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Posts Tagged ‘snow’


The snowmobile plowed through the soft snow leaving a large cloud of mist in our trail, which turned into billions of crystals that glistened as the sun rays pierced through. Following a few turns around the frozen lake, the temperature gauge lit up on the dash and we knew something wasn’t right.

We pulled off the trail closer to the shore and lifted the hood and confirmed the worse, something was wrong and we were losing coolant and we only had barely enough to make it back to the cottage which was well over a kilometer away.

I volunteered to walk back, making the sled lighter thus giving my friend a better chance of making it back to the trailer. We lowered the hood, started the motor and within seconds, I was standing all alone surrounded by pure snow-covered wilderness.

I was like a child that had just received one of the best gifts in the world, the feeling was overwhelming, I couldn’t resist, I raised my arms into the air and started to skip up the lake kicking the fresh snow with my boots.

I would breathe in, closed my eyes and listened to the stillness, it was incredible. Once I hit the halfway mark, I left the openness of the lake and started my way into the woods to the west. I felt alive, it is very difficult to put into words but its like you become part of the forest, it is no longer this cold hostile environment that has the ability to arouse primal fears.

snare

Within minutes, I had found snowshoe hare leads and began to follow them along the edge of the lake through the thick spruce and pine growth. Once I was within a few hundred meters of the cottage, I began to set some snares, rubbing the wire against the spruce tree trunk, to shape the wire and get rid of my scent.

This was perfect, before I knew it several hours had passed and time no longer had the same meaning as it does in the city. In the province of Quebec, a certified hunter can use snares for snowshoe hares under their small game license. 

I wish everyone an incredible new year!

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Last Sunday I took advantage of some spare time and drove out to the river to see if I could spot a few ducks in open water. With not very many days left in my waterfowl season, I wanted to see if mother nature would give me a last go, until next fall.

After having spent about two hours walking along the shores of the river and through the wetlands, it was clear that my waterfowl was nearing its end. The ice was getting thick and the open waters of the river were well out of range with the ice about forty meters wide from the edge of the shore and about two inches thick.

There was no doubt that the view was spectacular and the wind blowing in was refreshing and complimented the snowy banks of the river, just a perfect match. It is always a bitter-sweet feeling, knowing that my waterfowl season is coming to a close.

The year’s season was an interesting one and to be honest, as I went out on all my outings during this season, I seem to have lost count of my harvests and had the impression that I hadn’t had as good as season as last year, especially with the warmer weather lingering longer at the start of the season.

On my drive home from the river, I was happy about the idea of getting back into a warm spot but knew I would miss my days on the river until next fall. Over the next few days, I took out my harvests out of the freezer and let them defrost and then marinated the meat over night and began the lengthy process of making our Rillettes.

It is pretty neat to feel how much pride comes from making delicious traditional Rillettes with your own harvests, and also being able to share it with friends and family who appreciate them, especially during the holiday season.

Twenty one jars later and a clean kitchen, I can now look back on all the great moments of my season with satisfaction and pride as well as the lessons learned and only hope for the best next fall.

Remember to be safe and happy new year to all of you who share this passion of ours.

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There I was standing in the middle of a forest with its floor filled with watering holes, it would have been heaven for wood ducks but the woods were empty. The autumn coloured leaves sparkled underneath the crystal surface of the water, it was just magical. The winds were extremely powerful blowing in from the West and as it enveloped the forest there was howling winds through the trees emitting strange eerie sounds. With the rattling of the branches and the trunks rubbing up and down against each other.

There was an intense cold with snow drifts sweeping in, I kept my eyes not only on the edge of the wetlands for ducks but also on the trees, as it was the perfect conditions for tree limbs to come down. I was scoping this part of the forest because of its proximity to the shore of the river and only meters away was the edge of the wetlands.

The dominant species of duck in my area are teal and mallards, but the teal do not always land in my zone, they rather fly nervously in groups of ten or more and then loop back to the very deep parts of the water and well out of reach, I might have a chance if I snuck up with my kayak. But the mallards it is a different story, they are extremely resilient to the cold and are found until late in the season even if there is lots of snow on the ground, they are generally hidden close to shore in the tall grass. If you are a jump shooter type of hunter, then walking along the shores in a stealthy fashion you are sure to get a harvest or two.

When I set off on a hunt from my house later in mid-season, I have to pass over a bridge in my community and there is a beautiful waterway which snakes all the way to the river and I always sneak a peek over the barrier down on the muddy shores near the golden grass and if I can spot a few mallards, this is usually a good sign for my hunt on the river.

I have been coming to this area for several years now, and I used to be able to go just a few meters with my kayak and then launch off and start jump shooting from my boat. But since the beavers have moved in and with the changes to the environment this whole area is becoming a mush of swamp grass and only small segments of open water. A couple of years ago, I was out in a large area body of open water and I was able to climb out of my kayak and stand on my own two feet without sinking. I was standing on a mud island and over time it was very physically challenging to paddle in this soup. A paddle was now useless, what I needed was a long push pole.

Once I cleared the edge of the forest, I was now facing the Eastern side of the wetlands and I knew there were mallards dabbling further down, because if I were a mallard this is where I would have wanted to be about thirty meters from the shore. There was a small body of open water in the shape strange looking shoe. It was surrounded by golden coloured tall grass and some small wetland brush with several crane nest sticking out of the surface like oversized ant hills but they generally have a large ring of deep water around them and can be very dangerous with waders on.

Today I was going to try something new with my approach, I was not going to come in from the southern banks of the river and then circle around to the north to sneak up on the ducks, I was going to come cut diagonally from my start point, but this meant cutting off the top edge of the wetlands on foot, which meant he depths could range from my hips to the my knees with hidden pockets of dangerous depths. But my knowledge of the area helped me navigate and with over an hour of tracking through the muck, and pulling myself forward and out using large vegetation, I made it to my starting area.

At one point, I was startled by a small crane species and I raised my shotgun and was ready to release my shot but my experience caught me and I had identified the species within milliseconds which caused me to lower my shotgun. This is a skill that you will master even while off-season, find unique identifiers about each species of bird and learn to identify them before they are out of sight and you will see that in time you will be very accurate.

As I approached the edge of the bank, I took a short break, all that sloshing around was physically demanding and my breathing was very heavy. I looked over to the northern side and spotted several large dark animal like movements in the dark waters. They looked like dabbling ducks but I could not make it out for sure, I had to get closer.

I knew my approach was going to be a difficult one as I was already up to my knees in water surrounded by tall grass and small waterways which had depths unknown. It had begun, my sights were now on that body of open water beyond the tall grass well over thirty meters out. I would lift one foot ensure it was on a secure mud base then move the next leg forward, it was without a doubt treacherous.

I pushed forward and when I lost my balance from the suction of the water and mud vacuum on my waders, I would pull hard on a clump of tall grass and pull myself forward and out back onto a solid mud base. All the while keeping a low profile and my shotgun out of the water.

My backpack was not heavy but the straps were getting tight on my shoulders and causing them to get fatigued. There was no dry place to put down my pack, so I slowly slid it off my shoulders and down into the water and it bloated with water and stayed a float. I took note of the unique vegetation around it, so that I could spot where I had left it as I made my way closer to the edge of the open body of water which was now only ten meters away.

Only a few more steps forward into the dark unknown and now the weeds were wrapping themselves around my arms and shotgun like daemons wanting to take me down to the depth of the bowels of the dark waters. Combined with my sheer fatigue, I would force my shotgun forward which tore the weeds free.

On my final step, I slowly lifted my head and confirmed my findings, there were in fact about twenty ducks dabbling, I carefully selected the mallards closest to me. Then I lowered myself back behind the weeds and golden grass, I carefully slid my pump-action just a few millimetres in order to glance at the loaded shell in the chamber and then slid another shell into the magazine for a total of three ready.

I looked down at the water took a few deep breaths and got myself ready for the shots, then in an instant I raised myself above the grass and caught the ducks completely by surprise, they stretched their necks out called out and burst into the air, in a single motion, I pushed off the safe and released my shot into the closest bird and the mallard spun forward and flipped back into the water, I released a second shot and missed the group.

In a matter of a few seconds, it was all over, I had harvested my first mallard but the others were now sky-high heading east. The recovery was a tricky one indeed with water up to my chest, my Remington 870 was completely submerged in water but I was not going to let my orange foot duck be swallowed up by the black waters.

Once I got back to the safety of the river bank with my mallard in hand, soaking went and fatigued, there was no more humbling experience than this moment, it was just me and the northern elements. I am not sure where your imagination takes you when you think of folkloric tales of our great Canadian wilderness. I had just lived it, the cold dark waters all alone surrounded by raw wilderness and I not only mastered it but it was now flowing in my very veins.

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Day after day, I drive into work and park at the same old spot in the underground parking tucked in right at the back, away from any other vehicles. There is only one other car that shares the back with me and this car is only there every other day. It is a pretty fancy sedan compared to my older truck. So, when it is parked near my spot I have to manoeuvre a little more in order to place myself in a reverse position which makes it easier to get out at the end of the day as well as avoiding a collision.

But this blog entry is not about vehicles or parking. When I drive up to the last turn inside the underground parking in the morning where the other car is usually parked, I have now turned it into a game; can I really try to guess if the car will be there or not? This is also before I can physically see it. Almost like I can predict its presence, but it is after all just a mass of steel and rubber and so far my ability to be able to read the presence of the car without seeing it has turned up empty. And this is most likely because there is no soul or energy coming from the car.

I am a believer that if any hunter is fully immersed in natures elements and that their senses are in perfect tune even the unexplained one’s. I know that we can feel the presence of animal in the woods. On my last snowshoe hare hunt, I knew I was being watched and I had this un-explained feeling within me that I was not alone in the woods and only meters from me was a snowshoe hare in its freeze pose, staring right at me.

Another interesting experience that I had with wildlife in their elements was during a drive home in the winter time, I like to take the country roads on my drive home at night and on this particular evening there was a light snow fall, and on this road at one point there is a very sharp turn but people generally take it pretty fast. For some reason while I was driving up the to the turn, I had a strong feeling in my gut, it was like an instinctive queue to slow down. I let off the gas pedal and just as soon as I did a deer leapt out from the ravine and landed directly in front of my bumper and it turned facing away from me. I tapped the break gently and I slid on the snow and gently bumped it two more times, the deer tried to outrun the truck but slid in the ice below then as soon as it got traction it bounced again and disappeared into the brush.

It was not instinct, I felt the deer and I am a believer that over time I will be able to hone this gift.

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Last weekend I went snowshoe hare hunting with a good friend of mine and the snow was pretty deep in the woods with the recent snow fall that had dumped around one foot of snow. When I checked the weather network the night before, I was pretty happy about their forecast, because when it snows it is warmer and hare leads are much more visible along with the droppings and their regurgitated green cuds.

During my pre-planning for the hunt, I packed up some of my gear the night before and I was sure to have the snowshoes as part of the kit that was needed. I really like the new strap mechanisms on those new shoes but unfortunately they are not the best in the deepest of snow, the good old Michigan styles are by far the best which have a larger coverage for the foot placement and of course you do not sink to your waist every two steps and eventually tire yourself out.

Your firearm is by far one of the most important tools during your hunt and of course during your outing it will be exposed to the elements like snow, small branches and pure muck, this can most definitely have an effect on the working parts, along with the water which freezes on the shotgun as you move in and out of the snow-covered pine and cedar.

Years ago, when I purchased my Remington 870 Express, I purposely chose the pump-action, because I knew the type of harsh conditions I was going to expose my shotgun to and I was legitimately concerned that the mechanism would fail if I had gas operated semi-automatic actions. Not only was a pump the right price but the action was more reliable in our Canadian fall and winter months, compared to the semi automatic shotgun which is also double the price of an Express if not more.

After a few hours of tracking through the brush and not locating any hares, we made our way back to the southern barns on my friends farm and placed ourselves at the edge of the tree line. We were going to try our luck with the rock doves, there was a group of seven of them flying around the cattle and then setting themselves in some nearby trees.

I carefully directed my friend into a good shooting position and then placed myself to his right and we chose our birds carefully and prepared ourselves for the harvest. We loaded the shells and made our shotguns ready and when we released our shots, only one gun rang out. My friends semi automatic shotgun clicked into emptiness and no shot came out, two pigeons tumbled to the snowy ground. One step that made all the difference is prior to loading the shells for the pigeons, I rode the pump-action back and forth multiple times with an empty chamber and tube magazine to clear any small ice particles and warm up the slide, this you can do on a pump. This represented for me my third time this year to have had two pigeons harvested in one single shot of number six, but I was truly disappointed for my friend.

The semi-automatic was clear of any snow but the cold had such and impact on the action, that the firing pin was slow to release and come forward to strike the primer, in addition the trigger was frozen which prevented him from depressing it all the way toward the back. Simply releasing the action in order to eject the shell proved to be more challenging than it would have been in warmer weather. I always had my doubts about my choice but now the proof is in the snow.

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As I lifted one snowshoe and placed it in front of the other through the thick powdery snow, I found myself venturing deeper into the wintery woods. With the smell of fresh pine dancing through the cool air, this had to be heaven.

You take a moment and close your eyes then breathe it in, you are absolutely surrounded by the darkness of the coniferous forest which contains all of its mysteries that nature has to offer, far away from all that is logical to the rational mind. The time had come, I found a hare lead and began to navigate further into the thick brush, with large amounts of snow falling upon my shoulders but I kept on pushing ahead.

It did not take long before I found fresh tracks and green droppings, I was close but I could not see any black pearl eyes yet. I knelt down and got closer to the forest floor and focused on the hidden dark areas. I felt a strong presence, something was watching me but I could not yet see it. I took two more steps forward and glanced to my left, there he was the white ghost in the darkness with his black pearl eyes. Neatly tucked away behind some spruce boughs.

A true treasure of the Canadian wilderness, staring right at me with the utmost intensity, nature is cold and ruthless but contains some of the most incredible images, those not always understood by the rational mind.

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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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