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Posts Tagged ‘teal’


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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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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The sky was filled with majestic dark clouds, it gave you the impression that I was going to be swallowed into the darkness of the night but it was only four in the afternoon and I had several hours ahead of me in the wetlands. The sun would break through between the clouds and their edges would then turn bright orange like they were burning, the colors all around me would change, the shadows became very clear and then as soon as it changed just like a wave it turned back to its yellows and browns once the sun was hidden again.

I sat in my truck for some time before my hunt was going to start, then took a few deep breaths, said a prayer and asked the powers that be for a great hunt. I was a very happy man. My experience has taught me that if you go out thinking your going try hard to harvest something, it will not happen, you have no control over nature. You have to use your knowledge and let things happen and if an opportunity presents itself then you must grasp that slice of time.

The sights and smells in the wetlands, would render any man humble and make them realize how small we are in this world. The endless isolated dark waters and the tall grass grow in a dangerous maze. We will come and go, but nature will always be there with its creatures and be so powerful as it is.

I dragged my kayak out of the truck bed, rigged up my gear, climbed into my waders and headed off down the muddy trail; my boots were instantly sucked into the mud which then released the swamp smell after each step. It was very slippery and at times, I would pull my boat onto the grass to facilitate the drag.

The water levels this year are very low in the wetlands, forcing me to work my way down the trail to the deeper waters several hundred meters away. Even with the rain we have had in the recent days it hasn’t helped and this makes paddling quite a chore through the weeds.

I placed my shotgun at the ready state with the safe on in its front mount of the kayak and then I pulled the boat through the swamp grass and weeds until I sank into my hips and then I would climb into the boat and push-off with my paddle once it was too deep. Every time I do this, I think of the scene in the movie “African Queen”, it is extremely hard work and requires an incredible amount of physical strength. The weeds wrap themselves around my paddle like a spider web and it makes it very difficult to move as well as exhausting, it is a battle to make it to the deeper waters.

Moments later I am floating through the tall grass, sneaking in and out of the waterways flushing wood ducks and green winged teal. I feel a sudden rush of freedom, the kayak gives me the ability to get within meters of the blue herons and they only burst into flight once I am just feet away, this is exactly the skill I am using with ducks.

Right now the birds I see the most are, green and blue winged teal, wood ducks and Canada Geese, the mallards and black ducks are not as present.

Teal are incredible birds, flying very low and unimaginably fast, unlike mallards or black ducks they remind me of fighter jets, moving in formation with lightning speed. Any gunner who is able to take one down in flight has my instant respect; it takes quick movements and precision shooting and the ability to interpret the birds.

I paddled up and down the north-eastern side of the marsh, winding through grassy canals, flushing ducks. Sometimes I would stop paddling allowing myself to coast along and then stop inside a patch of tall swamp grass and wait several minutes, almost like an instant blind configuration.

Then if there were no ducks, I would move again. My kayak is so stable, I can switch from sitting in the boat to flipping onto my knees, which provides a better shooting base and I can also rotate for harder angled shots.

On my way back to the east, I paddled a few more stokes and then on my right a green winged teal burst into flight, she then turned in mid-air and started maneuvering, through the cat tail which was shaped like of canyon. The teal was going to disappear into this water canal and I only had milliseconds to release my shot, I dropped my paddle that is rigged with bungee cord and carabiners so I do not lose it; shouldered my shotgun, pushed it off safe, angled my body to the left then fired my shot.

There is a reason why the wetlands call me back and it is not just the wildlife, I am unable to put it into words, you have to experience it.

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