It is November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night in England, and I spent a good part of the day out with Hera in the Marlborough Forest. I hoped we would turn up some woodcock, stragglers left from the Autumn migration. I left Ottawa with Hera on board shortly before 8:00 am. I stopped at a Tim Hortons to grab a coffee and chocolate glazed doughnut en route and arrived at Cowan’s Corner shortly after 9:00 am. It was sunny this morning and there was virtually no wind in the forest, which suits me fine. The ground is still nice and boggy and Hera was raring to go. From the get go, Hera found old scent left by birds that were long gone. I walked up a number of points only to find there was no bird. I wonder if this contributed to me watching in dismay as Hera bumped the first two birds she pointed before I could walk up her points. We turned up nine woodcock and two hares in the five hours we spent in the field. I shot at one of the hares, missing spectacularly, and three of the woodcock, also missing. Most of the woodcock flushed were found in the densest, most impenetrable cover and flushed unseen. Continue reading
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
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