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Posts Tagged ‘river’


The strong winter winds blew south, across the front field picking up the soft snow which lay on the surface of the ice crust. It spun it around like a dust cloud, the white powder spiralled into the air a second time, then it was violently brought down to the shores of the creek. I was standing in my kitchen looking out at the creek, when all of a sudden I noticed a large black object surface in the middle of the black waters current and climb with ease onto the ice surface through an opening.

Nature was calling, and I had a good idea who it was but I was being drawn out anyways, I had to go outside and check it out, even if it was wickedly cold. I always take a long stick or a ski pole just in case he may lunge at me because they do have that ability. If you get too close it just takes one slap of the tail and he is up close and fast. Just listen to the archived CBC interview of Penn Powell from Port Hope. It does not matter what size the animal is, I always get excited and either I use my binoculars for a close look or I just simply walk out to the creek and investigate. The large beaver was out, he was busy cutting branches off of a smaller tree and then bringing the sticks under water and jamming them into the bottom of the creek to feed at a later time.

It is going to be a busy spring for this fellow, and for now he can continue his evening work but I will be looking for the signs and if a dam is built, good old trappers will need to get to work.

If you have had the privaledge of seeing how a dam is built, then you quickly realise how remarkle this builders truly are.

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Environment Canada is doing a great job with its migratory bird program and for me purchasing my migratory bird permit has become a very important tradition in September.

One can purchase it online but I still love the feeling of walking into the post office downtown.

Opening those large metal doors and walking in amongst the attractive people in suits and dresses, my walk is poised and confident, a proud outdoorsman. The interior of the building is simply majestic with its high ceilings and beautiful framed historical stamps fill the walls. 

I stand in line and wait for my turn, some are sending money, others letters and me purchasing my migratory bird permit.

It is not just about paying and getting a piece of paper with a stamp, it is a privilege. After filling out the forms and paying, I walk out and hit the sidewalk with pride. I am excited about the season ahead about sharing it with great friends and family.

My harvests could be in lush fields or the dark waters of the river, either way it is a powerful experience that those before me have lived, cherished and shared for centuries. It is a sacred activity that goes beyond first impressions and judgement; it is exclusive and very personal.

In the confines of your family you become a legend with life experiences and stories that are worthy of campfires and passed through the generations.

Last weekend I went through my backpack, my Remington and got everything sorted and cleaned, I am hoping to have an incredible season.

We have good friends coming for a visit soon and I wish to offer them some great tasting sausages and Rillettes.

So in closing, I hope that your permit purchase this year is as special as mine and I wish you all a safe season and wonderful harvests. 

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Last Sunday I was out on a duck hunt at one the familiar bay’s where I have been hunting for the last five years. I usually park my truck on the side of the muddy road which leads to a canal I then drag my kayak to the waters edge and paddle into the bay.

Once I get paddling through the water and amongst the tall grass it is simply one of the most incredible feelings in the world, sneaking up to the ducks or geese. If I get the right amount of paddle strokes in, I can slide along the waters surface with my shotgun in my shoulder ready to release a shot into a duck that has just been flushed feet in front of me.

But over the past two years, I have noticed a very severe decrease in the water levels in both bays and it is quite worrisome. Here I was in the middle of bay and I was stuck on a mud flat right near a cranes nest, actually there are hundreds of them along with two beaver lodges.

The weeds created a massive web of vegetation which was hidden just inches below the surface and made it impossible to move forward with a simple paddle stroke. I now had to push off with my paddle forced into the mud. Moving only inches at a time, I was either brave or just plain mad, I had to climb out of the kayak and walk on water, and may I remind you that I am in the middle of a bay.

And if you have ever experienced it, it is one of the most physically demanding exercises out there. It took me almost an hour to get out of the mess, and as you can imagine my noise flushed every single duck.

I love seeing the rain because it means a few more millimeters and when the river is higher it can spill over the banks where there is an opening and feed the bay but beside that the larger openings are blocked on the western side of the bay by a beaver dam.

At this rate, in the next couple of years, I will no longer need a kayak and the ducks will move out unless something is done.

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I am constantly searching for ways to improve my chances at harvesting game, especially during the waterfowl season. For example, we know that scouting days before the season is a great method of increasing your chances in getting a harvest; learning where the birds are, but also identifying where they set in specific spots on the river or fields. Study their flight routes at dawn and dusk, locating where they feed in the fields.

Weeks before the hunting season some waterfowlers I know watch more videos and read more magazines, books and articles online, in order to add to their knowledge and ultimately have a better understanding on the birds, their feeding, flying and resting habits. It is also a great way to spend time with friends off-season and a time to share stories and get pumped up for the upcoming season. This type of information you get from shows or articles, also introduces new technologies, new laws, regulations as well as new products that can assist in improving your chances. However, this knowledge is also acquired through years of experience, especially if you hunt in the same areas.

There is however one reality to hunting which every hunter knows and this that there is no guarantee, some days you will go home without a harvest, even if you execute a perfect plan, best blind setup, brilliant decoy spread but the birds just do not come in or if they do, their numbers are less, harder shots or maybe they just simply fly too high.

It is a lot of work, money and time making your way to the river or fields and when these lulls occur, it can be incredibly discouraging for hunters, especially to hunters that are new to the sport.

If this happens to you, don’t worry, you are not alone. Things will pick up and you will have incredible hunts. I once read a book about turkey hunting and the author wrote that when you are sitting at the base of a tree, calling and waiting for the turkeys to come into your decoys, and you do not see a bird and it feels like you have been waiting for an eternity and you just want to leave. He wrote wait fifteen more minutes, who knows you might get lucky.

This is a true formula indeed, it has happened to me on several different hunts, I start heading back to my truck to shut down for the day without a harvest and then right at the last-minute an opportunity presented itself.

Last night, I was on the river and there were ducks and geese around but we were experiencing a lull, we were getting close to the end of the hunt with only the last thirty minutes left and all of a sudden a group of seven geese came in low in the dark sky without calling or making a sound and they were in the perfect shooting height, angle and speed.

Fight the urge of shutting down early because it is getting dark, you are tired, wet and discouraged, who knows what the very last legal minute might bring.

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The eagles tail feathers and wings were spread wide open and pointing downward as the bird danced in the wind high above the dark blue waters of the Ottawa river. We had decided to take a late afternoon drive in the country to enjoy the sights and sounds then finish near the water’s edge to enjoy the sunset; little did we know it was going to be an evening to remember for a long time.

At first we could not make out what the eagle was after as it dove several times down to the choppy waters, dipping only its powerful claws into the frozen depths then with a splash, it would spring up back into the air several meters and swerve around to regain control and almost hover above the exact spot where it dove moments earlier. We pulled over on the right hand shoulder of the road or south and quickly turned on the four-way flashers.

There was an incredible hunt unfolding right in front of us and we were not about to pass on this amazing experience, it wasn’t until we moved up a little closer that we realized the eagle was after an American black duck which was rolling in and out of the waves on the river’s surface with one broken feather on its wing bent straight up; the eagle had managed to grab its prey but the duck dove below the surface just long enough to break away from the deadly talons.

The eagle dove down four more times with incredible speed and precision but the duck hen dove instantly below the surface and disappeared momentarily into the darkness sending the eagle back into the sky. The musculature of the bald eagle was so impressive even without the help of binoculars, its legs were stretched right out and its claws were clearly visible. After several more attempts the eagle, which was now showing signs of fatigue from fighting the strong winds, gracefully glided to a nearby willow tree and set itself down on one of its highest branches then looked around.

Then without any warning the bald eagle leaped into flight and faded toward the horizon heading south-east to Ontario.

Lucky duck indeed!

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It can be incredibly difficult to find a harvested game bird during a waterfowl hunt, especially if you are hunting early in the morning or right at dusk. One of my hunting partners has a gun dog, a Labrador retriever and she is an important member of our team.

We take great pride in being able to bring back our harvested game birds, but also about being safe and ethical hunters, every year our families have a wild game dinner.

She is a strong swimmer, and with her great sense of sight as well as smell, she brings back bird after bird and the only price I pay, is a muddy, wet truck with a happy dog sitting in the back seat.

However when I am out on my own either sitting in my ground blind or in my canoe it becomes a little more challenging because you are no longer just taking the shots and letting the gun dog complete the retrieval process. You are now also focusing on what I call the follow through and not just for the shooting aspect.

Being able to retrieve a duck or goose and bring it back home for a meal is a wonderful feeling; I have included a link to the Government of Canada, Justice Law Website and section for the Migratory Birds Regulations concerning retrieving birds.

I also would like to share some of the techniques I use when retrieving my migratory game birds without a gun dog. Once the game bird has fallen into the water or the wetlands vegetation after the shot and I have decided the retrieval process has begun, safety becomes my number one priority.

For me safety is represented in several flavors: Firearm safety, once I have taken the shot and harvested the game bird and made the choice not to down additional birds, I unload my shotgun immediately before starting my retrieval process.

Wearing my life-jacket is another, when I am in my canoe or on foot depending on the depth of the water; it is also about not taking unnecessary risks, understanding the importance of using a boat when the water is too deep or when current is very strong. Life jackets are so important!

Even with chest waders or being a great swimmer it can be very dangerous in the wetlands or along major rivers. The water may look shallow but you can easily sink into the mud getting stuck and even below the surface in a flash. And the water is very often cold. Using a long pole or paddle can help with judging the depth of the water or strength in the mud islands.

Last year I bought myself a pair of ice picks attached to a rubber cord; this is designed to pull yourself out of the water in the event you break through the ice in December.

Being aware of other hunter positions and their awareness, it is possible that you are not the only waterfowl hunter in the area and you want to ensure that they are aware of your presence. I use the same principles as turkey hunting for alerting others, since we are not wearing orange during the waterfowl season; I use my voice, rather than stand and gesture with my hands and arms.

Duck hunting can be a very fast and exciting sport and it takes just one trigger happy hunter to ruin your day.

Once my shot has been taken and the bird has fallen, I do not take my eyes off the bird and I follow it visually until it is on the ground. I then look for a prominent object which is directly in line with the possible position of the game bird, such as a distinct bush, tree, building in the distance. In the fall a tree may have all yellow leaves, and this can be used as a great reference point if the surrounding trees are shorter or if their leaves are red.

In the wetlands sometimes the vegetation and the small water channels create unique looking mini islands or water ways which can aid with placing an imaginary reference point. In some cases, when I am shooting from a ground blind, I will walk towards the shore and then place a stick into the mud to mark off the direction. Once I get into my canoe and start paddling toward the game bird, I use the stick as a reference point while heading in the direction where the bird fell.

Judging the right distance is also very important, during the retrieval process, I know that the majority of my shots will never exceed twenty-five meters, and knowing this aids with the retrieval because it allows you to visually break up the ground between you and the bird into sections in the event you do a type of box search.

Just like tracking  a blood trail for big game like deer, in some cases you can find a large bunch of feathers at the exact point of impact in the water. This can point you in the right direction. Also depending on the depth of the water and the density of the weeds below, look to see if the bird got stuck below the surface in the roots, all my ducks and geese have floated and only once did I have a mallard break through the ice during landing and get stuck underneath. Mallards and black ducks can be very difficult to see in murky water filled with weeds, their feathers make them almost invisible. For geese I look for the large white feathers on their underside. I compare it to the tail of a white tail deer; it is quite visible from far and can assist during the spotting of the bird. For mallards, I look for the blue on their wings and the green heads with white band in the necks for the drakes.

If there are two of you in the canoe, you can have one person stabilize the boat and you can have the second hunter stand and scan the area around the boat for the game birds. Beware of the winds and current.

There are several methods that can be used to develop your skills on how to judge distances. Conduct research on the Internet using key word searches in any major search engine or read books, you can also purchase portable laser range finders if your budget permits. During your annual patterning exercise with your shotgun prior to the waterfowl season at the range, you can use the resources available on site at the shooting club to learn the distances and take mental notes of the sizes of certain objects at certain distances.

Also recreating the shooting scenario from your ground blind or shooting position can assist. A few weeks ago, I shot a Canada goose which was very high above me but towards my far left, I had to really turn to shoot and but it was a successful harvest, the bird fell in very high grass and it was extremely foggy. I thought to myself, I will never be able to find the bird; I unloaded my shotgun, told my partners I was going to retrieve the bird and started walking towards where I thought the bird had landed. I was totally off. So, I walked back to my ground blind and using my arm as the shotgun, I recreated the shot and kept my arm pointing in the direction of my harvest, I walked twenty meters and the goose ended up being one meter to my right hidden behind a fallen tree.

I wish you all a great waterfowl season!

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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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