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Posts Tagged ‘waterfowl’


My thirst to never stop learning is what has made me into the bird harvester that I am today, but it is not just about education and information or field experience, it is also about pure observation. As waterfowlers bird species and their flight is knowledge that you must add to your bag if you wish to harvest in confidence.

Have you ever noticed that when drive with a deer hunter, they can spot almost every deer on the side of the road and they can tell you the size and sex of the animal and they get excited every time they see one. Beside all the fun of seeing them, it is an acquired skill because most people just see landscapes. Also it is not about just seeing a deer randomly standing there. There is the weather, time of day and what they feed on and their behaviour and habits.

I find myself doing the same all year round for all birds and it keeps me busy, I am also noticing that I am getting really good at it; so that I can spot ducks at great distances and can tell you the type of birds they are based on their flight and coloration and placement of wings on their bodies or even their calls.

I take in every detail and this is crucial to success on any hunt. Pigeons are by far one of my favorite, because like many other bird species they have incredible eye sight and their flight capabilities are just out of the world, I would say similar to that of Teal. I can recall one Teal hunt, I had four birds closing in, heading directly toward me, and I as soon as I raised my barrel and released the shot, every single one of them spread and flipped like the infamous Matrix move and believe or not I missed them. Arial aerobatics that to this day baffled my mind.

I am so fortunate that in my hunting zone in the province of Quebec, Rock dove hunting is open all year round and not only do pigeons taste amazing, it provides the necessary preparation and skill development needed for duck and goose harvesting. Farm pigeons can be taken from the ground or top of barns but I prefer sky shots in flight.

Observe, learn and adapt and you will harvest more birds and waste less shells. There is more than meets the feather!

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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 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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The human body is simply amazing, especially when one is pushing its physical limits, for example whether you are out still hunting snowshoe hares through knee-deep snow or pulling a kayak through swamp mud, while jump shooting waterfowl.

Over the years, I have pushed my physical limits, so much so that at times my lungs felt like they were going to burst. Or I could feel my pulse in the palm of my hands while cradling the fore-end of my 870 during a hunt, because of the blood pressure. My pushing the physical limits was not always done intentionally, the weather and the terrain where I was hunting is what really impacted my body and dictated the amount of effort that I had to exert to be successful and completing the hunt.

Just like Scott Haugen on his show “The Hunt” on Netflix. He is shown during the introduction of every episode working out and maintaining top levels of physical fitness. And I could not agree more with his regime. Depending on the type of hunting you practice, sure it does not have to be physically demanding but there is definitely an advantage to being strong and having endurance.

But this blog entry is not about physical fitness but rather the extra reserve we have when people are hit with adrenaline and are able to find the extra burst of energy to push ourselves even further. On my grand father’s Honda 3 wheeler, I remember the manual switch for the reserve fuel tank, which I think is a neat feature. So that if you found yourself out in the woods out of fuel, you always had enough spare fuel to get back to the safety of the camp.

It is obvious that the human body does not have a mechanical switch like the bike but I do believe we have one deep inside, it can be triggered when there is a demand for additional physical output.

My example is not dramatic but I am still incredibly impressed in our ability to reach deep within our body’s and find extra fuel to exert the extra physical force needed to complete what ever it is we need to get done. A good example of this is, last season during the final weeks of duck hunting, I sometimes found myself pulling my kayak on my own filled with kit and I would drag it like a sleigh through the snow, and although I was completely drained, if there were ducks that burst into flight, or chasing a hare through the snow, I always had that extra burst of energy to help me get that last harvest.

I am sure that those who are out there who have benefited from this can truly share my deep appreciation for this ability deep within us.

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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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“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.” CSGH

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There I was kneeling on the cold forest floor, with my feet neatly tucked away. It reminded me of a child’s sitting position when they are playing with their favourite childhood toy. Amidst their imagination, there they sit for hours and are only surrounded by the calming environment of their own.

I slowly raised my head and took in a deep breath and absorbed my surrounding, there was a mixture of swampy air with a slight touch of the cedar and pine from the nearby vegetation along with some rotting logs sitting in the mud.

To my left I had my shotgun shell pouch zipped closed, along with my binoculars laying on the wet wild grass and to my right, was my cold steel Remington 870. The workhorse of my many hunts.

I live here now in this moment but deep down, I have a deep connection with the land around me and know that I could have been born in a time of the past. Sometimes, when I browse vintage black and white photos of hunters, either from my family heritage or from other great Canadian tales, I believe that I can share their emotions and stories that they captured in that very moment the photograph was taken and in a sense relive their experiences, such as the disappointments and successes of their hunts.

In the cold dark waters to my front were two mallard drakes and three wood ducks swimming around quite a distance out, too far for a clear shot. I sat there patiently to see if they would move closer to the edge of the swamp, but my experience had taught me that if there are ducks, always assume they are more than the eyes can see.

I carefully repositioned myself for a better look at the ducks moving around the eastern side of the pine tree that I was using as cover and noticed something white flash on my left, it turns out it was a group of about fifteen Canada geese dabbling in the water, all silent like ghosts.

They quickly became my main focus, I picked up my 870 loaded three shells, two “BB” and one number three, then half unzipped my pouch for quick access to more shells without the danger of them falling out during my approach. I was so excited that it practically took the breath right out of me, which was not a good thing for the physical work I was going be doing over the next few minutes.

I pushed off my feet and got onto my hands and knees and started to move north through the mud around very small brush like a fox using stealth, until the vegetation got too low at which time I had to leopard crawl through the mud, carefully placing my 870 ahead then lifting my body off the forest floor in a plank movement and move over logs and around small bushes. My goal was to get as close as I could to the edge of the water without alerting the spotter geese.

I might have only covered a distance no more than twenty meters but my lungs were going to burst and it felt as if I had sprinted the whole length of a football field. Once it position, I stood up on one knee and took the group by surprise and let off two shots into the closest birds. Unfortunately the birds were not as close to the edge as I had wished and my shots were not as effective as I would have liked. The flock burst into flight as I pumped my last shell into the chamber to release my final shot before a reload. One of the largest birds who took some shot from my first release was wounded and attempted to fly to the east with two others and I took just enough lead with my full choke and released the shot and the goose plunged into the waters below.

With all the commotion the ducks burst into flight and headed north-west. It took me a while to recover my goose harvest as the swamp was so dirty and full of rough vegetation. I had to retrace my shot from the shoreline and follow the white feather trail in the water to find the goose.

I was hoping to harvest a duck or two as well but for now there were all gone. I have learned that over time, that when you are setup in your blind on the edge of the water sometimes it seems that ducks will not alway show up unless you setup decoys combined with calling. Or simply luck, will dictate if they fly and land in front of you.

It is not uncommon for me to leave the shoreline and go back to the barn or truck to take a break away from the water’s edge almost like I am pretending to leave and more often than none the ducks will fly back in. Sometimes you won’t even see them from a distance and when you get back to the shore there are more mallards and wood ducks.

The mallards always seem to have better sight on you moving in close, where as the wood ducks you have to be quite visible for them to fly off. Usually followed by a few whistles and then a fast burst flight.

So, following my break, I setup a little closer to the edge of the water and within minutes a female wood duck flew in right in front of me coming in for a low landing, I instantly released a single shot and got my second harvest of the day.

I may not have achieved my bag limit but it was another incredible end of day full of memories that will never grow old, nor will I tire of sneaking up to the famed Canada goose “the feathered fox” as one author put it.

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The conditions were incredible today, with a slight breeze blowing in from the North. By the time we rolled up the dirt road to the farm, a flock of rock doves flew over head but quickly continued over the tree line to the West. One thing was clear on this day, is that the rock doves were not going to give us a chance to harvest one of them. I have been hunting rock doves for years now on the farm and they have learned to recognize my truck and when they see people standing around the truck or the nearby barns they will disappear and not fly in for any grain until I am gone.

Our goal was to set out into the farmland and attempt to harvest some Canada geese in the pre-season for our sector, both Cackling and Canada geese are open until the twenty-first of the month in farmland then the full waterfowl season opens on September 22, 2018 on the rivers. After a few minutes of chatting with my farming friend we opened the cattle gate and drove down through the fields across the creek and over to the larger farmland fields. Parked the truck near the tree line providing us with some cover.

The setting was perfect, large open fields and clear blue skies, we left the city later in the afternoon because over time and accumulated experience you realize it is no longer necessary to set out on a full day hunt during waterfowl season, you learn to capitalize on the best time periods, early morning for example around seven-thirty in the morning and earlier or later in the afternoon until a half and hour passed sundown.

We took this time to prepare our kit, as we were not rushed, all the while taking in the beauty around us. Fall is coming and the colours are starting to pierce through. My friend had just purchase a new goose caller and was trying it out and within minutes small flocks of geese started to fly in but further out to the north and well out of reach.

Then we both started to call and take breaks between us then call again. There were Blue Jays and Norther Flickers and crows everywhere but no Canada’s for at least an hour or so, then our calls finally came through. I had stopped and was looking for my binoculars in my backpack, when all of sudden a group of twenty geese responded to my friends calls. He worked them directly into our shooting lanes but they were still high. We both crouch down as low as we could and waited for them to be within range and directly in the centre of the farm land.

They banked and started to break their wings to come in for a landing but turned rapidly and started to lift and get higher, and then they turned toward the East as they had come in from the North heading South. The weather was still warm, and their numbers are still not exceptional yet and I knew this was going to be our only chance.

I whispered out that this was our only chance as they going to complete a full turn and head South and that they were going to abort the landing. Both my friend and I were not in the greatest of positions and by the time we stood up and each released two shots it was all over. We both missed, I am not sure if it was our position or our lead or height of the birds but we were broken to say the least.

We are both seasoned waterfowl hunters and yet we missed our shots and we both shared the same frustration of the situation. Life is super busy with work and everything and when you set off for a Canada goose hunt on farmland and miss, it stings quite a bit.

On the way home, we talked and laughed about what happened to ease the pain but I can tell you, for a few minutes, I could have chewed on a stick to ease the frustration of having missed those shots.

Our official season will start on the twenty-second of this month, we know we will have many opportunities to redeem ourselves. Although this does not make for a very exciting entry in my blog, there is one thing that we all can appreciate and share and this is the frustration that comes with missing a shot and not harvesting.

Of course it is not the end of the world and there will be lots of opportunities but it doesn’t take away that today stung a bit and it is not a good way to start the fall season.

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