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Posts Tagged ‘stories’


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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A few nights ago on a dark and raining evening I sat down and began to browse the Internet, I was looking up vintage hunting paintings and sketches as well as black and white photos. Some were trophy photos and others told stories. Stories of time long ago, a way of life, experiences that I have shared and lived in my own way.

There was one sketch in particular that struck me more than the others, it was titled “Chasing a Cripple” it is a black and white drawing by W.L Wells. I found that this image like many others captures the true essence of a duck hunter attempting to retrieve his crippled game.

I stood there looking at every detail in the drawing and I found myself re-living a moment from last years season, when I was retrieving my crippled teal duck and then I began to type what I felt deep at the core.

“The darkness and the cold envelops you like a blanket, the wind howls and makes sounds like that of wicked spirits calling out. Tis the season of toxic mud gases and weeds that weigh a ton, and wrap themselves around your paddle like mad fingers who wish to pull you down into the depths of the black waters. A few more powerful strokes and the harvest might be yours or not, it is unyielding and painful yet so rewarding. It is healing, it is medicine for the soul.”

The season starts in two days and I can not wait.

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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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Is it intelligence, awareness, instinct or just plain survival? Sometimes I wonder if game animals have access to our hunting season dates or just know when to come out. I like to consider myself a seasoned hunter but there are times when I go several weeks without harvesting.

This past fall I had an amazing waterfowl season but did not harvest a single grouse and now the season is closed as of January 15th, 2013. Two weekends ago, I went snowshoe hare hunting and saw tons of tracks but not one hare, yet on the same hunting grounds; I saw three grouse within twenty meters of me.

When I am out hunting at the farm and we notice the wild turkeys roaming the far hills to the west and I point out a large male. My friend says yes, “He is about five years old”; I can tell you, I have a tremendous amount of respect for that turkey. This means that he has survived at least four hunting seasons, predation, disease, competition, the elements, motor vehicles and everything which Mother Nature throws at him.

I will continue my lifelong quest to learn as much as I can about the game animals that we hunt and I hope I will live and share many more beautiful hunts but there is one thing which is certain and that is life will continue its course long after I am gone and nature will have its way.

There are secrets hidden deep within nature which we will never uncover, I know a hunter who has been going to the same hunting grounds for several years now and he knows of a majestic buck who roams this territory yet they are unable to harvest him. He only comes out at night, when hunters have long gone and during the day he is like a ghost in the woods.

There is one thing I have learned about hunting crows and pigeons, and that is they are able to identify my habits and who I am because as soon as I show up at the farm they fly away. The only way I can harvest one is if I break my routine and arrive earlier or later, disrupt my hunting pattern. Instead of preparing my hunting kit and heading out right away for the hunt, I walk around the farm and pretend to do farming activities, walk toward the cattle and sit by the fence and talk. This usually allows them to relax and behave like they normally do when I am not around.

We like to consider ourselves the most intelligent life form on earth, and yet we cannot speak with animals which may allow them to challenge this notion, but who is to say they don’t think the same.  Do they know?

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Hidden away in the south-west of France, there is a very small village, and in that village there is an eighty-five year old farmer who stands alone in his welding shop, skillfully creating his artwork. His shop is a very small hanger provided by the Mairie or town hall located on the main road which leads to the Atlantic Ocean.

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On a bright sunny day the artist puts on his blue coveralls and walks the short distance from his apartment to the hanger to weld. He does not just work with metal; he creates art using templates that are hand drawn by his eldest son. His artwork tells a story about French hunters, it is a collection of stories and now very much part of my family heritage as two of his pieces sit in his great grandson’s room.

Hunting and trapping is almost part of everyone’s heritage and its legacy along with our family history is kept alive through stories, and art such as paintings, songs and historical pieces such literature, paintings in caves, clothing, jewelry and various other forms.

Each piece has its own story as it is passed along through the generations and yet even today we are trying to put together the facts and ultimately find the truth, so that we may share the stories as accurately as possible with our future generations. It is now, as it has always been a time to collect family stories and artifacts which keep our hunting tradition alive. But it is not just about tradition it also binds the family link and gives it substance, richness in sort.

A few weeks ago, I came home from a hunt and was putting away my gear and cleaning my Remington 870, and so I opened my drawer where my cleaning kits were stowed away and there I found my great uncles Vintage Hoppe’s #9 cleaning kit. It still had the cleaning swab in the adapter which was attached to the bore snake cleaner that is pulled through the barrel in order to clean the rifling.

Hoppe's Cleaning Kit

Although I used my more recent cleaning kit, I stopped and took time to appreciate the piece of family history that I had inherited, and thought about the hours spent cleaning his rifles after being out for a few days at the camp near the hunting grounds. The smell of the lubricating oil opened a vault of emotions and memories.

With a successful hunt now behind him, he could now rest and take shelter in the warmth of his workshop at his home, light up a cigarette and clean his rifle which he treated with care and respect.

I often turn on the radio and listen to some classics like A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation by Marty Robbins, while I unpack and clean up my kit for the next outing and I take great pride in cleaning the firearms that were passed down through the family as I am sure my great-uncle did too after the war. A tradition has been born.

Next time you are in the attic; at your family’s farm, or visiting great uncles. Ask permission, ensure it is safe to handle and pick up a piece of family history and collect its story, so that future generations in your family may savor the piece of their history.

There will come a time when it is our turn to go and maybe one day a young person will find a spent shotgun shell carefully place in a jar with a feather and wonder what this all means. Little does he know that it was a souvenir of one of his grandfather’s first turkey hunt and that on that day his wife; your grandmother made his favorite sandwich along with a box of raisins just the way he loved it and your family had a wonderful feast that spring.

Collect it before it collects dust first!

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