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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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Hang on! Before I start typing, let me turn on Kane Brown -Heaven on “Youtube”…ok now I am ready.

Like many outdoorsmen and women out there, I love to watch videos about hunting, my favourite one’s have to be about waterfowl, either from ground blinds or jump shooting from a canoe or kayak.

Not only do I pick up on new tips and tricks but I also really enjoy watching some of the great hunts that have been captured on film, in addition I love having some great laughs, especially when watching “Outlaw” videos on Dippin’ and Huntin’ geese.

It brings back memories of dippin’ with my buds when I was younger, sharing awesome moments.

Many of those videos out there often host a guide or two and their role is vital to a successful hunt with regards to the harvesting of game. I am normally the hunter out there and it has been like this for years and I have also made some great vids too with my GoPro but in the past couple years, I have had several opportunities to be a guide. I always had my doubts about my abilities as a guide but after having taken several buds on successful duck and Canada goose hunts and now this weekend turkey hunting, I am slowly transforming into a seasoned guide.

Knowledge is definitely a large part of being a great guide, but also having the right equipment for example turkey decoys, a tent/blind and a good turkey caller is key, especially for my upcoming weekend. Then there are other attributes like having confidence about your decisions, and having a great understanding of the game that you are pursuing and its environment.

There are many other important factors to being a guide, like having the ability to take responsibility for the mistakes made because in some cases even if it may not always be said, the hunters will lay the blame on you as the guide for their unsuccessful harvests, even if it was mother nature’s doing.

My whole life I have been surrounded by institutions that solely exists based on theories and this just does not work out in the field. Part of being a guide is also earning confidence and trust from the hunters, and this is easily obtained by being modest and having proven field experience, this can be as easy as having great stories based on field time or a simple picture of you with a harvested Turkey or geese in your den.

This will not be my last blog about being a guide because it is simply an intriguing subject and so vast. Until next time remember to be respectful of your guide and keep in mind their proven field experience and learn to trust their instincts.

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I was standing very still inside the barn hidden behind its double doors; this was the second barn of three in the field. The old doors had just a wide enough gap between them allowing me to see the whole southern field.

My heart was racing and I was very excited, as soon as I got to the farm in the morning for the start of my hunt, I could hear geese calling out from the field below and I knew this was going to be very promising.

A few weeks ago I had spotted a large number of Canada geese very close to the creek but too far from the third barn for a shot with too much open ground to cover in order to get closer. That is without being seen by the spotting geese of course.

In the book “Hunting & Fishing in Canada –A turn-of-the-Century Treasury” The author of the chapter “Sport with Canada Geese” Ed. W. Sandys writes the following on page 84.

“Wild and shy to a degree, suspicious of every unusual sight or sound and craftiest of all feathered game, the Canada goose is no quarry for careless sportsman or eager novice. Yet there are several methods by which these feathered foxes may be outwitted readily enough, always provided that the sportsman is a well-informed, close observer, a man of much patience, and a fairly good shot.”

I studied the open ground and had identified an old bath tub filled with water, two large thorn bushes and some low ground leading to a small muddy trench running east to west twenty-five feet out and then of course the shrub line parallel to the creek.

Twice, I came out the back of the barn crouched down really low and moved along a small fence to the west and stood up very carefully behind some boards to identifying all the spotting geese and seeing how the group was scattered. I could not immediately decide if I needed to move in from the east or west. Deep down I knew which the best choice was but I just had to calm my nerves and make a decision. It was going to be the west!

It was about nine in the morning but the sun was already very bright and warm, which made it easy for the geese to spot me. I knew it was going to take time and that I would have to move very slowly if I was going to be successful.

So, I pulled down my balaclava over my face, checked all my zipper pockets and started to move. I swiveled around in the mud and went out the back of the barn for the third time, heading out the left side of the barn.

As soon as I cleared the right corner of the barn, I got down on my belly and started my slow stalk along the muddy soil, moving along the metal fence and passing underneath the last bar of the metal gate. I had a long ways to go, but I was going to take my time, breathe and ensure that there was no chance that the spotting geese would see me.
When I usually leopard crawl, my elbows are put straight into the ground with my arms curved upward and my shotgun or rifle is horizontally across and slightly lifted off the ground in the crease of my arms. The problem with this stalk is that the geese would see the glare from my barrel if not the movement.

So, I pointed the barrel toward the geese and used my forearm to lift it off the ground. By now, I had cleared the metal gate of the fence and was in open ground and in clear view of the geese. Speed was not important in this stalk, therefore I moved my body like a caterpillar using the ball of my feet to push myself forward.

After about every meter or two, I would put my face right down in the mud and tuck my hands in and wait for a few minutes. The Realtree pattern in my clothing made me blend right into the ground which was composed of mixed grass, hay and mud. I was also able to catch my breath.

Then I would push-off again with the ball of my feet and realign myself with my new cover which was a large thorn-bush large enough to hide a person kneeling down. I was breathing heavily not necessarily from all the crawling but from the excitement of getting so close to the geese.

It took me a while to cover about twenty-five meters, stopping, moving and observing. Now only one meter from the thorn-bush, the older and large spotting geese where getting nervous as they stretched their necks out further. They were only six meters on the other side of the bush.

Their instinct was telling them something but they could not see me, a few of them called out short calls (Cluck), similar to the turkey cut call . Alarming but not urgent, I had to move now before I was going to be seen. I loaded three shells, pumped the action and stood up lightning fast and the geese burst into the air, I fired off two shells into the closest bird and he spiraled and fell about 6 feet from the ground, I fired one more shell into another bird but missed. The gaggle had flown around and was now circling but they were too high for another harvest.

It was a great waterfowl hunt; I harvested a great bird and still had a full day ahead.

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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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A few weeks ago I drove into a Tim Horton’s coffee shop parking lot and found myself behind an older Chevy truck that was on his way out and just about done backing out of his spot, and on his tailgate there was a large bumper sticker which said: Kids who hunt, fish and trap don’t mug little old ladies. My first reaction was a smile but then I thought to myself that there must be some truth to this saying. This is a pro then.

If children participate in a fun and educational activity like accompanying their family while on a hunt for example then they are more likely to avoid getting into trouble. My son has been coming along on my hunts since the age of three and he has learned so much from just being out in nature.

It is a very healthy way for them to spend the day outdoors and they usually go back home rejuvenated, you can see it on their faces. For them it is a day of hiking and observing.

It is also a great way to spend quality time with the family, creating memories which will last a lifetime. When my son accompanies me on my hunts however there are pros and cons.

My son is very much involved in the preparation stages, like getting the snacks and lunches ready, packing the kit bags with the right gear, filling the cooler with its necessary content and then loading the vehicle. But this also takes more time. This is a con then. We have been out together in all seasons throughout the year and this makes for a lot of pre-planning, especially during the winter months. You are no longer preparing just for one person.

Your checklist becomes a little more loaded, ensuring that you have the extra orange safety vests, additional food, water, gloves and snow outfits. You now have to be extra careful in having spare clothing, a complete first aid kit, and allergy medication if it applies to your situation. This is a con then because your kit is a little heavier.

Your family member’s age or their level of experience as well as their knowledge can have a direct impact on the success of your hunt. Experience has taught me that when a young person is accompanying you, harvesting game no longer is the most important element which contributes to the definition of a successful hunt. It is having fun and learning!

A practice which I have adopted while hunting with my son is in order to keep it interesting and rewarding; I do not take him on big game hunts like wild boar or turkey hunting in the early hours of the morning. Rather I take him along for groundhog and pigeon hunting, which has just enough of a challenge but increases our chances of harvesting something. The advantage with this strategy is that there is no need to walk for miles in the woods and then in the end having to carry them in your arms or shoulders which is not very safe. Fun and safety are paramount!

Additionally during the winter months, the shorter distances means that we can go back to the vehicle warm up have a snack, drink some water and plan for our next hunting segment. During the summer months, we normally pick a large boulder to sit on or a fence under a very large tree which provides us with ample shade. This is also a great time for them to use binoculars and have a feel for the land and animal life which is around them or maybe even take some pictures. This is a pro!

Still hunting is my preferred way to hunt and this sometimes involves going through thick brush and rough terrain, when a younger family member has come along for the day, you are limited on where you can go and the distance you can cover. This is a con. They may get fatigued or the cold weather and wind will be too much for them to handle for long periods of time. It is not uncommon for me to spend up to four hours at a time hunting snowshoe hare being exposed to minus twenty degree Celsius temperatures. I do not recommend this for younger members of your hunting party, they will get cold quickly and your hunt will be cut short.

Of course let us not forget firearm safety; my gun is never loaded when I am with my son unless I am ready to shoot. My weapon is always pointing in a safe direction away from anyone or is aimed at the ground.

When I am ready to shoot, I always ensure my son is directly behind me with a distance of about four meters between us and I never take a shot without checking his position where he is standing or kneeling, this way he does not sneak up on me by accident. I use the principles which we have been taught during our courses. When I am out with a younger member of the family, I am extra vigilant and do not allow any room for error.

Accidents do occur but they can be avoided by using proper handing and firing but also for the storing of firearms. If you are taking a break during your hunt, you will want to unload the firearm and store it in a secure area like a gun case and a locked trunk. Inform yourselves on the proper storage and placement of the firearm in and around vehicles whether it is a truck or an ATV or even a boat. Additionally inform yourselves on who is permitted to carry and use a firearm depending on their age. In my case, I am the only person using a firearm until the person accompanying is old enough and has successfully completed his or her courses.

Federal firearms legislation and hunters

In respecting the guidelines and laws you will avoid expensive fines or worse a very serious accident.

If a young person accompanies you on a hunt, there are definitely pros et contras but the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives, it is so rewarding to have someone come out and learn and be as passionate as you are about nature and wildlife. And on the drive home when they are knocked out in the back seat from fatigue, let me tell you when I buy a hot coffee it is one of the best coffees in the world. Just me and the road!

Notion of family, age required to hunt and initiation license

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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