Murphy was an optimist.

One of several yellow perch I caught through the ice with my fishing buddy Colin.

What could possibly go wrong? I pose that question before setting out on a fishing or hunting expedition, either by myself or with buddies. “Murphy was an optimist,” goes the adage. No matter how carefully I plan, I adhere to the safety protocols and consider weather conditions; something goes awry. For example, I had difficulties with my Jeep getting stuck in the snow on two recent ice fishing expeditions. Despite the drama, in both outings, I caught lots of fish. Yellow perch were the target when I got out with my fishing buddy Colin on the Ottawa River at Buckham Bay. I hoped to get into perch on Crappie Bay on the Ottawa River but caught bluegills exclusively.

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I am one lucky son-of-a-bitch!

The blurry photo I took with my phone after the fall from my deer stand.

It was a season of misses and near misses. But, looking back on the 2022 Fall hunting seasons, I am one lucky son-of-a-bitch. The grouse and woodcock seasons started in September. I was out with my Brittanies, Hera and Stella, right away. The weather was warm at the start of the season, and the woodcock covers were dry. Of course, I had to bring water for the girls. We hit our usual haunts, the farm near Spencerville and three patches of cover in the Marlborough Forest. Grouse were scarce, and a trickle of woodcock passed through during the migration. I racked up some spectacular misses on shots at wild flushing grouse and bumped woodcock. Stella is three years old and still working out finding and pointing birds. By the end of October, just ahead of the rifle season for deer, Stella was pointing and honouring Hera’s points.

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You can teach an old dog new tricks

Like a pair of bookends, my Tikka T3, left-hand, bolt-action in .243 Win. rests next to my Dad’s old Remington Model 725 in 30-06.

I had a great day at the Cornwall Handgun Club with my friend and hunting buddy James Burnside. I met him there so we could finally zero my Tikka T3 left-hand bolt-action rifle in .243 Win. James has a membership in the club and had me as his guest to use the rifle range. James brought the Remington Model 721 in 30-06 that belonged to my father; I gave the rifle to James as he is right-handed, and I knew he would use it in the field and take good care of it. Like my father, James is right-handed. Fortune favoured us for our trip to the rifle range. The weather was unseasonably cool for the third week of June; it was not unlike the November weather we typically experience during the rifle season for white-tailed deer in Wildlife Management Unit 66A. I arrived at the range shortly after 11:00 am, and we got to work.

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Fishing for the ‘halibut’

Hugging a halibut.
The eight-point buck I shot in the 2020 whitetail deer season.

Mika and I finished the last of the venison yielded from the eight-point buck I shot the previous deer season. I cooked up the last two packages of ground venison into a shepherd’s pie. Looking back, I thought about the moment I found the buck in the crosshairs and squeezed the trigger. I chose to kill, and my conscience was clear. That said, I felt a touch of sorrow together with the triumph as I walked up the downed buck. I experience this blend of triumph and sadness every time I kill a game bird or animal. Still, I am far from becoming sentimental about killing and eating domestic and wild animals for food. Humans and animals are links in a food chain; the reality is eat or be eaten. What made me think of this is that the spring fishing seasons are getting underway.

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Buck fever no more!

Posing with the eight-point buck I took in the 2020 rifle season.

I tagged out for the 2020 rifle season in Wildlife Management Unit 66A on the second last day, bagging an eight-point buck. In all, I sat for five afternoons in two of the four deer stands my hunting buddies and I have on the property we hunt. Unseasonably warm weather kept me out of the stand for several days through the middle of the two week season. It is unusual to be walking outside in the second week of November in shirtsleeves. By the latter days of the rifle season, there were more seasonable temperatures. My enthusiasm for deer hunting waned as I heard reports from hunters around the Ottawa Valley that the bucks were not moving, at least not during legal shooting hours. I saw three does one afternoon during the first week of the season. There are deer on the property, and I held hope that a buck might wander into view before the rifle season ended. Continue reading

What lies beyond the scope

My new Winchester Wildcat .22 and Bushnell Elite scope rests on my dining room table.

I acquired a firearm with a semi-automatic action this morning for the first time in my life. The new gun is a Winchester Wildcat .22 with an 18-inch barrel. I bought it in a private sale from my friend and hunting buddy Jason. The rifle is virtually new and topped with a Bushnell Elite 4×12 scope. The gun is a right-hand model, but that is fine. I adapted to life as a southpaw long ago in a right-handed world. I bought the new .22 from Jason for an express purpose. In short, I need practice in aiming a rifle through a scope, steadying the rifle and squeezing the trigger. As some of you may surmise in reading my posts, I am a bird hunting enthusiast. Most of my shooting is with shotguns in pursuit of upland birds and waterfowl. I am a good wing shot; I mount, point, shoot and follow-through on birds. Some of the time I do, I always know what I did wrong when I miss. The fact is, shotgunning is a world apart from rifle shooting.

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More than a wild goose chase

James poses in his layout blind with the two Canada geese taken on his first waterfowl hunt.

I got out for my second Canada goose hunt of the season early this morning. Joining me in the hunt were my hunting buddies Jason, a seasoned waterfowl hunter, and James, for his first waterfowl hunt. I had high hopes for our expedition; Jason and I had great shoots in seasons past on the harvested beanfield selected for this morning. Jason and I loaded the goose decoys into Jason’s pickup truck the day before. James stayed with Mika and me overnight as he lives in Cornwall. The three of us met on the beanfield at 5:00 am. I introduced James to Jason as they had not met in person. The beanfield is near Russell, a forty-minute drive from home. The field had lots of waste beans and chaff; it looked inviting to the migrating Canada geese–so we thought. What struck me, however, was the absence of feathers and droppings on the ground. I hope for the best and prepare myself for the worst outcome when I go hunting. I feared our morning goose hunt might be a disaster. Continue reading

For Stella’s sake

Stella pauses on a morning hunt in the Marlborough Forest.

I woke up yesterday morning shortly before 7:00 am when I get up to run the girls when I am not due at the office. My plan for the morning was to take the girls hunting in the Marlborough Forest. I remember better days when there was no holding me back from a morning hunt with my dogs. I was so comfortable in my bed, and the girls were still asleep that I nodded off for another thirty minutes. The girls woke up and indicated that they were ready for their morning run. I got up, and when they saw me gather my camera bag, they realized we were going hunting. We were on the road shortly after 8:00 am en route to the Marlborough Forest. I intended to hunt Schäfers Wood and Lester’s Square this morning. My enthusiasm for the morning hunt stirred to life as I drove up and parked at Schäfers Wood.

Schäfer’s Wood was the first patch of cover we hunted.

When we started the hunt at Schäfers Wood, I was surprised to see an encampment in the distance. I saw an individual in the company of two dogs at the campsite and a campfire burning. I wondered if they were deer hunters out for the October archery season. I led the girls in the opposite direction to sweep familiar alder runs for woodcock and grouse. Despite the weather forecast calling for higher winds and gusts than I would like for upland hunting, the breeze was light. I heard ATVs roar past on the forest road as we swept the coverts. Schäfers Wood is deeper into the forest, and I hoped the ATV traffic would be lighter. As we worked our way into the alders, I got turned around briefly; it is all too easy to lose your way in the forest. I know the woods in Schäfers Wood well-enough that I got back on course. I found a landmark–a pair of berrying shrubs unique to the cover–and new we were back on track.

Eventually, we walked up to the campsite; I unloaded my shotgun as I approached. One of the dogs, a Husky named Thor, came to greet us. He and the girls greeted one another. His owner, a woman tending the campsite with two children, came up, and I asked if her party was deer hunting. She told me that the menfolk were out road hunting on ATVs for grouse. She called Thor back, and I went on my way with the girls. In short order, we met the menfolk, a man and a boy riding ATVs. I led the girls away from the ATVs. The man and the boy looked as though they enjoyed themselves on their camping and hunting expedition. We completed our sweep of Schäfers Wood without turning up any birds.

Hera is a seasoned gundog.

I put the girls onboard, and we drove to Lester’s Square. I thought I would try a route into the cover I used for many years. The route’s problem is that it has become overgrown; it is too easy to stray from the path only to wander deeper into the forest. I tried it anyway, only to stray off course. Fortunately, I retraced my steps and made it back to our starting point. Hera pointed a woodcock in a dense clump of cedars. I was distracted, so I did notice. As Stella and I looked for Hera in the cedars, the bird flushed wildly. I caught a glimpse of it as it disappeared into the brush. I will abandon this path into the cover for future hunts.

The sandy meadow at Lester’s Square typically holds woodcock.

I led the girls into a sandy meadow that has stands of cedar and shrubs. When the ground is wet, the cover holds woodcock. Regrettably, the sandy soil is dry as a bone this season. We took our time working through the meadow, and I paused to take photos of the girls. The dry earth does not attract migrating woodcock as the woodcock feeds on earthworms. When the ground is dry, they cannot quickly probe to find the worms they eat. We turned up no birds in our sortie, so we walked along the forest road a short distance to the next stand of cover. There is a woodland edge I like to sweep as it often holds grouse. It proved barren also.

The old apple tree still produces fruit.
Stella pointed her first woodcock on this spot at Lester’s Square.

From the woodland edge, we made our way to a couple of aspen runs that typically hold woodcock, even in the driest seasons. We passed by a familiar landmark–an ancient apple tree that still bears fruit. We found the ground as dry as the meadow we left. It did not bode well for our woodcock hunt. Though things looked bleak, I saw Stella locked up on point at the edge of one of my favourite alder runs. As I walked up her point, the bird flushed wildly, and Stella gave chase. Still, she pointed a woodcock for me! I praised her and Hera profusely. That was the second and final woodcock we found all morning.

This is a well-constructed deer stand.
Good hunting to the builders of the deer stand at Lester’s Square.

I gave the girls the full tour of Lester’s Square, despite the dry conditions. We worked our way through a cedar bog; it was a dry a bone. By chance, we came across a well-constructed deer stand. The builders made a skilled effort and showed an artistic taste in its construction. I took a few photos of the deer stand, and we moved on. By then, it was nearly 1:00 pm, and I had enough. The girls were panting, and there was no water for them in which they could refresh themselves. I noticed lots of old deer droppings in the cedars in front of the deer stand. I wish the hunters who built the stand good hunting.

The woodcock season is not shaping up as I hoped, but Stella is getting the experience she needs as a gundog in getting out. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. I hope the rain moistens the coverts for our next expedition. As for tomorrow, I will take a day of rest; I am on holiday for the rest of the week. I will take the girls out hunting at the farm on Wednesday. Conditions on the farm are better, and we are getting into birds. I hope Stella will point more woodcock for me before the season is out.

Posted by Geoffrey

Success is measured in flushes

Hera, my seasoned gun dog takes a breather on our morning woodcock hunt.

It is Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, 2020, and I got out with Hera and Stella for some upland gunning this morning. I got up at 7:00 am, my usual time to start my day by taking the girls for a morning run. The girls were duly delighted when they saw me gather my upland shooting gear. I wish I could say I was as enthused. Life under the Covid-19 restrictions takes a toll. I find I am not as keyed up about going hunting this season, as I am in a depressed mood. It is Stella’s first season as a young gundog, so I need to get her into the field. I had the girls and the gear onboard and set out for the farm near Spencerville in short order. The weather was cool and sunny, with a light breeze. Continue reading

We are never without a drama

Jason and I are seasoned waterfowl hunters.

My friend and hunting buddy Jason and I took our dogs for an afternoon run on the eve of the opening of the 2020 duck and goose seasons in Eastern Ontario. The weather is unseasonably warm this year; we walked in t-shirts, trousers and running shoes along the Rideau River. The dogs, my Brittanies, Hera and Stella, and Jason’s pup, Egon, a German Wirehaired Pointer, cooled off in the river as we made our way along the trail. Jason and I are seasoned hunters–we live for the thrill of the hunt every Autumn. I am pushing sixty, and Jason is in his late forties. We talked about opening day, how in our younger days, we would prepare the night before to get out onto the Rideau River for a duck hunt–how anticipation of the hunt built excitement as we dreamed of getting into bluewing teal and wood ducks on opening morning. Now we are older and wiser; we choose our expeditions on the river with greater care. The time and effort involved in launching a boat, setting out decoys, waiting and watching for ducks is formidable, and there is no guarantee the ducks will be there. We talked it over and decided to pass on opening day this season. Continue reading