Days two, three and five of my hunting holiday over the Thanksgiving Weekend and the week that followed with my new hunting buddy, Nick Schäfer, were taken up with grouse and woodcock hunts in the Marlborough forest and on a farm near Spencerville with Hera, my Brittany. Nick is from Germany, he is here in Canada studying at Brock University in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. I met him when he posted a request on the Facebook Group Ontario Hunters Unite, asking if he might accompany a hunter here in Canada on a hunt. I responded to his request, inviting him to Ottawa for some upland bird and wildfowl hunting. He accepted my invitation and I introduced him to the pleasures of grouse and woodcock hunting in Eastern Ontario. Each day we set out at 7:00 am bound either for Schäfer’s Wood and Lester’s Square in the Marlborough Forest or a farm near Spencerville it was a cool, sunny morning with a light wind blowing. We grabbed coffee at a Tim Hortons on the way and timed it so we arrived just after 8:00 am to take to the field.
Cock up! This is the cry that goes out during a driven grouse shoot in England when the beaters flush a woodcock. This was in the back of my mind as I got out with Hera this morning for the opening of woodcock season 2016 hoping we would turn up some birds. We were on the road shortly after 0700 bound for the Marlborough Forest. The weather was near perfect for upland gunning: sunny, cool (hovering near 0 degrees C) and virtually no wind. This was my first hunt with the new Franchi Instinct SL o/u in 20 gauge I acquired in August. I have it choked with skeet and skeet tubes as most shots at grouse and woodcock are at close range. I stopped for a coffee and apple fritter en route and remembered as we drove along Prince of Wales Drive I forgot to bring water for us to drink. I stopped at an Ultramar station and bought a bottle. I expected the forest would be drier than I would like, given the drought we endured over the summer months. We had some rainfall in the weeks leading up to our hunt this morning and I tried to remain optimistic, but feared the lowland bogs that hold woodcock would be dry. As we neared the forest, my fears were justified. Two of the streams that cross Roger Stevens Road were dry. A patch of swampland at the edge of the forest still held water, but it was much lower than usual. Undaunted, I pressed on and as it turned out, Hera and I had a good morning in the field.
This is a difficult post to write in that it requires that I draw on boyhood memories I spend most of my time trying not to recall. What prompted me to write this post is learning that Adam the 16 year old son of two friends of mine, Paul and William, made his first kill with the air rifle his grandparents gave him for Christmas. His dads posted on Facebook that Adam had shot a sparrow with his air rifle. I have been grooming Adam, teaching him hunting skills, hunting ethics and conservation preparing him to join us in the field this coming season. Adam is just starting out as a hunter and like every other hunter before him, I expect he will experience the five stages of a hunter. Continue reading
The 2013 hunting seasons open next month and my hunting buddies and I eagerly anticipate taking to the field with our dogs. One of our favourite past times is waterfowl hunting. My hunting buddies and I have successfully gunned for wild ducks and geese over land and water over the years. My first duck hunting experience was in 1976 when I was fifteen years old. I was new to the sport and really clueless. My father and I sat, waiting, in our Ford Pinto for legal shooting time to start; it had not occurred to us we could be sitting in our blind waiting for shooting time to start. I may have been clueless about waterfowl hunting, but I had taken to heart what I learned in the Ontario Hunter Education Program about hunter safety. New hunters are required to take this course and pass written and practical examinations before obtaining a hunting license. I have been careful over the years to strictly adhere to safe and ethical hunting practices, but found, one morning while out duck hunting, how the most minor lapse in judgement can result in disaster (near disaster in my case). What follows is an account of events from that morning, October 8, 2009. Continue reading