Wednesday, January 21, 2015


An Outdoorsman’s view on the River
Can it really be December already? It was just a few days ago that I was looking forward to enjoying November. I had hoped for a good (long) month to enjoy the outdoors before winter set in. Well, winter made an early showing and the wind that accompanied it was stout, for most of the month. None the less I did get outside often and this past week was no exception. Snow came and went as some brief rain showers returned to erase the early white blanket.
Last Sunday (the 21st) I fancied a morning with the river and some ducks. It was a (nice) calm morning and I was able to launch my kayak from shore. I put out a decoy to lure any single ducks that might swing by. I sat in the kayak with my scatter gun across my lap and watched the skies. Broadbills were flying near the channel and there was some good shooting to be had out there. As for me an occasional merganser would pop up by my decoy or fly over it. I had one emerge from the river right next to me and it startled the both of us. That mergy wasted no time smacking the river, as it awkwardly took flight. Three more mergansers paddled past and they were startled by a looming black bird flying over the surface. An elegant mature loon stroked its dark wings barely above the river surface as it passed by me. It was a good few days to spot loons.
Monday morning I noticed an immature loon on the river as I scanned for ducks. It was too calm to sit for another morning. Nothing would be flying close to shore and I had seen enough mergansers. It was a day opposite of all the others, the temperature was in the fifties and the sun was high and bright. A good day for an upland hunt! My little Britt was wound up and ready to go, at the sight of my old canvas hunting pants. She hit the field with gusto and soon flushed a hen pheasant. The day was off to a good start. Zippy entered a woodlot and I could hear her bell as she worked. A Rooster pheasant sounded off and flew forty yards in front of me in the open. I brought up my gun and shot two times… The rooster flew on.
I carried my magnum gun that morning and my aim was, well …normal. I did see where that rooster landed and might have another chance later. Zippy did her best to find another bird. She worked all of the thick brambles and worked up quite a heat. I had to force her to stop and take a drink of water. It was windy and hot too. She was panting and nervous, while I held her; “Come on you have to take a drink, otherwise I’ll be carrying you out. We split an apple while she cooled off and calmed down. Zip and I got to where the rooster had set in. Her bell rang and the rush of wings taking flight rocked me on my heels. I pulled the gun up took off the safety and before I shouldered the gun hit the trigger. Amazingly that rooster collapsed. My bride calls that instinct shooting; I’d call it blind luck.
Zip found the rooster and called me over to it. She raced in and I waddled over, it was thick and required some crawling. I put our prize into the game bag and ventured on. Soon her bell was ringing again and a hen pheasant came running up a hill, to flush in front of me. I watched it catch the wind and fly off to safety. Zippy came out and gave me a quizzical look; “No hens, just roosters.” We next worked the cattails along the creek, taking some time for another drink of water. In a shallow ravine Zip got on a bird and ran it away from me and then towards me. Another rooster scrambled from the grass and flew straight at me. One, two, three shots and old dead eye finally connected. Zip found that one and pointed to it with her keen nose. We had a limit of roosters in less than an hour and a half.
That afternoon near sunset, Zip and I were on the deck watching a rain storm move in from Canada. The wind was blowing the billowing clouds to the south and a soft misty rain fell. The wind picked up and a sudden dump of large round raindrops caused Zippy to scramble back into the cabin. She is a dynamo in the fields but a little rain will make her crazy. Tuesday we went out for another field trip. The ground was wet and she did not mind the water so long as it lay on the ground. She flushed two hens that afternoon and a rooster. The rooster got up in a thicket and I could have taken a shot. I was content to watch that one, it had my pup working for over ten minutes and it was a crafty old bird. That’s one that will be able to make it through the winter. He will be a good candidate for the hens come the breeding season.
Thursday was memorable for several reasons. First there was the ship ‘Three Rivers’ detained and anchored off of Carleton Island. When I went to photograph it there were three loons between me and the ship. Two more loons were on the river, one to the west and another to the east. They were all conversing and it was a thrill to hear so many so late in the year. Four seagulls were working on a duck carcass, to my left not far off of shore. A loon I was watching made a sudden call and dove below the surface. It had spotted a mature Bald Eagle coming. The eagle was not interested in the loon, but it was interested in what the gulls were working on. The eagle flared its wings and made a dive into the center of gulls scattering, them in all directions. It missed snatching the duck and flew back to the north with empty talons. The freighter ‘Federal Yoshino’ traveled down-river and passed in front of the moored ship ‘Three Rivers’. It was a strange and eerie sight to see one freighter facing the broad side of another!
We were in Clayton on Friday and I made it a point to stop at Frink’s Park. I wanted to see the new Muskie sculpture. What an impressive addition to the river. It is a very accurate rendition of our regions most famous game fish. That’s it for the last week of November. I’m ready to get outside and begin my December! (Mike LaDue, 12-01-14)