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