Got out today for an upland hunt with my friend Jason for the first time since his daughter Rose was born three years ago. I find my hunting buddies often have far less time for hunting once they become family men so it was great to get back in the field with Jason. I asked Jason the evening before if he would join me on a hunt for grouse and woodcock at the farm near Spencerville. He told me he had to be back by 1:00 pm as his wife Fran had plans. I reminded him that the it generally takes about two hours to sweep the grouse and woodcock cover on the farm so if we were in the field by 8:00 am we should have ample time for a morning hunt and get back to Ottawa in time. It is about an hour’s drive from Ottawa to the farm. Jason agreed to the plan and added that he wanted to bring the sacks of corn and mineral salt blocks along to set out by our deer stands and scout out a new location for his wife Fran’s ladder stand. We hunt deer on the farm during rifle season in November. This meant taking out his ATV so we could carry the sacks of corn and mineral salt blocks back into where our ladder stands are located. It was an ambitious agenda, but feasible if we timed it right. Continue reading
Is there a remedy for buck fever? The reason I ask is because before yesterday afternoon I foolishly thought I was immune to this affliction that sometimes strikes deer hunters. Yesterday afternoon’s deer hunt with my friends and hunting buddies Jason and Fran, a happily married couple who share a passion for deer hunting, started full of promise. Omer, our friend and hunting buddy, shot his first deer (a button buck) on the opening day of the rifle season in Ontario. I saw a doe that same afternoon, but passed up a shot as I had a buck tag. We tagged Omer’s button buck with my tag, leaving us free to fill Omer’s doe tag in party hunting. I saw another deer the second afternoon Omer and I sat, but not enough of the deer to risk a shot. The third afternoon we sat, I did not see any deer from my stand, but as we made our way back to the car two deer bounded across a meadow ahead of us in the dark. There are deer in the area.
What behooves me to write this entry in my hunting diary about a day afield with Hera where no birds were pointed or flushed is the trio of events that put me slightly on edge, but to my relief ended happily. I got out Sunday morning with Hera, a little later than usual. We were on the road at 8:30 am, starting the hunt at the new patch of cover I found the week before at 9:30 am. It was chilly this morning and there was frost on the ground. The chill in the air and the snow flurries that came later in the morning gave me the tingle I usually experience as Christmas draws near. We gave the cover a thorough sweep hoping to turn up some grouse, but all we saw was another hunter in the distance riding an ATV.
Undaunted we moved to Lester’s Square hoping to find woodcock. We made our way along a stand of cedars surrounding alder runs. The ground is boggy and we turned up woodcock in this cover in hunts the previous week. Hera made a couple of flash points on old scents, but the birds were long gone. We pressed through the cover to a trail left by hunters over the seasons that leads to another stand of cover that often holds woodcock. As we made our way along the trail I spied several people on horseback approaching. The stand of cover to which I headed with Hera took us away from the approaching riders. I heard one of them point out “there’s a hunter.” I turned, tipped my hat and bid them “good morning.” Hera barked once when she noticed the riders, but otherwise ignored them. I was a little concerned when I saw the horses as Hera has never been in close proximity to horses. Thankfully, she took no notice of them; she is focused on game birds.
We swept the cover and though we turned up no birds, my hopes were raised momentarily when I spied the telltale droppings–splashes of white dung about the size of a loonie–on the forest floor that show woodcock were in the area recently.
We came full circle to where we started the hunt at Lester’s Square and to my surprise a deer was standing at the edge of the forest road, next to a cedar hedge. At first I was not sure it was a deer, thinking it might be the trunk of a cedar, but as Hera drew near the deer (a doe) raised its head. Hera noticed the doe when she raised her head and watched as the doe bounded off into the forest. To my relief Hera did not go tearing after the doe. The memory of my first dog, Christie, who took off after a deer on her first training run sprang to mind. She was four months old and went missing for a few hours leaving me beside myself with worry until I finally tracked her down and brought her home safe and sound. I swear sometimes my dogs will be the death of me. In a final yet futile effort to get into birds at Lester’s Square, we made our way through the cedar bog where I got turned around the week before. This time I am happy to report I found my way through the bog without getting lost and not having to employ either my compass or the maps app on my cellphone.
We took our leave of Lester’s Square and made our way to Cowan’s Corner. I held out hope there might be a bird or two in the cedars and hardwoods around the beaver pond at the far end of the cover. My hopes were dashed when I found the ground dry as a bone. No birds were found, but as I made my way along the trail while Hera quartered through a stand of tamarack a hare ran across the trail in front of me. It was gone before I had time to react, but I was pleased to see it, the first one I saw this season. As we continued along the trail, things quickly got tense and I narrowly avoided disaster when Hera sniffed out a porcupine hiding in a culvert. Fortunately, the porcupine was well inside the culvert and not looking for a confrontation with Hera. I moved a stone to partially block the mouth of the culvert and ordered Hera away. The last thing I wanted was my dog to end up with a face full of porcupine quills. We will avoid the area for the rest of the season. It was about 1:30 pm when we got back to the car and I called it a day. Though we turned up no birds on this hunt it was a good day in the field nonetheless.
Posted by Geoffrey
Got out with Hera on an impromptu hunt Tuesday morning, October 22nd. Dropped the newly acquired 9.9 horsepower Mercury outboard motor at Laurentian Marine for examination on the way to the Marlborough Forest. We arrived at Lester’s Square shortly after 10:00 am. It was cool, sunny and blustery, not the best weather for upland gunning, but Hera needs experience so we get out every chance we get. Within minutes of starting the hunt a grouse flushed wildly unseen along the trail we took. We continued the hunt, sweeping carefully through pockets of woodcock cover further along the trail, turning up no birds. We crossed through a stand of cedar and pine to a meadow and hunted the edges alongside the meadow. A woodcock flushed wildly in a patch I expected we might find a bird. I shot twice, missing cleanly. We moved on, checking more of the edges; a skittish grouse flushed from under a pine as Hera and I approached. No shots were fired and the grouse made good its escape. A short time later Hera startled a hare that ran across my path. This time I found the mark, killing it cleanly with one shot. We made our way back to the car and from there drove to the cover off Paden Road.
Four woodcock flushed at Paden: the first was pointed by Hera in the cover next to where I park. Two more flushed in the tight cover along the trail close to the beaver pond. First bird was pointed by Hera. She was staunch. Bird flushed, towered and was dumped with one shot. I spied two hunters in the brush ahead of where I retrieved the downed bird. Hera pointed dead for the retrieve. Said hello to the hunters and told them we were headed away from where they were standing. They wished us a good day. I continued the sweep and flushed a woodcock on my own. Shot twice and missed. Hera bumped a grouse in the tight cover where she pointed the woodcock I shot. The bird was too far to risk a shot and I let it go. Sweeping the cover on the other side of the road where I park, stepped on another woodcock. Shot twice and missed. I had an anxious moment when Hera came upon the carcass of a porcupine. I gather another hunter must have seen and shot it, leaving the carcass at the edge of a widely traveled trail. I called her away from the carcass and was relieved to see she had not gotten any quills stuck to her.
It was a good day in the field, despite the blustery weather. Hera is pointing and remaining staunch, having pointed both grouse and woodcock. This is most impressive for a dog who has just turned one year old. I will say I am surprised we are seeing so few woodcock as the conditions in the covers are the best I have seen in many seasons. We will continue to go afield in pursuit of woodcock for the balance of the season.
Posted by Geoffrey