Category Archives: Retriever

First kill of the season, what a steel.

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Got up this morning just before 4:00 am to get out for the opening of the 2015 waterfowl season. Shooting time started at 6:23 am so I got dressed, had a quick breakfast, packed my cameras, shotgun, shells and thermos and was underway at 4:30 am. The rest of the gear, my chest waders, inflatable kayak and paddle, bucket with flashlights, first aid kit, duck and goose calls, was loaded into my car the evening before. I opted not to use decoys on this hunt. The plan was to pass shoot ducks on a stretch of the Castor River outside Russell. I stopped at a Tim Hortons to fill my thermos with the dark roast blend (taken black) and headed east on the 417 to the spot on the Castor River. I was set to meet my friend and hunting buddy, Omer, at the spot. He wanted to meet at 5:00 am. I said I would try to be there between 5:00 and 5:30 am. I got there just after 5:00 am ahead of Omer and got to work setting up right away.

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I inflated the kayak, then got into my chest waders. I dragged the kayak down to the river’s edge, turning it over so the black underside was showing. Next I brought my cameras and bucket down to the river’s edge. Omer pulled up as I returned to the car and together we brought the rest of the gear and guns down to our spot. We sorted out where each of us sat and defined our arcs of fire. We settled in amid a tall stand of cattails. Omer faced up river and I faced the opposite direction. This was we could see birds approaching from either direction. We were in position 40 minutes before shooting time, so there was time for a piping hot cup of coffee as we waited.

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When legal shooting time started, I put three shells into my new Browning BPS. I purchased this gun last year. It has a 3 1/2 inch chamber; I bought it with the express purpose of shooting steel through it. Omer brought his Beretta Xtrema2 for this morning’s hunt. We sat, watching the sky and before long a couple of small flocks of wood ducks passed, too high for a shot, in front of us. A short time later a single mallard passed, also too high, followed not long after by another. A mourning dove flew past me, well within range, but I passed up the shot. 3 1/2 in steel shot in no. 2 is a tad excessive for doves. This brief flurry of wood ducks and mallards was the extent of the morning flight of ducks for us this morning.

Though ducks were scarce, the sky was filled with Canada geese. We watched and listened as flocks, singles, pairs and trios of Canada geese made their morning flight. We heard shooting in the distance, presumably goose hunters on harvested corn and bean fields lying in wait for the geese. While watching the geese, I glanced over my right shoulder and caught sight of a lone Canada goose flying our way. The goose was flying low enough and on a course that would bring him over our spot. I kept my head down and tried to watch without turning my head as he drew nearer. Finally, he quartered over the river right in front of me. I stood, found the mark and slapped the trigger. The goose folded and plummeted landing in the river at the edge of a bed of weeds about 25 yards away from me. Omer congratulated me enthusiastically and I was pleased as this was the first kill with my new BPS and the first kill with steel shot for me in more than a decade. I remember the transition from lead to non-toxic shot when the ban on the use of lead shot in waterfowling went into effect in 1999. I followed the instructions concerning the use of steel shot, e.g., recommended shot sizes and choke combinations, but found steel shot performed abysmally at the time. It was so bad I opted for the more expensive alternatives: bismuth, tungsten, hevishot, etc. and got the desired result: consistent clean kills on birds well with in range. My hunting buddies convinced me to try steel shot again, assuring me it is much improved in the present.

I was confident the goose was cleanly hit; I saw no movement on the spot it landed. However, when I waded out to retrieve the downed goose there was nothing there except one small feather. I was horrified, fearing the bird was crippled and lost. Omer joined in the search. We looked carefully in and around the area we saw it fall. We searched farther down river and when the bird was not found, I headed back to my spot in dismay. As I neared my spot, I heard a gunshot, then a second. Omer, bless him, persisted in the search and flushed the crippled bird out the weeds, finishing it as it tried to get away. It drifted out into deeper water so I used my kayak to retrieve it. Despite this close call, I am satisfied with the performance of the steel shell I used this morning to bag the goose. This experience reminds me of the utility of having a good retriever on hand when you are waterfowling. We sure could have used Nos, our friend Jason’s German Wirehaired Pointer, this morning. Unfortunately, Jason was called into work this morning and had to sit out opening day.

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We sat on the river until about 8:45 am. By then no more ducks were seen and while geese flew over our position, even at the closest, they were just out of range. We were hoping for a good flight of wood ducks, but that did not come to pass. Putting the Canada goose in the bag was a bonus and I enjoyed spending time with Omer, discussing our plans for the rest of the waterfowl season and the upcoming deer season.

Canada goose hunt in 2011

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Opening day of the 2014 waterfowl seasons is this coming Saturday September 27th. I am looking forward to it as are my hunting buddies. I was looking back through entries in my hunting diary and came across this entry for a memorable Canada goose hunt in 2011.

This past weekend I enjoyed a range of hunting experiences. Saturday afternoon I went out on my own for a deer hunt. Jason was off on a guided goose hunt with his younger brother and Chris, a friend visiting from New Brunswick. The drive out to Pete and Val’s farm for the deer hunt was slower than usual as I was stuck behind a funeral procession under police escort. I arrived at the farm around 1230 pm and after checking in with my hostess made my way to my ladder stand. Saw no deer on the walk in, but noticed deer trails passing through the conifers close to where my stand is set up. It was a cool afternoon and unusually quiet I thought. Unlike the Monday and Tuesday before it seemed barren. I did not see and hear bluejays, crows, Canada geese. I climbed into the tree stand easily enough, taking care to heed the safety rules. I brought some dried cranberries to snack on. I made an effort to make as little noise as possible during the hunt. I knocked my carrying bag off the foot rest accidentally. It fell to the ground with ample noise. It made me think of how careful one must be while hunting from a tree stand. I stayed in the stand until 5:00 pm. By then it was after sunset and too dark to see to make a shot. It was a blustery afternoon and no deer were seen. On the walk out in the dark I saw a couple of bunnies along the trail. I sent Jason a text to let him know I had returned safely from the deer hunt and was homeward bound, but without a deer.

A short time later Jason called me back asking if I were interested in going goose hunting on the recently harvested cornfield at the farm in Russell we hunt. He said he had spoken to Eric, our host, and he said the field was black with geese. I agreed it was worth a try and we set up a plan to depart from Jason’s home with his friend Chris, Jason and Chris’s dogs, litter mates, Nos and Nero. As it happens Sunday November 13th was the dogs’ birthday. We made our way to the cornfield, finding it was harvested the best way for goose hunting with stalks and leaves aplenty still on the ground. We set out Jason’s life-like goose shells and my eleven floaters and two feather decoys, finishing just in time for legal shooting time at 6:30 am. There were geese roosting on the Castor River, we considered returning for a roost shoot if the field shoot proved a disappointment, and the geese on the river took off unusually early as we put the finishing touches on the blinds. Jason and Chris used layout blinds and I used my tried and true method of laying on the ground with a tarp between me and the earth and camouflaged burlap over top of me covered in corn stalks and leaves, my head propped up on my ammo box. Jason and I parked the vehicles by the barns and walked back to the blind site. We got into our blinds and watched the skies.

It was slow for a while as Canada geese are typically up later than ducks. As the morning wore on we saw large numbers of geese in the air. Many flocks passed by taking a cursory look at our decoy spread and thinking better of it, continuing on to another field. We had several birds decoy, with some landing in the decoys around us. I found I am getting too old for the rustic blind I am using. I kept getting cramps as I tried to sit up and my right arm was aching something fierce. I made a series of clumsy mounts, missing spectacularly on decoying geese, including three shots at a goose passing barely ten feet in front of me. Jason and Chris were shooting well, downing decoying geese and their dogs were in top form making the retrieves. The dogs found it hard waiting in the blinds between seconds of action when geese decoyed. We were treated to a chorus of whining as the dogs anticipated the next retrieve.

One of the highlights of the hunt was a passing flock of snow geese. They ignored our decoy spread and my calling, but it was a thrill to see them. Another highlight of the hunt was when a passing flock of mallards offered us a shot. I downed a really nice drake. In spite of my poor shooting, I succeeded in bagging geese, including a very lively cripple that landed in the next field. Jason took Nos and they tracked down and retrieved the bird. As the hunt wore on we had twelve birds in the bag. Close to 10:00 am, the time we decided to call an end to the hunt, a flock of four geese approached. I called and they responded, decoying nicely. We each got a bird from the flock. I killed the bird I shot cleanly, which was a good way to end the hunt, pulling myself out of my shooting slump. We let the fourth bird go as we had limited out.

We gathered the downed birds, posed for photos and took care to gather up our spent shotgun shells and wads before departing. For next season I am going to buy myself a layout blind and a set of good goose decoys like Jason has. In all, it was a great morning’s hunt. Everyone had a good time, particularly Chris. Our Sunday morning goose hunt was far superior to the experience Jason and Chris had on their guided hunt the day before.

Geoffrey’s shotguns.

I am by no means a poor man, but I work for a living. I have a good job and together with Mika our combined incomes allow us to live comfortably. As nice as it would be to have my clothes tailored on Savile Row, and my shotguns custom designed by Churchill, Cogswell & Harrison and Purdey, I rather contentedly buy my clothes off the rack at Mark’s Work Wearhouse and my shotguns from retailers such as Sail and LeBaron Outdoor Products. My first shotgun was a Savage single shot, 16 gauge, hammerless, with a 2 3/4 chamber, a 28 inch barrel and full choke. It belonged to my father. I have a fleeting memory of the day he purchased it at a gun shop in Baltimore, Maryland in 1965. I was four years old at the time. I remember him talking to the proprietor of the gun shop, then the proprietor wrapping the shotgun in brown paper. My dad paid $49.00 for the gun. My dad enjoyed gunning for cottontail rabbits in the 1960s. He used this gun masterfully on his rabbit hunts with my uncle John in the countryside outside Kingston, Ontario. When I turned 14, my dad offered me the gun and I happily accepted it. Continue reading

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