2018 Turkeys

I have been turkey hunting for close to 5 years now, but haven’t really had any success until the last few years. Of course this has nothing to do with my hunting ability (or lack thereof)…right?  Instead, I choose to attribute my new found success to the property I now hunt and three years of turkey hunting with some skilled fellow hunters.  These gents grew up hunting the fields, hardwoods and shield ridges of the area and they seem to know the local wildlife like the back of their hands.    They taught me the sounds to listen for, animal habits and patterns, how to call and basically all the tid-bits of information required to understand how to Turkeys.   Exposure to seasoned individuals like these was exactly the thing I needed in order to cut my turkey teeth.  I’m certain it is this experience by osmosis that eventually led to my first successful solo turkey hunt and the harvesting of my second bird of the year (my first Tom).

Turkey #1

We started out around 5 am, and headed into the woods on one of our favorite properties to hunt. The property was a mix of active agricultural lands, small pasture and hay fields,  and a large maple bush located next to a small lake.  This is a dream mix for turkey hunters and we often encounter many birds here during deer season.

Despite the perfect habitat and some promising gobbles, we struck out that morning.  Deflated yet still optimistic we returned to our vehicles.  I wasn’t quite done though and decided to head to another area at about 10 am where we had harvested turkeys in the past.  I settled in to a rhythm of short nap, wake up, call, repeat… After about the third cycle I woke up to see three birds staring at my hen and strutter decoys from about 30 yards away.  my gun lay on the grass beside me and my decoys were between me and the birds.  This was going to be tricky.

Thankfully the birds milled about behind some tree cover as they continued to size up the strutter, reluctant to make a move on the hen.  This gave me a few periodic moments where I could inch the gun up to my shoulder and take a shot.  Moments later, a Jake was down and my yearly tradition of wild turkey for mothers day dinner was saved.

The following Friday, my co-worker came into my office around 11 and casually joked about leaving early.  I looked up from my work and paused.  There was an awkward moment of silence where our minds started to process the possibility of actually following through with this.  Were my projects caught up? Did I have any meetings later that day?  Our mutual realization that we actually could take the afternoon off started to become obvious and our conversation changed into more of a “how to” than a “should we”.

Fast forward, we returned to the clearing where I shot my first Jake hoping the other two would still be there.  Again, we settled into the short nap, wake up, call regime… Things were quiet with the exception of a group of flickers that seemed to be playing in the clearing.  Then a barred owl chimed in and the game changed dramatically.

An immediate gobble sounded from further in the woods.  The owl sounded off. The gobbler returned in kind.  I struck up the box call and let out a series of 4-5 yelp kee-kees, which at first, didn’t seem to be phasing the gobbler at first.  The owl went quiet and suddenly the gobbler started to take an interest and began returning my calls.  After about 3 round of this I let off the call and waited.  The gobbler seemed to be getting closer and continued to gobbler in efforts of attracting our non existent hen.  Moments later I made visual contact and excitedly reported to Dave that there were two birds and both were sizable.  I continued with some light putting and purring and the birds continued to advance, albeit at a snails pace.  Finally they were both in view, the smaller bird taking my left shooting lane and the bigger sticking to the right.  We began a count down to shooting and were about to pull the trigger when the birds decided to cross paths.  The larger decided to trade places with the smaller and the shot clock was back on. 3, 2, 1….My big bird was down and the smaller bird was off into the wind.

20180511_15502820180511_154753

Despite missing out on the double, the experience was good fun and full of lessons to be learned.  I’ve done my best to summarize these below in order to help out other beginners out there.

My Tips

1) Turkey hunting is an all day affair.  Mornings, as exciting as they are with all the calling and hootenanny, don’t hold a monopoly on bird harvests.  My solo bird was harvested around 10:55 am.

2) Remember the location of every bird you locate.  You may not connect with it on your first encounter, but knowing its general vicinity can go along way to help you harvest it at a later time or day.

3) Be quiet.  Be still.  Be Patient. A gobbler may stop calling back, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped looking for you.  Patience kills turkeys.

4) Turkeys don’t always come in loud and aggressive.  Be ready for the subtle silent approach.  My bird came in with a group of jakes and didn’t make a peep.

Good Luck!

Cheers form the Wild,

Al

Deer Season 2017 – The Year of the Bear

I honestly marvel at the endless variety hunting provides.  I hunt with the same group of folks every year.  We run the same pieces of property, and often sit in the very same stands.  That’s alot of the same. Even still, will things being so similar, things rarely ever play out the same way.

This year was no different.  Similar to previous years, our efforts in 2017 began by running what is arguable the crowning jewel of the cadre of properties available to us.  Natural pinch points connecting large tracts of undisturbed woods make this a magnet for deer.  Not to mention there is a small lake present and plenty of close by fields for forage.  When considered in context with the quality of habitat, it is no wonder that we have taken many a deer of this property.  After a brief hike in, I sat up smack dab in the middle of one of the pinch points; the same stand where I harvested  my very first deer.

I settled in for the 3-4 hour run, when almost immediately, the dogs began to bawl out their sounds of excitement indicating they found a scent.  Gun at the ready I closed my eyes and opened my ears.  As most seasoned deer hunters will tell you, stillness is a hunters best friend, and I find nothing makes you still like closing your eyes and opening your ears.  I was shaken awake by a rumbling in the bush directly ahead of me which consistently grew louder.  The noise peaked as three large black shapes appeared through the brush dead ahead.  Recognition kicked in as I realized those shapes were a mother black bear and her two cubs.

I grew up with stories about how defensive mother bears could be.  Lots of stories included hunters who got between a mother and cubs and ended up having to deal with a charging mama bear.  My gun was raised and my mind nervously recounted these stories.  I stayed patient and watched the mother through the sights of my rifle.  Thankfully, her only interest was evading the barking hounds behind me and she casually passed to my right about 15 yards away.

We ended up taking a deer on that run, as we have many times before.  Even though I didn’t shoot the deer, I was strangely satisfied with my close encounter and my forced re-evaluation of common bear behavior.

The experience definitely made for a memorable hunt.  Pics below.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

20171106_07182420171106_07410220171108_13581620171107_10484620171118_065531

The kids even decided to come up to check out the last day of the hunt.

20171118_112329

Another successful year.

DSC_0033

Even the kids were interested in the deer.

DSC_0035resized

And of course, the four wheeler!

DSC_0079resized

 

 

Wood Duck Exploits

Our recent trek into the woods occurred on a parcel of crown land about 45 minutes north of Kingston.  We planned to spend the weekend hunting for grouse on the trails and the opening morning of waterfowl in a duck blind a few minutes paddle from our campsite.

On the hike in we ran across loads of deer, bear and moose sign.  This area seemed to be pretty vibrant with wildlife.  We even got a shot at a fleeing grouse.

20170922_14470020170922_144748

This was the furthest north I had ever duck hunted and was immediately surprised when a flock of wood ducks flew in hard and fast to our spread.  Being a mallard hunter from the lake Ontario corridor, I was conditioned to think that there were no other species of puddle duck in Ontario.

20170923_090825

The woodies provided a good challenge for our group.  They are somewhat smaller than a mallard and fly a bit faster making them tougher to hit.  still, we managed a few birds.  Enough for a taste and more than enough to keep us coming back.

20170923_094356

Cheers from the Wild

Al

Bay of Quinte 2017

I always try to get out to the Bay of Quinte for walleyes at least once a year.  It doesn’t always work, and this year was looking like a trip may not be possible.

That is, until I received a call from a buddy inquiring as to my availability on the Saturday of that week.  It turned out he was at a cottage on the BoQ with his in-laws and fiancée and was looking to possibly chase some walleyes.  A telephone call is really all the motivation I need to get out fishing so I geared up the green machine, woke early the next day, and made a run up tp Hay Bay.

Fishing was moderate to slow, but we still managed to boat 3 nice Walleyes which we kept for the fry pan.  Twas a grand old time even if it was last minute.

 

Cheers from the Wild

 

Early Season Bucketmouths

The blog has grown cold.  Cobwebs have gathered in the digital corners of the site leaving many, including myself, sad.  What the hell happened? After all I was on a role  with my outings… Well, life happened, as a matter of fact.  Project schedules at work, family time, etc.. Things seem to have piled up leaving little to no time for me to continue my explorations of the Wilds of Ontario.  I know, boo hoo, first world problems…

Thankfully there is always bass opener.  I’m pretty sure it would take a category 5 hurricane to keep me from participating in this, the holiest of holies, Bassmass!  With Schedules on hold, and a solid morning carved away from any commitment, I found myself and two others headed to Loughborough Lake for some greenback action.  My compadres were Dave, a regular here on WOO, and Jamie, a beginner fisherman who made his debut on the fishing scene with an 18lb rainbow trout.  Talk about beginners luck! Jamie had never caught a largemouth bass prior to our trip and was eager to explore what all the fuss was about.

Loughborough was an obvious choice for a first bass outing: no tournaments there to my knowledge, great habitat for both small and largemouth bass, lots of water to cover, and the right orientation to take advantage of the southwesterly wind we expected that day.

We fished the eastern basin heading from the centre east and immediately were met with action.  As luck would have it, Jamie’s Beggineer’s luck streak was still hot and he managed to catch the first fish: a healthy 1lber.  All three anglers were soon into many more bass with the odd pike to boot.  things had worked out exactly as I had hoped for Jamie’s first outing.  Considering the conversations we’ve had since, It seems we may have another convert!

 

 

Bass opener was great.  A little too great.  In fact I liked it so much I decided to extend the opening weekend into Monday.  Frank, another regular on WOO, was in town all the way from Pennsylvania, and was looking to target some of the local toothy critters.  His visits had become something of a yearly thing but as of late, they seemed to always conflict with bad weather or my busy work schedule.  The wind was up so our original plan to fish the St. Lawrence had to be revised.  Big water + big wind + my small boat is not a good combination, so after a quick scouting trip to some sketchy launches, we decided to head to an old standby: Newborough  lake.

After a tough start, we finally started to hook up with pike and bass.

DSC_0027

Frank has been talking (and dreaming) and talking of connecting with a 10+ lb pike for a while now.  This isn’t such a pipe dream for an outing on the St. Lawrence, but it is certainly a tall order on the back lakes around Kingston.  We hammered the bays and weed edges with all manner of spinner baits in a desperate search for Frank’s elusive prize.  All to no avail. However, on a long bomb cast into a weedy bay frank hooked up with what turned out to be a tank of a largemouth, weighing in at a whopping 5lbs, 1oz.  Respectable for sure, and quite the catch considering we were fishing immediately after the busiest bass fishing day of the year.

DSC_0019

This was Frank’s biggest largemouth to date, which left him happy.  It wasn’t what he wanted, but it certainly left him with a smile on his face.  I’m reminded of the classic rock lyric: “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need!”  Indeed he got what he needed, a big fish, just a bit less toothy than what he was looking for.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

Photo Challenge: Shadow

During this years deer season in Southern Ontario I stumbled upon this old abandoned farmhouse, covered in brambles and steeped in shadow.  I didn’t quite find an appropriate place for this picture among my deer hunting post however it seems this photo jives with The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: Shadow.

Seeing this building prompted questions like: what’s inside this building? Who lived here? What sort of life did they lead?  and more importantly did they realize how great the deer hunting was around them?

These questions that likely will never be answered.  Questions with answers that have been forgotten by time and lost in shadow.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/shadow-2017/

dsc_0030-ii

Southern Ontario Brook Trout

Brook trout hold a place of reverence among many anglers for their colour, fighting ability, and taste.  For some anglers like my dad they have attained a place of reverence among the freshwater species of our province.  As a lad, I can recall growing up listening to him tell stories about fishing for these colourful creatures in the local streams around the outskirts of Bancroft.  By his account they were plentiful, sensitive, yet easy to catch (if you knew how), and a  source of a great number of fond memories.  Personally, I can recall some of our camping trips to Algonquin park where my dad would pull our station wagon over and disappear down the side of the embankment, only to return with a few of these little creatures.  Pan-fried brook trout over a campstove was my first real taste of wild food, and very likely one of the sparks that ignited my passion for fishing for these delicious fish.

Times change, populations grow, and land gets developed.  In turn our, impact to the environment (at least locally in Ontario) sent the population of brook trout into somewhat of a nose dive in many areas.  In the back of my mind I knew that development and things like agricultural run off can effect the water quality of small streams.  But this effect really didn’t hit me hard until my dad reported back after a return visit to some of those streams a few years ago.  I’m told he only caught a single trout for the whole trip.  Sadly I felt like the days of bountiful brook trout were lost.

My best days fishing brook trout have been in the middle of Algonquin park, and in Gaspésie, Quebec.  Fish were plentiful on both trips, however, in each case I had to work extremely hard, and sometimes travel for days, to find the places of historic abundance.  Anytime I tried to catch them locally, I always ended up with an empty basket. After these local trips, my view of brook trout fishing was fairly pessimistic.  My conclusion: good easy local brook trout fishing just didn’t exist any more in southern Ontario.

My pessimistic view changed during a grouse hunting/fishing trip this past fall, after having some unexpected success with the square tails in a not to distant location.  Our goal was grouse, but we ended up pulling several brook trout out of the lakes on the way.  Still uncertain about the fishing, I planned to return one day to fully explore the area.   I reported my success to my uncle who was intrigued and suggested we do a winter trip.  I got to work right away scouring the MNR fish online tool to scout the area, and contacted cottages in the area to secure accommodations.  When the dust settled we had planned a three day trip planned for the area that was not too far for any of us to drive.  I could tell you where we went, but in my experience, half the fun is finding these locations out for yourself.  Fish Online

Day 1 arrived on January 18th, and we met at our rental cottage and prepared the snow mobiles and gear for a days run into the woods.  Although we got off to a late morning start we were still hopefull.  Afterall, there were five of us, two snowmobiles, an array of fishing rods and tackle.  We could cover a lot of ground with that set up.

dsc_0257-i

We started the trip on the lake where I had some success the previous fall and spread out along the shoreline.  There was at least 12″ of ice wherever we drilled with a max of 14″ in some places.  Simple live bait rigs with gads were the ticket and within the first 30 minutes, I had 3 fish on the ice.  Another two were iced among the remaining members of our group and the fish kept biting.  We ended the day with a respectable 10 fish iced, about the same lost at the hole, and countless more missed hits.  Tired yet happy, we returned to our cottage for a celebratory beverage.

dsc_0269-ii

Fresh fish on ice!

dsc_0271-ii

We beat the sun up on the second day and started our trek back into some of the more remote lakes.  The ride in was several kilometers and things got pretty hairy with three dudes on the back of a snowmobile.  Half way in the three man machine was working a bit hard so we moved one of the guys to a towed sled.  We resumed our trek and made it to the lakes.  Thankfully I was the navigator on this trip which secured me a permanent position on one of the cushioned seats.

dsc_0283-ii

One of the gents with his first brook trout ever through the ice.

dsc_0299-ii

Fishing was tough on the second day, and we worked real hard moving around the lake to try and locate fish.  Our efforts paid off and we racked up another 6 fish on the day, with the majority of them being bigger than the previous day.  Shallow wood seemed to work well for us as well as rock points.  Just like that, another satisfying, albeit hard, day was behind us.

img_2559img_2560

dsc_0351-ii

Having satisfied ourselves on brookies over the first two days, we decided to switch things up on the third day and target a different lake that was stocked with splake.  For those who don’t know, these fish are hybrids between a lake trout and a brook trout.  This presents some added complexity to fishing for them as they have been known to behave like both species whenever the mood strikes them.  With this knowledge in our minds, we varied our presentations with a mix of setlines and a couple jigging presentations in deeper water.  As luck would have it, the splake were feeling brookish on the third day and while exploring the area with a depth finder, I looked back to see that my Gad had disappeared.  Not sure what to expect, I began pulling up my line and eventually pulled my gad right out of the hole.  Seconds later I felt a familiar tug and I set the hook on a beautiful 5lb splake.  I eased the tank up from bottom and attempted to remove the line from the gad so I could use my rod.   Murphy’s law kicked in and the line snapped.  I was left with a gad was in one hand and business end of the line n the other.  With no more time to be gentle, I hauled the fish up and grabbed the fluorocarbon leader.  The fish crested the hole and I took a breath.

dsc_0338-ii

img_2580

 

Aside from the interesting fight, I also noted the deep gold colour of the belly of this fish.  Most of the splake I have caught in the past were distinctly silvery, however this one seemded to lean towards its brook trout genes.  I’m guessing the lake may have something to do with the colour.

This splake happened to be my largest of the species to date.

dsc_0344-ii

We visited one more small lake and added a few more brookies to our tally.  All said and done, we caught about 22 brookies and one big splake between 5 of us over the course of 2 and a half days.

Its not the big numbers I used to hear my dad talk about, but its definitely respectable for the size of the lakes we were on and for where we were fishing.  Catching that splake also made the trip real special.

Stocked lakes.  They are out there and are stocked for a reason, so go fish them!  There are so many reasons to target these lakes like the more you target stocked lakes, the less your focussing on natural strains of fish, which preserves the genetic diversity of our province.  Also, part of your license fees go to stocking these lakes so why not reap some of the rewards from a program you help fund.

Cheers from the ice,

Albert