Tag Archives: outdoors

Don’t threaten me, bucko!

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Stella taking a breather on her morning run with Hera.

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Hera on point on a daily training run.

Raising and training hunting dogs is one of the joys I experience in life. Currently, I have two Brittanies; their names are Hera and Stella. Like the dogs who came before them, starting with Christie (my first dog) and followed by Maggie and Juno (all Brittanies), they are loved. I raise and train my dogs with a soft hand–Brittanies have sweet dispositions and are easy to train. I see that my dogs are well-trained and properly socialized. They are friendly and like meeting people and other dogs. My dogs, save for Maggie, lived to hunt–they are keen little huntresses. When I am out with my dogs, either hunting with them in the field or for their daily training runs between hunting seasons, I carefully observe the hunter safety protocols and do my best to leave a good impression with the people I meet. As a gun owner, hunter and dog owner, I am well aware of the need to maintain good relations with the public at large. By and large, my dogs and I go about our business without any trouble. Sadly, as hard as I try to live and let live when I am out with my dogs, there are times when I have run-ins with disagreeable people Continue reading

Nick majored in Scolopax minor (American woodcock)

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Nick Schäfer with three woodcock taken on his first woodcock hunt in Canada.

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.

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Hera looks enthused for the hunt.

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Multiples of ten excite the young

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William Austin McClure (1928-2013)

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Hera on point

Bill McClure was a breeder and accomplished handler of Brittanies, bookseller and outdoor writer. He was a columnist for Gundog Magazine and Wildfowl Magazine for many years. I met him in 1989 when I was looking into buying a Brittany of my own. He became a friend and mentor to me, ultimately helping me find the breeder from whom I purchased my first Brittany in 1994. I enjoyed visiting the book shop he operated out of his home outside Manotick (a town outside of Ottawa) and bought a number of books on Brittanies, dog training and hunting from him over the years. He liked hearing me report on my hunting experiences too. He made the comment “multiples of ten excite the young,” in a column he penned for Gundog Magazine back in the early 1990s. The comment was a passing reference to an occasion when I reported on a woodcock hunt back in the days I hunted without a dog. I told him there were several woodcock flushes and I “had never seen so many.” Yes, in the many years I hunted woodcock without a dog, finding as many as 9 or 10 woodcock was a triumph. What made me think of this was my most recent grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera. Ten birds were flushed: 6 grouse and 4 woodcock in all. Continue reading

The five stages of a hunter

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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

“Good luck in all weathers.” — Shirley E. Woods Jr.

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“Good luck in all weathers” the message the author Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote in my copy of his book Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This book is a memoir of the author detailing his evolution as a hunter from his experiences gunning marshes on the Ottawa River and gunning for upland game birds in the Ottawa Valley. I had the pleasure of meeting him at his home in Rockliffe Park on afternoon when I was seventeen years old. Sunday morning, October 20th was cool and blustery. Omer was supposed to join me in the field for some upland gunning, but texted me early in the morning, bowing out as he was not feeling well. I was tempted to stay in bed, hearing the wind outside my bedroom window, but “Good luck in all weathers” sprang to mind. That and the need to get out with Hera as it is her first season and she needs every chance to get into the field. So I got out of bed and off we went for a morning grouse and woodcock hunt. Continue reading

Hera’s first woodcock

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

Nos making a blind retrieve

Today was one of those exceptional occasions where my hunting buddy Jason and I were able to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. We had taken Jason’s dog Nos (a German Wirehaired Pointer) to a spot along the Castor River we like to gun for wood ducks and mallards in hopes of bagging a few. Shooting time started at 6:38 am and we were ready and waiting for the morning flight. As it turned out we got to enjoy watching the sunrise. A total of three high flying birds, one wood duck and a pair of mallards, made up the morning flight. There was no shortage of Canada geese in the air and we heard shooting in the distance. Poor Nos was heartbroken, there were no downed birds for him to retrieve. We packed up at 0800, but to our surprise, a pair of Canada geese came gliding in and set down on the river. We grabbed our shotguns, loaded them and crept up to the edge of the river, taking the geese by surprise. I missed spectacularly, but Jason downed one of the birds cleanly. Nos retrieved it happily.

We left for breakfast at a local restaurant and realized we had not picked up our spent hulls after jump shooting the Canada geese. We returned to the spot, and thinking there might be more geese on the river, crept up again. It appeared there were none and as we were retrieving the spent hulls I noticed a dying Canada goose at the edge of the opposite shore. Jason went to get Nos and I kept an eye on the bird, lest it try to climb up the bank. The bird died while Jason was getting Nos and what followed was a fine blind retrieve by Nos. We cannot be certain, but we think the bird must have been shot by the hunters nearby and made it as far as the Castor River before expiring. Having a good retriever is an asset in waterfowling as this reduces crippling loss greatly. We did not bag any ducks, but getting a nice pair of Canada geese was a nice way to end the morning.

Posted by Geoffrey

Hera’s first grouse!

The day started off with a duck hunt on the Castor River with my hunting buddy Jason and his dog Nos. The duck hunt proved a bust; it is too soon after opening day for the northern birds to be moving through. We sat on the edge of the river and watched the sun rise, packing up early enough that I could get into the field with Hera for a late morning, early afternoon hunt for grouse and woodcock. It was blustery and rain was in the forecast. I hoped the rain would hold off long enough for us. I arrived at Lester’s Square at about 11:00 am and we set out.

I found a new trail in the cover I sweep which led to a pair of permanent deer stands. The trail led to another patch of the cover I hunt and along the way three grouse flushed wildly. I put Hera on the spots they had flushed and she checked the area thoroughly. She had pointed a grouse, her first, the day before and was very determined to find the birds. The rain had started, a light rain that was not too bad. I swept through some promising woodcock cover, but no birds were found. I took Hera toward a spot my buddies Jason and Nicolas and their dogs Nos and Cocotte had gotten into grouse the day before. A grouse flushed wildly from some cedars at the edge of a stand of birch. I made a snap shot and the no. 6 shot from my Browning 12 gauge over and under with 26″ barrels, choked skeet and skeet found the mark with one shot. I knew I got the bird when Hera emerged from the cedars with the dead bird in her jaws.

She proudly carried the bird around for a bit, before giving it up to me. I heaped praise on her. It was a proud and happy moment for the two of us. That she pointed a bird the day before is impressive as the grouse here in Eastern Ontario have adapted to hunting pressure over the generations in being so very skittish they rarely hold for a pointing dog, even the most seasoned dog. Wild flushes are common and bumped birds especially so with a young dog like Hera. I got my first grouse over her on the eve of her first birthday. Not long after the rain started falling in earnest, so we started back to the car. Along the way there were two more grouse flushes, but still no woodcock. We wrapped the hunt at about 2:00 pm. She is coming along nicely in her training as a gun dog. I look forward to our next hunt.

Posted by Geoffrey

Afternoon woodcock hunt

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

September grouse and woodcock hunt

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