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Posts Tagged ‘rock dove’


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 and 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, a beaver came swimming towards its dam in total silence, gliding through the water with a 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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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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There is no better way to treat your soul than spending time in the woods, it is not only refreshing but it also allows you to recharge your inner battery. You are free of all the city madness and its sounds. With the snow melt now in effect, and the sun coming out in full strength I couldn’t have asked for a better day to spend time in the elements.

I decided to bring a friend along and we were going to try our luck with rock dove and woodchuck, since their seasons are open all year round in my hunting zone in Quebec. The rock doves are incredible flyers and can perform amazing aerobatics in the air and sometimes can avoid shots thus making it a true challenge, pigeons also learn quickly and recognize danger and can fly away without offering a chance of a harvest.

After a couple failed attempts on the rock doves, I chose to give them a few minutes to calm down and swing back into our wooded area, so we set off to the other side of the creek and head south to try my luck at the woodchucks in the rock formations atop of a hill. The creek current was faster than usual with the water icy cold as there were still ice and snow chunks floating down along with a few Mallard ducks and three Canada geese.

The creek was too wide and we only had our hip waders on, and the depth of the creek was too deep. There were no boards available to make a makeshift crossing, but nature has a way of providing. And in our case it was a land bridge, made by one of the most impressive builders in the animal world, a beaver.

The dam is about eighty meters long and makes for a great land bridge, and it was only six hundred meters West of our current spot, the tricky part was getting there because the bush was extremely thick. I used this opportunity to share my knowledge of moving through the brush, looking for directional signs, such as the position of the sun and the vegetation, for example such as broken twigs, and on our way back we located our foot steps in the mud and snow as guidance.

The forest floor was saturated with snow and mud; sometimes you found yourself sinking into mud holes that resembled quick sand, holding on small trees and walking on the mud islands and downed trees worked great. Also early in the spring, if you are planning on following a creek I tend not to get too close to the edge as the ice sheets overlap the river and if you are not careful, there is nothing but water below the sheets of ice, that have become thinner with the increased temperatures in the spring.

It is a great idea to use a tall walking stick for balance, while crossing the dam wall and ensure that every step is on solid parts of the dam, being aware of the spillway. Once we had reached the other side it was simply magical, just the wind and birds keeping us company. The view overlooking the ridge was just breath-taking. Total mastery of the woodlands is not just a positive feeling but it is also incredibly rewarding. Their dams are not a barrier, but rather a passage.

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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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