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
I never fully appreciated big game hunting until I shot my first white-tailed buck yesterday afternoon on the opening day of the 2016 rifle season here in Eastern Ontario. I took up big game hunting in earnest in 2011 under the tutelage of my good friend and hunting buddy Jason Quinn. Jay is an accomplished big game hunter with a lifetime of experience in the pursuit of white-tailed deer, moose and black bear. Under his guidance I shot my first white-tailed deer, a doe, in the 2012 rifle season. While killing my first deer was a thrill in its own right, the hunt I experienced yesterday was the culmination of all that is good in hunting: notably the challenges, camaraderie , effort, joys, sorrows and sportsmanship associated with hunting. The buck, my first, was hunted down and killed in a fair chase. I felled it using my Browning X-Bold Medallion bolt action rifle (left-hand) in 30-06 with a Winchester Super X 150 grain bullet. What this experience showed is I remain a novice deer hunter and with Jay as friend and mentor I am learning through trial and error.
“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
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.
Opening day of the 2014 waterfowl seasons is this coming Saturday September 27th. I am looking forward to it as are my hunting buddies. I was looking back through entries in my hunting diary and came across this entry for a memorable Canada goose hunt in 2011.
This past weekend I enjoyed a range of hunting experiences. Saturday afternoon I went out on my own for a deer hunt. Jason was off on a guided goose hunt with his younger brother and Chris, a friend visiting from New Brunswick. The drive out to Pete and Val’s farm for the deer hunt was slower than usual as I was stuck behind a funeral procession under police escort. I arrived at the farm around 1230 pm and after checking in with my hostess made my way to my ladder stand. Saw no deer on the walk in, but noticed deer trails passing through the conifers close to where my stand is set up. It was a cool afternoon and unusually quiet I thought. Unlike the Monday and Tuesday before it seemed barren. I did not see and hear bluejays, crows, Canada geese. I climbed into the tree stand easily enough, taking care to heed the safety rules. I brought some dried cranberries to snack on. I made an effort to make as little noise as possible during the hunt. I knocked my carrying bag off the foot rest accidentally. It fell to the ground with ample noise. It made me think of how careful one must be while hunting from a tree stand. I stayed in the stand until 5:00 pm. By then it was after sunset and too dark to see to make a shot. It was a blustery afternoon and no deer were seen. On the walk out in the dark I saw a couple of bunnies along the trail. I sent Jason a text to let him know I had returned safely from the deer hunt and was homeward bound, but without a deer.
A short time later Jason called me back asking if I were interested in going goose hunting on the recently harvested cornfield at the farm in Russell we hunt. He said he had spoken to Eric, our host, and he said the field was black with geese. I agreed it was worth a try and we set up a plan to depart from Jason’s home with his friend Chris, Jason and Chris’s dogs, litter mates, Nos and Nero. As it happens Sunday November 13th was the dogs’ birthday. We made our way to the cornfield, finding it was harvested the best way for goose hunting with stalks and leaves aplenty still on the ground. We set out Jason’s life-like goose shells and my eleven floaters and two feather decoys, finishing just in time for legal shooting time at 6:30 am. There were geese roosting on the Castor River, we considered returning for a roost shoot if the field shoot proved a disappointment, and the geese on the river took off unusually early as we put the finishing touches on the blinds. Jason and Chris used layout blinds and I used my tried and true method of laying on the ground with a tarp between me and the earth and camouflaged burlap over top of me covered in corn stalks and leaves, my head propped up on my ammo box. Jason and I parked the vehicles by the barns and walked back to the blind site. We got into our blinds and watched the skies.
It was slow for a while as Canada geese are typically up later than ducks. As the morning wore on we saw large numbers of geese in the air. Many flocks passed by taking a cursory look at our decoy spread and thinking better of it, continuing on to another field. We had several birds decoy, with some landing in the decoys around us. I found I am getting too old for the rustic blind I am using. I kept getting cramps as I tried to sit up and my right arm was aching something fierce. I made a series of clumsy mounts, missing spectacularly on decoying geese, including three shots at a goose passing barely ten feet in front of me. Jason and Chris were shooting well, downing decoying geese and their dogs were in top form making the retrieves. The dogs found it hard waiting in the blinds between seconds of action when geese decoyed. We were treated to a chorus of whining as the dogs anticipated the next retrieve.
One of the highlights of the hunt was a passing flock of snow geese. They ignored our decoy spread and my calling, but it was a thrill to see them. Another highlight of the hunt was when a passing flock of mallards offered us a shot. I downed a really nice drake. In spite of my poor shooting, I succeeded in bagging geese, including a very lively cripple that landed in the next field. Jason took Nos and they tracked down and retrieved the bird. As the hunt wore on we had twelve birds in the bag. Close to 10:00 am, the time we decided to call an end to the hunt, a flock of four geese approached. I called and they responded, decoying nicely. We each got a bird from the flock. I killed the bird I shot cleanly, which was a good way to end the hunt, pulling myself out of my shooting slump. We let the fourth bird go as we had limited out.
We gathered the downed birds, posed for photos and took care to gather up our spent shotgun shells and wads before departing. For next season I am going to buy myself a layout blind and a set of good goose decoys like Jason has. In all, it was a great morning’s hunt. Everyone had a good time, particularly Chris. Our Sunday morning goose hunt was far superior to the experience Jason and Chris had on their guided hunt the day before.
Friday morning, October 11th, got out to the Marlborough Forest with Hera in pursuit of ruffed grouse and woodcock. Started out at Lester’s Square shortly after 8:00 am. Was dismayed to find some of the horde that overran the cover the previous weekend, but there were not as many as the previous weekend and departed before too long. I swept through familiar areas in the cover, turning up no birds. I checked out an area I usually steer clear of and had two grouse flushes. I got two shots off at the second grouse, shooting well behind it both times. I was using my Winchester 20 gauge side by side, though concerned it might not be working properly. I had my 12 gauge Browning over and under in reserve. We pressed on to a patch of the cover that has held woodcock consistently over the years and sure enough Hera got birdy and I kicked up a woodcock. It was at point blank range so I hesitated before firing, downing it cleanly with the second barrel.
Hera found the downed bird and proudly carried it around, eventually dropping it for me to retrieve. We made our way back to the car. It was about 10:30 am. I drove to the cover at Paden Road and we set out. The cover was nice and wet, but woodcock were scarce. Hera bumped one, it flushed unseen. I moved on to a pocket of cover that usually holds woodcock and put up a grouse. The bird offered me a straight away shot in the open and I found the mark with the first shot. I thought I marked the spot where it fell, but there was no trace of the downed bird. I called Hera and told her “dead bird” she moved on into the thick cover a few yards ahead and found the downed grouse. She proudly carried it into the open where she gave it up to me. There were five more grouse flushes before we wrapped the hunt at 1:00 pm. I shot twice at one of them, missing cleanly. It was a good morning afield with Hera.
Posted by Geoffrey