Posts Tagged ‘river’

With its origins being the Canadian Rockies, by the time this famous river hits the foothills, it is quite cool to the touch and in some areas also very shallow. It is common to see boaters hit the water for a day of fun, but what I was told is that many boats use similar motors to the Sea-Doo, this way they avoid propeller damage. 

The only problem with this, is that if rocks get into the system, it can spell bad news, and with an unforgiving current, you better have both experience and a plan. I am pretty new to the area having just moved here but no stranger to cold waters and strong currents, and loading boats onto trailers following my hunts. 

I have been planning on scouting the area, as part of building my waterfowl network and getting to know the sites and some of its territory. So, I set out for a drive with my father and we ended up at one of the local boat landing spots. We casually walked to the edge of the water, to take in the beauty and study the boat launch. There were many boaters and people enjoying the view or cooling off in the shallows. 

There was a Ford truck partially submerged with its trailer under water setup to pick up a boat, with nobody in the driver’s seat. The owner was a few meters up the river with the his boat parked to the side and from where I was standing all looked normal. He pushed off the boat and swivelled the front around and was now heading South East toward his truck but he had to loop around and come in heading North to be aligned with his trailer. 

By the time, he came round the current caught him and he was going to slam him into the pillar of the bridge, my first reaction is what the heck is he doing, but then I soon realized he had motor issues and the boater had been planning the loading of the boat with engine issues alone all alone. A cyclist from the path nearby also realized what was going on and came down to the shoreline to offer help but the boat was too far out in the river. 

Although the engine was in obvious trouble, the boater successfully managed to straighten out and come back to shore, just West of his trailer. Well, I could not let the boater struggle with the river alone, so I handed over my keys and wallet and jumped into the river up to my waist with my jeans and dress shoes on. Grabbed the rope at the front boat and with the boaters plan, I held onto the boat and let it go down stream just past the trailer and the boater used his marine winch cable hooked to the bow while I pushed hard to ensure it was properly lined up with the trailer and in minutes he started cranking it in. 

The boater let out a chuckle, I reckon he was not expecting me to jump in fully clothed to help out. Following few kind words and a thank you, I believe he was surprised, but I told him not to worry, as I had done this many times during my waterfowl hunts. I was not reckless in my approach and my actions were out of kindness. 

As it is said “Water is the driving force of all nature.” 

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As I pushed forward with my firm grip on the worn out hardwood handles, my wheelbarrow rolled through the waterlogged grass, slicing into the dirt below the green surface, with its tray filled to the top with old hardware. The evening breeze brought in the freshness of spring into the air, a sweet perfume of mud and decaying leaves. With the warmer temperatures now upon us, the conditions were simply idealic for the European Starling and Red-Winged blackbirds. Over the past few days, their numbers have increased in my area along the roadways on the edges of the farm fields. 

Following several trips back and forth to the road, I took a moment to glance at my bird feeders and the river just over the bank. It is during moments like these when I solidify my relationship with nature, I know that this is where I belong. 

With the clock dial nearing seven in the evening, my eyes caught a pleasant surprise, my Canada goose pair are back for a fourth year. Just like last year, nearing seven in the evening, they make their way up the bank and feed off the scraps scattered on the ground by the squirrels and BlueJays. Actually, it would not be fair to blame the squirrels, because it is the BlueJays that are very messy swishing seeds around with their beaks until they find that perfect one. And of course the unwanted seeds fall below making it accessible to the Mallards and Geese. 

This is a behavioural pattern, the other birds learn to appreciate, especially my two Canada’s because they can not reach high up into the feeder. Over the years my observations have transformed into a fascination, attempting to decipher how the Canada’s have developed this uncanny ability to move between feeding areas and the roost during certain periods of the day and with very little margin of error roughly five to ten minutes to seven on the dot. In my case seven in the morning and in the evening, as well as eleven in the morning along the rivers. 

I do not believe it is linked to daylight because of the time difference between spring and fall. I know one thing, that is even though I may not unravel this mystery; one thing is for sure my repertoire as a seasoned waterfowler will only continue to grow and offer an almost guarantee harvests during the open seasons. 

Time is the wisest counsellor of all. 

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Sometimes life just happens and it does not matter how much you plan for it, an event will occur and it can sometimes result in undesirable consequences. Unplanned or inconsequential, which are the very words used to describe an accident. 

More often than none, these accidents leave you saying that it could have been avoided; of course but then it would not be an accident. There are many occurrences in this great mystery called life, which go unexplained and yet this is exactly what makes it so amazing to experience. Then again there is a part of me that believes we can control some of our environment to certain a degree and potentially prevent accidents, at least prevent potential loss of life. 

Every time we go hunting, we increase the frequency in which these events can occur, you can fall out of a tree stand, get hypothermia and in some rare cases get attacked by predators or fall through the ice. The other night, I watched several episodes from a show about survival situations, where some did not make it out alive. 

What was interesting is that as I made my way through the various episodes, I started to notice trends. For instance, in order to save on money they did not purchase the right safety equipment, or made a bad decision based on pressure from their partners rather than use sound judgement. Not being trained or properly equipped was something that seemed to be present in almost all the episodes. 

A small knife, waterproof matches, a lighter, long range walkie talkies, flashlights a whistle are all examples of small items that can be purchased at any hardware store and in a life or death situation these items can make a huge difference. Not only can you make a signal fire using the matches by burning evergreen branches to create smoke, but it can also keep you warm, cook food and keep predators at bay. Carry a pocket compass and take a course to learn how to use it or watch educational videos online. Let people know where you are going and when they should expect you back. These are very simple tools and practices that can potentially save your life. 

Next time you head out on a small adventure, ensure you have enough water, snacks an emergency kit and when that event does occur, you will be able to say at least..I have something to assist. Little things make a big difference; tonight you are reading my blog entry in the comfort of your home and tomorrow you can be alone in the bush in the dead of winter, it can happen that fast.

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There are places on this earth where status and wealth are meaningless, under the watchful eye of nature you are insignificant.

As you push forward into the cold dark waters, if you were to fall, life around you would continue and your cries would fade in the northern skies. This place is unforgiving, yet its beauty is simply incredible.

During the golden hour as you seek the Canada’s, you become king but only for a short while, and as the ripples in the water fade, and silence closes in once again, nature rules ruthless and raw.

One day you will understand, and when that day comes, your spirit will be truly free and you shall be able to appreciate the whole experience.

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When it comes to hunting migratory birds, I usually jump shoot from the banks, or hunt from a canoe, kayak and or a Jon boat parked into a decoy spread. Even sometimes sneaking up on the geese in the farm fields, crawling like a leopard. In my zone, Canada geese open earlier than other waterfowl but in farmland only. 

Up at four in the morning, I got dressed and made my kit ready, then by five I was on the road heading north toward farmland. The drive is always a treat, driving through its rolling hills and dark forests mixed with coniferous and deciduous is just breathtaking. The tree top silhouettes piercing like spears through the morning fog, I rolled my window down and stuck my arm out to capture the fresh air, I felt incredibly free. 

At the halfway mark, the fog got so thick it was blinding, especially with the reflection of my own lights. It is such a neat effect, driving into the fog and see it envelop you and then areas in space clear and then close up again. It reminded me of the mist that engulfed me on the river last season as I exited the forest. I remember looking back at that time and it was like the something was telling me, it was my time to leave now.

And I can tell you when it comes to our wilderness, I am extremely sensitive to energies and my eyes do not skip a beat, I absorb it all, everything. This is a relationship with nature that I respect and that I can not share with anyone, you have to experience it for yourself and it is linked to my almost instinctive hunts that I blogged about in the past. 

For this hunt, I met one of my best friends, actually he is my “Girsan Brother”, we both bought Girsan MC312’s last year and share the same pure passion for waterfowl hunting and the outdoors. By the time we got to the farmland, we had about thirty minutes to place our small number of decoys and set up a small tent blind, as for me I improvised and built a long burlap sheet covered in foliage, then created a lean to with broken barn boards. 

I was lying in the mud, near an olden wooden structure, neatly tucked under my burlap lean to and by sunrise we were ready, looking at the decoys. As the sky became brighter and the pink sky started to vanish we waited patiently. I placed my head into my elbow crease to give my neck muscles a rest as I was in the prone position, and when I opened my eyes again, it wasn’t geese to my right but a wall of cattle and leading the pack only three meters away from me on my right was a two thousand pound bull staring at me. 

He was not provoked but very curious, I spoke to him softly and told him to move along, so that I could focus on the geese but he was not having any of it. It was not a good predicament to be in, he could crush me in an instant or give me one nasty head butt, I spoke to him softly again and carefully moved my shotgun closer and placed my hand tightly on the grip. I was getting ready to buttstroke his nose, I spoke to him again he eventually turned sideways and moved carefully in behind me. 

At that instant, the Canada’s started to fly in and break their wings, calling and landing near our decoy spread, just as I had predicted. First, a group of seven came in. Then almost immediately the sentry of the group, continued calling in short bursts from flight to the ground and then more winged formations were now coming in, conducting their safety fly over and then breaking their wings also. 

When geese come in for a landing they sometimes let out a very neat combo call of long and short normally repeated two to three times. Then once on the ground they can let out a short repeated sharp high pitch call, telling the others this is a good spot in burst of five or six. When geese break their wings and come in for landings, they beat their wings right at the end just before touching down and it makes a deafening sound especially if you happen to be right under them. As they glide out the fog over the treetops into the fields from all directions, it is a scene I can play over in my head and never tire. My heart is racing so fast, I can feel its vibration in my hand which is pressed against my chest in the mud. 

By now the bull had moved forward to my left side, there were now thirty Canada’s in the field to our front. I laid there frozen moving my line of sight from the geese to the bull. 

Then one of the cows called out and it echoed through the valley and I felt the vibration through the clay on the ground, by then the group continued to move slowly behind the abandoned barn to the south east. We were now in the clear, on my buddies queue, I stood up to one knee, this sent the birds into the air, just meters from ground level, we simultaneous released our shots and we each harvested our first geese for this year. 

I can’t wait for the season to open on the river the 19th, I can use a break from a duel with a two thousand pound bull. 

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It has been several weeks now, since I first saw Canada geese fly in over the river. They are officially back, actually some of them never really went that far. All I know is that Charlie and Charlotte are back, set up in the creek next to my residence. It has now officially been three years, and just like clock work they work their way up the bank, this time a year to feed on my lawn at seven in the morning and around seven in the evening.

Last fall by the time they were ready to head off, I had accommodated two families for a total of sixteen birds on my lawn. This year, I will keep track of their numbers again.

Depending on the days, if Charlie is feeling courageous enough and is not too bothered by all the others buggars like the local wood duck, Mergansers and Mallards, the mink, beaver, squirrels, groundhog, and finally the deer. He might just hang out for the afternoon and soak up some sun. I can go about my business and even communicate with them by making deep faint honking sounds or just simply talk. I get back the odd a head wave from Charlie showing off his chin strap letting me know he is aware.

There is something magical and very rewarding about sharing our everyday lives with waterfowl and other mammals. Observing and capturing their every detail, in this never ending quest to learn. The deep understanding and connection with them that I have acquired over the years, is the very reason why my mastery of the wetlands has become part of my very fabric.

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It was raining heavily with the winds howling all around me, in an Easterly direction. I had been walking for several minutes now through the wetlands, between the ice sheets and the cattails. As the bottom of my boots crushed the crisp swamp grass, with my every breath and step, I was nearing the edge of the dark forest and the river bank.

I was all alone heading deeper into the fog, brought on by the warming temperatures. As I breached the tree line, I was engulfed by the pure white mist. I stopped for a moment, looked back and then stared at the hidden frozen watering holes in the woods, capturing the absolute.

It was only half past three in the afternoon but it felt much later than this, as the darkness creeps in earlier this time of year. I pushed forward toward the banks and soon was met with the wall of ice about twenty meters in length. Its outer edge was cut and had jagged pieces of ice sticking out, it was rubbing against the central ice sheet located in the middle of the river, and this piece was hundreds of meters long.

Just like the earths tectonic plates, the ice sheets were crushing each other and producing this incredible sound of shattering glass. I had already experienced duck hunting this time of year and knew that I could make it out about my waist in height to retrieve a harvest but that any further would be deadly. I would have to plan all my shots, so that the birds would land in a safe area.

Moments later, I was now well hidden behind some majestic trees, right along the edge of the river, I started calling geese and ducks, followed by many minutes of silence. Finally, my calling and patience paid off, I had a flock of Canada’s fly over but they were too high and out of range. They responded to my calls and I tried my best to imitate their call and attempt to interpret which call would draw them in best. I worked them hard, as I have successfully in the past, but they soon disappeared into the fog.

I had a second faint call in the distance and soon realized that it was a lone goose, floating through the middle of the river amongst the great ice pieces and dark waters. I called and was waiting for a response, I worked on this bird heavily but it was all in vain, the current carried the Canada right down the middle and it did not bite and come back over the ice. It flapped its wings and responded but it too disappeared into the mist toward the East.

Just like the final page in a book closing itself, my season on the river was coming to its end, and the last image I had was that of this Canada goose, calling out faintly and fading away in the white mist amongst the ice sheets of this northern land.

I went home without firing a shot but this is sometimes the reality of the hunt, and as a seasoned waterfowler, I am grateful for my time in our great Canadian wilderness.

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Everyone experiences a moment in time, when there is a shift in their thinking, you accept who you have become, what you have accomplished and all of a sudden things seem a whole lot simpler. Living a life free of judgement.

As a result the simplest of things in life become extremely rewarding. Over the past few months, I had been saving up to pick up a Stoeger M3500 but life kept on throwing me curve balls, I had no choice but to go back to the drawing board and conduct more research.

One night after work, I decided to go for a nice drive through the country roads, the breeze on my face was heavenly, a little country music did not hurt either. I drove out to one of the small towns nearby and stopped in a local sports shop, and came across an Inertia driven shotgun with the similar mechanism to that of the Stoeger, it was the Girsan MC-312. The price was a fit for my current budget and so it became my new duck gun for the fall.

I took it out to my friend’s farms to break it in and possibly harvest a few pigeons, the fact that it was so light weight compared to my 870, made it incredibly easy to manoeuvre through the brush and along the creeks.

Once the cattle cleared the field to the north, I was able to harvest a woodchuck on the edge of the forest, that the farmer wanted removed. It was my first shot out of the Girsan. I had some left over two and three quarter, number three shells from last fall and it cycled perfect.

The waterfowl season will be here soon and I know that with my new duck gun, I will have many stories to share, it will be simple Girsan time.

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“The darkness and the cold envelops you like a blanket, the wind howls and makes sounds like that of wicked spirits calling out. Tis the season of toxic mud gases and weeds that weigh a ton, and wrap themselves around your paddle like mad fingers who wish to pull you down into the depths of the black waters. A few more powerful strokes and the harvest might be yours or not, it is unyielding and painful yet so rewarding. It is healing, it is medicine for the soul.” CSGH

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Two weeks ago when I set off on my last hunt, I started to sing as I was driving my truck, rolling up and down over the hills on the road. It was liberating, heck my window was all the way down and I was singing so loud. I am sure I looked quite silly but this mattered not. I believe there is more to it, then just the song and the joys of singing. I was asking the powers to be all around me to provide a great harvest and positive vibes. Almost like a prayer, after all there is no shame in this.


The words go like this “Oh Lord of the skies give me a great harvest, give me a Canada Goose, or a Mallard Drake or maybe a Green Wing Teal” Then I go on asking for solid shooting and good wishes and about how thankful I am about being able to hit the wetlands, all the while trying to rhyme, so that it sounds fair.

You know the darn thing is, that it seems to be working, and I think I shall continue this new tradition of mine. Anyhow today was an exceptional day in the snow, it was so mild with the temperature sitting at about five degrees celsius. The wetlands were simply incredible. And once again I was all alone, absolutely no-one. Like I wrote in my earlier blog entry, as soon as the deer season is over, and the winter moves into the forest along the river and the nearby wetlands the area becomes deserted. I don’t understand it, because there are less geese no doubt but the duck season is still open for until the start of the month of January. There was a slight rain fall and the fog was starting to move in by early afternoon as I made my way to the pathway between the bays.

The pass was almost all frozen over because normally the water level comes up to your waist and in some places even higher and you have to wade through the water carefully because there are sometimes 2 x 4’s with nails from blinds that were built the year before. There’s a local beaver that has moved in and began building along the pathway, which now makes it easier because it makes a land bridge. Today was incredibly mild and as I was walking through the pass I can see the cranes takeoff and fly away from their nearby nests.

My objective was to get to my new hunting spot where I’ve been before, this spot is quite beautiful but the most strategic part about it is that there is an opening from the river which leads to a large creek that moves inland. Mergansers and Mallards seem to like this spot and if I call properly, they usually come in flying or swimming along. There are also large trees that create a natural fence line between me and the river, so on my way up to the natural blind, I can jump shoot all the way along. Mergansers will fly in and then dive under and look for food, this is the perfect time to move into position from large tree to tree.

Then when they resurface, I freeze and hold, then when I get close enough, I jump out and they burst into the air for a quick harvest. Within the first two hours I had harvested two birds. The tricky part was retrieving the birds when they fell back into the cold waters, the ice sheets attached to the shore were already several inches thick and when I stepped out onto the ice I would break through to my knees, this was no problem but when the current brought the sheets of ice back in, they would crash into my shins.

So, I leaned forward and pushed them off, some pieces were as large as a dining table, now two birds in the bag by mid afternoon the fog started to thicken and was quite a sight. The black tree trunks and branches would zig zag through the fog like veins in an arm and it was quite something to see, my gut instinct was telling me that it was now time to start making my way back to the truck. I still had about a forty minute hike through rough terrain with water traps. Besides, I was not alone there were three large coyote paw marks and no other human boot tracks to be seen.

As I broke the tree line and headed toward the bay, I swung around to look back at the forest and it was completely engulfed with white fog. This sight would make the hair on any man’s neck rise. My inner senses and timing could not have been any better, it was as if the wilderness was closing its doors on me, even with time to spare before legal shooting time was over, the message was clear.

Once over the beaver dam, I started following another smaller creek along the way, attempting to jump shoot one more duck before the end, but as I made my way north, my eyes spotted a white tail and slight brown colour moving lightning fast along the water edge. It was a cottontail, I swung around instantly and the rabbit took two more hops and dove into a bush with just its hind legs coming out the back.

I released my shot and it was all over in just a few seconds. I was so excited to retrieve the Cottontail, I unloaded my 870 and leapt through the creek right over the bush and just about fell over in the snow and mud. There is no better way to end the day, it is moments like these when we can truly take the time to appreciate what nature has offered and it makes up for the times that one can be discouraged and have doubts in one’s abilities as an outdoorsman or outdoors woman.

I wish you all the best on your back-end of the waterfowl season and a great small game season!

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