“One For The Books” – Duck Season Opening

September 10th, 2014

The alarm goes off, it’s 3:30 AM September 10th, the opening day of duck season.

Everything had been carefully and methodically packed and placed the evening before to ensure an easy transition from home to field. I slip into my clothes, waders, toss on my jacket and meet my dad in the driveway. 30 minutes after feet hit the floor, we are on our way to the boat launch.

With head lamps fastened, we make quick work of unloading the boat and the gear, and before long we’re headed up the river. It’s 10 degrees outside with overcast skies and a steady breeze. I think to myself, “perfect”. We quietly make our way up the river and after about 10 minutes pull into the bay we will be hunting. As the boat swings in, so do our head lamps revealing newly built blinds.

It’s now 4:30 on opening morning, and someone has built a blind in the spot I was planning to hunt. After a quick discussion dad and I decide to start setting up and tuck our boat into the grass as planned.

We get the spread out, mojo’s setup and spinning and are about to head back to the reeds when we hear a boat come around the corner. We watch as their headlamps shine over our spread and then onto us. Their boat comes to a halt and a voice shouts out in the dark “You’re not planning on using that blind are you?” to which I reply “No, we’re going to tuck into the reeds”. The conversation continues on as they inform us that they just built that blind, along with two others in the following bays. After a brief conversation, and an offer for them to join us and share the spread, my dog, and of course the birds, they decline and opt to use their other blinds.

We finished getting ourselves situated and take in the beautiful morning. I start on the calls and before long the birds are dumping into the spread. We check our watches, “Two more minutes” I whisper to dad. No sooner do the words leave my mouth when the group in the next bay starts to open up on their birds. Legal light comes for us and we start to load up. Dad is in the process of loading his new semi-automatic and without thinking hits the slide release sending a round into the chamber with a loud “clang”. A fury of wing flutter ensues and every bird that had dropped into the spread is now taking flight.

I get back on the call and manage to hail a few back in. I call the shot and take a Green Winged Teal, followed by a Blue Winged Teal. Maddy is released and before long we have two ducks in the boat.

As we are loading back up, another boat comes paddling into the bay. They get in close to us before the guy in front yells out “Who gave you permission to hunt this blind?” to which I reply “It’s public land, and I don’t need permission to hunt here.” I then go onto explain the conversation that already took place earlier in the morning with the blind owner as I thought these guys might be with them. They then ask “Is that your red truck at the boat launch?” to which I reply “No, we drive the white Dodge Journey”. He pauses for a minute, reaches into his jacket and pulls out a badge before identifying himself as a Conservation Officer, and we’re hunting over a bait pile.

All I can say at this point is, “I had no idea.” The officer then goes onto explain that someone has been depositing bat for the past few months in this location as recently as the day before. I explain to him that this is the first time I have been to the area since the end of last season and at 4:00 AM were unable to see anything as far as bait goes.

The officers proceed to check our licenses, tags, and ammunition. It doesn’t take long to realize that these officers know exactly who they are looking for, and it was not us. While all of this is going on the birds are circling and wanting to come in. The CO’s are extremely apologetic and genuinely feel bad that they have had to stop our hunt but inform us that we cannot hunt here and have to move away from the bait area for a period of time.

Dad and I start to pack up our gear and head back to the boat launch as the officers continue up the river to continue their investigation.

Once back at the launch, we start to unload the boat and pack up our gear when the CO’s appear again. “Was it a good morning?” I ask. “It was a great morning” they replied. In their boat are 11 ducks, and an assortment of shotguns. A few minutes later the group of hunters arrive at the launch. One of them gets out of his boat and walks directly up to me, reaches out his hand and offers an apology for ruining our hunt. He indicates he miss understood the regulations with regards to baiting and made a mistake.

I shake his hand firmly, and tell him no hard feelings.

As everyone is getting ready to leave a flock of Canada Geese fly overhead and out of nowhere three rounds are fired and pellets are raining down on us. Startled, the CO’s run to the river bank to see a hunter in a kayak re-loading his gun. They exchange words and when the officer tells him to come to shore so he can check his licenses he proceeds to paddle away. The officers shout at him to come back and inform him that “running will only make things worse”.

The rest of the week was filled with torrential downpours, flooding and 45 KM/H  winds, but we managed to get out a few more times and add a few more birds to the freezer before dad had to head back home.

Link to photo gallery:

Wild Turkeys, A Family Affair

May 9th, 2014

Day 1 – Eastbound

The week leading up to this trip was quite hectic, and when Friday afternoon rolled around I found myself sitting at my desk working, with not a thing packed. I finished up conference calls, paperwork, and the last minute household chores I promised would be done before I left, then head into the hunting room and collect my gear. Kisses for my wife and kids, hugs for the dog, and I am backing out of the driveway by the time 4:30 rolls around.

I make good time on highways 101, 11, 17, and hit the 417 well after the Friday night party goers have made their exits. I pick one of the several open lanes and finish the drive. It’s 12:30AM when I roll into mom and dads, and waste no time getting unloaded.

I quietly make my way through the backdoor, despite the fact that I know mom will still be up watching T.V. ensuring I arrived safely. A brief greeting is exchanged, and before long my head is hitting the pillow. In just a few short hours, dad will be giving the wakeup call.

Day 2 – Gobble, Gobble!

Only a few short hours after my head hit the pillow, I hear the sound of dads voice from the doorway, its turkey thirty AM. We quickly get ready and then it’s off to join up with my brother, and one of our good friends and hunting partners.

We pull into the farm as far as we can, and then walk the rest of the way. The decoys are setup in the field, and we get comfortable along the bush line. As the sun starts to come up, we get a few distant gobbles, but for the most part, silence.

We wait out the sunrise, and with nothing happening, decided it’s time to make something happen. We head into the woods for a spot and stalk, calling as we slink our way through the woodlot, when all of a sudden we hear a gobble. We settle in with our backs to the largest trees we can find and start to work the calls.

By this time, the gobbles are getting louder, and closer. All of a sudden a shotgun blast rings out, followed by a second, and a third. We check in with each other, confirming what we already knew, there was another hunter sharing the woods, and seems his turkey was taking a liking to our calls and making an exit before he shut the door.

With the woodlot now busted, we decide to continue our way to the next field and see if anything is going on. As we near the fence line, we are motioned to get down. Now on our hands and knees, we belly crawl as close as we can to the fence line and see a half dozen hens, accompanied by a Tom and Jake.

We get the slates out and start calling, shortly thereafter, the Jake breaks away from the flock and is coming in on a rope. I get into position, and shoulder the gun. With a caller on either side of me, the Jake makes a zig zag pattern on the way in, trying to find the lone hen in the woods. All of this commotion has caught the attention of the Tom, and he also breaks away and starts in on the chase for the hen.

I hold off for as long as I can, hoping for a shot at the Tom, but with the Jake closing in, and about to hop the fence line and bust us, I draw a bead on him and send the shot down range dropping him on the spot.

As my Jake drops, the Tom runs in to pounce and claim his dominance, when to my right, my brother gives the trigger a squeeze sending another shot into the field, cutting the Toms victory dance short.

My brother and I head into the field to claim and tag our turkeys before making the walk back to the farm house for celebrations and photo’s.

By this time, the sun had only been up for a couple of hours, and with plenty of morning left, we decided to head across the road into another field. Our hunting partner had farm chores to tend to, so it was just dad left with a tag to fill, and it doesn’t take long.

We get the decoys out, and dad settles into a makeshift blind while my brother and I sit in the woods to work the calls, and after about 20 minutes or so, we find ourselves surrounded by gobbles. With at least two behind us, and one out front, we continue to call, as each bird makes their way closer. Finally, directly across the field from us, a young Jake breaks the tree line and is running down the hill directly at us.

Dad takes a bead on him and follows as he comes down the hill, and makes his way from right to left, heading towards the decoys. When the bird passes, the third shot of the day rings out, and the third bird is down.

Dad hops out of the blind to get and tag his bird, and by 10:00 AM all of us have tagged out for the day.

Day 3 – Robin Hood, I Am Not!

When dad comes into the room, I am already awake listening to the sound of pouring rain. With our first tags used up, the pressure is off and we decide to get a few more hours of sleep. By mid-morning, the rain had tapered off. My brother had prior commitments for the day, so dad and I headed over to our buddies place to see what the game plan was.

As the rain was still coming down off and on, we decided to head out on a scouting mission. We put on the miles, but it seemed the birds decided to sleep in as well. We head over to a few of our goose hunting fields and watch the snow geese work in and out for a while before heading off for breakfast.

After breakfast we head back to the farm house and I get my bow out for a little archery practice on the 3D targets. As I’m shooting my compound, our buddy gets out his long bow and teaches me how to fling arrows the traditional way. After a short lesson, I am up. I draw the bow back as far as I can, and aim at what I think will be the target and send one down range. It sails about 5 feet high and through the shed wall.

I promptly decide that’s enough for me, and hand the bow back, along with an apology. We finish the archery session and dad and I head off. With the weather still being uncooperative, we head out to an old quarry for some more target practice. Compound and Crossbows, as well as shotguns and new turkey loads.

We head back to mom and dad’s place for a delicious meal and a relaxing night, followed by an early bed, as I had to be up at the crack of dawn to head a bit further south to join up with a friend for a hunt on one of his properties.

Day 4 – Kingston, Pembroke, Renfrew

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to form some great online friendships with fellow hunters through various platforms, and have even had the opportunity to share the fields and woods with several of them and on this trip, I would get to add one more to the list.

My good friend John had been inviting me down to his Turkey hunting grounds in Kingston Ontario for the past few years, and I was finally able to take him up on his offer. It was 2:00 AM as I headed down the 401 and two hours later, I swing the headlights into John’s driveway to see him already loading up. I got parked, and hopped out for a long overdue handshake.

I transferred some of my gear into John’s Jeep and we were back on the road and off to a farm he had lined up for us for the morning. The horizon was just starting to light up a dark blue as we arrived, and got suited up. We made the 15 minute walk across a few pastures and got setup on a knoll that was lined by a woodlot. We placed a few decoys and got setup under a big old tree that offered plenty of cover, and took to the calls.

As the morning progressed, and the sun started to come up, it was still very quiet. Finally, off to our left I spot a Tom coming out of the woods, and heading into a field, followed by a few hens. We call, but to no avail, and watch them head off and out of sight. We sit a bit longer, and then decide it’s time to switch to a spot and stalk method as nothing was coming to us.

We put on the miles as the sun continued to rise higher, and the temperature climbed. By mid-morning we had a good sweat on and no birds to show for our efforts. As we made our way down to another field, we spotted the Tom from earlier in the morning, and tried to call him in. He seemed to have other things on his mind, as he continued on a rope in the direction he was headed, paying no mind to us. We continued to put on the stalk and tried to catch up to him, but each time he gave us the slip, and the last one was for good as he went out of site.

With only an hour left in our day together, we setup the decoys for one last set, but it was not to be. As noon came we packed up the gear, and made the trek back across the property to the vehicle and loaded up and made our way back to John’s.

I loaded up my truck, and we shook hands on a good days hunt. We may not have tagged any birds, but it was nice to finally be able to meet and share a hunt. As I drove off and gave a final wave out the window, I knew this wouldn’t be the last hunt John and I share together.

I updated the GPS coordinates and was now on my way to Pembroke, for a meet and greet with Go Hunt Birds founder Marc Lapierre. Marc and I also came to know one each other through online social media, and had yet to meet in person since joining their field staff team.

A few hours later I was rolling into the McDonalds parking lot, and for the second time that day, exchanging a long overdue handshake. Marc and I had a great chat over a couple coffees and then it was time to hit the highway again. Final destination, Renfrew, where I would meet back up with my dad, brother, and our local friend John who would host the last three days of our turkey hunt.

I arrive in Renfrew about a half hour ahead of my dad and brother, and figure I would take a quick detour and change out of my hunting clothes that I had been in since 2 that morning before we headed out for dinner. I pull off the highway, onto what looks to be a quiet dirt road and get out and start to change. By this time, I have my shirt off, and am in the middle of pulling my pants and underwear down when I hear voices in the distance. I quickly glance over the roof, and what do I see? Three young kids out for a walk with the family dog, and mom in tow.

I frantically toss on my clean shirt and start to kick my pants and underwear off of my ankles to get the clean ones on and avoid the upcoming indecent exposure charge, when I accidently step on my remote start that is still in my pants pocket and activate the panic alarm. The lights start to flash and the horn blows as I jump into my clean underwear and hike up my jeans. I don’t even look to see what’s going on with the innocent family outing that is taking place on the other side of my vehicle as I toss everything in the car, jump in, and high tail it out of there.

I meet up with the rest of the gang for dinner, which they can hardly eat from laughing so hard as I re-tell the story from the previous hour. We finish our meals and then head back to the house for a much needed sleep.

Day 5 – Renfrew Day 1

We were up and on our way, well before the gobblers would start sounding off for the morning. With the decoys set, we settled into our preferred spots, and started calling. As the light came, we still had no signs, or sounds, of turkeys in the area, and soon found out why.

As we looked across the field, a coyote was making his way out, looking at our decoys as a potential breakfast. He hung around for a bit and then quickly turned and ran back into the brush line as he picked up our scent. With the set being busted, we pulled our decoys out and headed for a drive to see if we could put together a spot and stalk.

We drove around most of the day stopping at various locations but weren’t able to put anything together. The day came to a close without a single turkey sighting, but tomorrow would be another day.

Day 6 – Renfrew Day 2

This morning we headed to what one local refers to as “the greatest turkey hunting land in all of Ontario” and with a title like that, hopes were high. We were a little late getting in, and the birds were already sounding off in the trees, just a few yards from where we were setting up. We got hid as best we could, and for the next half hour there wasn’t a moments quiet, between our calling, and their answering.

We could hear them fly down out of the trees in the dark, but with no idea where they landed we were on high alert. As legal light came, the guns were loaded and shouldered. The calling continued and it sounded like the birds were getting closer. We could tell we had a Tom or two on their way, and the local hens were not happy. It soon became a battle of the calls, as the hens were fired up at this new competition.

This went on all morning, but ultimately, we could not compete with the real thing, and the hens lead the Toms away. Feeling a bit defeated, we decided to stalk up the hill to try and pursue them. As we made our way along the stone fence wall, we got our first look at 3 big beautiful Toms, a Jake, and a harem of hens. We tried our best to get close for a shot, but the more we moved, the more they did.

We worked on them for a few hours, but gave up the chase as to not completely push them out of the area, and ruin a future opportunity at them.

Later on that afternoon, our local hunting partner who is also a local trapper, and by-law enforcement officer, among other things, received a call that a dog has been hit and has made its way onto someone’s porch and is showing signs of aggression. While this is not his area of concern, and the person who is in charge of these types of situations is on holidays, we decide to forgo hunting for the rest of the day and see if we can help this dog.

We arrive at the address given to find an older husky curled up on a porch, with a face full of porcupine quills. The two male occupants of the home, are too scared to come out, and are not being of much help at this point. John gets the neck noose around the dog, and he starts to walk about. As he gets up we can see he has a collar, and is someone’s pet but it does not have any tags.

As we are discussing what to do with the animal, the home owners finally come out, and are not willing to help, and just want the dog gone from their property as they are in fear of it, and have been locked in their house all day. I line the back of my vehicles with towels to contain the blood and we assemble a makeshift ramp, which the dog instinctively walks up. We remove the noose, and the dog calms down.

A few pets of reassurance and we are off to the vet. Once at the vet, the dog hops out of the back of the vehicle and heads inside with us without issue and is handed over. He will spend the night there, and get some much needed medical attention, food, water, and rest.

Which is exactly what our plans for the rest of the night include, minus the medical attention.

Day 7 – Renfrew Day 3

We decide to give “the greatest turkey hunting land in all of Ontario” one more shot, and the morning plays out just like the one previous. My brother and I are setup along the stone fence, and dad and John are down at the bottom of the hill where we all were the morning before.

The calling starts off right away, and before I know it I hear a bird take off, I look up, realize I sat down right underneath a roosted bird. I watch him land a few hundred yards away and can see him working his way to dad and John. I sit and watch for what feels like ever, waiting for a shot that never comes.

The rest of the birds make their way into the woods in other directions, never showing themselves and we decide it’s time to head down and see what’s going on with the other two. As we get there, I ask why no one bothered to shoot the Jake that walked through, and came to find that he walked right through where no one was sitting, tough break!

As this was my last day, and I had to be on the road by noon, we quickly packed up and headed to one last spot. I got settled into a brush pile, with my brother sitting on a wooded hill across from me. Dad and John setup on the back of the field and started calling. Immediately, we could hear the turkeys in the field across the road to my right, and it wasn’t long before they showed themselves. One big Tom, and two Jakes were making their way over to the fence, and started crossing the road. I quietly got my gun up, and into position.

The first bird crossed the road and was heading into the trees towards my brother, when all of a sudden he stopped, turned, and ran the other direction, causing the rest of the birds to follow suit. I get up, puzzled at what just happened, to see John and my dad walking across the field. Ah, that’s what happened, we were busted.

They didn’t hear any calling for quite some time, and thought the birds had left the area so got up to have a peek, only the birds spotted them first and it was game over. And with that, my 2014 spring wild turkey season was over.

We shook hands, and parted ways and as I made the long drive back North, had lots of time to reflect on the week, and even though I was headed home with one bird in the cooler, and one tag left in my pocket, I felt extremely accomplished, and happy with the week, and am already looking forward to next season.

***Update***

I called John a week or so later, to find out how the dog was doing. He did just fine at the vet, and was well on his way to becoming fully healed, however they were not successful at finding his owners. He was placed into another home, and is doing just fine.

Link to photo gallery:

Dad, Did You Miss?

December 1st, 2013

The extended family had come up for a week to visit, and to meet my newest future hunting partner and hit the road home earlier this morning, so I took the opportunity to sneak out as well with our oldest and the dog, to let mom and baby get some rest.

The weather was to be the same as the previous week, which would be ideal for our hunt. We went out for one final family brunch before everyone parted ways. We weren’t too far down the highway when I could hear snoring coming from behind me, a glance in the mirror confirmed my little buddy was in a brunch induced coma.

We pulled into the spot, just in time for someone to wake up and made quick work of getting ready. I got everything hauled out of the truck, setup the sleigh, and got Myles situated, slipped on my snowshoes, and we were off.

With the sleigh rope around my waist, I start to break trail. We make it about a half a kilometer when I stop for a breather, look back, and find Myles fast asleep again in the sleigh under his blankets.

A few more kilometers of trail breaking goes by when I hear a little voice behind me say “dad, did you get any birds yet?” and just like that, he was back in the game.

A few hours go by and despite Maddy’s best efforts following rabbit trails, we haven’t seen fur, nor feathers. As we’re taking a breather, I look around a bit and spot a lone spruce hen staring at us from its perch. I shoulder my shot gun, and slowly start my stalk towards it. I get to what I think is close enough, and send the first shot down range, a clean miss.

The bird takes to the wing and I cycle another round and squeeze, and then another, without drawing a single feather.

As I stare down the trail in disbelief of what just happened, I hear a familiar voice come from behind me “Dad, did you miss?”

The snowshoe back out to the truck went a lot quicker on my freshly blazed trail, but I was still feeling it. Once back at home, the kids were put to bed, and I retreated to the back deck where I enjoyed a long soak in the hot tub while catching up on the latest edition of the Canadian Waterfowler magazine.

 

 

Cold, Clear, And Sunny

November 24th, 2013

The morning brought near perfect late season grouse condition, -20C, and clear skies, sunny, with no wind, and about a half foot of snow on the ground.

With my wife and me still celebrating the recent arrival of our newest family member, I had been cooped up in the house for nearly a week, as her C-section left her with little mobility, and I was dying to get back into the woods. As she started to feel better, and maneuvering around the house became easier, I was able to grab our oldest and head out for a few hours.

It’s not hard to lose track of time when you’re out in god’s country, everything was covered with fresh snow, Jack Frost nipping at my nose, while simultaneously the rest of my face is being warmed by the sun, and before I know it, a few hours has turned into 6.

The day consisted of both driving and hiking, and also included a 2 hour power nap for my little hunting buddy.

We managed to bring three grouse home for our efforts, all of which were taken up in the top bows of the poplar trees while they sunned their feathers. As we walked back to the truck on the last trail for the day a single bird flushed out from the snow. I followed his path into the woods and released the dog on his scent. I lowered the gun to take a look around, and as I did, he flushed again. By the time I got the gun shouldered he had made his exit.

We arrived back at the truck, and hit the highway just in time to watch the sunset in the rearview mirror.

 

Cornwall Honkers

November 9th, 2013

As has been tradition for the past three years now, I stuck around my folks place after our deer hunt to put in a solid days goose hunting with my dad, brother, and a few of dads local chums. This year my buddy Dave who had never waterfowl hunted before would be joining us, and of course Maddy, who was also having her first go at the honkers.

The plan was to hunt a quarry that we have permission to, that has since filled in with water and sits adjacent to some cut corn fields, and try to call and decoy them as they finish feeding in the fields and head for water to loaf.

This is just one of two properties that we have access to, that offer this type of scenario. If by the end of the morning we still hadn’t limited out, we would head to the second property, for the evening transition of field to water.

We got the floater decoy spread setup, and added in a few shells along the shoreline, then got ourselves and the dog into position to start working the calls. It didn’t take long for the birds to start moving, but they were extremely high, and had no interest in our spread.

Then, as if someone had flipped on the switch, the action heated up.

Singles and doubles started committing, and we were quick to take them down. The first bird to drop of the day was a single, and just the same as with the duck hunts, as soon as the first “Take Em” was called and the barrels went up, so did Maddy’s head. She started to vibrate as the shots rang out, and as the first bird hit the dry land, I sent her for her first goose retrieve.

She darted out for the bird she had just marked, and once she arrived, it took her a try or two to figure out the proper hold, but a few seconds later, she had a perfect body hold, wing over her nose, and her first goose retrieve under her collar.

Aside from this being Maddy’s first goose hunt, there was also another special first unfolding. Not only was this morning the first time that dad got to hunt over a retriever, but he was hunting over my retriever. He knows the amount of time, energy, and patience that I have put into this dog, developing her skills and helping her grow into her natural instincts and abilities. Needless to say, neither of us were disappointed.

By 11:30 we had 20 birds on the pile, and just as quick as the action started, someone turned off that same switch and the skies were quiet and calm. We packed up our gear and headed into town for breakfast and then went on an ammunition re-supply run before heading out to our second property for the evening hunt.

The snow had started to fall and the winds picked up causing little squalls. We were hopeful that this would work to our advantage and possibly force the birds off the fields early and keep them flying low.

It wasn’t long before we could hear the first wave of honks in the distance, a moment later we could hear the snow geese coming, and come they did.

Flock, after flock, of snows flew overhead, with no interest in our decoy spread. Shortly thereafter, the Canada’s were in bound.

“2 coming from the North East”

“Take Em!”

Dave and I both take a bead on the birds and splash one each. With two more retrieves, we now have 8 birds left in our daily limit.

Those 8 came very quickly and before we knew it, we finished our 6 man limit for the day. 6 very happy hunters, and 1 very wet, very happy dog. I couldn’t of been any prouder of her if I had to be, that little yellow dog has a heart twice the size of her body and doesn’t quite.

My buddy Dave is now hooked on fowl and is already asking when I’m going to take him duck hunting, always nice to have another gun in the blind.

Link to photo gallery:
Link to video gallery:

Live From The Deer Camp – 2013

October 31st, 2013

Day 1 – Trick or Treat

Well the original plan was to hit the highway in the wee hours of Friday morning to meet dad at the camp to start clearing roads and trails of blow downs and setup blinds, but being this was my sons first year trick or treating, he was pretty excited, and in turn so was I. In turn, the plans quickly changed, and we would hit the highway after the Halloween festivities concluded.

By the time all was said and done, and the last of the gear loaded, it was almost 10PM, and raining pretty hard. I swung by my buddies place and he was already in his truck waiting, so off we went.

The arrival time on my GPS had me us rolling into mom and dad’s place for about 6am, and with the heavy rain and extreme fog, we were in no position to make any time. By the time we hit New Liskeard I already had it in my mind that we would probably be best to stay the night in North Bay.

I called in ahead of time to ensure they had a pet friendly room, and with more priority club points then I know what to do with, it wasn’t going to add any cost to our trip anyway.

We hit North Bay around 1:45AM and I radioed to my buddy that I’d be pulling into the hotel for a few hours’ sleep. Heads hit the pillows around 2am for a 3 hour power nap, before making the final push to mom and dad’s.

Day 2 – The Final Push East

In reality, 3 hours of sleep went by way too fast, but excitement outweighed tiredness and we were ready to go. Took the dog for a quick walk to stretch her paws and do her morning duties and off we went.

We rolled into mom and dad’s just in time for brunch to be served and had a good feed of Eggs, Bacon, Home Fries, Sausage, and toast which was quickly devoured. We said our good byes to mom and Maddy and made tracks back to Renfrew to start on the day’s work.

The wind was in full hurricane force, so we decided to hold off on setting up the blinds, but there was plenty of chainsaw work to be done, as well as setup cameras, and get my buddy oriented with the lay of the land and who sets up where.

We put in a full days work, and as the sun set we rode the bikes out of camp and headed down the road to a fellow camp members places where we would spend the night.

We had a good feed of pickled eggs and frosty beverages; re-telling lies of hunting trips past and catching up on new ones and then settled in for a much needed, much longer sleep.

Day 3 – The Gangs All Here

We woke up around 7AM Saturday morning and headed down the highway to Calabogie to pick up our trailer of gear from another camp members place. We loaded the canvas onto it and a few last minute things and headed to the woods to meet up with the rest of the crew that would be arriving today.

Unfortunately 3 original camp members were not able to join us this year for various reasons, but 4 new hunters were joining us.

Amongst the new crew, was the son in law, and two grandkids of one of the founding members of our camp. His son in law had never hunted, nor, never had any interest in hunting, but both his boys had the bug from grandpa, so this past year their dad took his two boys and all three went and got licensed.

The two boys are 12 and 14 so are apprentice hunters and have to pair up with camp members, but everyone is more than willing to host the young men in their blinds.

The fourth was my buddy from back home and a seasoned moose hunter, but this would be his first deer hunt as well.

Everyone arrived safe and sound and handshakes, hugs, and welcomes were exchanged, then straight to work. It takes about 4 hours to setup camp and with the extra guests this year we put up another section making our tent 64’ long by 24’ wide.

Camp went up without a hitch and we spent the rest of the day cutting and splitting wood and catching up with friends we only get to see this time of year.

Tonight’s Menu:

Dinner: Bring your own steak (a good mix of beef, venison, and moose) homemade, deep fried french fries

Day 4 – Twas The Night Before Opener

Well, its 10 hours and 9 minutes until legal light of the white tail opener. The camp is setup, the roads, and lanes are cut, and the blinds are up.

Smoke is billowing out of the two stoves that keep our canvas camp warm, and the men are filled with deep fried walleye, perch, and fresh cut fries.

The only thing our two young apprentice hunters are filled with more than anticipation is questions, which everyone in the camp is willing to weigh in on and offer advice and opinions.

As I just got the Wi-Fi going, I will back track tomorrow on how the last few days unfolded to get us to this point. As for now, it is just about time to shut down the generator and settle into the bunks.

More tomorrow, but for now, sleep.

Tonight’s Menu:

Dinner: Fish fry – Collection of Walleye and Perch caught this year deep fried homemade fries

Day 5 – I Live For Opening Morning 

For those of you who are part of a hunt camp, you know the “feeling” of opening morning. There is no hesitation when the alarm goes off at the crack of deer thirty, everyone springs out of their bunks like they just awoke from a coma and busily go about their getting ready rituals.

Not much was spoken, other than the traditional “good luck” which in deer camp speak, means good morning.

The night before brought cool temperatures and the puddles were frozen over, as were the leaves, which sounded like you were walking knee deep in a bowl of cornflakes with each step you took. I carefully made my way to my blind and got settled in for magic hour.

That time when the gun can be taken out of its case and loaded, that time when the darkness just starts to lift, and casts its light blue glow on everything around you, that time when your breath starts to warm up the blind, and the condensation starts to drip on your head, and the most beloved time of all, when the squirrels wake up, and you wonder how that .5lb of a critter could possibly make more noise in the leaves than this not so .5lb critter does.

Gun in hand, eyes in full hawk mode, here we go. The season has officially opened.

Very shortly after legal light came, so did the gun fire on the properties surrounding us, as with every opening morning in the big woods, the shots were plentiful, unfortunately for our camp, not a shot was to be had that day, but that is the beauty of opening morning, it’s that magical, even when the magic doesn’t happen in your scope.

Now I must backtrack to the afternoon of opening day, I made mention that we had two apprentice hunters with us this year, dad hosted one of them in his blind for opening day, and on the walk back they saw a rabbit. I just happen to have my shotgun and birdshot with me and got young Jack setup. Went over how my gun works (where the safety is) and handed it over, he and my dad went for a walk, and not 15 minutes later, I heard the distinct kaboom of my 870.

We all went outside and waited to see this young fella walking down the trail with his first harvest in hand, a dandy rabbit. I don’t need to go into much detail, you all remember how you felt taking your first animal, and if that isn’t enough of a reminder, his smile said the rest.

Today’s Menu:

Brunch: Eggs, bacon, and toast
Dinner: Smoked pork shoulder in the Dutch oven all day on the Woodstove, with perogies, onions, and bacon

Day 6 – Warning, When Overly Excited, Man Will Hug Man, Alone In The Woods.

It’s only okay alone in the woods, when you are congratulating a successful hunt.

Backtrack.

At the beginning of this journey, I mentioned that my good friend David was coming along for his first deer hunt, David is no stranger to the woods, he is an avid moose hunter, grouse hunter, and bear hunter, but this would be his first time in a deer forest.

Now prior to us leaving, my phone, text messages, and Facebook were blowing up daily, with questions, from an over excited Dave leading up to our departure, but just as much as the new blood was welcomed into the camp, so was the fresh enthusiasm.

I must admit, I struggled with the title of this chapter, my first instinct was to entitle it,

“You Already Know This, But I Am A Really Nice Guy”

And since you are all aware of this fact, it will come as no surprise, that I handed David, my stand. We are not too far apart, but how spot 1 and 2 are setup give you complete access to the swamp entrances and exits and the path they follow.

I get settled in and legal light of day two comes, I let out a few bleats, and we are underway.

Some time goes by and I let out a few more, then I get a text message, “do that again, I heard something” I let out another couple of bleats, and then nothing. A moment goes by and then.

Kaarackkk, Karackkkk, Karackkk!

Three shots ring out of his slug gun as fast as he can pump them out. I didn’t have time to text him “did you get it” before I could hear the zippers on his blind, I look out my window and he was dancing up a storm to the likes that Americas Best Dance Crew judges had never seen before.

Figuring he forgot the part I told him about waiting in the blind a bit and letting the deer expire, I get out of my blind and go see him.

Commence man hugging.

I lost track of how many times I was embraced and thanked, mainly because after 10 I have to take my boots and socks off to keep counting, and due to the lack of blood and oxygen that was being cut off with each squeeze.

So I said, “Tell me a story”

He said when I let off my first bleats he could hear something down the ridge, but it went quiet, when I let out my second set he said they sounded a lot closer, and when he texted me to do it again, 3 doe’s walked out, he took aim on the first and it dropped on the spot, the second started to trot and he neck shot it and it dropped, he swung to the third, and clean missed it.

The bugger near filled our 3 doe tags in one swoop!

We walk down the hill and the neck shot one is laying there, a little doe, but his first deer none the less. We get it tagged and head over to where the second dropped, no deer, we start to follow the blood trail when we hear Karackkkk on the property next to us. We follow the blood trail and saw the deer had ran onto their property, and safe to say, they were ready for it.

He was a bit heartbroken someone was putting their tag on that deer, but that’s what happens sometimes when you’re hunting close to property lines.

Those were the only three shots from our group for the day, and we now have meat on the pole.

Congrats to my good friend David, on taking his first deer, on his second ever day deer hunting.

Today’s Menu:

Brunch: Deli meat sandwiches and homemade deer neck soup
Dinner: 15 Fried Grouse and Home Made Baked Beans and Corn

Day 7 – The Rookie Streak Continues

So for those of you keeping score, we got the young apprentice Jack with his first ever harvest on opening day with a rabbit, we’ve got deer camp rookie David with his first deer harvest on day two, and Jacks younger brother Cole, also an apprentice, and last of the rookies, is now up.

Cole heads out to the stand with his grandfather for the morning sit, it’s a quiet morning, compared to the first two, nowhere near as many dogs being run, or shots being fired. We get back to camp for brunch, and Cole has a story for us, he has seen his first deer.

Unfortunately, when he spotted the doe, it was not in a position for him to shoot, all he could do was watch it circle them, and head off.

But before you get too discouraged for the young lad, he was just thrilled that he got to see one out on the watch. Some of us (ME) took 2 years to even see some deer fur out on a stand let alone get one in the scope. So, while Cole didn’t get any trigger time, I say this was a rookie year with all 3 of them getting some action.

And that was all we would get for the rest of the week.

Today’s Menu:

Brunch: Eggs, bacon, toast
Dinner: Deep fried wild turkey (dads spring harvest), mashed potatoes, and stuffing

Day 8/9 – That’s Why It’s Called Hunting

After the first three days, that was all the fur we saw, the next two were very uneventful. Back in camp, the usual banter, bs’ing and teasing continued on with great friends both new and old, card games were had, and smiles were plastered everywhere.

The same stories we’ve been hearing for the past decade being re-told, but always with a new twist that wasn’t there the last 9 years, but still makes you laugh, and at the end of it, 3 new hunters join the 44 Fish and Game Club.

I was hoping I’d get some more deer hunting in, and head to my parents after Christmas with the bow for late season action, but I haven’t yet broached the subject with my very pregnant wife that is due next week, still hatching a gentle plan to pull that one off.

That is a wrap on the 2013 Opening week for us, and looking forward to next season already.

Link to photo gallery:

Hunt Camp Baked Beans

October 30th, 2013

Leaving for deer camp tomorrow, so finally got around to packing. Usually I am packed a month in advance, but with waterfowl hunting so much this year, I didn’t want to be tearing into gear that was already packed.

This year for “my meal” I am bringing 15 grouse and a batch of baked beans.

Just put them in the oven an hour ago, and already smelling delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 5 Cans of Pork & Beans in Molasses
  • 1 8oz Can of Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 Cup of Ketchup
  • 1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Mustard
  • 2 Tbs Molasses
  • 4 drops of Tobasco Sauce
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Strips of Bacon to cover

Directions:

  1. Open beans and poor into an oven friendly corning ware dish of the appropriate size (About 2.5L)
  2. Add in remaining ingredients, aside from the bacon and stir
  3. Layer the bacon across the top, cutting to length
  4. Heat oven to 250 Degrees, and bake for 5 hours, stirring ever half