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 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
Got out to Lester’s Square in the Marlborough Forest for an impromptu grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera. Left Ottawa at 4:00 pm, after work, picking up Jason and his dog Nos on the way out. We arrived at our desired hunting ground at about 5:00 pm which left us about two hours before the end of legal shooting time at 7:11 pm. It was warm, about 25 degree C and a slight wind was blowing. We set out and before long had a grouse flush wildly and unseen in a stand of pines. We moved on to an edge I expect to find woodcock and sure enough, Hera flash pointed one. I called out to Jason there was a bird up and he fired twice, missing cleanly. Hera checked the area where the woodcock flushed with great interest. A moment later I heard another shot from Jason. This time he found the mark, a woodcock, dumped cleanly when Jason pivoted to make the shot. He marked the spot where the bird fell, or so he thought, Nos found the downed bird a few yards farther then where Jason thought he had seen the bird fall.
We continued the hunt, pressing on to another edge, where a Wilson’s snipe flushed. Jason noted where it touched down in the distance and we followed it up. We got a second flush, Jason shot and missed. With about twenty minutes left in legal shooting time, we made a sweep through another boggy patch that usually holds a woodcock or two. This time I put up a bird and managed to fumble with the safety on my 20 gauge Winchester side by side and not make the shot. This happens on occasion and has saved the life of many an upland game bird. I took it in stride, aside from the roar of exasperation I let out. We made our way back to the car in the last of the light and though Nos made a series of points, no more birds were seen. It was a good outing. Hera is coming along nicely in her development as a hunting dog.
Posted by Geoffrey