Bill McClure was a breeder and accomplished handler of Brittanies, bookseller and outdoor writer. He was a columnist for Gundog Magazine and Wildfowl Magazine for many years. I met him in 1989 when I was looking into buying a Brittany of my own. He became a friend and mentor to me, ultimately helping me find the breeder from whom I purchased my first Brittany in 1994. I enjoyed visiting the book shop he operated out of his home outside Manotick (a town outside of Ottawa) and bought a number of books on Brittanies, dog training and hunting from him over the years. He liked hearing me report on my hunting experiences too. He made the comment “multiples of ten excite the young,” in a column he penned for Gundog Magazine back in the early 1990s. The comment was a passing reference to an occasion when I reported on a woodcock hunt back in the days I hunted without a dog. I told him there were several woodcock flushes and I “had never seen so many.” Yes, in the many years I hunted woodcock without a dog, finding as many as 9 or 10 woodcock was a triumph. What made me think of this was my most recent grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera. Ten birds were flushed: 6 grouse and 4 woodcock in all. Continue reading
A particular article I read when I was my mid-teens in one of the old hunting magazines my father collected resonates with me to this day. The article in question was penned by a retired US Army officer who lived in Maine. He enjoyed duck hunting on the Penobscot River, gunning for black ducks and goldeneyes in the late season. He hunted with a friend, a man named Dave Bell , a serving officer in the US Army, and noted carver of working duck decoys in Maine. I so enjoyed reading his article as it really piqued my interest in gunning for the common goldeneye. I really wish I could find a copy of the magazine with the article and believe me, I have tried over the years to find one with no luck. I remember learning the colloquial term for the goldeneye in reading this article. Goldeneyes are commonly called whistlers, due to the distinctive whistling sound they make when beating their wings in flight. The author likened the sound of goldeneyes in flight to that of the sound of artillery shells as they approach the target. I spent many years learning the finer points of gunning for the goldeneye and it is something I look forward to every hunting season. Continue reading
My friend and hunting buddy Jason Quinn shares my passion for hunting, dog training and the great outdoors. Oh yes, when people who see us together ask if we are father and son, I am quick to tell them, “no, he is not my father.” We are both gun owners, no surprise there, but Jason surpasses my interest in guns, being an avid collector and afficionado. He has membership in the Eastern Ontario Shooting Club, moderates the popular gun forum, Canadian Gun Nutz and has a vast knowledge of the history and the technology of the gun. He makes a point of being his own ombudsman when it comes to defending his right to own and use guns lawfully and peacefully. He and his wife Frances, a keen huntress herself I might add, were present in the House of Commons to witness the vote on Bill C-19 in 2012 that abolished the hated long gun registry. They were among those invited to the reception that followed and were introduced to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The long gun registry may be gone, but unfortunately the Firearms Act that spawned it is still in force. In a nutshell, this is a major problem in that the Firearms Act allows for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to amend the accompanying regulations without having them reviewed and approved by parliament. The RCMP has arbitrarily released a new list of prohibited a class of rifles manufactured by Swiss Arms, types of rifles that were lawful for Canadians to own since 2001 and cost between $3000 to $4000. It is estimated there are 2000 of the rifles in question in the hands of lawful owners in Canada. Understandably, this news is distressing to the owners, to say the least. They can take heart in the knowledge that there are men like Jason who refuse to roll over and go along with the arbitrary decrees of the RCMP. He wasted no time, drafting a letter to Prime Minister Harper, pointing out the glaring problem gun owners in Canada face with the Firearms Act in its current form still in effect. The text of his letter to the Prime Minister is listed below.
Posted by Geoffrey
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 Continue readinghunt. 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 , 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 . 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 . By the time we finished setting out the decoys and the layout blinds with chaff from the bean field, it was close to the start of legal shooting time at 6:55 am.
I learned only yesterday of the death of a man I knew and respected for many years. Barry Cowan was a good and decent man, a keen hunter and conservationist and skilled craftsman renowned for his skill at carving wildlife figures and for taxidermy. Long before I met Barry, I remember being acquainted with his sons as we attended high school together. In the years since I met Barry, he carved two sets of working duck decoys for me: a beautiful set of puddle duck decoys including mallards, black ducks and wood ducks and a set of goldeneye blocks that are so life-like I once mistook one, while out hunting, that had drifted from the decoy spread for a live bird. He also mounted a number of game birds for me over the years attesting to his skill as a taxidermist. I have a pair of giant Canada geese mounts he provided me I include in my decoy spread when hunting geese on land.
Barry lived a long, full life, peacefully passing away at his home on July 16, 2013 at the ripe old age of 82. I extend my sympathy to his family and keep them in my thoughts. I feel blessed that I have in my possession samples of his carvings and will take care to preserve them. My hunting buddies and I will be reminded of him and his legacy every time we take to the field in pursuit of waterfowl. May he rest in peace.
Posted by Geoffrey
Hera is due at the veterinary clinic this afternoon to be given the bordetella vaccine by Dr. Douglas Hopwood. He is the veterinarian who treats her; he is also a friend and hunting buddy. She recovered last week from a bout of kennel cough. She likes to play rough and tumble with other dogs and somehow in her vaccinations bordetella was overlooked. Otherwise, she is the picture of health, almost eleven months old now; she will be turning a year old come the start of the woodcock season in October.
Her training is coming along nicely. She is by far the most confident of my dogs, there were three Brittanies before her: Christie, Maggie and Juno. While I can say I have her obedience, she responds to the whistle and follows my directions during her daily training runs, she has her moments, particularly when it is time to head home from playtime at the dog park on Lemieux Island. She disobeys when I order her to kennel up. She gets the message when I get in the car and drive away without her, saying to her “fine Hera, stay here all night!”
She is very much a predator, having made a meal of a hapless cottontail leveret on her training run last Monday afternoon. She discovered the mallards on the river also, very doggedly swimming after them, though they easily stayed out of reach, finally taking to wing to get away from her. I am really looking forward to taking to the field with her this season.
Posted by Geoffrey