A mixed bag of mallards, wood ducks and a Canada goose taken on a morning hunt on the Castor River.
“All that glisters is not gold,” William Shakespeare got that right when he coined this adage. I recalled this adage this week after a duck hunt on the Castor River. In seasons past, the stretch of the Castor River that runs through a farm outside Russell, Ontario was a honey hole for my duck hunting buddies and me. Seasons ago we had exciting puddle duck hunting. We shot Canada geese on the river too. Occasionally, passing flocks of Canada geese or singles offered passing shots. We had great roost shoots back in the day when Canada geese used the river to roost. Mallards and wood ducks were the most common species of wild duck we shot on the river–though once I bagged a hooded merganser. In more recent seasons, ducks are few and far between. For whatever reason, ducks are not using this stretch of the Castor River. Neither are Canada geese roosting on the river. Imagine my surprise and delight when I drove out to the farm to take a look at the river and found wood ducks and Canada geese sitting on the water. A mallard drake flew along the river, well within shotgun range. “Could it be,” I thought, “that the river is attracting waterfowl again?” Continue reading →
Hera cooling off in a beaver pond on a warm September morning.
I made my first kill of the 2018 woodcock season late this morning. I was hunting in the Marlborough Forest at the patch of cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. I shot a woodcock over Hera’s point. I downed the bird with the second barrel of my Franchi Instinct SL in 20 gauge. We are two weeks into the 2018 Fall hunting seasons, and the weather is much improved. Still, conditions in my preferred hunting grounds are the driest I ever saw in all my years of hunting. I hope we get significant rainfall before mid-October. It took a lot of walking this morning, but Hera and I got into birds. I enjoy watching Hera working the covers we hunt for birds; watching her work the covers leaves me wondering at times if I trained her as a hunting dog or if it is she who taught me as a hunting dog owner. Continue reading →
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about the whereabouts of your hunting buddies when a game bird flushes and offers you a shot. I am strict about hunter etiquette and safety in the field, and my perfect record on hunter safety is a testament to my adherence to hunter etiquette and safety. The fact that carelessness is an issue in hunting came to mind on a weekend grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera, my six-year-old Brittany. My hunting buddy Nick and his ten-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, Cocotte, accompanied Hera and me on our weekend grouse and woodcock hunt. We got into birds: four woodcock and several grouse, but succeeded in spectacularly missing when we got shots away at flushing birds. Continue reading →
Mike and Maggie Mae on opening day of grouse season 2018.
“Good luck in all weathers,” Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote to me when he signed my copy of his memoir “Gunning for Upland Birds and Wildfowl.” I met him at his home in Rockliffe Park where he lived in the 1970s. His memoir is an account of his experiences hunting upland game birds and waterfowl in the Ottawa Valley and Quebec. Weather indeed is a significant factor in hunting. Weather conditions determine whether it is safe or worth to go hunting. Yes, the weather is but one of the factors that play into the vagaries of fortune in hunting, but I learned over the years what a significant role weather plays in successful hunting. Weather conditions over the summer of 2018 made for a rocky start to my upland season this year. Continue reading →
“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun,” wrote Noel Coward in a comic song. This song came to mind as I went fishing Sunday afternoon on July 1st. I set out to try my luck at the Kars boat launch, but somehow wandered off course ending up at the Baxter Conservation Area. I turned back and stopped at a bridge over a creek that empties into the Rideau River, just outside Kars. I got out of the Jeep to check out the spot. I thought it might be a decent place to cast some lines for panfish. I found well-worn paths leading to the river’s edge and guessed that this must be a good spot for fishing. I carried my gear to the edge of the Rideau River and made my first cast. I brought my ABU Garcia combo—a light rod and spinning reel with 6 lb. test. I got a bite right away, only to have the fish swipe the bait. I used the worms left over from my previous fishing expedition the Friday before. The worms were dead; they did not survive the heat on the last outing. The dead worms did not stop the fish from biting. In short order, I landed several perch and pumpkinseed, most of which were too small to keep. I caught a few bluegills also, though none big enough for the pan. Sweat poured off me as I made repeated casts. It was oppressively hot, more than 40 C with the humidex.
The terrain at the river’s edge is entirely different from that on the open water and brought new challenges. I lost a couple of hooks and sinkers when the line tangled on vegetation. I hooked a nice fish only to have the line snap when the fish circled a weed bed. Presumably, there is a fish in this stretch of the Rideau River with a hook in its mouth and trailing fishing line with a sinker attached. I had a couple of tangles with the fishing line around the rod. They were so severe I had to cut the line and retie the hook, and put the sinker and slip bobber on anew. One time I lost the hook and sinker but retrieved the slip bobber with my landing net. I learned to take great care in landing a fish in such habitat. I did not have to cast far to find fish. The water is quite shallow and weeds quite thick. There were lily pads on the left side of the riverbank. By the time I ran out of worms, I had four nice pumpkinseeds in the cooler. I am getting the hang of pan fishing.
At home, I finally mastered filleting fish. I had a little difficulty with the previous patch of fish. I took the time to review some videos on YouTube on how to fillet fish. Viewing these videos proved very helpful. I am confident I can adequately fillet fish now. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, the tangled fishing line, and the loss of hooks and sinkers, I had a great time. I had one more bit of misfortune at home. I caught a lot of the action on the riverbank on my GoPro camera. I downloaded the raw footage from the camera to the computer, or so I thought. I hastily deleted the video footage from my GoPro, only to find that most of the footage had not downloaded. Note to self: next time do not be in such a hurry to delete the footage from the GoPro until you are sure it successfully downloaded to the computer! Despite the loss of the tackle and video footage, I look forward to my next fishing adventure.
The catch is a mix of perch, bluegill and pumpkinseed.
I set out for another fishing expedition Friday morning, determined to avoid any more misfortune. I picked up my boat in good time and was on my way to the W.A. Taylor Conservation Area for some pan fishing on the Rideau River. The plan was to stop at Manotick Bait & Tackle to pick up worms, minnows and a couple of slip bobbers on the way to the river. Manotick Bait & Tackle opens at 7:00 am. I got to the bait shop at about 7:45 am and was greeted by a man seated in a pickup truck. He told me the bait shop was closed; that the owner would be there at 8:30. “So much for avoiding misfortune,” I thought. I noticed the pickup truck had logos for various fishing tackle and boat companies. While I waited for the owner of the bait shop to arrive, the man seated in his pickup truck told me he is friends with the owner and had come up from Seeley’s Bay to see him. As we waited for the bait shop owner to arrive, we chatted about fishing, life and the vagaries of fortune. Continue reading →
With my new found enthusiasm for fishing, I went to the edge of the Rideau River by the railway bridge off Old Riverside this afternoon to try my luck. I walk past this bridge daily when I take Hera for a run by the river. I often see people fishing there and the day before I met a young man fishing with a bait casting rod and reel. He told me this is a good spot for pike and bass. He was fishing for pike but just caught a big bass. He told me this spot is good for jigging. I checked out videos on YouTube to learn the technique in jigging for bass. It looked quite straightforward, and I was eager to give it a go. I got to the river at about 4:30 pm. When I got there I found a group of young men with lines in the water. “It must be a good spot,” I thought. There was room for all of us, and I found a spot to cast.
I tried a crayfish jig on a bass hook first. I tried out the technique of jigging while reeling in the jig. The river bed is randy and rocky at this stretch. The jig got caught on the bottom after one cast, and I feared I would lose it; but I reeled the jig in successfully with a little gentle tugging. As the young men cast their lines from their spot next to me, suddenly one young man had his fishing rod snap in two pieces. One of his friends retrieved the front half of his fishing rod from the river. The young men examined the fishing rod to see if it had broken or just come apart. A short while later they took their leave. They had not caught anything. Once they departed, I moved over to the spot they vacated.
I continued casting with the crayfish jig and as I reeled it in on one cast it got caught on a branch on a downed tree resting in the river. I had hip waders on so I strode into the river far enough to grab the tree trunk and move the downed tree closer. I picked up the branch with my crayfish lure caught on it and found a jig someone lost to the same tree next to my crayfish lure. I retrieved both jigs and felt some relief: “At least I won’t come empty handed today.” I switched from the crayfish jig to a jig designed for pike. I cast the new jig and found a tangle in the line on my spinning reel. I reeled in the jig, then played out the line from my reel until I reached the tangle in the line. I cut the line behind the tangle and rethreaded the line through my fishing rod. This was a delicate and tricky operation but I completed it successfuly. While I worked on clearing the snag, a boat with two young men aboard came into view. They asked how I made out and I told them I just cleared a tangle in my line. They replied sardonically that they had the same luck.
They cast some lines from their boat in the area adjacent to where I continued casting. They did not catch anything and neither did I. Eventually, they motored toward Hunt Club Road. I decided I would move to the ruin of the old marina on the other side of the railway bridge and see if I would have better luck. I stood on the edge of the concrete dock at the marina and cast for a while. I tried both the crayfish and the pike jigs. No fish bit. I saw the two young men casting from their boat on both sides of the river. It did not look like they had any luck either. At 6:15 pm they roared past me on their way to Mooney’s Bay I expect. They waved as they drove past. I decided to call it an afternoon, packed my gear and walked back to the car.
I did not catch any fish but I got in some practice in casting and jigging for bass and pike. I cleared a tangle in my reel without too much trouble. What impressed me, however, I realized that misfortune is not picking on me. She strikes with impunity and capriciously; no one is spared. Fishing is not so different from hunting in a way. You expend the effort in the pursuit of your quarry with no guarantee that you will find said quarry. The major difference between fishing and hunting is that fishing allows you the option of catch and release. There is no going back when you kill a game bird or animal. I hope yet I will get the hang of fishing as spring turns into summer. For my next fishing expedition I will focus on panfish. Jigging for crappie, perch and sunfish is enough of a challenge for now.