White Water Canoeing on the Madawaska

This blog could be accused of focussing too much on the Hunting and Fishing aspects of Southern Ontario and I would be hard pressed to refute the accusation.  I mean they are my two favourite past times, which explains why they often make their way to the forefront of this blog.

However I do occasonally get a chance to step outside of my cofort zone and try something new and exciting.  Last weekend was such an occasion as I was invited to a bachelor party which included a white water canoeing component.

The trip took place on the lower portion of the Madawaska starting at the Paddlers coop in Palmer Rapids and finishing some 41 kms in Griffith.  The route took us through the Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park and over several sets of rapids.

The trip started following an early morning of fishing on a small back lake I frequented in my youth.  We camped at the Paddlers Co-op for the night and awaited the remaining 3 members of our group to arrive.  For those who have never been, the Paddlers coop is a great location to get your learn on when it comes to white water.  The facility is a non-for profit organization owned and run by paddlers who really enjoy what they do.  Its also a great place to get outfitted for the river if you don’t have your own gear (https://paddlerco-op.ca/). It’s funny, I’ve spent a ton of time in the Bancroft area as a kid and had no idea a gem like the paddlers Coop existed.

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DSC_0152(ii)Everyone who has ever camped at bon echo or head up highway 41 knows the Kaladar General Store.  There aren’t a whole lot of options for gas in the area and the KGS is a great spot for fuel and odds and ends you may need for your outdoor adventures.

DSC_0161 (ii)Typical foggy morning landscapes from the Bancroft area.

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The first day started with a leisurely paddle from the Paddler Coop.  There are several flat stretches right off the hop just downriver from the Coop.

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Aumonds Rapids (shown above) was the very first set we encountered, and my very first set as a newly minted white water canoeist.  Although it was only a class I in low water, it seemed huge to a newbie.  We did scout this rapid, which in hind sight was probably more for my benefit than safety.  Glad the guys eased me into these things!

But lets not down play the importance of scouting when canoeing whitewater.  Scouting is a vital component of white water canoeing in order to stay safe.  Scouting allows the paddler to assess the level of difficulty of each rapid set and allows for the development of a game plan prior to entering the set.  Rocks can be game enders and since they can be difficult to see from the low angle of a canoe, scouting is critical.  If I haven’t already sold you on it consider this:  Water conditions can vary greatly from season to season or even between rain events and rapids can change drastically over time.

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(View of snake rapids above)

Fishing on the trip was dominated by 1-2 lb smallmouth bass.  They seemed to be everywhere in the river and very hungry.  They also made a delicious addition to our evening meals.

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To be honest, I was pretty terrified of running some of these rapids.  Most were Class I to II however there were some class III rapids, which on paper seems beyond my confidence level.  Good thing the other gents on the trip were pros and more than willing to teach me the ropes.

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(Nailed it!)

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(Above: Dave crushing Rifle Chute)

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White water canoeing has inherent risks, and spilling can be a frequent occurrence.  Thankfully the Madawaska is a fairly forgiving river in the sense that most rapids are followed by slow moving pools which easily accommodates spilled paddlers.  Swimming to shore from these pools is usually fairly quick and easy to do.

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(The author hitting split rock rapids)

River features like rapids and specific rocks often come with weird and quirky names.  Some seem to have no meaning at all, while others are aptly named.  We encountered one such feature ( a rock) in Raquette Rapids dubbed “The Canopener”.  This rock is located immediately down stream of the rapids that canoes often get pinned against, leaving them “open” the current. According to the locals, it can be nearly impossible to remove the canoes from the rocks during high water.

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The addiction to white-water grew over the trip and by the end, I was eagerly anticipating the next set.  Definitely a trip I would do again.

Cheers from the rapids,

Albert

 

Snotrockets on Sydenham Lake

Summer is nearly here in Southern Ontario and bass season approaches at a frighten pace. One week for crying out loud!
Only way to beat the stress of prepping for such a holy occasion is to break out the boat and relax with a little fast paced Pike fishing (my kind of relaxations).  And that’s exactly what I felt like doing this dreary Friday afternoon.

With an eye on the sky and my mind on Pike, I slipped away from work in the early afternoon and headed home to hook up the boat. Pike was on the menu and the word on the street was Sydenham was hot this time of year.  The plot thickened as one of my readers, Frank  from Pennsylvania, had contacted me about a trip he was doing in the area and was interested in the pike fishing we have around here. Having spent time on Loughborough and Collins already, he was looking for a change of water and Sydenham fit the bill perfectly.  The locals had reportedly informed him Sydenham is one of the best places to chase around these toothy critters.

With our destination set, we made the quick drive and met near the boat launch, which is located down town Sydenham, right behind the public school. After a quick introduction, we loaded our gear into the green machine and tore away from the launch. The afternoon found us fishing the south west part of eel bay to start, just past the old train bridge. It didn’t take long for Frank to tie into a decent 4.5 – 5lb pike.  the fish was caught by pitching a large spinner bait into the weeds over 5 to 9 FOW with a vigorous retrieval.  Nice Fish Frank!
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Pike are slimy, slippery, toothy little buggers, but I wouldn’t trade them for a world!  Luckily, we didn’t have to, because the bite was on in a big way and there were plenty to go around.

Pitching and trolling throughout eel bay, we kept hooking up with fish.  At times it felt like we couldn’t keep our lures in the water for longer than 30 seconds.

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Surprisingly enough, only 3 of the 17 fish caught were hammer handles (i am referring to small pike which resemble a hammer’s handle!).  Numbers weren’t as high as we have seen them in the past, but I attribute this to the size vs numbers cycle I have observed in our area.  It seems pike populations grow in pulses with tons of small fish for a couple years, followed by reduced numbers, but an increase in size for the following few years.   Based on todays performance, id say we are on the upswing of the size portion of the cycle.   From my experience I can also infer that our fishing success had a lot to do with timing.  We hit the water immediately after 3 days of rain which in my opinion is the perfect time to catch pike.  Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to get wet because the gators certainly arent!

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As always, I finish the post with some sort of plug for the local lake or area I am writing about;  17 decent sized pike in the span of 3 hours on a beauty of a lake, I don’t think a plug is really needed…………

 

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

For more information on the lake check out the Sydenham Lake Association’s website
http://sydenhamlake.ca/news/?page_id=467

One Year in the Wild…

WordPress sent me an alert today; Apparently it has been one years since my inaugural post on this blog. Time certainly does fly when your having fun, or in my case, when your catching fish.
Thanks to all my readers and followers for your patronage and bearing with me on the learning curve to a successful outdoor blog!
Cheers from the Wild
Albert

Range Work – Blast Away the Winter Blues

Here in southern Ontario, winter continues to press on with snow storms and demoralizing drops in the mercury.  This can be disheartening for those of us looking forward to spring turkeys and the spring foraging season.  So with a free Saturday on my hands and -10 temperatures outside, I was looking for a compromise; something fun and entertaining outdoors that didn’t require too much exposure to the lingering cold temps and bitter winds.

Then the phone rang…. It was my uncle.

Range you say?

Getting to shoot a plethora of hunting rifles in preparation for the up coming season you say?

The range is within a partially enclosed structure and the wind is blocked you say?

I say: YES PLEASE!

Back Story

Now most years I have hunted in areas where regulations only allow the use of shotguns and slugs for deer.  This year, however I have been invited to hunt in an area where rifles are the gun of choice which allows for significantly longer shots.   This style of hunting is new to me and my gun cabinet for that matter, so I jumped at the chance to test out my deer rifles.

And with that, I packed up my rifles and started the 2hour trek to my uncle place near Bethany, Ontario.

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For those of you who hunt, you already know how invaluable a range like this can be.  A few hours spent here can mean the difference between a successful hunt  and the bitter taste of a ” Deer Tag Sandwhich”.  These facilities are located across Ontario and offer a safe, controlled environment with targets set specific measured distances.  Usually 50 yrds, 100 yrds, 200 yrds and up catering to any kind of firearm.  Coupled with something called a “lead sled” these facilities can help a shooter hone in the accuracy of their firearms.   What is a “lead sled”?This piece of “high tech” technology basically consisted of a cradle for the firearm which allows you to securely place the gun in a rest and a weighted base to absorb the shock of the recoil after firing.  The lead sled then can be adjusted to provide a relative reference point for each shot.  This is the most accurate way of sighting in a rifle.  For those non-shooters, shooting in the standing, crouched or even prone position can still introduce a ton of variability in the shot from sources like flinching or even something as innocuous as breathing.  The lead sled, negates these problems.

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My choice for deer this year includes an .270 and a .30-30.  we tarted with the Remington .270 and cycled a variety of shells ranging from 110 grain all the way up to 150.  During our down time last deer season we had put together a variety of shells within this range of bullets all using differing amounts of powder.  Basically, the ballistics change with the grain size of bullets and amount of gunpowder used.  Being able to fire a range of bullets with a range of powder charges allows the hunter to find the exact combination that fits his gun and his shooting style, essentially optimizing the hunting rifle for the specific person using it.  This, coupled with physically setting the scope for specific distances can greatly increase the accuracy and turn the rifle into a finely tuned hunting machine.

Sound a bit fanatical to you?  Don’t get me wrong, Im not a gun nut by any stretch of the imagination.  I do however believe, if your going to do something, do it right the first time and ultimately, knowing your gun and what powder/bullet combo works the best can help you as a hunter make better shots. This in turn minimizes missed and foul shots.  Something no hunter ever wants to experience.

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Next up, was the .30-30.  This calibre and make of gun has quite a bit of history and is often the choice for deer hunters who hunt areas with thick bush.  Equipped with open sights and a lever action, this guns is one of the fastest non-semi automatic deer guns available.  Its downside: it is pretty useless after 150yrds. Upsides: this gun definitely brings the FUN factor to shooting and if you ever dreamed of being a cowboy as a kid, this rifle is for you! YEEHAW!

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(an excellent grouping for 100 yrds!)

Ranges offer great fun and are a great tool for hunters to hone their firearms.  Even if your not a gun owner or hunter and are interested, it is worth checking with any friends that may have memberships and with the ranges them selves to see what the access requirements are.  Non Pal holders may be allowed to attend and enjoy the facilities if accompanied by a PAL holder. The following link lists a few gun clubs throughout Ontario.

http://www.firearmscanada.com/resources/gun-clubs/#Ontario

Cheers from the Wild Range

Albert

Loughborough Lakers – Dinner time

My recent trip  to Loughborough Lake proved fruitfull with a decent average sized laker which I kept for the table.

Now to be clear, I don’t always keep fish to eat.

In fact I probably keep one or two once every ten or so fishing trips.  This is in the interest of conservation and propagation of the sport.  However, after pulling that beautiful laker from that 95 feet of cold clear water my taste buds took control.  For those of you who don’t eat a lot of fish or who don’t know, its hard to beat freshly caught trout.

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Lake trout can be cooked any number of ways including battered and fried, poached, baked etc. but my favourite by far is pan searing.   So after filleting the fish I dredged in a light flour, salt and pepper mixture and seared with a dab of butter until golden brown.

During searing I drizzled a bit of lemon juice on each piece of the fish for a bit more flavour.

I then placed the trout on a bed of rice with hollandaise sauce topped with a few sprigs of asparagus.

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Cant think of many things that come close to the taste of this.  And although this dish already tastes great, the feeling of preparing something I caught myself makes it taste all the better.

I’m reminded of a quote I heard somewhere:  sometimes the best meals aren’t from a restaurant or grocery store…

Cheers from the Dinner Table…

Albert

Forest Chicken Supreme – A Weekend Grouse Hunt North of Algonquin

Nothing gets the heart pumping like a flushing bird breaking the silence of a crisp autumn morning.  From seemingly out of no where they can turn a hunters peaceful walk in the woods into a frenzy of heart pounding action.

Its for this reason that most people who have gone grouse hunting consider the grouse to be one of the most exciting and enjoyable species to hunt ( not to mention tasty!).

So when I was offered the opportunity to travel to a rustic hunting camp north of Algonquin park, I jumped at the chance.  Nestled against the northeastern border of Algonquin Park about 11km from Highway 17, the camp has been run by my friend’s family for the better part of 50 years via a crown land lease .  The camp is situated amongst fairly dense coniferous woods which have been selectively logged in some areas.  The combination of the new growth triggered by the logging and the sheer density of the woods makes this area prime bird hunting habitat.

So in anticipation, my friend Dave and I left Kingston around 5pm on friday and made our way up highway 15.  We met the camp owner, a mutual friend, in Arnprior and made the 1 -2 hour trek across Highway 17 and then down a back road to the camp.  After spending a few minutes getting the camp in order and firing up the wood stoves, we settled in for a rest before the next days much anticipated hunt.

At the time we weren’t sure if it was a dream or not but during the evening, all three of us seemed to hear a grouse beating outside the camp.  Either a weird coincidence, wishful thinking or a very good sign for the hunt to come.

I am glad it turned out to be option 3!

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We awoke early and had a classic bacon and egg breakfast before heading out.  We loaded our two 12 gauges into the car and hit the road shortly after.  Our heading? Towards a few spots the owner was familiar with.  In my experience grouse often stick to specific areas that offer cover, food and water.  So if you have seen birds in a specific area, consider them prime candidates when selecting hunting spots on later hunts.

The action was slow to start and the crisp morning seemed to be keeping the birds in their roosts.  The temperatures were in the negatives over the evening and it was taking the sun quite a while to warm up the area.  Not to mention there was snow on the ground and ice on some of the lakes.

But, once the sun was out in full force, the birds seemed to wake up.

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(a moment of appreciation between the author and his quarry)

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(Dave’s first grouse hunt)

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(the owner holding up a bird after the hunt)

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(possibly one of the most beautiful birds to be found in Ontario)

We shot a total of three birds in low scrub cover over the course of the day and saw another 3 that flushed a bit to far away to shoot.  The birds were taken with #7 1/2, #6 and #2 shot.  Although I have never heard of #2 for grouse, the owner insisted it was needed to penetrate the thick bush encountered in the area.  After seeing the bush first hand, I believe it.  Just make sure you try to it out on a few clays prior to hunting since #2 will pattern much differently than #7 1/2 and will require greater accuracy.  Not a big deal when shooting something that is still but becomes a big issues when trying to hit a flushing grouse.

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(In my opinion, three birds in one day is not too shabby!)

Of course, everyone who has hunted grouse knows the best part comes around dinner time.  We dusted the grouse breasts with seasoned salt, pan seared with bacon and then threw them on the charcoal grill to finish.  To enhance the flavour a bit, we threw a smoldering piece of cedar on the grill. Smoked grouse anyone? Nom nom nom

As an added bonus, I had brought a few of my home made smoked summer venison sausages from this years deer.  What a deliciously wild feast!

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We washed it all down with a couple fingers of single malt scotch and settled in for a comfortable evening beside the camp stove.

Its times like this that make me think of how lucky we Ontarians are to be able to enjoy such amazing experiences, in such a beautiful part of the world.  Not to mention being able to enjoy such an amazing meal with some of highest quality of meat you can get.   Don’t forget the low carbon footprint to boot.

Days like this are out there for the taking, so get outside and enjoy what the wilderness has to offer!

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Is venision leaving a bad taste in your mouth?

A few years back I was hunting as part of a group in south eastern Ontario near the Belleville Area.  As luck would have it, one of the newer additions to the group shot a beautiful 8 point buck.  As a lover of all things wild (especially edibles), I was ecstatic.  This was the first deer I had an part (albeit indirectly) in killing and I was going to enjoy the meat.

Unfortunately, the meat did not taste very good and to this day I have often wondered why that was.

After bumping around the internet a bit I recently came across this well written article (see link below) by Will Brantley, a freelance writer for Reeltree.com.  Thinking back now, and comparing to this article, I am sure that many mistakes were made in the handling of the meat.

Hopefully this article will help all those hunters who have experienced the same issues as I have.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

http://www.realtree.com/hunting/articles-and-how-to/12-reasons-why-your-venison-tastes-like-hell