What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I got home from a disappointing morning hunting Hera and felt my enthusiasm for going out the next day evaporate. She pointed woodcock and jumped the gun yet again. I planned on going duck hunting with my hunting buddy Omer, but the threat of inclement weather made him lose interest and he cancelled. My hunting buddy Jason wanted to go out to the farm near Spencerville the next day to add more corn to the bait piles in anticipation of deer season next month and I agreed to accompany him. I suggested we bring our dogs and take them upland gunning before we tended to the bait piles. I wanted to see if there was any change in Hera, whether she would remain staunch on point this time. Jason accepted my suggestion even though the weather forecast called for high winds and light rain. Jason is off to moose camp next weekend and this is our last chance to tend the bait piles before the opening of deer season. I met Jason at his house at 8:00 AM on the Ides of October and off we went to see what fortune would bring.
To date, I shot one coyote in all my days afield. It was on the opening of the white-tailed deer season, the season before last. I had a buck tag and saw a nice doe come and go while I sat in my stand at the farm near Spencerville where my hunting buddies and I hunt deer. A while after I saw the doe, a coyote wandered into view in front of me. I killed it cleanly with my Browning X-bolt Medallion rifle (left-hand) 30-06 with a 150 gr. bullet. The carcass was left for scavengers and my buddy Jason Quinn, a seasoned hunter and trapper, assured me I did the right thing. Still, I had mixed feelings afterward. I am told coyotes in Eastern Ontario are pests, a threat to livestock and pets. I understood this concern, or so I thought, but decided after killing my first coyote varmint hunting was not for me. What concerned me was the thought this is too close to killing for the sake of killing rather than hunting. I preferred leaving the shooting of coyotes to other hunters, that is, until a recent incident that involved me, my dog Hera and a pack of coyotes. Continue reading
“Curse you, Red Baron!” This is what Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, said following a dogfight with the Red Baron. This though flashed through my mind this afternoon while out with Hera and Nos for a run. Hera is my three year old Brittany and Nos is my friend Jason’s six year old German Wirehaired Pointer. Jason, his wife Fran and their daughter Rose are away for the weekend and I am helping mind Nos in their absence. Both Hera and Nos are friendly, well-socialized dogs, though Nos, as an unfixed male, needs a firm hand at times to stay out of trouble. Don’t get me wrong, Nos does not look for trouble, but if another dog comes looking to make trouble, Nos does not back down. Hera is by far tougher than the three Brittanies I owned before her. That said, however, she backs down if another dog is looking for trouble. I hope most of the dogs we come across on our daily runs are friendly and well-socialized too, but you cannot count on this always being the case.
This afternoon the run went fine as we made our way along the familiar route. Jason and I run our dogs on a patch of parkland along the Rideau River in the south end of the city. Nos had fun playing ball and both dogs cooled off in the river. Toward the end of the run we made our way to the ruin of an old wharf where Nos likes to jump into the river after his ball. Unfortunately, there was a young couple there already with two dogs: one, a black and tan mixed breed, the other a Rottweiler. The black and tan mixed breed was not friendly and confronted Nos, growling and baring its teeth. Nos knows the route and got to the wharf ahead of me. When I arrived, the young man and woman had their hostile mixed breed under control, trying to calm it. I stepped in calmly and ordered Nos away from the scene. Hera bounded up, looking to meet the new dogs, but I ordered her away from the scene also. I was not taking any chances. To their credit, the young couple stayed calm, I think they know their dog has issues, and handled the situation commendably. It took them a few moments to get both their dogs on leash and head home with them. I smiled at them as they went on their way.
I was fortunate this time that a dog fight did not erupt and that the owners of the problem dog were reasonable people. The outcome of this scene might have been very ugly otherwise. This is one of the realities when you are a dog owner, whether your dog is a working gun dog like Hera and Nos, or a house pet. I hope my good fortune continues and I never have to deal with an all out dog fight and dog owners with a disposition worse than their dog’s.
Posted by Geoffrey
As a new hunting season approaches I look forward to setting out on grouse and woodcock hunts with my dog Hera. As I look to the season ahead I remember the first grouse I shot 41 years ago in Limerick Forest. I was out with my dad and as we drove along one of the forest roads a grouse ran out in front of us. We stopped and got out of the white Volkswagen van he drove in those days. I was carrying my first shotgun, a Savage hammerless 16 gauge single shot with a 28 in. barrel and full choke. The grouse ran off the road and escaped, but my dad and I found there was a covey of birds. As we swept the cover there were multiple flushes with the birds flushing unseen. This was both exciting and frustrating for me, but my chance came when finally a grouse flushed and offered me a shot in a gap between a couple of fir trees. I mounted my gun and fired, a snap shot just like I read in the CIL guide to upland gunning. My dad heard the shot and asked if it was me. I replied it was me and walked up to the gap between the trees and there on the ground was my grouse. I sure was excited and cried out repeatedly “Dad, I got a grouse!” What I remember most about shooting my first grouse was the feeling of triumph and touch of sorrow I experienced when I retrieved the dead bird. Continue reading
I remember many years ago meeting someone who referred to ruffed grouse as “ruffled grouse” to which I quipped, “I’ve know a few grouse to be ruffled.” I was thinking of this moment on September 20, 2015, day two of the small game season in Eastern Ontario. I got up at 0700, had breakfast and made ready for a morning hunt for ruffed grouse and hares with my friend and hunting buddy, Jason Quinn. The weather was near perfect for an early season hunt in the uplands; it was sunny and cool, about 11 degrees Celsius, with a light northwest wind. Hera was excited when she saw me bring up my upland hunting gear. I brought my Winchester 20 gauge double barrel (side-by-side) for the morning hunt. The first time I brought it into the field following a repair to the stock. Jason Spencer, a local gunsmith I turn to for maintenance and repairs to my guns, skillfully replaced a piece of the stock that got knocked out the season before.
I got to Jason’s house shortly before 0800 and when he put his gun, gear and dog Nos on board, we got underway. It is about a one hour drive from his house to the property near Spencerville we hunted this morning. We stopped to grab coffee and fuel en route. The morning’s hunting expedition had a second objective. We combined an upland hunt over our dogs with preseason scouting for deer season, checking on two trail cams Jason set up earlier in the year and to add two new ones I purchased. Also, we were looking for a new location for my deer stand. Its current location is on a ridge in a patch of crown land. It is a great location, save for the fact a group of deer hunters has a camp on the same patch of crown land and we were getting in the way of each other at times in hunting season. Our aim this morning was to find a site on the private property to which we have access for hunting.
We got to the property shortly after 0900 and set out with the dogs, walking a familiar trail. I was pleased to find the ground nice and moist with pools of water in places. This bodes well for the woodcock season that opens a little later in the season. The dogs took to the covers, enthusiastically quartering and searching for game. We arrived at the spot where Jason placed the trail cams and he checked to see what, if anything, was caught on camera.
The cameras captured a cavalcade of animals, birds and people. Bucks, does, fawns, turkeys dusting, hares, a coyote, raccoons, roaming dogs from the neighbour’s property, trespassers and the owners of property were caught on camera. The deer and turkeys interested us most. Deer were seen moving through the area day and night. It was good to see there are deer moving through the property.
Once we were finished with the trail cams, we moved on with the dogs, continuing the morning hunt. As we neared the swamp at a corner of the property we bumped a woodcock. Woodcock season opens later in the week, so we watched as it made a hasty exit. A couple of moments later we bumped a Wilson’s snipe closer to the swamp. We watched as it made itself scarce too. I hope this is a taste of the season to come.
We swept through the patch of cover that leads to where Jason’s deer stand is located. This patch of cover often holds a grouse or two. Though the dogs swept the cover, there were no points and no wild flushes. We checked on Jason’s deer stand, finding it in order and continued to the stand of pines that marks the border of the property and the crown land on which my deer stand sits. We looked over the area and found a suitable spot to relocate my stand, putting it firmly on the property to which we have permission to hunt. It is a patch of lowland where the pines, hardwoods and meadow meet, an edge where I saw deer crossing in seasons past.
Jason set up a one of our two unused trail cams to watch the area and see if any deer come and go between now and the opening of the rifle season in November. I feel much better that my deer stand will be firmly on private property and hopefully well away from the hunters and their camp back on the crown land next to it. The new site puts me in a quarter of the area where Jason, his wife Fran and our hunting buddy Omer have their stands placed. We have the area well covered now, which should put us in good stead for one of us to bag a deer this season.
We set up the remaining trail cam to watch an area between Fran’s and Omer’s stands where deer passed in previous seasons. Once this was done, we worked our way back to another corner of the property hoping to turn up a grouse. We heard a grouse drumming somewhere in the distance, but there were no points or wild flushes. When we arrived back at the car it was close to 12:00. Though we did not turn up any grouse or hares, the dogs had a good run, we checked on trail cams already in place, found a new site for my deer stand and set up two more trail cams. It was a good start to the season.
Opening day of duck season 2014 was unseasonably warm as the hot, humid weather Jason and I experienced on our recent grouse and woodcock hunt continued. I was up at 4:00 am, having breakfast before putting my shotgun, shells and cameras in the car and heading to meet Jason and his brother Maurice at Jason’s house. I stopped to have my thermos filled with Tim Horton’s coffee on the way and arrived 20 minutes early. We were on the road to the farm near Russell, Ontario, with Nos on board, planning to pass shoot ducks on the Castor River, by 5:00 am. It took us 30 minutes to drive there from Jason’s house. This was the first time since he and his wife Fran bought the house earlier in the year. It is good to know how long the drive is for future hunts.
We carried our shotguns and gear down to the spot at the river’s edge we set up to watch for the morning flight. Nos was champing at the bit. We had a little trouble getting our bearings at first. The walk to the river’s edge takes us through a corn field. The stalks are very tall this year. We found the spot soon enough and I set up the camcorders, so we could catch the action on video. As it happened, there was very little action. There were a few passing wood ducks early on and then nothing. We sat and watched the sunrise and observed the skies that were filled with Canada geese. We heard volleys of shots in the distance, so other groups of hunters were seeing action, presumably shooting at Canada geese heading to harvested bean and wheat fields. I shot at a couple of passing wood ducks, missing spectacularly. Jason and Maurice shot at a trio of passing ducks, missing spectacularly; that was the extent of our action for the morning.
It certainly was not the best opening day we experience, but we took it in stride. You will not get any ducks sitting at home and there is no guarantee when you take to the field that you bag any birds. We called it a hunt 2 hours into shooting time and packed up the gear. We stopped to chat with our host, Eric, before leaving. He told us the soybeans will not be harvested for another 2-3 weeks. We hope the harvest is completed sooner than later as we are eager to come back and gun for the abundant Canada geese.
As I got home earlier than I anticipated I thought I might as well take Hera out to the Marlborough Forest for a sweep of the cover at Lester’s Square. The fact that the temperature was 32 degrees C with the humidity was not lost on me; it is not the best weather, nor the time of day–late in the morning–to be taking a dog into the field. However, Hera was wound up as she was left at home when I went duck hunting, so off we went. On the drive into the forest I saw a turkey on the trail in front of us. The turkey hightailed it into the woods. We got to Lester’s Square and had it to ourselves. Before long as we made our way through the coverts, I was reminded of the popular song by Noël Coward with its refrain of “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” It was frightfully hot and humid. I made sure to bring Hera to the wetlands in the coverts so she could cool off. We completed the sweep by 1:00 pm. She bumped one woodcock in a patch of cover I expected to find birds. It was just too hot to be out.
On the drive out there was an incident. As I neared the end of the forest road where it meets Roger Stevens Drive, the road I take to get home, 3 people on trail bikes (a man, woman and child) came racing around a bend in the forest road. I braked and came to a stop so they could adjust their speed and pass, safely. Unfortunately, they were driving too fast, so when the man, who was in the lead, stopped, the child could not stop soon enough and rode into the side of the man’s trail bike, causing them both to fall over. The man got up and glared angrily at me, like it was my fault, then grabbed the child roughly. While the child was comforted by the woman, he picked up the downed trail bikes and gestured to me to move on. I continued on my way. I was afraid for a moment this situation would get uglier, but I kept calm and expressionless throughout. The forest is used by non-hunters as well as hunters, something that is not lost on me. When I am driving the forest roads I drive at 20 30 km/hour with my own safety and that of others in mind.
I got out this morning, the eve of duck season 2014, for an upland hunt with my hunting buddy Jason. We brought our dogs–Hera, my Brittany and Nos, Jason’s German Wirehaired Pointer. I picked up Jason and Nos at 7:00 AM and we were on our way to the Marlborough Forest, to a cover I call Lester’s Square. We arrived just before 8:00 AM and noticed on the way in one of a group of hunters we see in the forest, notorious for shouting at their dogs. True to form, we heard him shouting at his dog as we got underway. It was unseasonably warm and mosquitoes were out in force. Thankfully, Jason brought insect repellant.
We walked a familiar trail and headed away from the hunter who was shouting at his dog in the distance. We heard three rapid gun shots a while later. He was likely firing in desperation. The cover is still very thick as the leaves are still on the trees. As we neared a deer stand, constructed of wood and burlap, a grouse flushed wildly. The dogs were hunting eagerly, but there were no points until about 40 minutes into the hunt. Hera tracked a running grouse and when it flushed, Jason dumped it cleanly with one shot as it broke the cover. Nos retrieved the downed bird: our first upland game bird in the bag this season.
We moved on to another patch of cover, a stand of birch, poplar and assorted shrubs, that usually holds woodcock and grouse. As I made my way through the right side of the cover, Nos got birdy and locked up on point. I walked up the point and a woodcock flushed. It headed in Jason’s direction and did not offer me much of a shot so I called out “cock up!” Jason fired both barrels and missed. We continued our sweep through the cover and a short time later Hera locked up on point. I asked Jason to walk up the point while I caught the action on camera. He quickly made his way to Hera and a woodcock flushed. He dumped it cleanly with his second barrel. Hera made the retrieve.
We walked to an old beaver pond at the end of the cover so the dogs could cool off in the water. The woodcock covers are fair to good this season. There is water in much of the cover and the ground is damp in most places. I think we can anticipate appreciable numbers of birds during the Autumn migration.
We walked on to an edge that often holds grouse and hares. There is a patch of wetland where I expect to find woodcock. I took Hera and walked through while Jason waited on the outer edge. Three grouse flushed wildly. Jason saw the second bird, but otherwise they were sight unseen. We were nearly 2 hours into the hunt and the temperature soared. We made our way back to the car, sweeping through a patch of cedar that is known to hold woodcock, but there were no more points of flushes. When we got back to the car we concluded the hunt. It was about 10:20 AM. In the two hours we were afield this morning we flushed 5 grouse and 2 woodcock. Both dogs pointed and retrieved downed birds. It was a great hunt this morning.
Hera is my fourth Brittany, so you think I would be seasoned enough in gun dog training to manage the embarrassing situation when she decides to disobey most spectacularly during a confrontation with non-hunters. My buddy Jason Quinn and his dog Nos joined me as I took Hera to the vet for her annual vaccinations and a heartworm test. Following the visit to the veterinary clinic, we made our way to some parkland along the Rideau River in the south part of Ottawa for our daily dog run. I have been running my gun dogs there since the 1990s and only on one other occasion had a confrontation with people who complained about my dog. I remember standing my ground on that occasion; it was with Maggie, my second Brittany. I told them, calmly, I would look after my dog, that they should just continue with their walk. When one of the persisted in berating me I shut him up telling him to “piss off.” He went on his way muttering insults. Today’s confrontation was far more dramatic. Continue reading
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
Got out to Lester’s Square in the Marlborough Forest with my Brittany Hera and my buddy Jason Quinn with his German Wirehaired Pointer Nos on a fine Sunday morning, September 29th. We were on the road at 7:00 am as it is about an hour’s drive from Centretown Ottawa, where we live, to the hunting ground we chose for this outing. It was sunny and calm when we set out, a bit warmer than usual for this time of year, so we chose a cover that holds ponds and puddles in which the dogs could cool off. As we drove up to our desired spot, we discovered we had company. This is to be expected in public hunting grounds and we are happy to share the area with fellow hunters. I am acquainted with the group we saw and heard during the hunt. I have come across them in seasons past. They are hard to miss as you can hear them shouting at their dogs in Arabic and amongst themselves. We just made a point of keeping clear of them, so as not to interfere with their hunt, and to enjoy our own.
No birds were flushed in our sweep of Lester’s Square, though the conditions in the woodcock cover are the best I have seen in the past few years. The bogs are nice and wet and the earth soft enough for the migrating woodcock to probe for the earthworms that make up their diet. I think we are just ahead of the migration. We will return to hunt the cover at Lester’s Square as often as we can through October in hopes of intercepting a few migrating woodcock. Hera and Nos run well together and Hera has really taken to hunting with great enthusiasm. She turns one year old in the first week of October and is coming along nicely in her training.
We made our way to another patch of cover in the forest we call Paden. It is with some trepidation that we bring Nos there as a couple of years ago during a training run he attacked and killed a porcupine, suffering grievous injury in the process. I remember speeding back to Ottawa to the emergency veterinary clinic where Nos was sedated and in surgery for hours, having hundreds of quills removed from his face and mouth. We avoided the area where the attack took place and in the course of the hunt turned up one woodcock in a pocket of cover I expected to find birds. The woodcock was bumped by Nos and Jason dumped it cleanly with his new Beretta over and under. By then it was almost noon and the temperature had risen to 25 degrees C. The wind was picking up also, so we called it a day. Hera had a good morning afield, running and hunting hard. I cannot wait to get back in to the field with her.
Posted by Geoffrey