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Posts Tagged ‘snow geese’


My wadders hang silently in the garage by the d-ring, empty shells lay in a cracked red bucket on the cold cement floor. The shotgun now locked away in its cabinet with a fresh coat of gun oil, the smell flowing through the room and being absorbed into the wood of nearby furniture.

As I look on at a vintage photo of goose hunters, I wished that objects had voices, so that they could tell stories, that if not shared would be lost in the space which surrounds us. Stories that are worth sharing, cause it is part of who we are as waterfowlers and for me a proud Canadian outdoorsman.

Those are the very same wadders I wore on a special spring snow goose hunt north of Quebec City a few years ago with good friends. It was early in the afternoon and we had just brought down a few snow geese into the fields but one bird fell into the St Lawrence river and was being carried away.

The current was roaring to the south and the bird would disappear down on its shores, I could not let this one go. It was quite a ways out and amongst the huge ice blocks, but I had to retrieve the goose. So I stood up from my blind, unloaded my shotgun and left it behind with the other guys and ran after my bird.

First I headed toward the shore, cut through some brush and within seconds I was all alone. I kept on running along the banks for several minutes, like a boy chasing a plane. The terrain was getting more difficult to navigate and I was having to jump up and down ridges, sinking into the mud and eventually I jumped over a couple of tributaries.

All the while running after this famed goose, I could see that the current spirals were spinning the goose toward the shore but still quite a ways out. When I could, I reached out for a large twig that I had found on the ground which had a long enough branch and two angled branches at its end like human fingers.

Finally when the current slowed because of the huge ice blocks, I leapt into the St Lawrence dark waters up to my waist prodding at the bottom of the river to make sure I was not stepping into emptiness. Now only within a few meters, I managed to catch the goose with the wooden claws and pulled in the harvest.

On my way back when I breached the brush line and raised the bird into the air showing the boys that I had got it. I was a proud fellow and they burst out into a joyful laughter. These are memories of a lifetime, better yet this is a story that will not remain locked into those Allen wadders for eternity.  

 

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GooseThe winds on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river were incredibly strong; with hundreds of birds flying over head. The sights, smells and noises were so powerful and something out of this world.

I was about to start my two-hour treat alone, all the other hunters including the guide and his chocolate lab went back to the camp for a quick nap.

They asked me if I wanted to come along but I pleasantly declined. The Saint Lawrence with its strong currents, ice flows all such beautiful scenery, the basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré it was all mine to savour.

The decoys were well placed and the digital callers were calling out, doing their jobs attracting waves of birds.

I looked around, starting applying all the basics techniques of a stand up blind hunting.

A group of thirty snow geese flew in overhead and then swung around and came back heading north right above me.

Then three birds dropped down lower and swung around losing height.

When I noticed that one of the birds came even lower, I swung out from underneath the burlap and fired right into the bird’s chest.

It flipped over and flew fifteen meters to my left and landed in the high grass.

I unloaded and existed the blind and went to retrieve my harvest.

Sometimes it all happens so fast if you do not see your bird landing in the bushes below, for a moment you are not sure if you lost it or not, this is without the dog of course.

Now back in the blind with my harvest, I stood for a few more minutes for what seemed an eternity then a group of forty snow geese flew in from the north, right over top and not one bird called out.

So I stood still and bent my knees to get lower, then another gaggle came up along the west side and almost hovered over my spot.

I waited for the perfect opportunity, looking up in an awkward fashion, with my upper body twisted.

I moved away from the front part of the burlap and set myself in a good shooting position and then I unloaded in the bird which was the closest. It tumbled in the air, kept on flying and landed in the river.

The tide was out now about sixty meters and large pieces of ice which covered the dark waters just weeks before broke apart and littered the bottom of the Saint Lawrence creating a maze of ice and mud, rendering it incredibly dangerous to retrieve my harvest. I marked off the spot where the bird landed on the edge of the Saint Lawrence and called on the guide and his dog.

It was an amazing thing to watch, the relationship between the guide and his dog and within fifteen minutes the dog completed several section searches disappearing into the ice and mud sometimes out of sight for several seconds and then there he was with my beautiful white bird in its mouth.

It was a proud moment for many, nature is so fascinating.

 

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Last spring on our snow goose hunt just north of Quebec City, I found myself along with my mates putting a lot of trust into a very young guide at a local outfitter. One of many! This was our second season and the previous year we had chosen terrible guides.

I often asked myself. What does it take to be a guide? Being a guide must not be a job which can be taken lightly. You would have to deal with a tremendous amount of pressure; coming from your clients who paid lots of money and sometimes expect the impossible. You would have to be very confident and very skilled. Of course you would also have take into consideration that being a guide is a business, so there is also this whole added world, the existence of the business, your presence on the Internet, marketing and much more.

Were the guides skills and knowledge passed down through a teacher or were they acquired through years of experience? You must have a successful record and great reviews.

As a client though you also have a responsibility of being respectful and most of all being reasonable, most hunters know that the guides have no control over the weather, neither bird or mammal behavior. So be patient and do not allow yourself to get frustrated. I have the perfect example of this.

We had being lying in our blinds for well over an hour and the birds were staying close to the shoreline in groups of five or six and were out of range to the west. So, a couple of impatient and frustrated hunters got up and decided this would be a good time to take a much-needed break, I don’t blame them it was getting really warm. Within ten minutes of them being gone, a group of snow geese flew in nice and low just overhead and I harvested two.

Actually, I just about blew my shoulder off as I was trying out new ammunition and had used two Remington hypersonic steel shells and I found it way too powerful. I much prefer the Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel, three inch, #3 shot for goose and duck and it is very effective.

This is different of course if you are hunting at an outfitter which has a fenced in territory in which case you are pretty much guaranteed your trophy or harvest.

The guide must have the same if not superior knowledge in our case about snow geese. This means being familiar with their feeding patterns, knowing and understanding the tides, the winds and this has a direct impact on your blind placement.

The task at hand can be a very challenging one indeed. This is a topic which I will continue to explore throughout my hunting seasons and over time, I will be able to choose the best guides for my classic hunts.

In the end I realize that if you are a true hunter at heart and you can appreciate the knowledge and experience of the guides you chose then this makes the experience a much more enjoyable and memorable one regardless of age.

Turns out our guide was very skilled and we had a great harvest but most of all, we had a blast. The waterfowl season is only a few weeks away now and I am, like many others extremely excited!

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