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Posts Tagged ‘remington’


The trailer rolled downward on the concrete ramp into the dark waters below, my bare hands gripping the rope attached to the front of the boat. Following a sharp stop, the haul of the boat slid off the rails and splashed into the waves. The red tail lights were glowing underwater, it was such as neat effect. We were full of excitement, and would be soon heading into the unknown toward the wetlands.

This was going to be one of our last waterfowl outings for the season as in just a few weeks it was coming to its end. I really wanted us to have an amazing hunt and great harvest but I have found that if I do not dip into my knowledge, the weather and just focus on getting a harvest, we could go home without ever firing a shot. I did not want to jinx us. With the boat all loaded up with the kit, we set off to the West down the river.

I was sitting in the front and while I was getting my kit ready seeking a more comfortable position, the water was splattering in my face and I was taking it all in, just like the famous scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet at the front of the Titanic. The Jon boat, looked amazing with the camouflage skirting and the accessories attached to the frame, we were all setup for success.

There were several hunters out on this particular day, and I set a plan for us to go to one of my sweet spots, well away from the others. For many years, I hunted either land locked on the banks or from my kayak or canoe. In doing so, I learned and remembered all the spots were I harvested and what species of birds and their numbers were and where I had failed, where they came in the land in the mornings and late afternoons, right up to the thirty minutes past sunset.

It felt like I was gambling but deep down in outdoorsman repertoire, I had a good recipe going. We would alternate using the gas powered motor and the trolling motor depending if were approaching known areas where there were birds. There were geese flying in but still too high or they landed in areas where hunting was not allowed, so we pushed our way further West in the direction of the sweet spot.

Almost at the half way mark, we spotted a group of about twenty Mallards dabbling in some tall grass. At first we could not make them out as they looked like weeds near downed trees half submerged. We killed the motor and let the boat coast along with the current, I took out my binoculars and confirmed they were Mallards indeed. The difficult task was getting closer without spooking them. They were still quite a ways out and we had a good distance to cover, we switched to the trolling motor and closed the gap between them and us.

By the time we reached the distance of about two hundred meters, we killed the motor again and used the onboard paddle to keep us going straight and let the current bring us in naturally, we were right near the tall grass coming out of the water which provided great cover for our approach. With the boat now at a complete stop stuck in the mud, I considered climbing out and circling the group through the water, but quickly assessed that this plan would not be successful.

I loaded my three shells and cycled one into the chamber and placed the gun on safety to control my breathing. With my bead sight lined up, I released two shots into the group and when all the excitement settled. I had missed them completely, it was a near impossible miss but I sure did and could not explain it. It was like every pellet when passed each bird and they flew away to the South.

It felt like being kicked in the stomach by a horse, I could not even explain what just had happened or let alone my shot. The only thing, I could do is lick my wounds and pick up my abilities from the water and move on down to the sweet spot. Even my bud was in awe, it was either one of my worst shot or magic, but there is one thing we agreed on, we could not linger on what could have happened or should have done, it was the past. After all, we were heading to the sweet spot and it was going to be a gamble mixed in with my knowledge.

As the boat inched up the river, we kept our eyes locked on the banks and the skies to the North, for those few moments there was no activity. In an instant, I could hear geese calling out in small call bursts as to alert each other of approaching danger. We killed the motor again and I leaped out of the boat into the water about knee deep and began my stalk forward toward the calls. I was just on the other side of the banks and coming in at a North-westerly angle.

I lifted my head to take a peak and then signalled to my friend to secure the boat on the shore and get ready. I loaded three shells into my shotgun and slipped it into safe, I was now kneeling forward trying to keep a low profile behind the dead trees and swamp grass. When I raised my head, the birds had already seen the boat and burst into flight, I could not believe the sheer number of geese, there were well over fifty if not more.

I lined up my bead site and fired into the group and hit a Mallard hen who spun forward and fell back into the water. Some of my shot, went further and struck a goose that was behind the Mallard who also tumbled into the water, but was wounded. Very quickly I had to manoeuvre my way forward and circle around the swamp in order to track down the goose and finally harvest it. Following my shots, the skies filled with Canada’s who were now flying south.

I was hoping for my bud to be in a good position to cut off a few geese but he was unable to get into a good position in time before they flock got out of range. We knew from experience that later in the day the geese would come back to this area, hence the sweet spot. So, we unloaded our kit and setup for the afternoon with our mobile blind which was basically two stakes with a burlap sheet. It did not provide a lot of cover from the cold winds but it was sufficient for our concealment.

With about half a dozen duck and goose decoys setup, we sat and waited for several hours and had stopped to have a snack, unbeknownst to us a female wood duck swam into our decoys and we spotted it right at the last minute and released a shot and harvested our third bird of the day. Following the third harvest, I let out several goose and duck calls and then took breaks in between and for a while things started to quiet down, until about one hour before sunset all of a sudden waves of geese started to circle in and come for landings from all directions.

I hadn’t experienced this type of phenomenon in at least two seasons, the last time this occurred in a blind, we barely had time to reload three shells and release shots off. We were literally running out of shells and had to dig into our pockets quick enough to reload. I have had geese approach in small numbers but not like rain, this was incredible to experience again. One of the biggest challenges for a new waterfowler is not to get too excited and release shots at the geese before they are able to come into the decoy spread.

It is best to stay low in the blind and if you can tilt your head as to look up above you without moving too much. Get ready to select your shots and then point out to your bud your shooting respective zones, so that you do not cross into each others zones. We had determined this very quickly and as soon as the geese were into the spread and well within range, we began releasing shots, by the time the first volley of fire stopped two geese tumbled down and still more geese were coming in. We released another volley of fire and two more geese fell to the waters below. We also managed to harvest an additional male wood duck.

Once the noise and smoke cleared, I jumped into the water with my waders and began retrieving the harvests as sunset was fast approaching and the legal shooting time was coming to an end. Packing up decoys in deep water when the sun is setting is not the safest practice, so I wanted to do this also while we still had some light. Today, like many others were a good lesson, when you experience some misses, don’t get discouraged because if you tap into your knowledge then choose a well known spot where the birds come in, be patient aim straight and you will be rewarded.

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By the time we crossed the creek, heading South-West toward the edge of the wetlands, the sun was already out with the winds blowing at a steady pace. This was a pretty neat experience for my bud as this was my buddy’s first ever waterfowl season, although he was a deer hunter, we even went to purchase our waterfowl stamps/permits together at the Post office.

This was a big deal for me too, being able to share my passion with a good bud and yet once again I got a chance to be a guide, sharing all my knowledge about ducks and geese. Moments before, I had mentioned to him that sometimes Canada’s can fly in for a landing without ever letting out a single call, and to keep an eye in the sky for they may fly in undetected and this is exactly what happened.

My bud had brought a second pair of  boots to wear for crossing the creek and then left them by a large boulder for later and switched to a lighter pair of boots to make his advance. During this exact moment, three Canada’s flew in from the South-East and headed straight for the wetlands, almost right over head. They completed one fly over doing a half circle then tucked in their wings and dove down into the dark waters behind large bushes.

I waited for my buddy to come up by my side, as I was ahead and then we both caught our breaths and discussed our approach based on their current position. We knew they had landed in the water but did not have any idea in which area of the wetlands. Once ready, I got up and started running in the low ground with him following behind, along the creek and moving closer to the brush using small pine trees as cover. We stopped again just before the water and loaded our shotguns and then left our small kit bag by a tree to make ourselves lighter.

I knew from experience that when Canada’s land in the wetlands and if I am able to stalk them, I almost always have a successful harvest, and the hunter who positions himself on the Western edge always has the upper hand, just by the contour shape of the wetlands periphery.

By now we had to get down on our knees as we continued our advance on all fours, still using the brush as cover. I purposely let him circle around and position himself to my left or West. This time was his and I was going to pour all my waterfowl knowledge and experience into his every move and direct him through whispers.

We were now directly inline with the waters edge facing North and now we had to find the Canada’s exact spot. We carefully took turns looking up while standing inline with a pine tree trunk, within seconds we spotted them about thirty seven meters out, I had numbered the birds verbally and had instructed my bud to take the one on the left first then work his way down.

We got back down on the ground in the prone position and chose our own parallel paths on the muddy floor and started to press towards the waters edge even closer, I looked over often to ensure that my buddy, was always up on me by a few meters. When he moved, I stopped and looked, then I would move forward and he would get ready, this went on for about four meters. And just like a Python, I lifted my body off the muddy ground and slid over a log and got right into my final position.

Following a thumbs up signal, he slowly made his way up to his knees and got into a good shooting position, on my second hand signal, he sprung up and sent the birds into a flight frenzy, he released his first shot and I followed with a second and the first bird spun forward and landed back into the waters, the two remaining Canada’s took flight in opposite directions.

I kept my eye on the one to my right, who eventually completed a large circle, I immediately took out my caller and began to call out aggressively and the bird swung around and came right back over top. I yelled out that the goose was coming back around. In all the excitement, I grabbed a shell from my pocket and attempted to load it and it fell in the water. My buddy kept his aim at the bird the entire time and once in range, released another shot, by then I had chambered, aimed and fired my shot and the goose, froze in mid air tucked in its wings and came crashing down from high above within meters of the first harvest. It was an incredible explosion of water, it was a massive bird.

By now the third bird had also circled around giving us the chance to reload and fire two additional shots right ahead of the bird and we can see that it took the hits with bursts of white feathers flying out, but the Canada kept on going in the direction of the Easter field high above the tree line, I could see that the bird was going down but it was well out of sight by now. I yelled out to my buddy telling him that the Canada will come down for sure, and that we will need to find it.

He was so excited also, he climbed the small muddy ridge and went after it and ended only half way to the creek and soon started to make his way into the tall grass to start the search. I laughed out loud and told him, the bird is much further away. Just like you would in deer hunting, if you do not see the animal after your shot, allow yourself a few minutes to calm down before you go searching the harvest or you will get lost in the brush and tall grass.

With my waders on, I pushed into the wetlands and collected the two harvests and set off to join my buddy near the creek crossing, we decided to start a box search following a planned break but upon making our way across the creek, there he was several hundred meters from the wetlands directly on the edge of the Easter field.

It was a great harvest no doubt, but I was more overwhelmed with pride and happiness for my buddy. He was exceptional and knowing that we shared this first waterfowl hunting experience together is simply awesome. It was his time and it belonged to him!

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The heal of my waders slid in the fresh mud off the bank into the shallow black waters of the creek, my left hand was raised as to prevent the low hanging branches from scratching my face with my right hand cradling my Remington 870. Within a few steps, I was immersed into the edge of the woods. I was in pursuit of the famed Rock Dove.

I had a look through the trees into the neighbouring field and saw nothing but fresh wild grass and hay, there were black birds, and common house sparrows, and red wing black birds flying about in the absolute nature. Once my feet were placed firmly at the bottom of the creek, I swivelled to the front and back with my eyes to get a better glimpse.

The fast flowing current was slipping around my boots and like a serpent continued into the heart of the woods, on either side there was thick brush, rich in color and sounds, it was place where the love for the woods is moulded into your soul.

I stood their very still and saw a ripple in the waters just up a little ways up, a beaver came swimming towards its dam in total silence, gliding through the water with a sense of purpose all the while very weary. Be humble in the woods and respect the environment for it can teach us great things.

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My wadders hang silently in the garage by the d-ring, empty shells lay in a cracked red bucket on the cold cement floor. The shotgun now locked away in its cabinet with a fresh coat of gun oil, the smell flowing through the room and being absorbed into the wood of nearby furniture.

As I look on at a vintage photo of goose hunters, I wished that objects had voices, so that they could tell stories, that if not shared would be lost in the space which surrounds us. Stories that are worth sharing, cause it is part of who we are as waterfowlers and for me a proud Canadian outdoorsman.

Those are the very same wadders I wore on a special spring snow goose hunt north of Quebec City a few years ago with good friends. It was early in the afternoon and we had just brought down a few snow geese into the fields but one bird fell into the St Lawrence river and was being carried away.

The current was roaring to the south and the bird would disappear down on its shores, I could not let this one go. It was quite a ways out and amongst the huge ice blocks, but I had to retrieve the goose. So I stood up from my blind, unloaded my shotgun and left it behind with the other guys and ran after my bird.

First I headed toward the shore, cut through some brush and within seconds I was all alone. I kept on running along the banks for several minutes, like a boy chasing a plane. The terrain was getting more difficult to navigate and I was having to jump up and down ridges, sinking into the mud and eventually I jumped over a couple of tributaries.

All the while running after this famed goose, I could see that the current spirals were spinning the goose toward the shore but still quite a ways out. When I could, I reached out for a large twig that I had found on the ground which had a long enough branch and two angled branches at its end like human fingers.

Finally when the current slowed because of the huge ice blocks, I leapt into the St Lawrence dark waters up to my waist prodding at the bottom of the river to make sure I was not stepping into emptiness. Now only within a few meters, I managed to catch the goose with the wooden claws and pulled in the harvest.

On my way back when I breached the brush line and raised the bird into the air showing the boys that I had got it. I was a proud fellow and they burst out into a joyful laughter. These are memories of a lifetime, better yet this is a story that will not remain locked into those Allen wadders for eternity.  

 

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There are no doubts that crows are intelligent species, especially when you observe their ability to use other objects placed into their bills to retrieve food found in difficult places. I believe the same can be said about Rock doves or pigeons, the simple fact that they were used to carry messages during wars and also seen in their social behaviour speaks volumes.

In the province of Quebec it is an interesting time of year right now for small game hunting, as the season is nearing its end at the end March and a new cycle begins; snowshoe hare, cotton-tailed rabbit along with coyote will soon close, but pigeon is open all year round. In addition, nothing compares to a pan-fried pigeon with Montreal spices, it is just as delicious as Mallard duck breast.

I have proven over time that pigeons are extremely observant and can identify specific vehicles and people, for example when ever I get to my friends farm for a morning or afternoon hunt, if the pigeons spot me before I do, they generally leave the area and do not return until it is time for me to leave. So, as mentioned in previous blog entries, I have to change my arrival, either I pretend to be the farmer by carrying a white bucket for seed but in my case it is empty, or park my truck in the low ground at the entrance of the farm.

This way, I can get my kit ready and sneak up the side of the tree line and barns for a good shot. On Saturday, I took a chance and parked near the house and jumped out and walked up to the barn to have a quick look before getting my kit ready. I played around with the Beagle and gave him a few hugs and then started to get ready.

There were three pigeons down in the mud not far from the cattle feeding away at some left over corn from the cow feed. Unfortunately they spotted me first and flapped their wings aggressively and dove to the right into some evasive flight and disappeared over the tree line to the East. Well darn it, I hadn’t even unpacked my kit and my potential harvests were gone.

At least I thought so, when I heard some claws scratching the aluminum roof of the barn to my right, and there he was the odd one out, looking down at me. He was a character, he had this funny look in his eyes and was checking me out the whole time. It seemed like something out of a cartoon movie, he looked a little funny.

I kept my eyes locked with his and we were in a deep stare, I started to move slowly to the edge of the barn, so that part of the roof would cover my movement and all the while I swung my 870 around and popped a shell into the chamber and pushed locked the safety in one single motion like I have done thousands of times.

He called out and then flapped away but banked to the West and landed near the cattle, this is a no shot zone. So, I watched him land and bounce around the cattle, this gave me some time to head to the East and loop around the barn and into the woods off to the North. The snow was still thick and I was sinking pretty deep and quite frankly it was noisy and simply frustrating as I kept tipping over. So I chose to walk along the tree line and leave an open shot to the South facing the open fields.

Something scared the odd one out into the air and he seem to accelerate when he noticed me in my shooting position, just like crows if you aim at them and they are used to being shot at, they break their flight and conduct evasive flight, Canada geese do this as well. This puts your shooting skills to the test and if you are not quick or skilled you will miss.

I swung around in the mud and completed a full pivot all the while conducting my lead and released my first shot, the pigeon was hit but spun around and headed into the pine trees to land in the North, which is quite unusual as they prefer trees that are open without many leaves. It was like he was trying to lose me or trick me into not seeing him like snowshoe hare do as well.

So I waited patiently, all the while keeping my eyes on the large bulls just meters away. My patience paid off, the pigeon set off a second time and this time I completed a downward swing in my lead and released my shot. In seconds, I had harvested my first pigeon of the day and he landed just meters away. Some feathers were still floating down from the aerial point of impact, it was a difficult shot but a harvest just the same and great practice for fast flying ducks like Teal.

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The human body is simply amazing, especially when one is pushing its physical limits, for example whether you are out still hunting snowshoe hares through knee-deep snow or pulling a kayak through swamp mud, while jump shooting waterfowl.

Over the years, I have pushed my physical limits, so much so that at times my lungs felt like they were going to burst. Or I could feel my pulse in the palm of my hands while cradling the fore-end of my 870 during a hunt, because of the blood pressure. My pushing the physical limits was not always done intentionally, the weather and the terrain where I was hunting is what really impacted my body and dictated the amount of effort that I had to exert to be successful and completing the hunt.

Just like Scott Haugen on his show “The Hunt” on Netflix. He is shown during the introduction of every episode working out and maintaining top levels of physical fitness. And I could not agree more with his regime. Depending on the type of hunting you practice, sure it does not have to be physically demanding but there is definitely an advantage to being strong and having endurance.

But this blog entry is not about physical fitness but rather the extra reserve we have when people are hit with adrenaline and are able to find the extra burst of energy to push ourselves even further. On my grand father’s Honda 3 wheeler, I remember the manual switch for the reserve fuel tank, which I think is a neat feature. So that if you found yourself out in the woods out of fuel, you always had enough spare fuel to get back to the safety of the camp.

It is obvious that the human body does not have a mechanical switch like the bike but I do believe we have one deep inside, it can be triggered when there is a demand for additional physical output.

My example is not dramatic but I am still incredibly impressed in our ability to reach deep within our body’s and find extra fuel to exert the extra physical force needed to complete what ever it is we need to get done. A good example of this is, last season during the final weeks of duck hunting, I sometimes found myself pulling my kayak on my own filled with kit and I would drag it like a sleigh through the snow, and although I was completely drained, if there were ducks that burst into flight, or chasing a hare through the snow, I always had that extra burst of energy to help me get that last harvest.

I am sure that those who are out there who have benefited from this can truly share my deep appreciation for this ability deep within us.

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Last Sunday I took advantage of some spare time and drove out to the river to see if I could spot a few ducks in open water. With not very many days left in my waterfowl season, I wanted to see if mother nature would give me a last go, until next fall.

After having spent about two hours walking along the shores of the river and through the wetlands, it was clear that my waterfowl was nearing its end. The ice was getting thick and the open waters of the river were well out of range with the ice about forty meters wide from the edge of the shore and about two inches thick.

There was no doubt that the view was spectacular and the wind blowing in was refreshing and complimented the snowy banks of the river, just a perfect match. It is always a bitter-sweet feeling, knowing that my waterfowl season is coming to a close.

The year’s season was an interesting one and to be honest, as I went out on all my outings during this season, I seem to have lost count of my harvests and had the impression that I hadn’t had as good as season as last year, especially with the warmer weather lingering longer at the start of the season.

On my drive home from the river, I was happy about the idea of getting back into a warm spot but knew I would miss my days on the river until next fall. Over the next few days, I took out my harvests out of the freezer and let them defrost and then marinated the meat over night and began the lengthy process of making our Rillettes.

It is pretty neat to feel how much pride comes from making delicious traditional Rillettes with your own harvests, and also being able to share it with friends and family who appreciate them, especially during the holiday season.

Twenty one jars later and a clean kitchen, I can now look back on all the great moments of my season with satisfaction and pride as well as the lessons learned and only hope for the best next fall.

Remember to be safe and happy new year to all of you who share this passion of ours.

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