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 →
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 →
Fran with the six point buck she shot on Remembrance Day 2017.
I took up whitetail deer hunting in earnest in 2011, and every following season I learn more about the sport and become more proficient as a deer hunter. I hunt with a “Gang of Four.” There are four of us in our cadre of deer hunters: myself, my friend and hunting buddy Omer and my friends and hunting buddies Jason and his wife, Fran. Jason is a seasoned deer hunter, and under his tutelage, I shot my first deer, a nice little doe, in the 2012 rifle season. One of the first things I learned from Jason is that you make certain to enter the antlerless deer draw every spring. Antlerless deer tags, or doe tags, are doled out by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources by lottery every year. The advantage of having a doe tag is that you are licensed to harvest any deer you see while hunting. Having a doe tag increases the odds you will bag a deer, so I make sure I enter the draw every year. I was disappointed when I was unsuccessful this season, so much so, I considered not hunting. Jason firmly reminded me that one does not get a deer sitting at home and not having a doe tag does not mean you will not see a buck. I heeded his words, but in the back of my mind remained pessimistic. As fortune proved, Jason got to tell me “I told you so.”
Hera pointed a woodcock on the open ground and I missed cleanly with both barrels.
I took Hera into the field this morning. We started out in the Marlborough Forest at the patch of cover I call Lester’s Square. It was cool this morning, just a few degrees above 0 C and there was a light wind, lighter than was forecast, though it gusted at times. I noticed puddles on the forest road as I drove in, a welcome sign. The recent rainfall was heavy enough to leave puddles and I hoped the woodcock covers would be damper than they were at the start of the season. We had the cover to ourselves for the first time in a long time. This was often the case in years gone by when I hunted there with my first dog, Christie, back in the late 1990s. I know my way around Lester’s Square very well these days as I hunted there many seasons before. Still, I am always careful to take a bearing with my compass so I know which way is out. Even in the Marlborough Forest where civilization is half a block away, it is all too easy to get turned around and find yourself walking in circles in the brush. I arrived a little later than usual, closer to 9:00 AM, and set out with Hera to see what fortune would bring us this morning.
Imagine my dismay this morning when I saw the weather forecast this morning after I got up to take Hera out after grouse and woodcock. Rain and high winds with even higher gusts and unseasonably warm temperatures were forecast for this Sunday morning. This is not good weather upland gunning. I arranged to go hunting with Mike and his eighteen month German Shorthaired Pointer Maggie this morning. I half expected Mike to text and cancel, but he was there waiting at our meeting place, the Old Co-op in North Gower, at 7:40 AM when I drove up. It rained heavily as I put Hera in the car and loaded my gear, but by the time I met up with Mike the rain stopped. The high and gusting winds continued unabated and I knew this would be an issue. High winds make grouse skittish and also make it difficult to keep track of your dog. The sound of the gusting wind drowns out the sound of the cowbell on the dog’s collar. I anticipated this hunt would be more of an armed run than anything else you never know what fortune brings.
Jason posing with a grouse he took on our morning hunt with Hera and Nos.
Got out today for an upland hunt with my friend Jason for the first time since his daughter Rose was born three years ago. I find my hunting buddies often have far less time for hunting once they become family men so it was great to get back in the field with Jason. I asked Jason the evening before if he would join me on a hunt for grouse and woodcock at the farm near Spencerville. He told me he had to be back by 1:00 pm as his wife Fran had plans. I reminded him that the it generally takes about two hours to sweep the grouse and woodcock cover on the farm so if we were in the field by 8:00 am we should have ample time for a morning hunt and get back to Ottawa in time. It is about an hour’s drive from Ottawa to the farm. Jason agreed to the plan and added that he wanted to bring the sacks of corn and mineral salt blocks along to set out by our deer stands and scout out a new location for his wife Fran’s ladder stand. We hunt deer on the farm during rifle season in November. This meant taking out his ATV so we could carry the sacks of corn and mineral salt blocks back into where our ladder stands are located. It was an ambitious agenda, but feasible if we timed it right. Continue reading →
Mike and his German Shorthaired Pointer Maggie Mae on her first hunt of the 2017 season.
The heatwave continues as the small game and upland bird seasons get underway. It was Sunday morning, September 24, 2017, the day after the opening of duck season, and the temperature is expected to reach 40 C again. I arranged to meet with another of my new hunting buddies, Mike, who is training his first gun dog. He is the proud owner of a 17 month old German Shorthaired Pointer named Maggie Mae, Maggie being her working name. I met Mike last season while out running Hera and after chatting he and I became hunting buddies. Maggie was still a puppy last season, too young to join us in the field and not gun conditioned at that point. It was really too hot to stay out for very long with the dogs, but we thought we could at least introduce Maggie to Hera and let them get acquainted on a grouse hunt. Woodcock season opens on the 25th of September this season. The objective for this morning was to run the dogs together after grouse on the property near Spencerville where I also hunt deer with three friends. Mike is a seasoned deer hunter and I took the opportunity to show him the areas I hunt deer with my friends. We had a good, albeit brief, morning afield with the dogs on this all too hot day.