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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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Only three days left in La Belle province of Quebec and our waterfowl season will begin in my area on farmlands only, for Canada and Cackling Geese. Then on the twenty-second of September it will be open in other areas such as wetlands until practically the end of December for ducks and other species of birds.

I am really hoping for a great season this fall and I consider myself so fortunate to be in good health and surrounded by good friends and fellow waterfowler’s. I am also looking forward to using the spices I purchased at Cabela’s for cooking incredible dishes at home to share with friends and family.

My emotions are running high, as the anticipation for the season boils over, but there is one more instance that has been brewing and this is the simple fact that time has been accelerating. The summer has come and gone and now the waiting is over with the waterfowl season starting in just a few days.

I am not sure if the impression of time acceleration comes with age or is time truly moving faster? Is this related to a higher level of consciousness, this I am not sure but this mystery remains in the spiritual realm.

Well the time has come to end this blog entry and I wish you all a safe and amazing season and I am looking forward to sharing my stories of this years hunts with you.

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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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My woodchuck woodburn

My woodchuck wood-burn

The groundhog numbers this summer at the farm have almost been non-existent with only two harvests recorded so far.

Last year I harvested close to eleven groundhogs and I know that this has had an impact on the overall population in the area; also if we take into consideration disease during hibernation when the parasites attach themselves to the groundhog before they go into their dens for the winter months or if the animal hasn’t stored enough fat it starves.

On my property alone, I removed five and now the only young single groundhog from this spring, is very cautious and only comes out to eat in short periods of time and also later in the evening which is not usual behavior.

If he was part of last years family, then there is a possibility that similarly to crows their awareness of danger is passed down through the genes and learned in the field no pun intended.

So, when I got to the farm and started to still-hunt, my skills would have to aid me in my search of the groundhogs.

They were no longer in the open at their ordinary times taking in sun rays. Neither were they found near their dens but instead they were using the tree line and rock formations just meters inside the forest to use as cover.

I started my way into the western field but had to wait until the cattle crossed over to the south before I could push further west. I then worked my way southeast and parallel to edge of the woods.

It was extremely hot and my sweat was dripping off my forehead like a tap, drinking was so important but also taking breaks. The bugs were also harassing me and my hat came in very handy, not only against the sun.

I finally reached the far side of the field and found the rock formation stone cold with no groundhog in site. I scanned the edge of the woods and this is when my eyes caught some movement up near the base of a tree.

It was lightning quick, I froze in my spot and waited for more movement, if groundhogs are alerted, they will whistle then run and hide either in deep brush to find and escape hole or dart directly for the den but they will come back out if they think that the danger is no longer present. Normally, in small steps and they might even thump their paws and let out sharp whistles, almost like there are provoking the potential danger in order to get a reaction as well as alerting others.

So, I waited patiently and sure enough he came out from hiding but this time he was in the high ground on my left or south. He was moving in an out of the grass and disappearing momentarily in the dark green vegetation, even though he was visible, he was not in a safe shooting position because of the large rocks behind him and a barn on the right.

I chose to wait and this is when the groundhog jumped up on a log and ran along it in short bursts, stopping to check for danger, his nostrils were moving very quickly. I did not move an inch, I waited for him to move further along the log to the east and then I swung around at the same time then got into perfect alignment with his vitals with a well-chosen back stop of solid dirt.

He was indeed the log runner, I took my rifle off safe, fired and released a single shot, it was my third harvest and one varmint less for the farmer.

 

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Whether you are in an elevator filled with strangers or waiting in line at Tim Horton’s coffee shop, one of the easiest ice breakers to get rid of that dreaded silence is to talk about the weather, especially here in Canada.

The weather is not only a social rescue tool but I also consider it to be one of the most important elements no pun intended in which we need to have some understanding and also take into consideration during the preparatory phase of your hunt and during the outing.

There is no need to become a meteorologist in order to have a more successful hunt but if you possess some of their knowledge, it can definitely enhance your chances of success. For example understanding how the weather impacts specific birds can be advantageous during a duck hunt, thinning air is harder to fly in. Birds sit it out before a storm. The skill of being able to interpret the warm and cold fronts is also very important during migratory bird hunting.

I always consult the Weather Network web site the night before my outing, thus allowing me to pack the right gear and to dress accordingly, so that I may hunt comfortably in any time of year.

I am always trying to learn more about the weather, so that I may be better prepared while out on a hunt, thus trying to improve my chances of a harvest but also to be prepared in the event that the weather changes. Knowing which birds or mammals is affected by the weather and how I may use this to my advantage.

One of my greatest treasures and tool to help me achieve this goal is the following book “Eric Sloane’s Weather Book” in his fourteen chapters Eric writes in such a way that it makes it easy to understand concepts such as cold and warm fronts, the air masses and about the winds amongst other interesting topics. One particular page I really enjoyed at the beginning of the book is the weather sayings of the old sailors and they are easy to remember but very informative.

I wanted to end this blog entry with a quote that the author also included in his book written by William Shakespeare: “In nature’s infinite book of secrecy a little I can read.”
I hope that in time, I will be able to read and understand some of the pages in nature’s book.

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The first hare lead that I decided to track on this particular day was without a doubt one of the toughest this winter. Even though it had been much warmer over the past couple of days and it had also rained, the most recent snow fall had left the nearby field and swamp with waist deep snow rendering my progress slow. There was a slight overcast in the sky and the temperature was three below zero. Once in a while as the clouds would clear the sun would break through and momentarily warm my face and hands.

I had no choice but to leave the car parked at the main entrance of the property and set off on foot in an easterly direction down a small slope onto the frozen swamp. The snow was just too high on the road. The swamp was located on the northern edge of the main country road and the trees nearby created a natural canopy of pine and cedar mixed in with straw sticking out of the snow and the area was littered with tracks.

Right away I noticed a trail that looked like it belonged to a mink or even a fisher. It had very distinct claw marks in the snow similar to that of raccoons. So I pressed on until I hit the western edge of the hay-field on the northern side, still following the lead. I took advantage of the change in vegetation to stop and catch my breath also to observe. On my left there was a large pine tree, surrounded by smaller bushes. I was looking left and right looking for any sign of snowshoe hare activity. This is when I spotted several more tracks and noticed some fur and then a blood trail.

The ravens above me were being very loud and kind of gliding just above me like turkey vultures. At the base of the tree there were carrion remains and a large skull. It was not a sight for the faint of heart as there was some muscle and fat tissue still attached and all its teeth were intact. A farmer had told me that the hide alone could weigh in at around one hundred pounds and that it would take several coyotes or wolves to drag that away but it was nowhere to be found. I had wanted to hunt hare in the morning and then try for rock dove after lunch, but after a sight like this and being in the bush alone my instinct was telling me that maybe I should move on.

There were canine tracks everywhere in various sizes and the tracks that I found were only a few hours old. I then decided to move north back to the eastern side of the quarry, where I had harvested my last hare and continue to search for more leads. As I left the swamp and the wood line near the road across the field to the south, I saw additional tracks and followed them some more and this is when I found large droppings as well as a well-traveled trail filled with paw marks. There was set in particular that was very large. There wasn’t just one canine with me in the woods like there was a few weeks ago, it was now more like two or three.

The paw tracks were almost too large to be that of a coyote, perhaps a timber wolf. So, I followed the trail some more because there were also fresh hare tracks nearby leading to the creek. When the forest cover got too thick and the snow was still knee-deep, especially with carrion around, I did not dare venture deeper into the darker part of the wilderness.
There were scattered pockets of evergreen, old wooden planks resting up against a barbed wired fence, offering plenty of cover. By this time I was now experiencing a strong feeling, that I was no longer alone and I also felt I was not necessarily a wanted presence.

I slowly turned toward the heavily travelled trail full of paw marks to the west and took several photos before heading back to the car for lunch. You know, a couple of days have passed since this feeling that came over me in the woods and yet while I am sitting on the bus going to work a part of me that is truly curious wanted to seek beyond the darkness in that evergreen.

By mid afternoon, I had made my way to the farm and met up with the farmer who was tending to his cattle and he had granted me the right to attempt to harvest some rock doves that were eating his grain. He had scattered some feed for his cows and then brought several buckets of water to the calves that were taking shelter in one of the smaller barns. He had mentioned to me that the rock doves were clearing out the grain on the ground and that it could start getting expensive. So, some assistance with this would be appreciated.

Even though rock doves are the same bird we see in the city, out in the country their behavior is quite different and this is to be expected. They see very well and if spooked they do not just fly a short distance away to safety then come back. Sometimes they will fly away over the forested ridge and not come back for several hours or not return at all.

For me there was a flock of five birds in my sights. One of the strangest occurrences that I had experienced was several weeks prior I set out to harvest the farm pigeons. I made the mistake of pointing to them and talked about my approach with another hunter out loud and the birds immediately flew away and did not return for two days according to the farmer.

This time it was going to be different, very different. I started by walking over to the car and continued to talk to the farmer and not pay attention to the birds at all. They were sitting on the trim of the barns roof. And a precision shot was out of the question. I had only packed my 870 with me and did not bring my .22.

Down on the southern ridge there were two older barns and the rock doves had made their nest inside. So, I slowly walked up to the gate at the cow enclosure and the opening to the southwestern field.

I stood there for a moment watching for rock dove activity. Sure enough within a few minutes a group of three flew in and landed nearby. I slowly moved back to car to get into a better shooting position but failed and spooked them and they took off circled in the air and descended to the second barn on the southern ridge.

It was very difficult to move about and align a shot. The birds were easily spooked and I could not shoot at the barn roof, I had to watch for the trucks, tractors and finally the cattle.

I slowly re-positioned myself and used an old tractor for cover and managed to get down the slope and enter the first abandoned barn from the northern side. There was a small window and a door on the southern edge and I had a clear shot on the pigeons, but there was one problem. I was carrying my 870 and I could shoot the roof.

With my .22, I could have taken a clear shot through an opening in the barn without exposing myself. This would have been a great shot under total concealment but this was not a possibility. I asked myself: What kind of approach could be used without scaring them? The only option was to jump shoot them, so I stood at the doorway and leaped outside, this seem to work since they hastily bounced into flight.

I took aim at the last one of the group and fired a shot, the bird swerved and dove and broke into an even faster flight and all three disappeared into the tree line to the east. It was a miss. Dang! I had to wait another forty minutes or so for them to come back, so I climbed the ridge and went back to the main gate.

Sure enough two rock doves flew in from the east heading west straight between the two smaller barns and over the gate and settled in the snow nearby. I quickly went down to my knees and crouched my way around the barn to the north and staying as low as I could I positioned myself in a kneeling position on the north-western side of the barn to my right.

The two birds were still feeding but never kept still, once the birds were not in the line of sight with the cattle, I rose my 870 and in one single motion, stood up and sent the rock doves into flight, Vlam! The shot rang out and I had harvested my first pigeon of the season.

Rock dove may not compare to big game trophies but it is most definitely an exhilarating hunt and great practice for the waterfowl season.

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