He is not only a skilled and dedicated waterfowler, he is also approaching 20 years of senior volunteer service with Ducks Unlimited. Mark's taxidermy collection and harvested bands experiences are impressive too.
Mark works for the Canadian Army, but you will find him in the field during his spare time, dropping plump ducks and geese. He is simply duck and goose, through and through.
Put your hands together for Mark and give him a warm welcome.
I have been hunting with a gun in hand since 1977, when I was 12 (legal age to start in Canada), and was going out with my dad for three years before that with a pellet gun. LOL. So I guess I have been waterfowling for 35 seasons.
First duck I ever killed was a full plumage hooded merganser drake. He is mounted and still in my collection. I can remember it like yesterday when I shot him out of a group of ringnecks. It was a total fluke that I hit him since I was flock shooting, and happened to be the only one with a shell in my gun since everyone else had just emptied into a ball of teal while I had my back turned, watering the bushes. I was super excited about it, and have several photos of the duck and my first dog, Spook, that still hang in my home.
My first goose was not quite as exciting, but believe it or not it was banded! It was a young bird that swam into the decoys, and I swatted him when he came into range.
Several other great band days include shooting four bands during one opening day in Nova Scotia, one black duck, one green-winged teal, and two blue-winged teal. The blue wings came in as a pair and I killed them both! I was on a hunt where we shot three tarsus banded Canadas out of a flock, and shot two neck collared Canadas out of a group on another hunt when I was working as a guide in Prince Edward Island. I was also lucky enough to get a Jack Miner band on a great day (the photo you have on the site about photo submissions is from that hunt).
I have collected over 45 bands from various species of waterfowl, as well as neck collars, tarsus bands, reward bands, and two Jack Miner Bands. I was also present when a hunting partner collected a nasal saddle from a goldeneye hen.
I guess the highlight was when my son Drake shot his reward band / first band with me, or the day when my Dad and I each collected a band from different species on an opener hunt, or my Jack Miner bands. There are so many great band days afield, it is hard to pick just one.
Passion for Fowl
I don't like hunting... I love hunting! It is a very social activity that brings people of all ages together at a common level. The start of the day when the sun starts to rise, and the treasure of the day is waiting to begin, the whistling of the wings, and the look of anticipation in a hunter's eyes as well as his lab's. The feeling of satisfaction when the wary duck is finally fooled, and commits to the decoys after several passes and lots of calling. The beauty of the birds, and the amazing colors and variety that waterfowling offers. I could go on, but I think you can see why I love it so much!
I am also active in getting youngsters afield and love to see the smiles we share after a successful hunt.
Lastly, I have an extensive taxidermy collection, and only need a King Eider and a few upgrades to have every North American duck in my collection.
Strategies and Styles
Most of my hunting today is done on private lands for geese and about a 50/50 mix for ducks. Temperatures start here in the 80s, and end when it is really cold, and I hunt everyday I can!
For duck hunting styles, it is anything and everything here. My favorite is flooded field hunts, but they are rare around my area. We also hunt small ponds and marshes, large ponds and lakes, the Saint Lawrence River, Lake Ontario from both shore blinds and layout boats, and I also go to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick to hunt eiders. All of our hunts are over decoys, and a lot of them are hand carved. The variety of species and environments we hunt them in is another reason why I love waterfowling so much. As for geese, 90 percent of my hunting is done on harvested fields, using layout blinds. We like them in close and committed.
Out With a Bang
There are no bands in the following story, but I feel that you don't need to harvest a band to have a great day afield. Bands are a bonus to every day afield.
It was the last hunt day of the January 2009 season. We had hunted this ice flow / point on Lake Ontario for two mornings earlier in the week, and then had been froze out the day before this hunt. This spot requires the wind to be calm, but still blowing a little to keep the ice out and the water from freezing.
The conditions this day were perfect, and I had along my son Drake, and three of my good friends, Gord, Dave and Travis. We all wanted to finish the season with a bang. We were set up and the buffleheads would work the rig, but the old squaws were giving the decoys a wide berth. We studied the squaws' flight patterns, and decided a change of set up and location was needed. Boy did we make a correct move. We passed up any birds that did not work in really close, and the boys were having a great amount of fun.
After about two hours of picking and choosing shots, another hunter arrived that I had met only a few days before near this location. I invited him and his two kids to join us since we were on the "X" and there was more than enough action for all. After a few more birds, I just sat back and watched the guys enjoy themselves. It was truly a special hunt as my new found friend Mike's son shot his first duck that day, and my son Drake scored his first nice drake old squaw as well.
Everyone who was there said it was their best sea duck day ever, and all have added birds to their wall to remember the day.