focused on the second bird which was more than twenty meters away on my left, I gave the bird some lead and released the second shot, the bird kept flying towards the north breaking away from the group and then dropped down and lost altitude gradually then plunged into the weeds below.

I placed the 870 on safe and paddled very quickly to the spot where it landed; this triggered two more teals to burst into the flight toward the river to the south on my right but I was not at the right angle for a safe shot and my priority was to find my harvested teal. After a few minutes of searching I found my blue winged teal. They are magnificent birds with their bright blue feathers and lightning fast flight. It was another fantastic hunt and a great way to end the day.

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Canada Goose

With the four doors open, I carefully removed each strap which was holding down the canoe to the roof; releasing their individual locks with my key for the ammunition box because the lever locks were too tight to unlock with my fingers. I then placed the straps inside the cab and climbed up into the back of the flatbed, setting myself under the canoe facing the cab rear window. With my knees slightly bent I then picked up the canoe onto my shoulders placing them exactly into the grooves of the yoke stabilizing the bow and stern with both hands on each side of the gunwales. I then spun the canoe around in the air, made my way to the back of the truck and once I was facing the river to the south, I jumped off the tailgate onto the wetlands muddy ground. I threw my hips once again into the opposite direction pushing up with my right arm, then lowered the canoe onto my thighs and gently placed it into the swamp grass to my left.

It took me just a few minutes to load my paddle, shotgun, life jacket and backpack with all the necessary kit I would need into the guts of the canoe. I moved toward the bow and grabbed its carrying strap, and started pulling the canoe through the tall grass heading south-east.

When I first got to the wetlands, I carefully scanned the sky, tree line and marsh, which included two large bodies of open water. There was a very strong wind mixed with rain blowing in my direction of travel. I knew that it would be tough work coming back once the hunt had ended. I finally chose to go to the large body of water to my left, which had lots of vegetation which had grown in since the previous year; it was filled with swamp grass, mud islands and concentrations cat tail.

Once I reached the edge of the water, I set off with one foot in the canoe and the other outside the boat and pushed myself along using the small mud islands and vegetation as steps. It was hard work but I managed to find and follow a larger water trail which had formed in the middle. There were thousands of small water trails like a maze. With the strong winds and freezing waters any mistake could prove to be deadly.

After several hundred meters of pushing and paddling, I finally reached my first large portion of open water. I now had the time to orientate myself using two large distinct trees found near the river and a community water tower to the north. I programmed my global positioning system along with my compass then put them back into the backpack. The wind had turned the canoe diagonally towards the south but I was still going into the direction I was aiming for because I had seen about six teal ducks fly around very quickly and then land on the northern edge of the marsh.

I grabbed a hold of my paddle, took control of the canoe and made my way another fifty meters. I Passed a large patch of grass mixed with cattail to my right, it resembled a small island and the grass was high enough I could not see through. On the other side directly to my front was an even larger space of open water leading to the river with just a small river bank separating the two. There were also hundreds of small mud islands and patches of grass with thick weed roots.

I had no idea how much activity was waiting for me on the other side, so I placed myself really low into the canoe, stopped paddling and rested the paddle on the yoke and my left thigh then loaded three shells into my Remington 870, chambered a shell and instinctively put it on safe using the push button.

My chosen spot for waterfowl was perfect; there was a mallard out into the open to my left but too far for a shot, two groups of teal flying around in circles right above me to my front and roughly thirty Canada geese to my right behind two large mud islands. My heart began to race and I could feel the pounding in my chest, my breathing was also going steady, but I had to control my excitement and focus on my approach. I made myself even smaller in the canoe and stopped moving.

The canoe was once again being pushed along in their direction with the wind blowing in from the north-west. I was afraid of making noise with my paddle, so I carefully reached in over the gunwale with my left hand and placed it into the freezing water, grabbed hold of some weed roots and pulled myself toward the geese. I was now very close only thirty meters away.

The feeling was incredible; I was like a fox stalking its prey, it was a very intense moment. With the wind pushing and pulling along the weed roots with my hand almost numb, I made it across a small part of the open water until I reached the opposite side of the island directly across where twenty of the geese were gathered. With the ducks flying nervously above me but too high for a shot, something alerted the geese which were on watch duty and two or three of them began to call out. I could hear splashing, I could see several of them through the tall grass moving away to deeper water and then soon after the whole flock burst into the flight.

They took flight in all directions but they did not know where I was, so it took them a few seconds to get organized and finally choose one set path and that happened to be directly over me circling to my left heading north-west.

Canada Geese are large birds and they are quick but not as fast as a duck, which gives you a few milliseconds more to react. I shouldered my shotgun twisted my body to the left and released a shot into the air, and missed a bird by the fraction of a feather. I pumped the action, took a quick breath and applied the skills I learned. Chose one bird out the flock; placed my bead sight directly in line with the chosen bird adjusting my forward allowance accordingly then releasing the second shot.

It was almost the exact shot placement which I used for the Eastern wild turkey that I had harvested. I was aiming directly for the neck and the shot filled the air and the bird which was twenty meters high froze in mid-air like a statue and with its head tilted toward the water it fell to the surface. It was a hard fall! I cleared the last remaining shell from the Remington 870 and then paddled over to recover the harvest.

It was a long hard paddle and push back to the truck against the strong winds, having at times to step out of the canoe with one leg or use the paddle as a push pole but in the end it was well worth the effort. I had just harvested a beautiful twelve pound Canada goose.

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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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