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During my migratory bird season, when the Canada geese usually fly in toward the farm where I hunt, more specifically the South side, they quite often choose the two best spots in that area. Either they land across the creek on the edge of the ridge at the start of the hay-field or they land on the North side just shy of the tree line close to the creek.

Both positions offer a great view of the surrounding open ground, which enables the spotter geese to identify a threat and call out if danger is approaching. But it is also near the creek and the swamp which is in the back toward the South-West. In addition there is plenty of food.

It is not by coincidence that they select these two preferred spots and this is why is pays off to be observant. As a waterfowl hunter once you have chosen your approach plan, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and adapt to get close enough to your birds for a harvest.

In my last post, I mentioned that I like to change some things during my hunts to see what works and what doesn’t, this also includes changing my plan of approach during my still-hunts. Just like the geese, I too have a preferred path which I use to close the gap between the geese and I when I stalk them and this is always done on my knees or leopard crawling.

On this particular hunt, I noticed that only six geese came in and flared their wings and landed near the creek facing north. I decided that coming in from the East would be very challenging, having noticed where the spotter geese were standing. So, I changed up my approach plan and worked my way in from the West completing the top part of my approach heading down a ridge and coming up from the opposite side of my usual approach path.

There I lined myself up with an old barn that I used to cover in order to gain more ground. From a bird’s-eye view try to picture a perfect slice of pie superimposed over the field and the tip being where the geese are located, by this time I had now traced the outline of the triangular slice and was coming up the one of the side legs of the triangle heading toward the tip.

The only problem was that now there was nothing but open ground and still several meters to the geese. Once I reached the corner of the barn, I looked through the board gaps and studied the geese position and the spotter geese and decided that coming from the Eastern side would be best. So, I looked to the ground and took several breaths, took three shells and slid them in the buttstock holder and placed the rest in my right pocket and buttoned it shut.

I lowered my face mask then got down on my belly and started to crawl forward toward the East. The first few meters were extremely tough and it was incredibly warm, also making my way over a log. Every few meters, I would stop and place my face into the ground and breathe in a rhythm to control my breathing and not allow myself to get too exhausted.

Once in a while I would slowly lift my head about five inches and check my alignment to ensure I was still in line with the birds. The farm field is full of uneven ground which is perfect to slip into a small trench and gain more ground. On my final approach, I was only pushing with the ball of my feet to propel myself forward and then using my elbows to lift my body of the ground and push ahead.

I was able to get within twenty-five meters of the birds and slide in behind an old upside down claw foot bath tub, which was most likely used to for the cattle to drink a long time ago. I loaded my three shells and pumped the action and placed the 870 on safe. Now I had to figure out how to get to my knees without getting too high and giving away my position. After a couple of minutes, I raised my barrel and rested it on the tub and aligned myself for the first shot.

It did not take long for the birds to call out and burst into the air and with just inches from the ground, I released my shot into the closest goose and it tumbled to the ground with a broken wing. I had to release a second shot into the same bird and while pumping the action to release the second shell and load the third, the spent shell jammed before I could clear it for the third shot and possibly another harvest. It was too late and the others had already set considerable distance between them and I. Quite often with my Remington 870 even if cleaned and pumping the action properly, I find that the shorter shells extract better with my pump-action; one day I hope to be able purchase the new Versa max. This will for sure eliminate the expended shell jams and with the semi-auto action I might be able to release my shots quicker and possibly harvest two or three geese in one single approach.

Just the same I was extremely satisfied with this harvest and the approach. It can be said that in a blind setup, one can harvest a greater number of birds yet I find that still-hunting is so much more rewarding and so far it has proven to be a very positive start of the season with this feathered fox.

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The truck edges forward in its slow advance rolling over the sharp rocks, you can hear the rubber under stress from the weight of the truck. But then seconds later it is all over and the truck is brought to a complete stop. I swing it into park, unlatch the door, jump out and land on my two feet. It is a perfect landing, I have done this a thousand times before and then I look around my surroundings, stretch out my arms on either side taking in a deep breath.

Finally I was back where I belong in the Canadian countryside surrounded by farm fields, forests and the wetlands. My eyes see it all, I do not miss a thing, my soul absorbs its substance. Many years have gone by now and I have learned that I too have a special connection with nature. Today is my fourth time out this season for waterfowl but on this very day things seemed quite different, my knowledge reveals itself in my stature, calm and confident and as for nature well it just lives.

It is true that skill as a waterfowler will aid you in your hunts but it will never be the deciding factor on whether or not you harvest. I tell myself every time that it is what nature will offer you on that particular sortie, this is part of the excitement and challenge. The Canada geese may be in the fields waiting or not, they might be in the swamp or maybe not, the ducks might be hiding along the edge of the creek or not.

Yes for sure there will be game out there but where this is the true experience. After a great conversation with my farmer friend and getting the lowdown of the area, I step back into my truck and drive down the southern field across the creek heading toward the wetlands. Recently I have started to try something different, rather than spending several hours out in the bush, instead I leave later in the day with just two hours before sunset to set myself up in my kayak blind with my back to the forest on the northern side of the swamp.

My plan is to sit still in the boat until the ducks come in for the evening and attempt to harvest my limit before the time was up. Last year I wrote about the magical last thirty minutes of hunting which is the final thirty minutes after sunset. On my third time out this year, I barely had the time to push off the shore with my kayak and it was already raining wood ducks, some landing just feet from me. Hearing their wings swish through the air is just an incredible feeling followed by their landing splash.

I usually park several meters from the swamp, put on my waders and get my kit ready, I then sneak up to the shore to see if there are any birds. The small bushes and trees provide great cover for this, sometimes I harvest one of two birds and then go back to pick up the kayak to retrieve them. Sometimes I have to move in and around the beaver dams through the maze of swamp grass to find them. After this is when my waiting game begins, I will bring all the kit I need into the kayak and then paddle out through the swamp and setup. Generally, I choose a spot with tall grass or dead bushes or trees.

When the darkness finally covers the swamp and the fog moves in, it becomes a magical place. The shadows of the evergreen in the horizon create amazing silhouettes. The water below comes to life with beavers, bugs and fish. Strange sounds come out from the nearby woods and if you are a person with a rich imagination, it is enough to give you the shivers. It is a beautiful place with no words that can truly describe what your senses experience with every ounce in my body is filled with joy.

Then they start to flying in, woods ducks in small groups of three of four with the swish of their wings against the air as they circle all around, you slowly raise your shotgun and fill the sky with muzzle blasts of fire.

There is one thing that rings true, you are a Canadian woodsman.

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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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The black waters of the Ottawa River were quite visible with its ice only forming on its shores. The waterfowl season was still very active and only closing in just a few weeks. Now that the temperatures have started to drop the only visible ducks were American Black ducks, Mallards along with scattered groups of Canada geese found in the open areas of the marsh and river.

There were also Barrow’s Golden eye ducks but they had a tendency to move rapidly to the middle and deeper parts of the marsh.

I was out on the banks heading east along the northern side closest to the marsh and it was just an incredible experience, mallards and black ducks were flying in and landing just meters to my front. I had to get right down low in order to stalk, using the trees and tall grass in an attempt to get closer.

I had my sights on a mallard couple which had landed on the edge of the ice; I managed to get up really close. I was readying myself for a shot, when all of a sudden I spotted a group of five mallards to the west or right. They were floating down toward me heading east, and I could see them appear and disappear between the trees, they were in a better position.

There was a very cold wind blowing in from the south on the river; yet my hands were warm as they are conditioned for the cold, besides I do not like wearing gloves when I am shooting, especially when working with the safety. Once I got moving my hands would feel like they are swelling up and then they eventually warm up within minutes they felt like mittens.

I stood up and moved closer to the pathway leading to the right, once in position, I stood up lightning fast and the ducks burst into flight, I selected one duck and released my shot.

A female mallard tumbled down to the water; it was my first harvest of the day. I retrieved the bird and continued down the shore of the river. I was really happy with my harvested duck, and was planning on heading further east when I spotted a flock of twenty or so Canada geese, floating near some dead trees which were submerged.

I set my sights on the geese and like a fox I got even lower and started my really slow stalk. What I did not realize is that there were a few mallard’s just meters in front of me in a small channel in behind the tall grass. I would have walked right on top of them heading toward the geese hadn’t I seen them.

So instead I carefully moved forward and stood up once I was within a fair shooting distance, unfortunately a well hidden duck which was on my left spotted me first, let out a call and the group took off and heading north.

I stood still and watched as they circled and came right back to my left, heading west. I moved really slow careful not to startle them further west or higher.

When I flushed the ducks, they didn’t seem to be bothered so much by the sound of breaking ice under my boots but rather by what they saw as a potential danger in the movement around them. If you were seen, the ducks would burst into the air in seconds; what was interesting is that they circled around across the marsh to the north then came right back at me. I was now standing and I repositioned myself but I did not move fast as to scare the birds higher and out of range.

I noticed behavior similarities between mallard ducks and snowshoe hares, they both circle when flushed and both seem to wait until the last second before bursting into flight or leaping away. Almost like they were hoping you would walk or paddle right by them during their freeze pose.

Sure enough they came looping right back off to my left, I slowly raised my shotgun lined up my bead sight with a duck and released my shot.

The bird froze its flight in mid-air and crashed into the water below. It was a brilliant harvest and a great way to end my afternoon. That night we had pan-fried duck with Montreal steak seasoning.

The marsh in the winter time is a magical place.

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It Exists


The snow was not very deep only coming up half way up my shin-bones. My socks were soaked with sweat and both had slipped down further into my boots. My leg hairs on the front were getting ripped out with my skin irritated from the rubbing of the lips of my boots with laces that were also soaked.

I was breathing heavy from all the pushing forward in the snow and I took a much-needed rest. It was the middle of the month of March and I had been tracking snow shoe hare leads while attempting to harvest the illusive varying hare.

Two hours had passed since the beginning of my hunt as I was moving in and out of snow-covered pine and cedar trees chasing my quarry. There was no shortage of coyote tracks along with fresh droppings and I knew there was more than one dog because coyotes normally form groups when hunting.

When I am out alone in the woods, especially during the winter, I try not to allow my fear or imagination to run wild concerning wolves, bears and coyotes. My awareness and respect for nature work as a guides and allows me to push a little further, deeper into the wilderness but I am not reckless.

By mid afternoon the snowy woods had become an incredible wilderness scene worthy of a painting but the shadows between and under the evergreen were getting darker. Now that I was rested, I continued my push deeper into the woods and there I found more coyote tracks with fresh urine, droppings and under a pine tree to my left or north, I found a cow skull with bits of flesh left on the cheek bones.

I stopped in my tracks, looked around and very carefully looking through the condensation of my breath. I was overcome by a very strong sense and deep within my gut telling me to stop and turn back toward the farm.

In front of me there was a wall of evergreen which separated me from the trees was an old farming fence composed of rotten wooden posts and wire. Behind the trees was total darkness, I could feel something almost like eyes were staring at me but I could not see a thing. I pumped the action of my 870 and loaded a shell into the chamber and pushed the safety on and brought the shotgun butt into my shoulder and completed a half a circle scan and then slowly moved backward and headed back to the farm.

That day I never fired a shot nor did I harvest a hare but I know to this day that I was not alone out there. There was an energy, aura of a sort and knew that it time to leave the wilderness for the day.

We are living creatures and I know that we give off energy and other animals can sense it and we can in hand sense them. The Mayans are known to have harnessed this knowledge in aiding them to hunt deer.

R.D Lawrence writes the following in his book: Paddy, Chapter 2, page 46. “Wild things, especially young ones, are acutely sensitive to mood and are able to pick up “sense waves” from that aura which, like some intangible breeze, seems to be given off by all living creatures. This is a phenomenon of life that defies comprehension at this stage of human enlightenment, but it does, nevertheless, exist-of this I am sure.”

I too know it exists.

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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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It was just another ordinary lunch hour at work for me, as I stood up after having eaten my lunch and carefully walked over to my bookshelf, reached into my plastic container which was full of loose change and grabbed a few coins, no more than two dollars as this would normally suffice.

If time permitted, I would walk about a block and pick-up a coffee but my first order of business was always going to the library bookstore to find treasures to read. Sometimes, I would go several days without finding a thing and then eventually I would spot a great book or magazine to buy.

When I walked into the shop, I would say hello to the volunteers working there, and then my search began. I have several key words in mind for my particular day which I use when scanning the book shelves on the lookout additionally it did not matter how the books were placed. My eyes would scan along for the keywords that I had in mind, then they would literally jump out from the books and I then grabbed it my hand and usually within seconds had already decided if it is worth holding or not.

With my amazing snow goose hunt still fresh in my mind and just a few days old, I noticed the words “Shotgun” and “Digest”. Any book with the word “Digest” is almost always a great read and I learn so much or it is a great review.

I pull out the paperback from amongst the other books and it was the “Shotgun Digest” by Robert Stack. Today I thought to myself I scored! The author’s name did not hit me at first, until I started reading the book on the way home that evening and read the Dedication which was written for Clark Gable.

Robert Stack from the Unsolved Mysteries television show was a champion skeet shooter and loved waterfowl hunting as much as I do. I could not believe that he wrote a book about shot gunning, additionally he was great friends with Clark Gable who was also an accomplished marksman and waterfowler.

He also wrote about Lee Marvin another accomplished hunter in the book on page forty-eight which had the chapter title of dynamics of dove downing. These old pages are a true pleasure to read, and you can find the following topics: Choosing the right shotgun, fitting the gun to you, shotshell, reloading techniques, facts on recoil, ballistics and chokes, skeet and trapshooting hows and whys, and the chapters I can’t wait to finish are Waterfowl and Upland Game Shooting Techniques.

Through these old pages, I will be learning and reviewing and it is such a treat. Veterans, actors and hunters a fine read indeed.

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