A week before the waterfowl season closed a spell of mild weather cleared snow covered stubbles and opened ice-locked streams. After the thaw there were several days of excellent duck shooting on dykeland fields and streams.
How good was the duck hunting? Well, one hunter told me that it was like the videos you see of waterfowl haunts on the prairie flyways; flock after flock of ducks coming to stubbles and open water with non-stop shooting.
This seems like an exaggeration; but while I was jumpshooting the last Friday of the season, I counted between 40 and 50 shots on the dykes in the time it took me to walk half a mile of stream. Based on the shooting I heard, the ducks really had to be pouring in; the reports I got later on several dykeland hunts confirmed that they were.
The brief thaw at the tail end of the season was a bonus for waterfowlers who took advantage of it, and as one hunter put it, “a fine finale to the duck season.”
While there were some disappointments, this appears to have been a better than average season for upland and waterfowl hunters. Recently I contacted local hunters and asked them to rate their season on grouse, pheasants and waterfowl. These were active hunters, that is, they hunted an average of three days a week, so their observations probably give an accurate picture of how good hunting was in 1997.
“While we had some good days with a lot of flushes, pheasant hunting was only fair to average. Ruffed grouse numbers were the lowest I’ve seen them in years. I found so few grouse that I didn’t feel like shooting them.” – Wade Downey, Coldbrook. (Wade hunts with a German Wirehair and covered a three-county area in search of grouse.)
“Grouse hunting this season wasn’t as good as last year. While I hunted a bit more this season than last, my kill was down by about a third.” – Vincent (Gus) Shaw, New Minas. Gus hunts grouse exclusively in Kings County coverts and doesn’t use a bird dog. His grouse harvest two seasons ago was 41; his last season harvest of 31 dropped to 21 this fall.
“I found there were more pheasants this season and hunting was a little better than the previous year. Grouse were very scarce. I quit hunting grouse because they were scarce. Woodcock hunting was good.” – Bill Tibert, Coldbrook. Bill uses an English Setter.
“While I didn’t hunt birds as much this year as last, when I did get out I found pheasant hunting was great. I had a good season on pheasants. Grouse hunting was only fair. Grouse numbers seemed to be down.” – Tom Keddy, New Minas. Tom hunts a Springer Spaniel.
“An excellent season on pheasants – there were plenty of birds. Grouse were very scarce.” – Wayne Downey, Kentville. Using a German Wirehair, Wayne hunted most of the Valley floor for pheasants and grouse.
“Grouse hunting this season was just as good as any other year. I hunted them (grouse) hard and had a good season. Woodcock hunting was good, especially from the second week of October to mid-November. I didn’t hunt pheasants this season as much as I usually do and only had an average year.” – Cameron Chapman, Waterville. Cameron uses a German Wirehair.
“I think this was my best hunting season since I returned (to Nova Scotia) in 1983. If it hadn’t been for the early snows, this season had the potential of being my best since the 70s. There seemed to be more pheasants and hunting was good, but I’d say my season was only marginally better than last year.” – Bob Williams, Chipman Corner. Bob, who hunts a Labrador Retriever, adds that while grouse hunting was not outstanding, it was slightly better than last year. Woodcock and duck hunting also were better.
“While there were less geese around, I had a better goose hunting season than last year. Comparing this pheasant season with last year’s, my harvest was about the same. There seemed to be fewer pheasants.” – Clyde Earle, Kentville. Clyde hunts pheasants with an English Setter. He described his duck season as “nil,” explaining that he concentrated solely on geese while waterfowling.