Monthly Archives: October 2013

Feels like old times

Sunday morning, October 27th, 2013, was clear skies and a very light west wind blowing. I picked up Akber Hussain shortly after 7:00 am as planned. We had planned on getting out hunting together last season, but were unable to because of problems with competing schedules, but finally this morning we got out together. We arrived in the field at Lester’s Square shortly after 8:00 am. I noticed on the drive in the competition was there ahead of us. I could hear the bell of their dog in the distance when we parked and got out of the care. No matter, we were careful to keep our distance from them and were underway, walking the trail toward a familiar pocket of cover. Hera made a flash point on a woodcock in a thick patch of the cover. The bird flushed as I was walking up her point and I dumped it cleanly with a single shot. I showed the downed bird to Akber who had never seen one up close before. Continue reading

First woodcock shot over Hera’s point

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Got out with Hera on an impromptu hunt Tuesday morning, October 22nd. Dropped the newly acquired 9.9 horsepower Mercury outboard motor at Laurentian Marine for examination on the way to the Marlborough Forest. We arrived at Lester’s Square shortly after 10:00 am. It was cool, sunny and blustery, not the best weather for upland gunning, but Hera needs experience so we get out every chance we get. Within minutes of starting the hunt a grouse flushed wildly unseen along the trail we took. We continued the hunt, sweeping carefully through pockets of woodcock cover further along the trail, turning up no birds. We crossed through a stand of cedar and pine to a meadow and hunted the edges alongside the meadow. A woodcock flushed wildly in a patch I expected we might find a bird. I shot twice, missing cleanly. We moved on, checking more of the edges; a skittish grouse flushed from under a pine as Hera and I approached. No shots were fired and the grouse made good its escape. A short time later Hera startled a hare that ran across my path. This time I found the mark, killing it cleanly with one shot. We made our way back to the car and from there drove to the cover off Paden Road.

Four woodcock flushed at Paden: the first was pointed by Hera in the cover next to where I park. Two more flushed in the tight cover along the trail close to the beaver pond. First bird was pointed by Hera. She was staunch. Bird flushed, towered and was dumped with one shot. I spied two hunters in the brush ahead of where I retrieved the downed bird. Hera pointed dead for the retrieve. Said hello to the hunters and told them we were headed away from where they were standing. They wished us a good day. I continued the sweep and flushed a woodcock on my own. Shot twice and missed. Hera bumped a grouse in the tight cover where she pointed the woodcock I shot. The bird was too far to risk a shot and I let it go. Sweeping the cover on the other side of the road where I park, stepped on another woodcock. Shot twice and missed. I had an anxious moment when Hera came upon the carcass of a porcupine. I gather another hunter must have seen and shot it, leaving the carcass at the edge of a widely traveled trail. I called her away from the carcass and was relieved to see she had not gotten any quills stuck to her.

It was a good day in the field, despite the blustery weather. Hera is pointing and remaining staunch, having pointed both grouse and woodcock. This is most impressive for a dog who has just turned one year old. I will say I am surprised we are seeing so few woodcock as the conditions in the covers are the best I have seen in many seasons. We will continue to go afield in pursuit of woodcock for the balance of the season.

Posted by Geoffrey

Wild goose chase

Was on the road at 4:30 am to a harvested bean field in Russell with Maurice, the younger brother of my hunting buddy Jason, for a Canada goose hunt. Despite a forecast for rain, the sky was clear and a very light southwest wind was blowing. We arrived at the bean field shortly after 5:00 am and selected a site for the hunt. We got to work setting out the decoys, a mix of full-bodied and shell decoys, all of top quality. We had thirty-one decoys in all. We placed them in small groups consisting of feeders, sentries and resting birds. We set up our layout blinds a discrete distance from the decoy spread, making sure to set on decoy at forty yards from the blinds to mark the limit of range of our shotguns. By the time we finished setting out the decoys and camouflaging the layout blinds with chaff from the bean field, it was close to the start of legal shooting time at 6:55 am. Continue reading

“Good luck in all weathers.” — Shirley E. Woods Jr.

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“Good luck in all weathers” the message the author Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote in my copy of his book Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This book is a memoir of the author detailing his evolution as a hunter from his experiences gunning marshes on the Ottawa River and gunning for upland game birds in the Ottawa Valley. I had the pleasure of meeting him at his home in Rockliffe Park on afternoon when I was seventeen years old. Sunday morning, October 20th was cool and blustery. Omer was supposed to join me in the field for some upland gunning, but texted me early in the morning, bowing out as he was not feeling well. I was tempted to stay in bed, hearing the wind outside my bedroom window, but “Good luck in all weathers” sprang to mind. That and the need to get out with Hera as it is her first season and she needs every chance to get into the field. So I got out of bed and off we went for a morning grouse and woodcock hunt. Continue reading

Hera’s first woodcock

Friday morning, October 11th, got out to the Marlborough Forest with Hera in pursuit of ruffed grouse and woodcock. Started out at Lester’s Square shortly after 8:00 am. Was dismayed to find some of the horde that overran the cover the previous weekend, but there were not as many as the previous weekend and departed before too long. I swept through familiar areas in the cover, turning up no birds. I checked out an area I usually steer clear of and had two grouse flushes. I got two shots off at the second grouse, shooting well behind it both times. I was using my Winchester 20 gauge side by side, though concerned it might not be working properly. I had my 12 gauge Browning over and under in reserve. We pressed on to a patch of the cover that has held woodcock consistently over the years and sure enough Hera got birdy and I kicked up a woodcock. It was at point blank range so I hesitated before firing, downing it cleanly with the second barrel.

Hera found the downed bird and proudly carried it around, eventually dropping it for me to retrieve. We made our way back to the car. It was about 10:30 am. I drove to the cover at Paden Road and we set out. The cover was nice and wet, but woodcock were scarce. Hera bumped one, it flushed unseen. I moved on to a pocket of cover that usually holds woodcock and put up a grouse. The bird offered me a straight away shot in the open and I found the mark with the first shot. I thought I marked the spot where it fell, but there was no trace of the downed bird. I called Hera and told her “dead bird” she moved on into the thick cover a few yards ahead and found the downed grouse. She proudly carried it into the open where she gave it up to me. There were five more grouse flushes before we wrapped the hunt at 1:00 pm. I shot twice at one of them, missing cleanly. It was a good morning afield with Hera.

Posted by Geoffrey

Mouse in the layout blind

Jason and his brother Maurice arrived at my house for a morning Canada goose hunt on time at 4:30 am, Saturday morning, October 12th. As is all so often the case with my waterfowling expeditions there was confusion which caused momentary delays. Jason forgot the keys to the trailer stored in my driveway for the time being. The ball on my trailer hitch is not the same size as the ball on Jason’s trailer hitch. This required a couple of return trips to Jason’s house to sort out. We were about 15 minutes late departing, not too bad. A fog had descended on the area we were hunting which made finding our bearings in the harvested bean field difficult. I navigated as best I could and we set up the five layout blinds. I found a mouse perched on the top of the head rest of my blind. I left him unharmed.

We were in position in time for the start of legal shooting time at about 6:45 am. Before long a lone Canada goose responded to my calling, decoyed and Jason killed it cleanly with his second shot. Nos made the retrieve. Next a small flock made a pass and one bird landed in the decoys. These were local birds who have been shot at since the beginning of September so they were very wary. Still there were a few, like the one that landed in the decoys, that were sufficiently habituated to humans they failed to appreciate the peril they faced in decoying. I was concerned that the migration of northern birds did not seem underway that we would have few opportunities. Sure enough, we had several flocks approach, then flare before they came into range. We heard several salvos of shotgun fire in the distance. We cannot be certain, but our impression was that it was yahoos standing in a hedgerow or cornstalks, blazing away at passing geese well out of range. They were hoping if they filled the air with shot they might scratch down a bird or two.

After several flocks approached and flared, we took stock of our situation. We had five layout blinds in a row in a bean field. It is hard to conceal layout blinds in a bean field even when there is plenty of chaff. We decided to move the blinds 20 yards away from the decoy spread and adjusted the decoys, a mix of goose shells and full-bodied decoys. Sure enough, once that was done, we had a few more flocks decoy and pass within range. The fact remained the geese were not especially interested in the field we were gunning. It had been harvested the day before and there was plenty of waste beans for the geese to eat, but they had long since found fields in the area they could hang out without getting shot at. By the end of the morning flight we had eleven birds down. The eleventh bird was taken by Jason after we had gotten out of our layout blinds and I was walking back to get the car. I heard a shot, turned around, fearing someone had forgotten to eject a cartridge from his breech, but saw Jason grinning and a goose on the ground. The hapless yearling Canada goose, likely hatched in the suburbs surrounding Ottawa, decoyed without hesitation, with hunters standing in the open and was killed cleanly.

Posted by Geoffrey

Nos making a blind retrieve

Today was one of those exceptional occasions where my hunting buddy Jason and I were able to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. We had taken Jason’s dog Nos (a German Wirehaired Pointer) to a spot along the Castor River we like to gun for wood ducks and mallards in hopes of bagging a few. Shooting time started at 6:38 am and we were ready and waiting for the morning flight. As it turned out we got to enjoy watching the sunrise. A total of three high flying birds, one wood duck and a pair of mallards, made up the morning flight. There was no shortage of Canada geese in the air and we heard shooting in the distance. Poor Nos was heartbroken, there were no downed birds for him to retrieve. We packed up at 0800, but to our surprise, a pair of Canada geese came gliding in and set down on the river. We grabbed our shotguns, loaded them and crept up to the edge of the river, taking the geese by surprise. I missed spectacularly, but Jason downed one of the birds cleanly. Nos retrieved it happily.

We left for breakfast at a local restaurant and realized we had not picked up our spent hulls after jump shooting the Canada geese. We returned to the spot, and thinking there might be more geese on the river, crept up again. It appeared there were none and as we were retrieving the spent hulls I noticed a dying Canada goose at the edge of the opposite shore. Jason went to get Nos and I kept an eye on the bird, lest it try to climb up the bank. The bird died while Jason was getting Nos and what followed was a fine blind retrieve by Nos. We cannot be certain, but we think the bird must have been shot by the hunters nearby and made it as far as the Castor River before expiring. Having a good retriever is an asset in waterfowling as this reduces crippling loss greatly. We did not bag any ducks, but getting a nice pair of Canada geese was a nice way to end the morning.

Posted by Geoffrey