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Posts Tagged ‘rock dove’


The sun was high in the sky and it was simply a beautiful drive out to the farm with only a slight breeze coming in from the West. The truck slowly made its way up the dirt road like it has a hundred times. During the spring time though I had to carefully manoeuvre the steering wheel, so that the tires did not veer off forcing the truck into the mud fields to the East. The pre-existing tire tracks had two miniature creeks developing right down the middle of each one from the melting snow, this made it a delicate drive. At the main gate of the farm, the electric fence had already been opened, making it a little easier to get to my favorite parking spot.

This was also indicative that the cows were out in the field and not sitting around the main barn, this was positive. When I get to the farm, I always like to know the cattle whereabouts because they can impact the choice of a shot or not, especially when hunting rock dove. Too close is a no go for a shot.

Rock doves can fly in and adjust their flight path to their entry spot into the landing zone. They are always checking for potential danger and maneuvering accordingly. For example if I am standing by the main gate with my orange hunting vest and they spot me, they will circle in from the North and come in from the forest edge using the cover to mask their approach for the landing. Rock doves can fly in straight overhead or often circle in from either side from where you are standing completing wide arcs.

I like to try to harvest them while high in flight or when they are really close to the ground. About an hour had passed since I got to the farm and I was already walking along the edge of the forest when I came upon an old kitchen chair. I fixed the back rest placed it near a large tree and sat down for a few minutes. It was heavenly and I was taking in the view of the valley and low ground of the farm and also watching the cattle graze. When you take the time to observe cattle, you realize how remarkable they truly are as animals.

While sitting and looking out a thought crossed my mind. I told myself, I just have to be patient and maybe the rock doves will come back as they had flown away while I was sneaking through the woods earlier. Speaking from experience, it is more challenging for a young hunter to stalk the pigeons and take shots for a harvest, but it can also be done using patience and concealment, just sitting and waiting. Very similar to duck hunting, you can walk and flush them or you can set up and sit by the edge of the swamp and the ducks will eventually fly in and offer a shot. Sure enough two rock doves came in, looped around over head and I just sat very still and waited.

Once they circled directly in front of me to the south, I waited for the first one to come within two feet of the ground and I released my shot. He fell into the mud and small feathers floated into the air at the point of impact. I was pleased with my first harvest of the day and was anxious to go pick him up. I cleared my Remington 870, stood up and made my way toward my harvest, I carefully stepped over the electric fence which was just about waist high and climbed over. I walked for about another four meters and all of a sudden my boots hit a slippery spot and up I went. It all happened lightning quick. I was in a horizontal position almost still in the air with my back facing the ground and then I came down hard and landed on my full right hand side.

I was completely soaked in a soup of mud, urine, water, cow manure and hay. I could not believe it, this was my first fall in a long time and I was drenched in cow soup. After a good loud laugh and a quick check over for injuries, I got up and just like a cow getting a good scratch on the barn walls, I walked along one of the old barns and rubbed the gunk off my clothing as best I could.

I had my first harvest alright for the day but I also had a manure filled soup to go with it!

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My snowshoe aluminium claws broke the silence in the woods, when they crushed through the ice and into the softer snow below the crust. I was well over a kilometer away from the nearest barn and I was surrounded by evergreen trees. They stood tall with their majestic winter coats and seemed on the verge of collapse because of the weight of the snow.

January 15th, 2016 marked the last day of sharp-tailed grouse for my hunting zone. I thought to myself it would be amazing to maybe get a harvest on the last day of their season. I was out hunting snowshoe hare, grouse and maybe if time permitting a few rock doves over by the farm.

Still-hunting for snowshoe hare and grouse are very similar in technique, it is basically scanning the hidden dark spots at the base of spruce bows and fallen logs, walking slowly and frequently stopping to look and try to identify shapes and colors that don’t fit in.

Hares have black tips on their ears and are generally straight up listening for danger, as for their black shiny eyes these are easily spotted with a keen sight.

Grouse can either be sitting at eye level on small branches in a tree or at ground level tucked away in a ball puffing out their feathers to stay warm during the winter months. Or just simply walking about like a domestic chicken, in short but quick bursts.

Once you see one, lock your eyes on them and stay with them because they can lose you in an instant as they dash around foliage. If you decide to follow, then make sure you are well versed in the use of a compass because they will bring you further into the brush but they will always stay in their circuit. Which is invisible to us unless you follow their tracks in the snow.

After about two hours of following hare leads, I was slowly making my way back to the farm, when something caught my eye at the base of a pine tree on my right about twenty meters in from the main trail.

There was a dead fallen log leaning diagonally under the pine tree up against its trunk and the pines lowest branches were buried with its tips buried under the icy snow forming a natural skirting almost all around the base of the tree.

What struck me was this black circle just sitting under the fallen log, I mean it was a perfect black circle. Deep down I had a feeling it was a grouse but I was not sure yet and couldn’t decide if it was a malformation on the tree, like a large accumulation of sap on the log in the shape of a ball.

It would have been unpracticed and unsafe for me to take a shot at the dark object without truly knowing what it was. I was excited and yet physically I remained calm in my decision, I had no choice but to move in closer for a good confirmed shot.

I loaded two shells into the shotgun and pumped one in the chamber then instantly clicked it into safety on position. I lifted my left leg and started to make my way toward the tree through the deep snow and dense brush.

My first two steps through the snow aroused the grouse with a thrashing sound which caused it to turn its head to the right, I had my final confirmation, it was a grouse.

My shot was going to be a very difficult one with over twenty meters between us through several thin branches. In addition while aiming I had to point low below the log where the grouse was hiding. I only had about a five-inch diameter to make the shot and the bird was on the move toward the north.

To make matters worse, my snowshoes had failed me and I went through the snow on the edge of the trail and sunk down to my waist. I was using the more modern pair of snowshoes, my Michigan’s would have kept me at the surface of the snow crust.

Once I got myself into a descent shooting position I shouldered my 870 and fired a shot, aiming to high and missing my shot completely.

The grouse jumped out to the right and made his way north and then back around the front of the tree heading west.

I saw him through the greenery but it was not a clear shot. I tried to chase it but sunk even further into the snow.

I was instantly broken and felt and incredible amount of frustration. Gosh!! I love the winter woods but it can be a tough environment. You might live incredible hunts but you will also have days like these.

I tried to circle around but the grouse he was gone and my hunt was also done as it was getting close to dark.

I know there will be next year’s season but this one was a bust, this is when you must dig deep and find the positive in the experience and not find things to blame.

Like there could have been less snow, I should have used different shot or a different shotgun.

Next fall will remedy this and for now I can continue to pursue pigeon and snowshoe hare and hope to make up for this day.

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A strong wind from the east was blowing in toward west and then spiraling around through the copses of trees behind me. It was a perfect day at the farm and the temperature was sitting at about twenty-one degrees Celsius; it wasn’t warm but I was quite comfortable and very excited about my half day hunt at the farm.

As I walked through the tall grass and lifted one leg after the other to pass over the electrical fence heading south down toward the three barns, five rock doves circled round and landed on the first barn on the ridge of the roof.

They could see me but they did not move, some where facing south others north, but they were well aware of my presence. It wasn’t until I took a few more steps forward that they flew off toward the second barn and landed on the far side of its roof, closest to the edge of the forest.

The farmer had told me earlier during our conversation that there were five rock doves playing around but he did not know their whereabouts, however I know they seem to like the barns and that this was a likely place to start looking for them. The first barn was abandoned and broken, making it an ideal place to have a nest and to provide shelter, not just for the doves but also woodchucks and rabbits.

I took a few more steps, stopped and then looked around; I wanted to make sure I knew where all the young bulls were before I crossed the field in an attempt to harvest the rock doves at the second barn. The cattle were scattered all over the field and I always make sure I have a clear path to safety in case one the bulls comes running.

Once I had everyone in place exactly where I wanted them, I got down really low ran across the field and came up to the second barn from an angle using its gable roof as cover, the rock doves never even saw me sprinting across the open ground and by the time I caught my breath I was just beneath them.

I loaded a shell into the chamber of my Remington 870 and clicked it into safety, and shouldered my shotgun into a good firing position. I stepped away from the barn taking two steps backward and this movement sent the rock dove into the air, I focused on the one to my right, followed through and released my shot.

I was leaning right back and aiming directly straight up into the sky above me, the pigeon spun around in an incredible aerobatics display and flipped twice more and fell to the ground below only four meters to my right. It was a great harvest and a great start to an afternoon.

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Rock Dove

Rock Dove

I have learned over the years that it is very important for us to listen to ourselves, our bodies and most importantly our souls. So, that we may allow ourselves a recharge of our inner batteries and come back fresh for the next challenge.

I was sitting in my living room and I knew I needed time away from it all, so I packed up my kit, climbed into my truck and drove out to the country. It would be a day for me alone, I was also hoping to harvest a pigeon or two for supper but my first objective was just to spend time in the woods.

When I got to my friends farm, I visited for a while and then unpacked my gear and headed down the ridge toward the south. Just as soon as I stepped over the electric fence I chose the first large boulder tucked away under a tree which offered some cool shade and sat down.

My back was arched forward, with my forearms resting on my thighs and both hands wrapped around my 12 gauge Winchester; I must have sat there for almost an hour without moving an inch, the bugs were buzzing around me, the sweat from my forehead and arms dripping on the cold steel, then onto the ground.

I sat there and looked around peacefully taking in the wilderness, cleared my thoughts, then said a short prayer and headed off down the hill to the creek. A cool breeze blew in and it felt incredible, I did not harvest my first pigeon until later in the afternoon but I went home feeling refreshed.

When I got back I cooked the pigeon in a pan with some vegetable oil and Montreal spices then shared it with my family.

This was perfect!

 

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Golfers standing at their first hole just know when he or she has hit a great ball. You can hear the ping sound as your curved wood follows through the air chasing the perfect ball right after contact. You can also feel a slight vibration come up the pole and into your hands. Your swing was flawless and your muscles are totally relaxed yet in full control.

It is a wonderful feeling to see the ball fly directly into the air dead center down your lane. Your game no matter what the score feels great.

It is in fact incredible to finally see that your skill is showing and that you have mastered the stroke. But then there is this unexplained bit. Almost faith; you have taken the shot and you expect to hit something but it could be a slice or maybe not. You know one thing it felt right!

On my last rock dove hunt just a couple of weeks ago, I was walking up the western ridge of the farm heading east. I spotted four pigeons flying around in a spiral formation and then landing out of sight to my front. I kept on walking slowly toward them, and made my way over the gate between the two barns and then reloaded my Winchester 97 pushing a shell into the tubular magazine below until I heard the click and then pumped the action to chamber the shell. It is a beautiful piece of history made of steel and wood.

Now only thirty meters away but well within sight, the rock doves burst back into flight in a diamond shape going south, I shouldered my shotgun and lined up the bead sight directly in line with the last pigeon and moved it one inch to the front of its beak just as Robert Stack had recommended to do in his shotgun book.

I slowly squeezed the trigger and released my shot. This all happened within a few seconds. And once the smoke cleared, I released the action pushing on the slide lock release plunger pin, and the empty shell ejected and spun through the air leaving a spiral of smoke, just like a cigarette would when you flicked it out of your fingers before stepping on it.

The rock dove tumbled and dropped like a stone, I knew it was an incredible shot, part of this success was skill and experience but there was a little bit of faith. After all hunting is never a guarantee.

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The triumph of a hunt is not only measured in having successfully harvested a game bird or waterfowl as a trophy. We should also remember the time spent out in nature, actively practicing the sport we love; additionally there is also the possibility that you could bring home a bird and have a wonderful meal with friends or family.

But before this can be done there are several steps that need to be completed. Ultimately, your decision on how to proceed with the processing of your harvest is the main factor of the final outcome. For example if you staying at a hunting camp and you know that you will be there for several days, then you might not even freeze the meat, once the bird has been field dressed. It could be cooked at the camp within the first few hours following the harvest. This way you can enjoy a nice meal during the hunting trip or decide to bring some home as well. Some hunters just remove the breast meat rather than use the whole bird, which could include the legs and some of the internal organs or even the tongue.

This is done by removing all the feathers on the belly portion of the bird, then slicing through the breast skin, peeling it back and then with a sharp knife, placing the blade point at the top of the breast bone and cutting down each side. Moving from top to bottom. You could end up with two great strips of duck meat.

If you wish to do both, field dress but also keep the feathers and parts of the bird, so that a taxidermist may mount it, then I recommend you conduct the necessary research and see what is needed in order to obtain a great trophy.

If you are out hunting waterfowl and it involves some travelling then it is your obligation to keep at least one wing fully feathered and attached to the bird. This way if you are stopped by a game warden, the wing will enable them to properly identify the species.  For more information or questions, you can consult the following Environment Canada web link concerning transportation of migratory birds.

Field dressing is described as the process of removing the internal organs of a bird or mammal which has been harvested during a hunt. These steps better prepare the meat for cooking, but also facilitate the transportation of the game and decrease your chances of spoiling the meat or getting sick.

I am continuously trying to find ways to improve my skills and one of the methods I use is finding great books to read. My most recent find is the “Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia Volume 7 Birds. It is an incredible book full of knowledge about birds, and the part that interested me the most for this particular blog post is bird anatomy.

It is not necessary to be a surgeon in order to field dress game but it is important to be able to identify the main organs, so that you may conduct a proper field dressing process in a safe manner and prepare the game correctly for transporting and ultimately cooking.

My field dressing kit consists of a very sharp knife with a short but extremely sharp blade, and it does not exceed three inches and has a hooked blade tip for cutting the windpipe and this also allows me to be able to detach certain organs from internal tissue. I have several cheese cloth bags to keep the insects and dirt off the game but plastic bags from the grocery store will work just fine too. I have a box of latex gloves, this way I avoid direct contact with the blood or skin. A cooler filled with two ice packs to keep the meat cool during my transportation. A box of large size Ziploc bags can be quite handy.

During the field dressing of a game bird or waterfowl the first thing I do, is inspect the bird for any abnormalities, checking if the bird is sick or very small. This could help in identifying for spots or even removing flees, and seeing if there are there patches of feathers missing. Then I proceed with removing the feathers from the bird except for one wing. I always complete this process outside avoiding unnecessary mess in the kitchen. The tailgate of the truck or even a cutting board at the hunting camp makes for great work surfaces, having water in a bottle or tap close by is also really great to help clean the bird as well as your hands.

I then place the bird on its back and cut down the center of the breast bone breaking the rib cage and then pushing down on both sides thus flattening and opening the bird as illustrated in my painting.* Be careful as the breast bone is very sharp and thin which can cut your fingers or a broken rib and small bones can poke your hands or fingers and cause you to bleed. This makes it easier to identify the organs. When working with the digestive system, I am also very careful not to sever the intestines, so that its content, excrement or urine does not touch the meat. The heart or gizzard can also be removed for cooking, however, I would do research on the birds’ environment and identify whether or not is recommended to eat. (May contain high levels of lead)

I hope you have great season and wonderful meals too.

Rock Dove Anatomy

Rock Dove Anatomy

*1. Trachea, 2. Crop, 3. Flight Muscles, 4. Heart, 5. Liver, 6 .Gizzard, 7. Lungs, 8. Small intestines, 9. Pancreas, 10. Cloacal opening

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In one of my previous blog entries: Furred & Feathered Game, I typed up some bird names that were listed on the MNRF website, its link was also made available. These are in fact birds that you can hunt in the Province of Quebec, under the small game or migratory bird license permits. 

Some of these birds such as the Rock Dove may be hunted all year round; other birds like the Red-winged black bird or Ruffed grouse hunts will normally be managed with the use of specific hunting seasons which include variable dates depending on their provincial zones (Quebec). For the rest of Canada this list may vary slightly; as an example one of the factors could be that your area may not have suitable habitat for certain bird species.

For more information on waterfowl hunting, check out the Environment of Canada website.

This article however does not focus on hunting seasons or zones; it is about mastering the skills of bird identity. Learning is part of the joys of bird watching and this is also true for hunters, but as a hunter we have an added level of responsibility when it pertains to correctly identifying our birds. This is absolutely critical before taking our shots.

I recently finished the book The Birds of winter. I have to say it is quite easy for any of us to pick up a similar book about birds and turn to a page where there is a photograph of a bird we wish to harvest. In my situation it was on page 48 of the book where there was a black and white photograph of a Ring-necked pheasant. I then turned back to page 46 and on this page there was a same sized black and white photograph of an eastern wild turkey in the exact same position. They looked somewhat similar from a distance and with additional factors such as rainy weather, thick grass or woodlands you could begin to understand, how at first glance you could fail to differentiate the two. Yes, the pheasant has bright colors indeed when comparing them to eastern wild turkeys, however when studying some duck species as mentioned in the book Birdwatching, A guide for beginners they write about the word: eclipse.

Eclipse is a term used for dull plumage color, a great example of this is the grayish brown colors of a mallard hen. Some male ducks will lose their eloquent colors once the mating season is over, in turn becoming dull. The change in color of plumage could make it more challenging to identify a specific bird. In my photo gallery page, I have a photograph of two ruffed grouse near a stump and I consider it a great illustration about how easy it can be to walk right past them while still-hunting. When considering behaviour, the eastern wild turkeys will quite often be in a group called rafter.

In the book Birdwatching, A guide for beginners, the authors did a fantastic job in outlining what they consider to be the five major clues to bird identification. I describe these clues in my own way.

Silhouette: In other words the outline of an object in our case a bird; this can help you identify which group of bird they belong to. I am pretty confident that most of us remember our plastic ducks found in almost every bathtub across North-America and if someone were to hold one up you could most likely identify it as a duck just by looking at its outline and noticing its short flat bill or tail.

Plumage: One of my favorite birds to help explain plumage is the mallard drake duck. With its bright green head and white ring color plumage on its neck, it is a rather large duck, and also easily identifiable from far. Study the colors of the birds you wish to hunt and take note of their distinctive colors patterns.

Behaviour: When I am hunting Rock dove, knowing their behaviour as a flock helps me get closer, knowing what movements will cause them to fly away. Pigeons are gregarious and this provides added security, more eyes to help notice danger. I use my environment for the approach, either using low ground or a barn as cover. I can then get closer and identify them as Rock Dove.

Habitat: Eastern wild turkeys normally stay within a five-mile radius of their roost and they can often be found near the edge of tree lines and hay or corn fields. Knowing the habitat of a specific bird will enable you to get closer and identify them. Avoid wearing red, blue or white and use extreme caution during the turkey hunting season when moving around.

Voice: Duck calls are a great example to use for voice identity, the greeting call, or hail call. When you are sitting in the marsh, and you hear such a sound this confirms that there are ducks nearby and eventually you will be able to identify different duck species through their calls.

Have a great season!

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