It’s that time of year in Northeastern Ontario again! The temperatures are starting to drop, the leaves start changing, and the dog days of summer have come to an end. Labour Day weekend has come and gone and the yellow school buses can be found throughout our towns and cities. For many anglers and hunters, this is the transition period from fishing to hunting.
The early hunting season brings opportunities for waterfowl and upland game including Canada geese, a variety of ducks, and grouse. The beginning of September marks the goose opener, followed by a range of dates for ducks (location dependent), and the most popular opener – grouse (a.k.a. partridge) – on September 15th in most Wildlife Management Units (WMU).
Always check your local regulations (here for 2017) for critical dates, bag and possession limits, and any other questions you may have.
Canada geese can be found all over the region with many hunting grounds to choose from – on either land or water. Field hunting is a great way to get into goose hunting and it is an extremely productive technique. Farmer’s or open fields are great locations. Be sure to look into property owners in your area and seek permission before the hunt if it is required.
Duck hunting offers endless opportunities in the region for both location and species. Mallard, teal, and wood ducks are often hunted on smaller ponds, swamps, rivers, and fields. These species respond very well to calling tactics and decoy spreads. Diving ducks are a thrill on bigger bodies of water, usually adjacent to pencil reeds and bullrushes. A simple decoy spread and minimal calling approach has been effective for me in years past.
If you are starting out, a simple decoy spread of 8-10 decoys and a couple of calls will do the trick. Always set up your decoy spread with the wind at your back and in the waterfowl’s face. A 12-gauge pump action shotgun with a minimum 3” capacity and interchangeable chokes is ideal. Ammunition is a personal preference but a good starting point is 3 – 3½” BB for geese and 2 ¾ – 3” No. 2 to 4 for ducks. ALWAYS use steel shot for waterfowl.
Goose and duck hunting can become an absolute addiction and a thrill to take part in. The excitement from seeing a flock on the horizon to calling a flock into your decoy spread never gets old; your heart starts beating and your adrenaline spikes! This is what makes all the early mornings and days of clay shooting worthwhile.
More effective and elaborate hunting methods can be pursued but they come with experience and often higher costs. Look for lodges and guiding services in your area if you want to try hunting waterfowl or progressing to the next level and learning from some of the best.
Grouse hunting is a favourite Northern Ontario pastime and a definitive step into adulthood for many. There is an abundance of Crown land in Northeastern Ontario to choose from that houses a very dense ruffed and spruce grouse population. Long walks are often shared with friends or family members in pursuit of this delicious game.
Grouse can be hunted with a shotgun or low-powered rifle such as a .22 caliber. The most common technique is a shotgun using 2¾” No. 6 shot. This is a very effective technique for all hunters, regardless of age or gender. Highway 101 and 144 corridors offer some of the best grouse hunting opportunities.
Hunting is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and watch the seasonal transitions. Some of my fondest memories include the autumn colours changing in front of you, crisp cool mornings filled with fog, and the dew on your boots. The first honk of a goose, quack of a duck, glimmer of a flock on the horizon, and ruffle of leaves in the bush makes it all worthwhile. I hope your hunting season is full of new memories, destinations, techniques, and many successful hunting stories.
Always practise safe hunting and above all else – have an absolute blast out there!