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Posts Tagged ‘water’


The trailer rolled downward on the concrete ramp into the dark waters below, my bare hands gripping the rope attached to the front of the boat. Following a sharp stop, the haul of the boat slid off the rails and splashed into the waves. The red tail lights were glowing underwater, it was such as neat effect. We were full of excitement, and would be soon heading into the unknown toward the wetlands.

This was going to be one of our last waterfowl outings for the season as in just a few weeks it was coming to its end. I really wanted us to have an amazing hunt and great harvest but I have found that if I do not dip into my knowledge, the weather and just focus on getting a harvest, we could go home without ever firing a shot. I did not want to jinx us. With the boat all loaded up with the kit, we set off to the West down the river.

I was sitting in the front and while I was getting my kit ready seeking a more comfortable position, the water was splattering in my face and I was taking it all in, just like the famous scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet at the front of the Titanic. The Jon boat, looked amazing with the camouflage skirting and the accessories attached to the frame, we were all setup for success.

There were several hunters out on this particular day, and I set a plan for us to go to one of my sweet spots, well away from the others. For many years, I hunted either land locked on the banks or from my kayak or canoe. In doing so, I learned and remembered all the spots were I harvested and what species of birds and their numbers were and where I had failed, where they came in the land in the mornings and late afternoons, right up to the thirty minutes past sunset.

It felt like I was gambling but deep down in outdoorsman repertoire, I had a good recipe going. We would alternate using the gas powered motor and the trolling motor depending if were approaching known areas where there were birds. There were geese flying in but still too high or they landed in areas where hunting was not allowed, so we pushed our way further West in the direction of the sweet spot.

Almost at the half way mark, we spotted a group of about twenty Mallards dabbling in some tall grass. At first we could not make them out as they looked like weeds near downed trees half submerged. We killed the motor and let the boat coast along with the current, I took out my binoculars and confirmed they were Mallards indeed. The difficult task was getting closer without spooking them. They were still quite a ways out and we had a good distance to cover, we switched to the trolling motor and closed the gap between them and us.

By the time we reached the distance of about two hundred meters, we killed the motor again and used the onboard paddle to keep us going straight and let the current bring us in naturally, we were right near the tall grass coming out of the water which provided great cover for our approach. With the boat now at a complete stop stuck in the mud, I considered climbing out and circling the group through the water, but quickly assessed that this plan would not be successful.

I loaded my three shells and cycled one into the chamber and placed the gun on safety to control my breathing. With my bead sight lined up, I released two shots into the group and when all the excitement settled. I had missed them completely, it was a near impossible miss but I sure did and could not explain it. It was like every pellet when passed each bird and they flew away to the South.

It felt like being kicked in the stomach by a horse, I could not even explain what just had happened or let alone my shot. The only thing, I could do is lick my wounds and pick up my abilities from the water and move on down to the sweet spot. Even my bud was in awe, it was either one of my worst shot or magic, but there is one thing we agreed on, we could not linger on what could have happened or should have done, it was the past. After all, we were heading to the sweet spot and it was going to be a gamble mixed in with my knowledge.

As the boat inched up the river, we kept our eyes locked on the banks and the skies to the North, for those few moments there was no activity. In an instant, I could hear geese calling out in small call bursts as to alert each other of approaching danger. We killed the motor again and I leaped out of the boat into the water about knee deep and began my stalk forward toward the calls. I was just on the other side of the banks and coming in at a North-westerly angle.

I lifted my head to take a peak and then signalled to my friend to secure the boat on the shore and get ready. I loaded three shells into my shotgun and slipped it into safe, I was now kneeling forward trying to keep a low profile behind the dead trees and swamp grass. When I raised my head, the birds had already seen the boat and burst into flight, I could not believe the sheer number of geese, there were well over fifty if not more.

I lined up my bead site and fired into the group and hit a Mallard hen who spun forward and fell back into the water. Some of my shot, went further and struck a goose that was behind the Mallard who also tumbled into the water, but was wounded. Very quickly I had to manoeuvre my way forward and circle around the swamp in order to track down the goose and finally harvest it. Following my shots, the skies filled with Canada’s who were now flying south.

I was hoping for my bud to be in a good position to cut off a few geese but he was unable to get into a good position in time before they flock got out of range. We knew from experience that later in the day the geese would come back to this area, hence the sweet spot. So, we unloaded our kit and setup for the afternoon with our mobile blind which was basically two stakes with a burlap sheet. It did not provide a lot of cover from the cold winds but it was sufficient for our concealment.

With about half a dozen duck and goose decoys setup, we sat and waited for several hours and had stopped to have a snack, unbeknownst to us a female wood duck swam into our decoys and we spotted it right at the last minute and released a shot and harvested our third bird of the day. Following the third harvest, I let out several goose and duck calls and then took breaks in between and for a while things started to quiet down, until about one hour before sunset all of a sudden waves of geese started to circle in and come for landings from all directions.

I hadn’t experienced this type of phenomenon in at least two seasons, the last time this occurred in a blind, we barely had time to reload three shells and release shots off. We were literally running out of shells and had to dig into our pockets quick enough to reload. I have had geese approach in small numbers but not like rain, this was incredible to experience again. One of the biggest challenges for a new waterfowler is not to get too excited and release shots at the geese before they are able to come into the decoy spread.

It is best to stay low in the blind and if you can tilt your head as to look up above you without moving too much. Get ready to select your shots and then point out to your bud your shooting respective zones, so that you do not cross into each others zones. We had determined this very quickly and as soon as the geese were into the spread and well within range, we began releasing shots, by the time the first volley of fire stopped two geese tumbled down and still more geese were coming in. We released another volley of fire and two more geese fell to the waters below. We also managed to harvest an additional male wood duck.

Once the noise and smoke cleared, I jumped into the water with my waders and began retrieving the harvests as sunset was fast approaching and the legal shooting time was coming to an end. Packing up decoys in deep water when the sun is setting is not the safest practice, so I wanted to do this also while we still had some light. Today, like many others were a good lesson, when you experience some misses, don’t get discouraged because if you tap into your knowledge then choose a well known spot where the birds come in, be patient aim straight and you will be rewarded.

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This year, the month of September brought in Canada geese but not in large numbers, a few hundred at a time would settle in the center of the fields coming in from their evenings spent on the open waters or distributaries.

I was able to harvest a few birds so far but never hitting my daily bag limit. I believe that one of the explanations is that it is not cold enough yet and the geese were still not moving much. Actually up until last week it has been relatively warm and only since this weekend have the temperatures started to drop and now we are getting scattered light snow falls.

When November came around, the numbers increased and it was quite a sight to see them fly over on my way into work, heading into the fields to feed. Every morning since the temperatures started to drop, I have been living in a series of paintings of flocking geese heading into the fields in all directions, the snow covered cornfields and the awesome purple colours in the sky, just like driving through an Art Barbarian masterpiece.

“Oh November winds, keep the cold weather comin’, for it turns the skies black with Canada’s, oh what a sight! Oh Novembers winds, what a sight indeed line up the beads with the infamous goose. Aim right and tight, oh November winds!”  CSGH 2019

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Today was a great day but it wasn’t because I did something neat at work, rather because over my lunch time I walked over to the local post office and purchased my Waterfowl permit and stamp for this years much anticipated season. On September 6th, Canada goose opens in farmlands in my area and I can not wait to hit my friends farm.

Since the fields are separated by small creeks, waders are necessary to remain dry, but this is where I have been disappointed in my choices in waders. A couple of years ago, I purchased a pair of Allen waders and they lasted no more than two seasons and then from there it was.. You guessed it “Little Shoe Goo” time.

At first it was just a few spots here and there but in no time my waders started to look like an art masterpiece, but they are functional and this is what I am all about. Tough on gear but practical. I do not want to purchase a pair of waders every two years and I believe that lifetime warranties are about as sure as sky busting a shot at a goose that is at the same height of the tree tops.

I am also equipped with a second set of waders for friends when they come along but it is the neoprene model from Cabela’s. I find them difficult to put on unless you have Vaseline all over yourself and I find it hard to breathe.

For now I will let this blog cure and when opening day comes around, I will be in the great outdoors chasing those Canada’s.

Wish you all and amazing and safe season!

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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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Two weeks ago when I set off on my last hunt, I started to sing as I was driving my truck, rolling up and down over the hills on the road. It was liberating, heck my window was all the way down and I was singing so loud. I am sure I looked quite silly but this mattered not. I believe there is more to it, then just the song and the joys of singing. I was asking the powers to be all around me to provide a great harvest and positive vibes. Almost like a prayer, after all there is no shame in this.

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The words go like this “Oh Lord of the skies give me a great harvest, give me a Canada Goose, or a Mallard Drake or maybe a Green Wing Teal” Then I go on asking for solid shooting and good wishes and about how thankful I am about being able to hit the wetlands, all the while trying to rhyme, so that it sounds fair.

You know the darn thing is, that it seems to be working, and I think I shall continue this new tradition of mine. Anyhow today was an exceptional day in the snow, it was so mild with the temperature sitting at about five degrees celsius. The wetlands were simply incredible. And once again I was all alone, absolutely no-one. Like I wrote in my earlier blog entry, as soon as the deer season is over, and the winter moves into the forest along the river and the nearby wetlands the area becomes deserted. I don’t understand it, because there are less geese no doubt but the duck season is still open for until the start of the month of January. There was a slight rain fall and the fog was starting to move in by early afternoon as I made my way to the pathway between the bays.

The pass was almost all frozen over because normally the water level comes up to your waist and in some places even higher and you have to wade through the water carefully because there are sometimes 2 x 4’s with nails from blinds that were built the year before. There’s a local beaver that has moved in and began building along the pathway, which now makes it easier because it makes a land bridge. Today was incredibly mild and as I was walking through the pass I can see the cranes takeoff and fly away from their nearby nests.

My objective was to get to my new hunting spot where I’ve been before, this spot is quite beautiful but the most strategic part about it is that there is an opening from the river which leads to a large creek that moves inland. Mergansers and Mallards seem to like this spot and if I call properly, they usually come in flying or swimming along. There are also large trees that create a natural fence line between me and the river, so on my way up to the natural blind, I can jump shoot all the way along. Mergansers will fly in and then dive under and look for food, this is the perfect time to move into position from large tree to tree.

Then when they resurface, I freeze and hold, then when I get close enough, I jump out and they burst into the air for a quick harvest. Within the first two hours I had harvested two birds. The tricky part was retrieving the birds when they fell back into the cold waters, the ice sheets attached to the shore were already several inches thick and when I stepped out onto the ice I would break through to my knees, this was no problem but when the current brought the sheets of ice back in, they would crash into my shins.

So, I leaned forward and pushed them off, some pieces were as large as a dining table, now two birds in the bag by mid afternoon the fog started to thicken and was quite a sight. The black tree trunks and branches would zig zag through the fog like veins in an arm and it was quite something to see, my gut instinct was telling me that it was now time to start making my way back to the truck. I still had about a forty minute hike through rough terrain with water traps. Besides, I was not alone there were three large coyote paw marks and no other human boot tracks to be seen.

As I broke the tree line and headed toward the bay, I swung around to look back at the forest and it was completely engulfed with white fog. This sight would make the hair on any man’s neck rise. My inner senses and timing could not have been any better, it was as if the wilderness was closing its doors on me, even with time to spare before legal shooting time was over, the message was clear.

Once over the beaver dam, I started following another smaller creek along the way, attempting to jump shoot one more duck before the end, but as I made my way north, my eyes spotted a white tail and slight brown colour moving lightning fast along the water edge. It was a cottontail, I swung around instantly and the rabbit took two more hops and dove into a bush with just its hind legs coming out the back.

I released my shot and it was all over in just a few seconds. I was so excited to retrieve the Cottontail, I unloaded my 870 and leapt through the creek right over the bush and just about fell over in the snow and mud. There is no better way to end the day, it is moments like these when we can truly take the time to appreciate what nature has offered and it makes up for the times that one can be discouraged and have doubts in one’s abilities as an outdoorsman or outdoors woman.

I wish you all the best on your back-end of the waterfowl season and a great small game season!

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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 mallard drake came in from the West for a landing but he was still quite high, he was responding to the double call coming from down below in the dark weeds. Some ducks will fly in and complete a fly over and then once they are sure it is clear, they will complete one more race track in the sky and then break and then land. Just like geese this is an aerial manoeuvre that I will never tire of seeing.

This mallard completed a second loop and then broke his wings and was coming in right in my direction to the North, I could tell that this was my only chance to release the shot. I had observed that most of them were landing on the South side of the wetlands and I could not reach that part because of the large bodies of water.

I quickly released my shot and as much I thought I was on target it was a miss, he did a quick bank back to the West and then tilted again and went South, and left me with a nice view of his tail’s black strip and the silver feathers on both sides. The sound of my shot blew into the air and its effect was simply incredible, like high pressure air being forced forward and then it shattered into a billion bits of sound.

Today was very warm and there was almost no wind, the pink and purple colours in the sky were very clear with the clouds sitting high up. It was the type of day when you could hear pins drop into the water, I used my goose caller, and its sound carried so far it was magical.

The rifle deer season has started in my region this being the first weekend of three and the wetlands were empty, I was all alone. There I was kneeling down low into the water up to my waist hidden away in some tall grass on the edge of the bay.

The sunset in my area was at four forty-six, then add thirty minutes and this moment is perfect for harvesting geese and ducks for this is when they fly over in large numbers and get ready to settle in for the night. But I swear this evening it was like the birds knew when to come in and they only started to fly when it was way past legal shooting time and I was totally enveloped by darkness. It is times like these when I wish one could hunt forty-five minutes past sunset but unfortunately I am pretty sure this law will never change in my life time.

So you guessed it, no harvest today and quite frankly it was shattering. We can be as crafty as we wish but ultimately we are at the mercy of nature and its wildlife, we are left with picking up our spirit for that day and must attempt to remain positive that the next time out will be better and wish for a harvest with results.

At the end of the day it is a wonderful past time, part of this grand scheme called life. It may be just a sport to some but only when you have hit the wetlands and have experienced a bust than will you understand.

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