Tag Archives: shotgun

For Stella’s sake

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Grouse and woodcock shot in the last minutes of the hunt.

I took Hera and Stella hunting in the Marlborough Forest this morning. We started our hunt at about 8:50 am at the cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. The last time I hunted Schäfer’s Wood earlier in the season–with Hera alone–I noticed that Hera showed little enthusiasm. I let Hera and Stella out of the Jeep and off we went in pursuit of grouse and woodcock. Hera quickly lost interest, and in short order, we were back at the Jeep. I do not know what to make of her antipathy to hunting at Schäfer’s Wood. My best guess is that her bird dog’s intuition informed her that the cover is not worth her time. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink,” goes the adage. I put the dogs back on board and drove them to the cover I call Lester’s Square. When I arrived a Lester’s Square a short time later, I heard shots in the distance. “Ah,” I thought, “we have company–even on a Monday morning.” No matter, there is room enough for everyone. Continue reading

Butter fingers makes for the luckiest woodcock in the Ottawa Valley

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American woodcock

I got out with Hera yesterday afternoon for an impromptu grouse and woodcock hunt in the Marlborough Forest. Our destination was the patch of cover newly christened “Schäfer’s Wood,” the same patch of cover in which we started the season last Sunday. I opted for this patch of cover as there is a beaver pond nearby: a spot where Hera could cool off after hunting hard in the cover. We were on the road shortly before 4:00 pm and thankfully, traffic was light. I noted with enthusiasm mallards and wood ducks resting on pools of swamp water in the forest next to Roger Stevens Drive. I look forward to getting out for some duck hunting over the Thanksgiving Weekend. Nice to see there are ducks in the region. It was sunny, warm and the wind was light. The wind died down as evening set in. We arrived at Schäfer’s Wood shortly before 5:00 pm. This gave us just over two hours of hunting until the end of legal shooting time at approximately 7:20 pm. It was a brief, but very memorable hunt.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same

Woodcock taken with my 20 gauge Winchester double.

Woodcock taken over Hera’s point with my 20 gauge Winchester side-by-side.

As a new hunting season approaches I look forward to setting out on  grouse and woodcock hunts with my dog Hera. As I look to the season ahead I remember the first grouse I shot 41 years ago in Limerick Forest. I was out with my dad and as we drove along one of the forest roads a grouse ran out in front of us. We stopped and got out of the white Volkswagen van he drove in those days. I was carrying my first shotgun, a Savage hammerless 16 gauge single shot with a 28 in. barrel and full choke. The grouse ran off the road and escaped, but my dad and I found there was a covey of birds. As we swept the cover there were multiple flushes with the birds flushing unseen. This was both exciting and frustrating for me, but my chance came when finally a grouse flushed and offered me a shot in a gap between a couple of fir trees. I mounted my gun and fired, a snap shot just like I read in the CIL guide to upland gunning. My dad heard the shot and asked if it was me. I replied it was me and walked up to the gap between the trees and there on the ground was my grouse. I sure was excited and cried out repeatedly “Dad, I got a grouse!” What I remember most about shooting my first grouse was the feeling of triumph and touch of sorrow I experienced when I retrieved the dead bird. Continue reading

Hera the huntress

Got out with Hera today to the Marlborough Forest. It was cool, about 5 degrees C and a little windy. We started the hunt at Lester’s Square at 8:40 am. I brought my Browning 12 gauge over and under this morning as my Winchester 20 gauge side by side has a small piece of the butt stock chipped. I have no idea how that happened. The over and under has 26 in. barrels and is choked skeet and skeet. I bought this gun in a private sale when I was sixteen and it is a fine upland gun. We made our way through a patch of cover that often holds grouse and in minutes Hera flash pointed a running grouse in a stand of cedars. The bird flushed wildly, unseen, not a bad start to the morning. Continue reading

To hit is history. To miss is mystery. — Shirley E. Woods, Jr.

In a lifetime of shooting with shotguns I can safely say I am a fair wing shot on the target range and a good wing shot in the field. I consistently hit a fair number of clays on the skeet range, stations 3-5 give me the most difficulty and I do not bother with station 8 as for me is is just shooting the air full of holes. In the field, with my hunting buddies, I usually limit out on Canada geese in gunning over land and water. In the uplands I do very well gunning for woodcock, though this has a great deal to do with having an exceptional gun dog to find and point the birds for me. This sets me up for the shot and as woodcock are consistent in towering when flushed, always heading for the open sky, I usually find the mark, though often with a quick follow up shot with my Winchester 20 gauge side-by-side double barrelled gun. The reality is you are not going to hit every target you shoot at, be it a clay bird on the skeet range or a game bird in the field. I have racked up a great number of spectacular misses, both on the skeet range and in the field, over the years as my hunting buddies can attest. Missing when you are shooting with a shotgun comes with the territory, but therein lies the fun that comes from shotgunning. If you hit every target you would quickly grow tired of the sport. Continue reading

Geoffrey’s shotguns.

I am by no means a poor man, but I work for a living. I have a good job and together with Mika our combined incomes allow us to live comfortably. As nice as it would be to have my clothes tailored on Savile Row, and my shotguns custom-designed by Churchill, Cogswell & Harrison and Purdey, I rather contentedly buy my clothes off the rack at Mark’s Work Wearhouse and my shotguns from retailers such as Sail and LeBaron Outdoor Products. My first shotgun was a Savage single shot, 16 gauge, hammerless, with a 2 3/4 chamber, a 28-inch barrel and full choke. It belonged to my father. I have a fleeting memory of the day he purchased it at a gun shop in Baltimore, Maryland in 1965. I was four years old at the time. I remember him talking to the proprietor of the gun shop, then the proprietor wrapping the shotgun in brown paper. My dad paid $49.00 for the gun. My dad enjoyed gunning for cottontail rabbits in the 1960s. He used this gun masterfully on his rabbit hunts he took with my uncle in the countryside outside Kingston, Ontario. When I turned 14, my dad offered me the gun and I happily accepted it. 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

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