Category Archives: Wildlife habitat

James bags a brace of woodcock

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Posing with James and Stella after a day of woodcock hunting in the Marlborough Forest.

I got into the field this morning with my new hunting buddy James for our third hunt together this season. I brought both Hera and Stella for the hunt. Stella is six months old and coming along nicely in her training as a gun dog. Still, I had a sobering reminder that she is still a puppy on the hunt I had with her and Hera last Friday. Stella got a hold of two of the woodcock I shot over Hera and ate them. My best guess is that she does not understand yet that downed birds are not carrion. Neither does she get, however, that she is hunting for me. I decided on our hunt today to keep Stella under control when we had a bird down. She will not learn anything if I leave her crated at home. I met James in North Gower at 8:30 am, and he followed me in his car as I drove to Cowan’s Corner in the Marlborough Forest. We arrived at about 9:00 am and set out to see what fortune would bring. Continue reading

O sole mio

 

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Hera and I with a brace of woodcock after a morning hunt in the Marlborough Forest.

I took Hera grouse and woodcock hunting solo in the MarlboroughForest this morning. It was mild, though on the warm side, at about 15 degrees C and the skies overcast. A light rain fell. I started at the cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. We started our hunt at 8:45 am. Minutes into the hunt, Hera pointed a woodcock. I walked up her point, and the bird flushed. I fired once, missing spectacularly. Hera looked as though she lacked enthusiasm for hunting. She was not as lively as I remember from past seasons. She turns seven next month; she is not that old, and she is in good shape. I wondered if it was a lack of enthusiasm or maybe that she is seasoned enough that she knows to pace herself. We spent an hour sweeping Schäfer’s Wood, and no more birds were found. What I noticed as we hunted the cover is that we, for the first time in a long time we had the grouse and woodcock covers to ourselves. Continue reading

James I

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James with the woodcock he shot on his first woodcock hunt.

The 2019 upland game, small game and woodcock seasons opened in Eastern Ontario this morning. The weather was near perfect for the opening day of these seasons. The sky was clear, the winds were minimal, and the temperature was hovering at about 10 degrees C. I set out for the farm near Spencerville with my new hunting buddy James and Hera, my Brittany, shortly before 7:00 am. It is about an hour’s drive from my house in Centretown Ottawa to the farm. James and I arranged to meet Mike, another of my hunting buddies, at the farm for 8:00 am. Though James is not new to hunting–having hunted small game with his buddies in Cornwall in previous seasons–this would be his first woodcock hunt. It would be his first hunt over a bird dog also. We stopped at a Tim Hortons on the way–I have to have my morning cup of Joe–and arrived at the farm in good time. Mike came with his dog, Maggie, a German Shorthaired Pointer, not long after James and I got there. We started our hunt not long after 8:00 am, eager to see what fortune would bring. Continue reading

Hazard a deer hunter

 

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Mike ready to get to work on moving my deer stand.

 

I had a good day making ready for the upcoming upland game bird and whitetail deer seasons. My day started with me meeting my friend and hunting buddy Mike at the farm near Spencerville, where I hunt upland game birds and deer. The objectives today were to relocate my deer stand, check conditions at the farm for grouse and woodcock season, and to look for a sign that deer are moving in the area around the deer stands set up on the farm. I arrived at the farm at about 8:40 am. Mike arrived just after 9:00 am. Mike brought his chainsaw and the tools he needed to free my deer stand from the tree it is mounted on so that we could move the stand to its new location. Mike and I found a spot last season we thought offered a better view of the ridge in the wooded area I watch for deer. We marked the tree the previous season to which we intended to move my deer stand. We loaded Mike’s chainsaw and tools into the back of my Jeep and set out to check out the trail that leads to my deer stand. Continue reading

Hunting is easy.

 

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Jason at the wheel of his ATV with his chainsaw in the trailer.

 

Got out with Jason yesterday to the farm near Spencerville where we gun for woodcock and grouse and hunt deer. We promised Val, the owner; we would clear downed trees from the trails that run through the wooded areas on the property. We make a point of treating our gracious hostess with courtesy and respect and help out where we can assist in the management of her property. We do this to express our gratitude for access to her property for hunting. The weather was warm and sunny, and we made it ahead of bug season. We brought Jason’s ATV and chainsaw to carry out our plan. We got to the farm late in the morning; we took our dogs for an early morning run before heading to the farm. We toured the trails, riding on Jason’s ATV with the trailer in tow, and checked on three of our ladder stands. They are all in order. The mineral salt blocks we set out last year are gone, so we made a note to return and put fresh ones out. Yes, success in hunting involves a great deal more than grabbing your shotgun or rifle and heading to the fields and marshes come hunting season. Jason and I keep busy year round preparing for the fall hunting seasons we enjoy.

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Jason with my ladder stand in the background.

We got to work clearing the downed trees. It proved nowhere as big a job than I imagined. Still, we took our time and made sure we observed due safety. Jason took care in checking his chainsaw ensuring the chain was installed correctly before proceeding.

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The trails cut through prime woodcock cover.

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Trail with downed trees slated for removal.

Jason got to work with his chainsaw, cutting downed trees as needed and in short order we cleared the trails.

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Jason firing up his chainsaw.

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Jason cutting a downed tree for removal from the trail.

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Geoffrey is not afraid of hard work. He can stand an photograph it all day if necessary.

With the trails cleared, we stopped in to see Val, our gracious hostess, whom we found had prepared a hearty lunch for us. We dined on BBQ chicken, roasted potato, coleslaw, salad, bread and fruit salad with ice cream for dessert and had a nice visit with Val.

We took our leave and drove back to Ottawa. On the drive home, we discussed how well everything went and how quickly we completed clearing the downed trees from the trails. We chatted enthusiastically about the season ahead and decided to install a ladder stand, currently not in use, we have in September. We got back to Jason’s house, and then things took a dramatic turn. Jason summed up what happened in this post on his Facebook page:

 

Accidents happen & this time we got lucky… NO INJURY! Here’s what happened… After a successful trip to our deer spot in Spencerville cutting downed trees for the owner Val, Geoff & I were putting the atv back into the garage & the yarding wheel collapsed, causing the tongue of my atv trailer to smash through the garage door!

Geoff & I went & got a new yarding wheel and with my brother Maurice’s help we took it apart & bent it all back into shape & reassembled.

Dad & Mom came by to see the successful repair tested & were impressed.

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Doubling up the yarding wheel on the ATV trailer.

 

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Garage door good as new after repairs effected by Jason and his brother Maurice.

 

One thing I learned over the years is that hunting is not without its dramas, no matter how carefully you prepare for a hunt and how carefully you conduct yourself. As Jason said, “Accidents happen & this time we got lucky… NO INJURY!” Today’s adventure goes to show that hunting is great fun, but it requires a lot of effort and is not without risk. It is anything but easy.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

Hera has a taste for grouse

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Nick and Cocotte after a good day of upland gunning.

Yesterday I took delivery of my 2017 Jeep Patriot High Altitude. I traded in my aging Tucson for the newer vehicle. Just before I left to pick up the new vehicle I checked Facebook and found a message from one of my hunting buddies, Nick, whom I had not seen for three years as he was posted to the Canadian Consulate in New York City all this time. He is back in Ottawa now and contacted me, asking if we could go hunting this morning. I was happy to hear he still has his dog, Cocotte, a German Shorthaired Pointer who is nine years old now. I met Nick at a dog park when Cocotte was a puppy, the same age as my beloved Juno. Cocotte is Nick’s first hunting dog while Juno was my third so I offered to help with her training. We trained our puppies together and hunted them successfully as they grew into young gun dogs until my Juno was felled by cancer at four years old. I happily agreed to take them hunting, they were the first passengers in my new wheels.

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My 2017 Jeep Patriot.

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Friday the 13th, the day after

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Hera on Saturday the 14th.

Set out this morning the day after Friday the 13th with Hera for a solo grouse and woodcock hunt. The farm near Spencerville where my hunting buddies and I also deer hunt was the destination. I noted in previous hunts this season the conditions in the uplands are very good for woodcock. That and we got into birds, both grouse and woodcock on prior hunts. The weather was better than forecast: 15 C, very light rain, more drizzle, and no wind. These are good, not great conditions for upland gunning. We arrived shortly after 8:00 am and set out. Go off to a rocky start when Hera bumped a woodcock early on. Somehow she failed to scent it and stumbled over it. It flushed wildly a short distance ahead. I was hopeful that Hera was back in form. She made a staunch point on a woodcock the weekend before for Mike, one of my hunting buddies, in the Marlborough Forest. Given what we found this morning, I think I should have taken her out for Friday the 13th.

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Hera, a work in progress

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Hera during a break in our morning hunt at the Marlborough Forest.

Hera turns five next month and by and large is a seasoned hunting dog in her prime. I remember how impressed I was with her when she pointed grouse and woodcock in her first season in 2013 when she was barely a year old. The other three Brittanies who came before her did not make their first points on wild birds until they were in their second seasons and closer to two years old. Hera started her career as a hunting dog on a firm foundation, but in her second season she took to breaking point and bumping birds before I could walk them up. This proved frustrating for me, but I was patient with her and over time I got her back to remaining staunch on point. She was fine in her third season and her performance last season was superb. She remains staunch on point on woodcock she finds in the fields I run her every day through the year. Typically, she finds woodcock in these fields early in spring. They are migrants returning from their wintering grounds. Imagine my dismay that now, in her fifth season, she experienced a relapse and took to breaking point again.

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Welcome, Maggie Mae, to the thrill of grouse and woodcock hunting

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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.

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“Hunt the edges” — Shirley E. Woods Jr.

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Akber and his son Abbas at Schäfer’s Wood after a morning of upland gunning in the Marlborough Forest.

“Hunt the edges,” wrote Shirley E. Woods Jr. in his memoir Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This is sound advice if you want to get into grouse and woodcock while out hunting. In fact, I learned over the many seasons I hunted grouse and woodcock it is the premise on which successful upland gunning is founded. An edge is where two different types of wildlife habitat meet. Where three or more types of wildlife habitat meet is called a corner. These are the areas to hunt when you want to get into birds whether you hunt over a dog or not. I had this thought in mind Sunday morning, November 6th, the day before the opening of deer season, when I drove to pick up Akber, one of my newer hunting buddies, and his son Abbas who is ten years old. One of the pleasures of hunting for me is mentoring new hunters, sharing with them what I learned over the years and most importantly, guiding them to becoming safe and ethical hunters. Akber and I became hunting buddies three seasons ago if memory serves and this year his son Abbas expressed interest in coming along. I accompanied my father and uncle in the field when I was nine years old and enjoyed myself so I welcomed the opportunity to introduce Abbas to join us in the field. Continue reading