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

O Nosferatu, thou unholy terror

Nos in his prime as a hunting dog.

My friends and hunting buddies Jason and Fran made the difficult decision to grant their eleven-year-old hunting dog, Nos (short for Nosferatu), a dignified and painless exit from this life. Nosferatu means unholy terror–Nos was anything but save to the squirrels that strayed into the garden. Nos spent the last weeks of his life boldly carrying on as he had since he was a pup. Despite the increasing pain he experienced–his limp got worse as his hips gave out–he made it out for daily runs along the Rideau River. He caught a rabbit on one of these runs. He needed help getting in and out of Jason’s truck, but held his own as we walked. He happily retrieved his ball when Jason threw it into the river for him. Nos left us the way he lived. He is gone, and as we process our grief, I look back fondly on the time I had with him.

FranJay

The husband and wife who deer hunt together, stay together.

I met Jason and Fran one morning in the spring of 2011. I was out running my beloved Juno–my third Brittany. Jason and Fran were out running their young dog, Nos, and we struck up a conversation. We made a good impression on one another and exchanged telephone numbers with the understanding that we would take our dogs hunting together when the fall seasons opened. It was a stroke of good fortune that we met and became friends and hunting buddies. Ours is a happy and productive friendship and hunting partnership. We share many hunting adventures, the joys and sorrows of life, including the untimely death of my beloved Juno in the summer of 2012. Nos and Juno had only one hunting season before she was felled by cancer at four years old. I remember in the aftermath of losing Juno getting out with Jason and Nos for a boat ride on the Tay River. Nos noticed my demeanour that I was grief-stricken, and he sat in front of me and gently licked my face.

Jason, Fran and their daughter Rose in 2014.

I remember the joy of Rose’s arrival, Jason and Fran’s daughter’s birth in the summer of 2014. While Jason was with Fran at the hospital for the delivery, I took Nos for his daily runs. Poor Nos did not want to get out of my vehicle when I brought him home to the empty house. When Jason and Fran brought Rose home, Nos took to her right away. He growled at Jason once when Jason pretended to menace Rose. Nos looked out for the womenfolk in his family. Rose is six years old now, and Nos’s passing is her first experience with losing a family dog. It is one of the hard lessons of life. I sympathize with her. I was eight years old when my mother greeted me with the news that our pet Siamese cat Lisa had died. It was a devastating loss.

Nos on a hunt at the farm.

Nos excelled as a retriever for Jason, Fran and I in the goose field. He was an asset in deer season as we put him to work tracking downed deer as needed. I remember the nine-point buck I shot and wounded in the last half hour of shooting time and followed in the dark. I caught up with the wounded buck and humanely despatched him. As a novice deer hunter, it had not occurred to me to bring marking tape. I found my way out of the woods but had no idea how to get back to the downed buck. I needed help to drag him out. Jason brought Nos out, and we succeeded in retrieving the buck before coyotes got to him.

Jason poses with Hera and Nos on the farm.

Coyotes are a threat to our dogs in the city’s parkland, where we take them for daily runs. After a fright when Hera, one of my current Brittanies, and I had a run-in with a pack of coyotes, Jason allowed me to bring Nos on runs with Hera. Nos enjoyed it when I took on his daily run with Hera as he had snow pants on when out for these runs. Fran can explain the snow pants reference. Nos made the perfect bodyguard for Hera. Nos and Hera were the best of friends and hunted together in the uplands for grouse and woodcock. It will be difficult for Jason and me to take to the field this season without Nos, but we will remember all the good days afield we had and keep him in our memories for as long as we live. Run free Nos with Juno wherever it is hunting dogs go after death. We will love you forever.

Posted by Geoffrey

Yours is bigger than mine!

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Colin poses with the four foot spotted gar he caught in the Ottawa River.

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Experiencing the thrill of catching my first spotted gar on the Ottawa River.

“Yours is bigger than mine,” I quipped when my friend Colin Cameron landed a four foot spotted gar during our recent fishing expedition on the Ottawa River. It was an exciting moment and the highlight of many memorable moments that day. Minutes before, I caught my first gar–smaller than the specimen Colin landed but a gar. Catching the gar was a big thrill for me as I never expected, I would have the chance to land one. I remember the gar as a species of freshwater fish caught my eye when I was in grade four. I saw an illustration of the gar in a book to identify the freshwater fishes of North America by Herbert Zim. From that moment on, I dreamed of catching a gar. I had no idea they were found in local waters until recent years. That knowledge gave me hope that I might catch a gar someday, but the hope remained remote. Colin and I had a great day out on the river. Along with the gar, we caught several smallmouth bass, a couple of channel catfish, two pumpkinseeds and a northern pike. The bass, pumpkinseeds and pike were caught using an unorthodox technique devised by Alex, another of Colin’s fishing buddies. The day was not without drama, as you will see as you read on.

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The problem with temptation is that you may not get another chance. ― Laurence Peter

Savage

Savage Axis left-hand bolt action rifle in .270 Win.

The provincial government loosened the restrictions on retailers this week. I took the opportunity to drive out to Sail Ottawa to shop for some fishing supplies. I needed some size eight fish hooks, and some drop shot sinkers and a replacement spinning rod. Somehow I broke the tip off of one of my spinning rods, even though it was safely stored in a carrying case. I found the fish hooks and sinkers quickly enough. With the help of a sales associate, I found a replacement spinning rod that fit in my price range. “Mission accomplished,” I thought, but as I headed for the staircase to check out with my fishing supplies, I cast a glance to the hunting section and all the rifles and shotguns on display. “There is no harm in stopping to browse,” I mused. I made my way to the firearms counter and asked the associate behind the counter what he had in left-hand bolt action rifles. Continue reading

Don’t threaten me, bucko!

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Stella taking a breather on her morning run with Hera.

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Hera on point on a daily training run.

Raising and training hunting dogs is one of the joys I experience in life. Currently, I have two Brittanies; their names are Hera and Stella. Like the dogs who came before them, starting with Christie (my first dog) and followed by Maggie and Juno (all Brittanies), they are loved. I raise and train my dogs with a soft hand–Brittanies have sweet dispositions and are easy to train. I see that my dogs are well-trained and properly socialized. They are friendly and like meeting people and other dogs. My dogs, save for Maggie, lived to hunt–they are keen little huntresses. When I am out with my dogs, either hunting with them in the field or for their daily training runs between hunting seasons, I carefully observe the hunter safety protocols and do my best to leave a good impression with the people I meet. As a gun owner, hunter and dog owner, I am well aware of the need to maintain good relations with the public at large. By and large, my dogs and I go about our business without any trouble. Sadly, as hard as I try to live and let live when I am out with my dogs, there are times when I have run-ins with disagreeable people Continue reading