Deer Season 2019

My deer seasons had settled into a routine. Constraints from the day job allowed for a week off each year. Family commitments and extracurriculars consistently put pressure on the time available for hunting and seemed to erode actual time in the woods.

Despite this alarming trend, this year would be different. I had accumulated 2 extra weeks of vacation and the plan was to hunt the full two weeks, preferably in multiple spots.

My regular group had recently made a decision to split up the hunt across both weeks, starting with the first three days and ending with the last 3 days. The hope was to disturb the woods less, give the dogs a break, and take advantage of all the groups around us pushing deer around.

The fist three days passed by in a blurr, with one buck down on the first day. Taken by a new hunter in our group with a .30-30. Coincidentally enough it was taken in the same location where I took my first buck. Quite the coincidence. No other deer were seen though and most in our group were glad for a bit of a break.

After the last hunt of the day on the Wednesday I moved on to my next leg of my two week journey. The hunt continued with my Uncle near Peterborough. I swapped out my rifles and the bawl of the hounds for a .50 cal muzzle-loader, a tree stand, and the peaceful serenity of some freshly fallen snow. Some of my first hunting experiences were here in Bethany, in the very same tree stand. With that in mind I pondered the difference between then and now. Life had changed dramatically, my approach to hunting had changed, as had my mentality. I can recall my first trips where I hadn’t seen anything, and couldn’t but help internalizing it. I felt like i was moving too much, had too strong a scent, or had done something wrong to scare away the deer. The reality was that I was merely impatient and didn’t understand that Deer hunting is often a game of chance encounters, especially when sitting in a tree stand.

The quiet provided a much need opportunity for some introspection and thought, and the setting provided the stimulation. It was pretty easy to get lost in this scenario, and as the snow built up on my camo and fire arm, I felt like I had become part of the woods.

On day three in the morning, my trip through this winter wonderland was abruptly halted by movement on the ridge in front of me. It seemed as though a buck had materialized out of nowhere and decided to meander towards our setup. He was in no hurry, and surprisingly, neither was I. Another change from my first years hunting.

After a time I levelled the muzzleloader, placed the reticle on the body and made the commitment. 200 Yards later and the second buck of the group was down.

You can talk in terms of points when referring to a deer. If that is the measure than this was a 10 point atypical with and extra 2 brow tines on one side. However, my preferred terms are those of lbs taken and freezer space occupied. In those terms it was a solid 190 and my portion filled my small stand-up freezer.

Well worth the two weeks.

Lake Trout Opener – 2019

Trout have steadily garnered more of my fishing attention over the last few years.  It started with a couple really successful brook trout trips, and was followed up by some pretty sweet rainbow and brown trout fishing on some stocked back lakes.  What was once a curiosity, has now become a full blown obsession.  So when the opportunity came to join a co-worker on his favorite lake on Lake Trout Opener, it was all I could do to keep from bursting at the seams with excitement.

Our trip began around 4am with a quick 45 minute drive north of Kingston to a quaint little back lake rumoured to contain a viable native population of these bruisers.

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We canoed to a few transitions zones in 40 to 50 FOW next to some deeper drop offs looking for spring time lakers.  In the spring, many of these lakes turn over which creates consistent temperatures throughout the water column.  Lake trout take advantage of this and unlike summer, the trout can be found throughout the water column.  We were trolling spoons at varying depths and connected with two very decent lakers within the first hour.  One estimated to be between 10 – 15 lbs. Tagically, we left the instructions for the net at home, and we were treated to a nice view of their tail fins as they swam away.  Dave, did manage to hook a third fish, and I miraculously remembered how the net worked.  Voila, finally a fish in the boat! 20190525_104001

The Lake Trout species is a perfect candidate to showcase on this blog considering that approximately 25% of the worlds population live in Ontario. they are only native to North America, but successful stocking efforts have established populations in Europe as well as South America.

We took a break from the fishing  and took a stroll in a nicely wooded section on the north side of the lake.  Lake trout are great, but there are many other species in Ontario worthy of attention.  Like this wonderful spotted newt.

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Or this four-toed salamander.20190525_092323

Or this young and fresh looking dryads saddle mushroom.20190525_092449

Spring is magical time in the woods here in Ontario.  Get out there, grab a rod, paddle, or shotgun and see what you can discover.

Cheers from the Wild,

 

Winter Trouting in Frontenac County- 2019

Southern Ontario has experienced some cold, albeit, intermittent, weather of late.   With minus double digits in the evenings for several days straight, my mind started to drift northward to possible ice fishing adventures.  Southern Ontario doesnt always see fishable ice before christmas each year, but it was looking like a real possibility this year.   With that possibility, the usual suspects and I began hatching plans for a quick trip during the holiday break.

Over the past few years our group has spent more efforts on pursuing the various trout species the province as to offer.  It started with some eventual success on a stocked rainbow trout lake, and was followed by excellent outings on several brook trout lakes.  Sprinkle in a few lake trout and splake trips into the mix and voila, you have a full blown hardwater trout addiction.  This year we decided to tackle a new goal.  The Ontario Trout Grand Slam.  One Brookie, rainbow, brown, and laker or splake.

Very few of the trout species remain native to southern ontario.  Heck, very few lakes have trout at all in our neighbourhood which makes our addiction and slam goals very difficult.  Thankfully the MNRF maintains a healthy stocking program in southern Ontario, all of which can be accessed via their website Fish Online.  This is where all our trout trips begin, and this will be where any description of where we fished, ends.  After all finding these lakes on your own is half the fun.

Here are some pics of the trip for your viewing pleasure.

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Although we fell short of completing the slam, we did manage to ice both a rainbow and a brown trout, not to mention a few other incidental coarse fish.   Ultimately, the chance of a competing a slam, without the use of a motorized vehicles to cover ground, is very difficult.  At least during the winter.

Cheers from the Wild

Wild Mushrooms – 2018

The fall season in Southern Ontario offers opportunities to get out into the wild and enjoy a number of activities, often many at the same time.  My buddy Dave and I headed out recently to take part of this seasonal overlap.  With a canoe on the roof of the car, rods and a shot-gun in the back, and a mushroom field guide-book in hand we headed out on some crown land north of Kingston.  Our aim was to target walleye early, stop periodically to see if we could take advantage of the early goose season, and walk some public land to see if we could find some edible mushrooms.

Unfortunately, the goose hunt didn’t really pan out and our fishing success was limited to one walleye and a few bass.  Thankfully the mushroom hunting salvaged the trip as we found a large number of lobster mushrooms and a few chanterelles among many other curious fungal species. Pictures have been included below for your viewing pleasure.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

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Hank Shaw Book Tour Dinner at Antler

Hank Shaw. The man, the Chef, the culinary genius.  For those who don’t know, Hank Shaw is a chef hailing out of California, who in my opinion, has revolutionized wild game cooking.  He maintains a website that documents his numerous wild game recipes and has crystallized his extensive knowledge into several books.   Were not just talking a pot of ground venison chili either (although he has a great recipe for this in Buck Buck Moose), but elegant meals such as Duck aux poivre, venison in morel sauce and barbacoa.

Hank’s recipes exude a rare combination of worldliness and technical detail all supported by solid wild game theory.  He seems to be constantly exploring foreign cuisines and creatively merging them with wild game.  His efforts and dedication to perfection are obvious in each new recipe I attempt.  My current status of “no failed recipes” is likely due to Hank’s expertly crafted recipes more than my skills to implement them.

While cruising around on his website I noticed that his recent tour for his new book, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail had some Canadian dates.  More importantly he was planning a book dinner in Toronto on a date I actually had a chance of making.  Even more importantly, the dinner was to be held at famous Antler Restaurant; a place I’ve always wanted to visit.  Everyone seems to know this place by its chef’s recent clashes with vegan protesters.  I imagine though that anyone who stops in soon learns that there is more behind this place than just the one dimensional media coverage it has received.  The chef, Michael Hunter, has some serious cooking chops and knows his way around Canada’s wild game species.   A simple call to Antler, and moments later I had a reservation for this event.  Now I just had to wait a few months.

The day arrived.  It was a Monday, and I had a just started a week of vacation. I left Kingston in my rear view mirror around 2 pm and arrived in Toronto an hour or so early.  I decided to kill a bit of time in the nearby bar “the Loveless Cafe”.  It was a good choice as the beverages were delicious and the decor was really getting me in the mood for the game dinner that awaited me at Antler.

The exterior of the restaurant is simple and humble.  The meal, although comprised of simple ingredients, was much more extravagant with an obvious flair that showcased species covered by Hank’s new book (Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail) and local igredients.  The menu was a combination of Hank’s and Michael’s creations and I could spend pages raving about it.  Instead I’ll let you browse the menu and give your saliva glands a workout while perusing some pictures.

(Both the terrine and duck liver mousse were light, flavorful, and worthy of praise)

(I eaten lots of rabbit before but nothing seemed to compare to the delicious Rabbit Ragu Hank and Michael pulled out of their hats for this meal)

(Much of my upland game culinary experiences have centered around grouse and woodcock.  I can honestly say that the main dish of Pheasant Cacciatore was every bit as good as the finest forest chicken I have enjoyed)

As the meal progressed, my interest in taking pictures waned and was replaced by a desire to enjoy as much of these delicious meals as possible.  You can’t eat pictures right.  Not to mention I became preoccupied with sharing hunting stories with fellow wild game enthusiasts that sat on either side of me.  In my experience, most hunters jump at the chance to tell the tale of their last seasons hunt, even if they have a full mouth and especially if they are somewhat new to the game (myself included).

To cap the experience, Hank actually made the rounds to chat with those who attended the dinner and was more than willing to share his experience and answer questions about specific meals or species.  I can honestly say I was impressed with the depth of his knowledge.  Really though, after reading so many of his articles and trying out his recipes, it didn’t really surprise me.

Thanks again to the staff at Antler and to Hank for putting on such a great event and for all the efforts put into exploring wild game and bringing it into the mainstream.

Cheers from the table,

Albert