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Posts Tagged ‘shot’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The mallard drake came in from the West for a landing but he was still quite high, he was responding to the double call coming from down below in the dark weeds. Some ducks will fly in and complete a fly over and then once they are sure it is clear, they will complete one more race track in the sky and then break and then land. Just like geese this is an aerial manoeuvre that I will never tire of seeing.

This mallard completed a second loop and then broke his wings and was coming in right in my direction to the North, I could tell that this was my only chance to release the shot. I had observed that most of them were landing on the South side of the wetlands and I could not reach that part because of the large bodies of water.

I quickly released my shot and as much I thought I was on target it was a miss, he did a quick bank back to the West and then tilted again and went South, and left me with a nice view of his tail’s black strip and the silver feathers on both sides. The sound of my shot blew into the air and its effect was simply incredible, like high pressure air being forced forward and then it shattered into a billion bits of sound.

Today was very warm and there was almost no wind, the pink and purple colours in the sky were very clear with the clouds sitting high up. It was the type of day when you could hear pins drop into the water, I used my goose caller, and its sound carried so far it was magical.

The rifle deer season has started in my region this being the first weekend of three and the wetlands were empty, I was all alone. There I was kneeling down low into the water up to my waist hidden away in some tall grass on the edge of the bay.

The sunset in my area was at four forty-six, then add thirty minutes and this moment is perfect for harvesting geese and ducks for this is when they fly over in large numbers and get ready to settle in for the night. But I swear this evening it was like the birds knew when to come in and they only started to fly when it was way past legal shooting time and I was totally enveloped by darkness. It is times like these when I wish one could hunt forty-five minutes past sunset but unfortunately I am pretty sure this law will never change in my life time.

So you guessed it, no harvest today and quite frankly it was shattering. We can be as crafty as we wish but ultimately we are at the mercy of nature and its wildlife, we are left with picking up our spirit for that day and must attempt to remain positive that the next time out will be better and wish for a harvest with results.

At the end of the day it is a wonderful past time, part of this grand scheme called life. It may be just a sport to some but only when you have hit the wetlands and have experienced a bust than will you understand.

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I have written about it, I have filmed it and I have lived it a hundred times over, yet I find myself sometimes coming back disappointed that I was unable to capture the true experience of spending a cold December evening with the chin straps along the cold black waters of the river. The reality is that when you live it, you are in a sense writing about it when you think about the words that you will use to describe the whole experience. Your mind is in fact filming it too and transforming it into an incredible memory. But it is an exclusive film that only your eyes capture and sharing through stories I find does not always do it justice.

The sun down time today was at four twenty in the afternoon which meant I could hunt until ten to five. This usually means full darkness at this time of year but with the moon coming up this evening it was simply out of this world and was lighting up the whole river bank toward the West. I wanted to ensure I had a long enough hunt, so for this I left the house at around two in the afternoon, thus giving me enough time to get to my spot and setup. Today I brought along my kayak and rigged up a harness for me to pull it like a sled behind me, at least until I got to the water’s edge. This way I can also retrieve birds that fall in to the water a quite a distance.

The trail is not an easy one to navigate through its waist deep watering holes and large broken ice sheets but I always seem to make it just fine. Once on the river’s edge I paddle up the river heading East for about one kilometer, which is what I did today. There was a strong wind and light snow fall, and the whole experience was magical. The waters were a little choppy but I made sure to stay close to shore, and it did not take long for the river to come to life with a bufflehead which flew with lightning speed down the edge of the river to my right but he was too quick for a side angle shot.

The advantage of having my kayak as well is that there are a few spots where I can almost always harvest some Mallard ducks but you can only access it using a boat, however once on the other side of that bank, you can easily hide amongst the tall swamp grass and sneak up to the ducks for a good shot. Quite often I get down on all fours and move forward through the brush sometimes even placing my bare hands into cold water puddles of ice. But it is well worth the reward.

I have blogged a few times about the golden half an hour before sun rise and after sun down and I can not emphasize enough how amazing those time of days are. If you do your research and observe where the birds fly in and you have a good shot, your chances of a harvest during this time is most definitely greater. This time a year, I find that number 3 and 2 shells are not sufficient and I prefer using BB or triple B, in addition while hiding amongst the tall grass do not move and let the geese come in for a close approach this will sometimes guarantee a harvest.

At around four thirty the geese started to fly in by the hundreds from fields to the South to the safety of the river but remained on the other side, it was a hypnotizing sight much like I have experienced during my snow geese hunts near Quebec city. After a few more minutes passed, small groups of chin straps were now starting to cut across within shooting range and it was simply mind-blowing. The sights and sounds were phenomenal and when I called out a few short calls the geese would drop altitude with the sharp ninety degree bank turn and head right toward my natural blind. I never tire of watching a flock of geese flying into range and each bird taking turns completing a sharp bank turn which allows them to drop altitude faster that is if they are coming in for a potential landing. I have also seen them complete this type of aerobatics if they also fly over tree lines where they know they might get shot at, almost like evasive flight manoeuvres.

It was simply amazing!

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The headlights of the truck lit up the dirt road as we made our way down the hill toward the boat launch site on the northern shore of the river.

Just a few minutes had passed now and we were already parked and unloading our gear, decoy bags, shotguns and our backpacks. Prior to stepping out of the truck, I always check and make sure that my LED head lamp is placed over top my tuque and that I turn it on during morning duck hunts because we often work and get ready in the dark until we get to our hunting spots.

We removed the straps holding down the canoe to the roof of the truck, then lifted and spun it around at the same time placing it on the ground. We carefully filled it up with our gear and carried the canoe down to the water’s edge. It was a cold morning with the temperature sitting at around minus five degrees Celsius but there was no wind and the water was dead calm not a ripple in sight. The sky was very clear and had a purple color to it with the sun sitting just below the horizon, you could also see all the prominent stars.

I stood up by the canoe picked up my life jacket and turned it inside out, so that the black inside part was facing out and I then climbed into the bow of the canoe which was now facing directly south and being held by the other hunter.

We pushed off quietly and started paddling across the wider part of the bay; our plan was to cross the larger part of the bay and head in a south-easterly direction. On the other side there was a steep embankment with a trail that we could use to get to the small inner islands and end up in distributaries.

Once we reached the other side of the bank and worked our way through the trail pulling the canoe by its strap, we noticed that our primary waterway was frozen over with around an inch of ice. We now had to prepare our decoy placement, so the canoe was pushed onto the ice and as we climbed in our weight it caused the canoe to break through the thin layer of ice and then we started paddling and breaking our way through the ice moving toward the center of the waterway.

Once in the middle using just our paddle blades, we broke the ice into a very large circle shape and then placed our decoys and electronic duck Mojo into the water on its twelve-foot pole. With the decoys setup in a scattered formation, we slowly made our way back to the shoreline and to our respective shooting spots. We were about fifteen meters apart, now in a kneeling position; I collected some deadfall and several broken branches and built a small blind in front of me along with some foliage.

This would create a natural looking barrier between the duck decoys and my shooting position; if needed I could lower myself in behind the shelter so that if the ducks flew in for their initial fly over, they would not see me. One thing that I have observed is that if you call out several duck calls and attract ducks toward your decoys, mallards will fly in from several directions and quite often they are in groups of two or three and sometimes more depending on your location. I have seen twenty mallards all bunched up together in flight.

So stay low and wait for them to come in within shooting range. You need to study their flight pattern and within a few seconds judge whether you will have a close shot or you may have to take a long shot. It may seem like at times that you are anticipating and trying to interpret what direction they may take, their wings formation and shape in flight can tell you a lot about their next move. We waited for the half an hour mark before sunrise and then whispered to each other that it was now time, we started calling hard with some combo calls letting out comeback calls and feeding calls. Within minutes two mallards flew in from the south-west and came in low between me and the decoys about fifteen meters out.

I quickly lined up my bead site and released a shot of #4 my first mallard fell onto the ice surface and slid a few inches then stopped.

We kept on calling and more ducks flew in but then gained altitude and landed further to the east near the shoreline where the ice was thinner and had open spots. The other hunter on my left decided to work his way up the bank to the east and attempt to harvest the ducks that landed minutes earlier on our left.

I took a quick look around and above then called again, several comeback and feeding calls, soon more ducks came in very high from the south-west, so I released another shot, it was a miss, pumped the action and fired a second shot hitting the last duck in the group of four; the duck froze in mid-air and plunged several meters into the ice surface piercing a hole the size of the bird then got stuck below the surface.

I called again with a very loud comeback call and then waiting around ten minutes and called again with some feeding calls. Two more ducks came in from the south-west then dropped down circling around into the water hole were the decoys were floating. I fired another shot and hit a mallard hen, the bird froze in the air, dropped and landed on the opposite shore line of the water way. It was my longest shot this season and a successful harvest.

It was a fantastic hunt!

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Ingredients: (Serves 4)
1/2 a cup of red wine
Canada goose pieces (Marinated overnight)
1 tablespoon of seasoning of your choice

Method:
1. Braise the pieces of Canada goose
2. Then collect the juices to make your pan gravy and add broth until it thickens, then add your seasoning, add clove of crushed garlic.
3. Let simmer for 20 minutes

* Always be careful of the shot pellets left in the meat. (Image: BB 4.57 mm diameter)

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This is a painting of my first duck hunt for the 2011 season. The techniques, I wish to improve on this year are the following:  Try to stay very still and wait for the ducks to come in much lower, before I take my shots.

I also want to improve my accuracy and aiming technique when taking a shot at a duck in flight, using the half bead aim & shot. Here is what it is: Aim your shotgun at the duck in flight, provide them with sufficient lead and aim your shotgun bead sight right at the bird then bring it down to about half the bead width. If this is done right, then your cloud of shot has a better chance to scatter and hit the bird. It worked for me last year and I hope to harvest as many ducks and geese as I did last year.

My tip for this post is the following: If you are sitting still by the water in the early morning hours and you can hear the ducks moving in while you are trying to spot them. Do not limit yourself to one specific visual area, look all around you, do not lose focus, be constantly aware and at the ready.

On this hunt, I had ducks flying in from the woods behind me to the east and from the large pond in front of me coming in from the north. Remember when hunting with other waterfowlers; give yourselves enough distance between each other and offer respect and courtesy.

Have a great season & safe hunting!

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870 & Chuck

My hip was carefully placed up against the tailgate of the truck in an attempt to avoid shaking too much, so that I could focus better with my binoculars. I was looking toward the eastern field and standing just meters from the farm-house; scanning north to south and concentrating in and around the new hay bales which were freshly cut and rolled.

It was thirty-one degrees Celsius and the heat was almost unbearable. The cattle were down by the creek getting some shade under various deciduous trees, while others waded through the cool waters. Once in a while some cloud cover would move in and with it a fresh breeze would blow in, changing the colors of the various weeds and hay.

Earlier in the morning, I had climbed over the electric fence then headed down diagonally through the northern field closest to the farm-house and cut across the hedge row near the creek, just meters from the road. I then looped around to the south-east back into the other field where there was an opening for the tractors.

I had noticed the groundhog several weeks ago in the field to the east but the weather did not roll in my favor with heavy rains. I was forced to abandon my hunt because the groundhog had retreated below the ground.

The network consisted of two main den entrances at the start of the slope toward the west and with two other escape holes one near the fence to the east and the other in the center of the field where the grass was much darker and just high enough to provide good cover.

Only a few minutes had passed and finally I made out what I thought was a small brown animal on its hind legs. So, I adjusted the center focusing wheel on the binoculars and confirmed my findings. I slowly unzipped my right pocket on the orange hunting vest and pulled out my cell phone and checked the time, it was almost three in the afternoon and it was now going to be cooler and the animals would start coming out now; birds too since I had only seen two yellow warblers and four grackles.

I packed away my phone and binoculars, zipped up my pocket and then grabbed a single shell from my ammunition box on the tailgate and headed down the road to the north. I had to move quickly because I did not want the chuck to move underground.

As I made my way over to the eastern field, I was studying the low ground and aligning the groundhog with each hay bale, thus identifying which bale offered the closest shot and then chose the right bale to use as cover.

I decided on the second bale since it was slightly further away from the groundhog but directly in line with me. I moved in through the tractor opening for the second time of the day and turned in toward the low ground. Once in a while I would stop, catch my breath, because I was speed walking and crouched over. I normally pace myself and take about five to six steps then stop, listen and observe, breathe then set off again.

I was closing in on the groundhog and he still couldn’t see me. By the time I reached the first hay bale, I was only thirty meters out and the shot was possible one but I could not guarantee a confirmed harvest. I also wanted my shot to end up in the dirt and not go over the fence toward the tree line.

So, I stopped, took a knee along with a few deep breaths and prepared myself for the shot that would soon come. I leaned over to the right hand side of the bale and noticed that the groundhog was still standing on watch with its head very high above the hay. I then turned back in toward the center of the hay bale and got down on all fours and leopard crawled over to the hay bale to left or east.

I would crawl, and then stop; look up just popping my head above the hay line to make sure the groundhog was still there and then I would inch forward again. Twice I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead with my hunting hat. My forearms were cut and burning because of the grass blades and various insects. It was only six meters away but it took me a while to get across to the other bale.

Once I reached the second bale, I slowly stood up and had a look over the top of the bale and checked that the groundhog was still there. This time it heard something and let out a whistle but did not move instead it stretched its head further up for a better look much like me.

I loaded one shell into my Remington 870, lined up the bead sight with the target using the hay bale as a stabilizer and focused on my breathing. Once I was ready, I took the weapon off safe using the quiet push method, and then slowly squeezed the trigger…Vlam! Grass and dirt spat up, the groundhog was ejected from the den and fell flat on its back side.

I had harvested one of the largest groundhogs this year and it was now time to head back to the truck and find the groundhog on the southern field near the second barn. I took the time to reflect on the hunt and feeling good about having helped a farmer with his varmints. I decided to bury this harvest using one of the abandoned holes in the field closets to the fence.

My painting of Ron's Coyote

A couple of hours had passed and I was now back at the truck having a drink of water planning my next hunt in the southern field. The cattle had moved in closer to the barns for the evening, therefore shooting was no longer an option at least in the southern field; I had to prepare myself and maybe pack up for the day and head home.

I checked my 870 for a third time after my initial shot and cleared it to make it safe, then I carefully placed it on the ground near the truck on its cloth gun case. I then pulled out a granola snack bar and began to relax.

Once in a while, I would look toward the south then over to the east. The birds were singing louder now, the red wing black birds and grackles were flying in low to feed off the grain on the ground nearby.

I took another drink from my water bottle then placed it down on the tailgate and this is when something caught my eye to the south-east. I could not make it out at first as it stealthy made its way out of the tree line to the south just behind the fence about forty meters from where my harvest was buried. It blended in perfectly with the hay color.

As it got closer and within range I was now able to identify my visitor, I could see its ears were straight up and its fur had a healthy golden shine. The animal would stop; look with its tail straight down near its hind legs. It was incredible! I had seen this animal many times before but I was fascinated, this time it was much different.

It was only two hundred meters away just on the other side of the fence, she moved with such grace and prudence. Coyotes are very intelligent and extremely beautiful animals with an incredible sense of smell. It had picked up the scent of my harvest and she was going to get a free meal; this is something that I love about nature. The simple fact that nothing goes to waste and I was quite aware that my harvest would not last long in the soil.

The coyote was moving in toward my harvest and I snapped to; so I grabbed my binoculars and headed down to the creek to circle around. We were like two cowboys in a duel moving in toward each other but by the time I got to the edge of the creek, amid the excitement the coyote caught my scent and disappeared into the hay, through the fence and into the wilderness.

I did not consider this encounter a failure but rather an awesome experience with an amazing animal. For that very moment I was proud as always to be part of this northern wilderness with this Canis Latrans.

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