Chasing Snows & Canadas |By this time our hunting party had experienced our first day of decoying snow geese. And what an experience it was. Nothing like I’ve ever encountered. Big numbers of white birds. A vast spread of decoys and purpose built “a-frame blinds”. The whole trip up to this point had been nothing but fantastic. And we had another 2 days hunting in Quebec and a day in Ontario before we flew home.
The afternoon of the first day of hunting was filled with conversation about the mornings hunting. We processed the birds. Plucking, breasting, gutting. Getting them ready for the pot. One of the guys that was staying with us, Dave. Had brought a mincer and spent the afternoon turning the goose in to mince. We ate well that night again. Shannon and Calvin provided some more delicious meat. Fab had brought with him some Italian dishes. Mark and Jeremy had more moose. Tales were told, laughs were had. It was exactly how I’d imagined duck camp. We went to bed early again in preparation for another days hunting.
Day 2 arrived and the weather was not what we had hoped for. Drizzle and little wind. Not ideal goose decoying weather. But excited we were nonetheless. Meeting Max at the service station as planned we split up into our groups and wished one another success. Upon arrival to the field we found another spot covered in preen and scat. Another good sign. But the rain did not let up. We set out the decoys. The same plan as the day before. Snows out in front with a killhole 20 yards in front. Family groups of Canadas behind. We were set.
The birds didn’t move until about half an hour after shooting light. I can only attribute that to the rain. The birds did not want to work the decoys. And this made for difficult shooting. The birds that were committing were doing so on the far right of the blind and making it extremely difficult for the guys the other end of the blind get any shooting. This as you can imagine can be frustrating. But this is where you have to exercise extreme discipline and blind etiquette. Our end of the blind did have some shooting but not in the numbers as the day before.
” It was a successful but wet hunt. We managed to scratch out 29 snows and 2 Canadas which was a welcome addition “
They were “rangey” shots and I was ecstatic when I connected with one about 35 yards out back. The retrieve sent my Dad and I on a bit of a walk trying to find a decent place to cross a small irrigation ditch. I managed to fall in on my way down. But WE GOT THE BIRD. Whilst we were over there we had to keep crouching down and taking cover to try and give the other guys in the blind a chance at the decoying birds.
The hunt was finished and we all worked to get the birds picked, blind packed away and decoys in the trailer. Max told us to be careful to not get the birds muddy as this will put the snows off. I totally understand. You never saw these birds in the sky in any other way than immaculate. They really are a beautiful bird. No bigger than a pinkfoot and they have pink feet. Dad and I agreed they reminded us of them. The other group had experienced similar conditions and were themselves packing up. The benefit to a smaller bag was less work to get the birds ready for eating and transport. We took full advantage of that and took the opportunity to nap that afternoon as the early starts, late nights and jetlag were starting to catch up with my Dad.
” It seemed as if the whole trip was passing me by to quickly and I was not looking forward to heading back to Newfoundland and back to work “
The thing about this sort of experience is, it isn’t just about the shooting. Its about the adventure. And that is what drives me to continue doing this. You could sit on a beach in Spain and lay away your time snoozing in the sun. And that’s totally fine, there is nothing wrong with that. But I want to experience as much of this life as I can.
Hunting takes me to new, exciting and wild places. Introduces me to fantastic, knowledgeable people and allows me to learn from them. Its a whole process that isn’t able to be placed in to one box. If someone asked me what I love about hunting. I couldn’t give them a short answer. I am sure it is that way for many people.
Morning 3 arrived and we’d been told we were with Dominique this morning. A restaurateur outside of the hunting season. But during the season, an incredible guide and caller. He can read geese as good as you’d expect from a seasoned guide and can easily turn them with his calling ability. An eccentric and excitable man who brought laughter and humor into the blind. I thoroughly enjoyed hunting with him and had the fortune of spending 3 more days with him this year. We were told that the target species this morning was Canada geese.
I was more than happy to hear this as decoying Canadas was something, again I’d never done. We pulled up outside a farm yard and parked next to a silo. Some of us jumped in the back of Dominique’s truck, others on a quad. My Dad and I walked. Behind where we shot was a steep drop in to another irrigation ditch. That was something we needed to be mindful of setting up.
The decoys were set, blind camouflaged and we were set to go. To our right about a mile away was Lac St Jean. This is where the birds had been roosting and Dominique explained that this field of grass had been getting hit hard for a few days by the Canadas. As shooting light came we heard the distinctive “honks” of the iconic bird. Dominique nails it. I listened to him and have worked on my calling to get it similar to his, if I get anywhere near as good as him. I’ll be decent. The first group of “darks” as they are colloquially known set their wings a fair way out and were on their way. This was amazing to watch and pretty exciting too. Once their wings are locked you know those birds are coming to the decoys.
Dominique gave the shout “TAKE EM” and I was on point. My gun came up and I calmly picked my bird.
There were probably 20 canadas in this first group. I hit the first bird but it didn’t drop, I followed up with a second and as I watched it fold moved on to another bird, which crumpled too. That was it, my confidence was up and I knew I was in for a good morning. Our daily bag limit was 10 birds per gun.
There were 7 of us shooting and I felt confident we would get that limit. Skein after skein poured in. I put my gun down to try and film the birds coming in. It was incredible. Shannon and Colin were close to running out of cartridges. The issue with this was I couldn’t help them out as they were shooting 10 bores. They were doing the business on these decoying Canadas. A group swung in from right to left and I watched one bird flare, it must have seen something. The birds in front all dropped but the flared bird had only been seen by me and was flying away from the decoys behind us.
I gave the bird the right lead and watched it fold at 40 yards !!
I was super impressed with my shooting. Definitely a fluke. I had shot well. I know Dad thought he hadn’t done as good, but he’d accounted for a few birds. It was a manic and exciting morning of goose decoying. A morning that I will never ever forget. We didn’t make the daily limit. But that did not matter. We all had some shooting. And to be honest. some of the best decoying of wildfowl you could hope for.
The whole 3 days had been amazing. I knew I wanted to come back and was hopeful there would be trip proposed for the following year. Luckily for me there was. 2019 wasn’t anywhere near as successful as 2018. But it was still a trip to remember for different reasons. I’ll be sure to share the 2019 account on here later on. But I can’t wait for this years trip. Dad, myself and great friend of mine Pete are making the pilgrimage this time. A big thank you to all of the boys that made it a special one for me personally and a special thank you for John Clements for putting up with my questions and making sure that it happened. I am forever grateful. Roll on 2020!
Chasing Snows in Quebec – Written by James Owne – Passionate Conservationist
An outdoorsman and UK Military Veteran hailing from the North West of England wishing to share my experiences and stories with like minded individuals. – Amateur Chef – Photographer – Writer – Videographer –
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