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Posts Tagged ‘paddle’


I have written about it, I have filmed it and I have lived it a hundred times over, yet I find myself sometimes coming back disappointed that I was unable to capture the true experience of spending a cold December evening with the chin straps along the cold black waters of the river. The reality is that when you live it, you are in a sense writing about it when you think about the words that you will use to describe the whole experience. Your mind is in fact filming it too and transforming it into an incredible memory. But it is an exclusive film that only your eyes capture and sharing through stories I find does not always do it justice.

The sun down time today was at four twenty in the afternoon which meant I could hunt until ten to five. This usually means full darkness at this time of year but with the moon coming up this evening it was simply out of this world and was lighting up the whole river bank toward the West. I wanted to ensure I had a long enough hunt, so for this I left the house at around two in the afternoon, thus giving me enough time to get to my spot and setup. Today I brought along my kayak and rigged up a harness for me to pull it like a sled behind me, at least until I got to the water’s edge. This way I can also retrieve birds that fall in to the water a quite a distance.

The trail is not an easy one to navigate through its waist deep watering holes and large broken ice sheets but I always seem to make it just fine. Once on the river’s edge I paddle up the river heading East for about one kilometer, which is what I did today. There was a strong wind and light snow fall, and the whole experience was magical. The waters were a little choppy but I made sure to stay close to shore, and it did not take long for the river to come to life with a bufflehead which flew with lightning speed down the edge of the river to my right but he was too quick for a side angle shot.

The advantage of having my kayak as well is that there are a few spots where I can almost always harvest some Mallard ducks but you can only access it using a boat, however once on the other side of that bank, you can easily hide amongst the tall swamp grass and sneak up to the ducks for a good shot. Quite often I get down on all fours and move forward through the brush sometimes even placing my bare hands into cold water puddles of ice. But it is well worth the reward.

I have blogged a few times about the golden half an hour before sun rise and after sun down and I can not emphasize enough how amazing those time of days are. If you do your research and observe where the birds fly in and you have a good shot, your chances of a harvest during this time is most definitely greater. This time a year, I find that number 3 and 2 shells are not sufficient and I prefer using BB or triple B, in addition while hiding amongst the tall grass do not move and let the geese come in for a close approach this will sometimes guarantee a harvest.

At around four thirty the geese started to fly in by the hundreds from fields to the South to the safety of the river but remained on the other side, it was a hypnotizing sight much like I have experienced during my snow geese hunts near Quebec city. After a few more minutes passed, small groups of chin straps were now starting to cut across within shooting range and it was simply mind-blowing. The sights and sounds were phenomenal and when I called out a few short calls the geese would drop altitude with the sharp ninety degree bank turn and head right toward my natural blind. I never tire of watching a flock of geese flying into range and each bird taking turns completing a sharp bank turn which allows them to drop altitude faster that is if they are coming in for a potential landing. I have also seen them complete this type of aerobatics if they also fly over tree lines where they know they might get shot at, almost like evasive flight manoeuvres.

It was simply amazing!

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Last year I bought myself a small kayak for duck and goose hunting, my goal was to have a boat that would allow me to travel light and go places where even canoes have a hard time. This also provided me with more control and maneuverability, for example having the ability to shift directions with a single stroke of my paddle to being right in line with ducks that are flying in low. The boat was not as long as the canoe.

Also loading it in the truck bed is much faster and not as hard on the back compared to loading a canoe on a roof of the truck.

I made quite a few modifications to the eight foot long-boat, built a camouflage skirt using burlap, attached my paddle to the boat using carabiners, and drilled two “Y” hooks into the front enabling me to rest my shotgun on the top on the bow and be at a constant ready state.

What I can do with this configuration is that when a shot presents itself I can let go of my paddle and switch to the shotgun in seconds and place a shot on the ducks without losing the paddle.

Now there are times when I go duck hunting and I wish to travel even lighter and this is without a boat. It is a little more challenging because I am limited to where I can go on land depending on the terrain in the wetlands.

When I am still-hunting, and I am ready for a shot, I paint the sky and duck with my eyes, follow the bird’s flight and try to calculate where it may land and this allows me to add more precision to my shots toward the birds I choose, so that after a shot they land near me or at an acceptable distance in the water where I can go retrieve them without placing myself in danger but also never leaving any bird behind.

During several bird retrievals, I have gone into the water up to my waist and used long branches to reach the birds with success. Even I know this not the best situation, especially the fact that I hunt alone several times through the season.

Like many other hunters, I appreciate outdoor shows and one of them happens to be “Swamp People”, in the show Willie Edwards uses a particular tool for alligator hunting and it is the very useful treble hooks which are attached to long cords.

While hunting light without a boat, I am a realist and the majority of my shots if they are not a miss, are usually just a short distance away. So my new project for next season is the rig up a treble hook with floaters attached to a line of about thirty feet in length, so that I can throw my hook toward the bird that is floating and pull it back to shore.

I’ve hunted ducks, from canoes, kayaks, duck boats, and blinds as well as using the still hunting method good old flushing ducks. This way, I improve all my skills in various hunting forms.

I hope my project is not a miss and a failed hook, we shall see in the fall.

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The sky was filled with majestic dark clouds, it gave you the impression that I was going to be swallowed into the darkness of the night but it was only four in the afternoon and I had several hours ahead of me in the wetlands. The sun would break through between the clouds and their edges would then turn bright orange like they were burning, the colors all around me would change, the shadows became very clear and then as soon as it changed just like a wave it turned back to its yellows and browns once the sun was hidden again.

I sat in my truck for some time before my hunt was going to start, then took a few deep breaths, said a prayer and asked the powers that be for a great hunt. I was a very happy man. My experience has taught me that if you go out thinking your going try hard to harvest something, it will not happen, you have no control over nature. You have to use your knowledge and let things happen and if an opportunity presents itself then you must grasp that slice of time.

The sights and smells in the wetlands, would render any man humble and make them realize how small we are in this world. The endless isolated dark waters and the tall grass grow in a dangerous maze. We will come and go, but nature will always be there with its creatures and be so powerful as it is.

I dragged my kayak out of the truck bed, rigged up my gear, climbed into my waders and headed off down the muddy trail; my boots were instantly sucked into the mud which then released the swamp smell after each step. It was very slippery and at times, I would pull my boat onto the grass to facilitate the drag.

The water levels this year are very low in the wetlands, forcing me to work my way down the trail to the deeper waters several hundred meters away. Even with the rain we have had in the recent days it hasn’t helped and this makes paddling quite a chore through the weeds.

I placed my shotgun at the ready state with the safe on in its front mount of the kayak and then I pulled the boat through the swamp grass and weeds until I sank into my hips and then I would climb into the boat and push-off with my paddle once it was too deep. Every time I do this, I think of the scene in the movie “African Queen”, it is extremely hard work and requires an incredible amount of physical strength. The weeds wrap themselves around my paddle like a spider web and it makes it very difficult to move as well as exhausting, it is a battle to make it to the deeper waters.

Moments later I am floating through the tall grass, sneaking in and out of the waterways flushing wood ducks and green winged teal. I feel a sudden rush of freedom, the kayak gives me the ability to get within meters of the blue herons and they only burst into flight once I am just feet away, this is exactly the skill I am using with ducks.

Right now the birds I see the most are, green and blue winged teal, wood ducks and Canada Geese, the mallards and black ducks are not as present.

Teal are incredible birds, flying very low and unimaginably fast, unlike mallards or black ducks they remind me of fighter jets, moving in formation with lightning speed. Any gunner who is able to take one down in flight has my instant respect; it takes quick movements and precision shooting and the ability to interpret the birds.

I paddled up and down the north-eastern side of the marsh, winding through grassy canals, flushing ducks. Sometimes I would stop paddling allowing myself to coast along and then stop inside a patch of tall swamp grass and wait several minutes, almost like an instant blind configuration.

Then if there were no ducks, I would move again. My kayak is so stable, I can switch from sitting in the boat to flipping onto my knees, which provides a better shooting base and I can also rotate for harder angled shots.

On my way back to the east, I paddled a few more stokes and then on my right a green winged teal burst into flight, she then turned in mid-air and started maneuvering, through the cat tail which was shaped like of canyon. The teal was going to disappear into this water canal and I only had milliseconds to release my shot, I dropped my paddle that is rigged with bungee cord and carabiners so I do not lose it; shouldered my shotgun, pushed it off safe, angled my body to the left then fired my shot.

There is a reason why the wetlands call me back and it is not just the wildlife, I am unable to put it into words, you have to experience it.

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September twenty-eighth was going to be one of my most amazing waterfowl hunts to date and I did not even know it yet. Just like the duck hunting commercial seen on television, I was already dressed and practically geared up, while still lying in bed at about four in the morning. The canoe was on the roof of my vehicle, strapped down just hours before on Friday night.

Time is of the essence because I still had a two-hour long drive heading north where I was supposed to meet my veteran waterfowl hunting friends by the bridge in their home town. They got permission from a neighbor who was allowing us to launch our two canoes from their shoreline, which was extremely generous but it was also a more strategic launch point giving us the advantage not only for the ducks and geese but we would be higher on the river with the current in our favor.

The fog was incredibly thick on Saturday morning and made for quite an interesting drive. On occasion I was able to use my head lights and this allowed me to see a little further which helped a lot because only twenty kilometers into my drive, I spotted a deer in the ditch to my right about to come out onto the road.

It was a large doe and she was turned sideways, her silhouette is what allowed me to see her with the fog because with the color of her fur she was practically invisible. As deer get older, their fur seems to have traces of grey, which makes them harder to see.

Once I got to the bridge we had not time to waste, so we drove to their friend’s place right away and had the canoes unloaded and filled with our kit and ammunition in no time at all. We were divided in teams of two and we began opening the farming gates and carrying the canoes down to the shoreline. This was all done in the dark, it is so important to have a working headlamp. My preference is the set which has red light option; it is not as hard on the eyes but just as efficient.

The fog was very thick, just like pea soup and we could barely see a few meters on the water surface, but this was familiar territory to us, so we climbed in and pushed off then paddled into the emptiness. The water below was black and very cold, we could hear the geese in the corn fields across the river, so we paddled a little faster and headed west directly for the island.

My hunting buddies had told me that there wasn’t as much duck traffic as per usual and that the Canada geese where much more active also that they had harvested two on Friday morning. The plan for the first part of the hunt was that each hunter would cut across the island from the eastern shore to the western side putting us directly into a dis-tributary which bordered a corn field in behind the very tall tree line.

So once we reached the eastern shoreline, we quickly disembarked, unloaded the canoes and cut across the island, the distance we had to cover was about fifty meters through tall grass and small brush. Every hunter had chosen their spot to put their kit and setup, our spots gave each one of us a wide; also a safe shooting arc. Now the waiting began. By now we were well within the legal time-frame of being able to shoot, which is a half an hour before sunrise, actually we were way beyond that time but the fog was so thick that it was still seemed dark.

When I was finally sitting still in my natural blind made up of tall grass and small brush on either side of me, it was quite neat to be able see the fog dissipate with the heat of the sun but it wasn’t hot enough yet to clear it all up. It was a very eerie morning and the fog ended up staying very thick until about ten thirty in the morning which was about the time our hunt ended.

The foggy ceiling was made up of several layers and the highest one was direct inline with the tree tops. You could hear the geese calling out and depending on the height of their V-shaped formation you would not see them until they broke the top of the tree line. I would complete a few duck calls and then some geese calls, I remember reading a book about goose hunting which said that Canada geese that are used to hunters and being hunted are not as vocal as younger birds or geese that are not used to being hunted. So I adjusted my calls accordingly by not over calling.

I could hear a gaggle coming in from the corn field to the west and so I called aggressively and called again about four times and then stopped. Our group could hear them now very clear, but it was difficult to tell which direction they were coming in from, then all of a sudden a group of twenty would fly in from the south-west and appear immediately through the fog. We carefully waited for the gaggle to come into shooting range and then we released a volley of shot, the geese dispersed. I had two shells left, so I pumped my action and three geese broke formation again and headed behind me, I swiveled around toward my back, released my shot pumped and released my last shell.

The lead bird fell hard, they were incredibly high and it was without a doubt my farthest shot into the sky this year and a successful harvest. It was an extremely large bird a beautify shot indeed. More geese came in every few minutes and we reloaded our three shells and released our shots repeatedly for several geese formations. More geese fell in confirmed harvests.

Now several minutes had passed and all went silent over the river again, we called out some duck calls and seconds later three mallards flew in for a fly pass and I released two shots and harvested one of them which landed to the north-east. My hunting partner to my left harvested a wood duck moments later.

This was waterfowl action like I had never seen before, the skies were extremely active. Silenced moved in again and occasionally we could hear crows calling out and flying in, there were also flocks of rock doves flying around in groups of thirty or more.

I sat still staring toward the top of the tree line, thinking about the birds which had just flown in, when all of a sudden a gaggle of twenty geese flew in coming from the south going east and flying right over me and not one goose called out. It was an incredible sight, just hearing the swish of their wings as they broke through the thick fog.
I released a shot into the lead bird but missed and my second shell jammed causing a stoppage. By the time I cleared it, pumping my action back then forward, it was too late.

It was almost like time was frozen and to see all these geese coming through the fog was like an illusion.

When I was younger my father took me to a Cirque du Soleil show and I remember we were sitting several rows up and watching the start of the show. The center of the stage was filled with white smoke and actors, dancers came onto the stage doing somersaults under the fog and you could see the fog move around with the movement of the dancers.

There were no words to describe it, magical perhaps, well I was living the same moment over and over again with the Canada geese flying in from all directions in and out of the fog, it was simply incredible and dream like.

It is not just about the waterfowl hunt and the harvests, there is something more powerful taking place in this rich Canadian wilderness. After several successful harvests, we decided to pack up and walk the rest of the island on foot heading north-east. Another hunter had harvested a goose and it landed in the water, so I volunteered to walk up the shore and get a canoe to retrieve the bird, while I was walking three geese flew in lightning fast at water level and I swung around instinctively pushed released my safety, and put a slight lead on the last goose and released my shot harvesting the bird and it crashed into the water.

At our mornings end we our group of four hunters had harvested nine Canada geese and two mallard ducks and one wood duck. It was an incredible waterfowl experience!

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