I learned this morning that Peter Hobkirk passed away last week after a brief battle with leukemia. His son Paul informed me that on Wednesday June 14, Peter “died courageously and peacefully with myself, my dear mum, and my lovely sister by his side.” Peter was a Yorkshireman, English through and through. With his loving wife Valerie, he moved his young family, their son Paul and their daughter Sally, to Canada to seek their fortune, but kept his ties to his homeland. He enjoyed watching football matches (soccer to North Americans) on television while sipping a pint. Peter and his family made regular trips back to Yorkshire. Here in Canada, he worked in the dairy business in the production and marketing of milk. Peter and I shared an interest in agriculture. I grew up in the country and worked on dairy farms as a teenager. I remember fondly an afternoon we spent together discussing his career in the dairy business and our favourite breeds of livestock.
Peter was a kind, generous and gregarious man. I met him and his wife Valerie through my friendship with their son Paul. Peter and Valerie made their home on an acreage outside Spencerville and graciously allowed me and my hunting buddies access to the property for hunting. Over the years I had great upland and big game hunting opportunities on their property. Peter was not a hunter himself, but he had a deep love of the natural world and understood the realities of life in the wild. The fish pond in their garden is home to frogs and other pond creatures. The bird feeders they maintain attract a myriad of songbird species. The property holds a variety of game and non-game species. I had a great time sharing news of sightings, particularly of the swans that frequent the area, with Peter and Val. I shot my first deer on the property in 2012. Peter was ever ready to bring his tractor out into the field to help recover a downed deer.
Peter and Val were a great help to me when I developed my English accent for the stage. I am an amateur actor and I was cast in roles where it was required that I perform using an English accent. They assured me my stage English accent was convincing, something I very much appreciate. Peter and Val never failed to offer hospitality. My hunting buddies and I were always welcomed into their home before and after a hunt. He and Val always offered refreshment and were interested in hearing about our adventures. My hunting buddies and I are happily mentoring Peter’s grandson, Adam, as he joins the hunting fraternity. We will see he becomes an ethical and safety conscious sportsman.
My hunting buddy Jason Quinn posing with Peter’s grandson Adam after a winter coyote hunt.
Peter Hobkirk was a good and decent man, the salt of the earth. I am blessed that I knew him and will cherish the memories I have of the time I had with him. May he rest in peace.
Hera with the hapless black squirrel she caught in the garden this morning.
I was late for work this morning. I was running late from the moment I woke up shortly before 6:00 am and let Hera out into the garden through the kitchen door. I had a quick breakfast, Weetabix with fresh blueberries, milk and a little brown sugar. When I finished my breakfast I went to the kitchen door to see if Hera wanted in and to my surprise saw a black squirrel sitting atop a fence post overlooking the garden. The squirrel seemed to be taunting Hera, scurrying around the top of the fence post and short distances across the fence as Hera calmly watched as she reclined on the porch. “Oh, you foolish squirrel,” I thought, “you really should not underestimate my Hera. She is no house pet, rather a keen little huntress who views you as prey.” I left Hera to her hunt and continued getting ready to leave for work.
It took me about twenty five minutes to shave, shower, floss, brush my teeth and dress. It was almost 6:30 am when I came downstairs, grabbed my lunch from the fridge, put it in my backpack and went to let Hera in. I had ten minutes to make my way quickly to the bus stop to catch the 6:40 bus to work. When I got to the kitchen door to let Hera in, there was no sign of her. Usually, she waits on the porch for me to let her in. “I hope she did not find a way out of the garden in chasing the squirrel,” I thought. I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch and called her. There was no response so I walked down the steps off the porch to look into the back of the garden. It was then I saw Hera standing proudly over the carcass of the squirrel that foolishly taunted her a short time ago. As soon as she saw me, she picked up the squirrel and bounded up the steps, across the porch, through the open kitchen door and up the stairs to the second floor.
Hera proudly displays her kill at the top of the stairs.
“Okay,” I sighed, “I’ll catch the 7:00 am bus to work.” Hera was very pleased with herself, but followed my lead as I brought her outside to the garden. Once outside, she grudgingly gave up her prize when I told her “give.” I put the hapless squirrel in the green bin and rewarded Hera with a cookie back in the kitchen. As I made my way to the bus stop I thought about how much enjoyment I get from having Hera as my gun dog despite the minor inconvenience of being a little late for work.
Coyote shot while I was deer hunting in the 2015 season.
To date I shot one coyote in all my days afield. It was on the opening of the white-tailed deer season, the season before last. I had a buck tag and saw a nice doe come and go while I sat in my stand at the farm near Spencerville where my hunting buddies and I hunt deer. A while after I saw the doe, a coyote wandered into view in front of me. I killed it cleanly with my Browning X-bolt Medallion rifle (left-hand) 30-06 with a 150 gr. bullet. The carcass was left for scavengers and my buddy Jason Quinn, a seasoned hunter and trapper, assured me I did the right thing. Still, I had mixed feelings afterward. I am told coyotes in Eastern Ontario are pests, a threat to livestock and pets. I understood this concern, or so I thought, but decided after killing my first coyote varmint hunting was not for me. What concerned me was the thought this is too close to killing for the sake of killing rather than hunting. I preferred leaving the shooting of coyotes to other hunters, that is, until a recent incident that involved me, my dog Hera and a pack of coyotes. Continue reading →
My Christmas present to myself: A Tikka T3 left-hand in .300 WSM and a Zeiss Terra 3 x 9 x 42 scope with Leupold rings and bases to mount the scope.
Saturday morning, December 17th, started out a little unusual. Mika’s flight to Regina, originally scheduled for the day before, was cancelled due to bad weather in Toronto. I was supposed to drop him off at the airport for 9:00 am Saturday morning, but this flight was delayed. The plan was for me to drop off Mika at the airport then pick up Jason and his dog Nos (Hera was already on board) for a morning dog run. Along with the dog run Jason and I were going to tend a few errands. Jason needed to go to the bank to deposit a rebate cheque he received from Browning. I needed to take my Browning X-bolt Medallion rifle to Gunco, the gunsmith we use, to have the broken cleaning rod removed from the barrel. I needed to get a replacement cleaning kit for the rifle also. As Christmas is a week away, I still needed to buy a few more gifts including one for Jason’s daughter, Rose. It was well after 10:00 am when I arrived at Jason’s house. We hit the bank on the way to Gunco. The cleaning rod was safely removed from my rifle barrel and as we browsed the array of second hand shotguns and rifles for sale I caught sight of a left-hand bolt action rifle. It was a Tikka T3 in .300 WSM with a synthetic stock. “Nice gun,” I thought and the price (between $800-$900) was reasonable. Continue reading →
Akber and his son Abbas at Schäfer’s Wood after a morning of upland gunning in the Marlborough Forest.
“Hunt the edges,” wrote Shirley E. Woods Jr. in his memoir Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This is sound advice if you want to get into grouse and woodcock while out hunting. In fact, I learned over the many seasons I hunted grouse and woodcock it is the premise on which successful upland gunning is founded. An edge is where two different types of wildlife habitat meet. Where three or more types of wildlife habitat meet is called a corner. These are the areas to hunt when you want to get into birds whether you hunt over a dog or not. I had this thought in mind Sunday morning, November 6th, the day before the opening of deer season, when I drove to pick up Akber, one of my newer hunting buddies, and his son Abbas who is ten years old. One of the pleasures of hunting for me is mentoring new hunters, sharing with them what I learned over the years and most importantly, guiding them to becoming safe and ethical hunters. Akber and I became hunting buddies three seasons ago if memory serves and this year his son Abbas expressed interest in coming along. I accompanied my father and uncle in the field when I was nine years old and enjoyed myself so I welcomed the opportunity to introduce Abbas to join us in the field. Continue reading →
My first white-tailed buck, a nine point, taken on opening afternoon of the 2016 rifle season in Eastern Ontario.
I never fully appreciated big game hunting until I shot my first white-tailed buck yesterday afternoon on the opening day of the 2016 rifle season here in Eastern Ontario. I took up big game hunting in earnest in 2011 under the tutelage of my good friend and hunting buddy Jason Quinn. Jay is an accomplished big game hunter with a lifetime of experience in the pursuit of white-tailed deer, moose and black bear. Under his guidance I shot my first white-tailed deer, a doe, in the 2012 rifle season. While killing my first deer was a thrill in its own right, the hunt I experienced yesterday was the culmination of all that is good in hunting: notably the challenges, camaraderie , effort, joys, sorrows and sportsmanship associated with hunting. The buck, my first, was hunted down and killed in a fair chase. I felled it using my Browning X-Bold Medallion bolt action rifle (left-hand) in 30-06 with a Winchester Super X 150 grain bullet. What this experience showed is I remain a novice deer hunter and with Jay as friend and mentor I am learning through trial and error.
Hera checks out a bait pile of corn left by a deer hunter at Lester’s Square.
It is November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night in England, and I spent a good part of the day out with Hera in the Marlborough Forest. I hoped we would turn up some woodcock, stragglers left from the Autumn migration. I left Ottawa with Hera on board shortly before 8:00 am. I stopped at a Tim Hortons to grab a coffee and chocolate glazed doughnut en route and arrived at Cowan’s Corner shortly after 9:00 am. It was sunny this morning and there was virtually no wind in the forest, which suits me fine. The ground is still nice and boggy and Hera was raring to go. From the get go, Hera found old scent left by birds that were long gone. I walked up a number of points only to find there was no bird. I wonder if this contributed to me watching in dismay as Hera bumped the first two birds she pointed before I could walk up her points. We turned up nine woodcock and two hares in the five hours we spent in the field. I shot at one of the hares, missing spectacularly, and three of the woodcock, also missing. Most of the woodcock flushed were found in the densest, most impenetrable cover and flushed unseen. Continue reading →