Dale Hainer, born 1960 into a family of hunters, anglers, trappers and farmers, pursued a career with the Ontario Fire Service at age 19. Throughout his life, he maintained his roots to the land and shared his tales while being a professional outdoor writer, photographer and videographer. Retired at age 50 from the Service, he now spends countless hours creating more adventures to share with you. Member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada.
Author's Note: The region around Gowganda Lake Ontario offers perfect conditions for creating a booming population of Grouse. Hence, it is a favoured destination for upland hunters and those wishing to quickly train a new hunting dog!
A whispering fall breeze floats Aspen leaves to a colourful ground blanket. The sun shines brightly through the remaining kaleidoscope foliage causing my eyes squint. There is movement in the long grass ahead! My senses tweak alert and as a Ruffed Grouse takes to the sky! As I have done a hundred days before, my trusty 28 gauge finds my shoulder and one shot is fired off. Feathers mix with the falling leaves and i am assured of another evening feast!
Fall Ruffed Grouse hunting is a time honoured practice in my family. As a young lad, my father led me to many parts of Ontario seeking the most robust of bird concentrations that he could. I wonder if he ever experienced the Gowganda Lake region for upland bird hunting? Well, i sure hope so because I now have!
It takes an blend of deciduous and conifer forest mix with plentiful wild ground berry growth and swamp edges to produce Ontario's greatest populations of wild Grouse. Land maps, satellite images and Google earth led my attention to the Gowganda Lake region for such possibilities.
My suspicions were confirmed as I spoke on the phone with Urs Brunner, owner of Auld Reekie Lodge on Gowganda Lake. "If you cant hit a flying bird, you better bring lots of shells" stated Brunner. "most hunters show up with a lack of ammo". That final statement was good enough for me as I immediately booked a cabin at Auld Reekie and my group set our destination promptly.
This region was shredded by ancient glaciers leaving deep pockets of lakes, streams and swamps while pushing soils into rises and ridges where trees and foliage have grown deep. Forestry is a continuing historical practice that finds stands of new growth mixed with old growth. Lying within several hours of metro Ontario, The Gowganda region contains a myriad of abandoned logging and mineral exploration roads. This offers great access to landscape. Some of these roads may be accessed by vehicle while some are so dated that an ATV or hiking boots are essential. What lies beyond each rise in the geography is an ever mystery.
Timing your grouse hunt is essential as the district is well populated with Black Bear, Moose and big game hunters. Black bear hunting begins mid August with the organized hunts ending by the second week of Sept. Grouse season opens mid September and so does the archery Moose hunt. There is limited Moose hunter presence in the region during archery season, unlike the Moose gun season which opens by the second week of October.
Depending on your style of grouse hunting, the early season start often finds full foliage on the trees with heavy ground foliage. Dogs are essential at this time to help you seek and spot the birds. By the end of Sept, tree and ground cover is sparse allowing the solo "walk and stalk" hunter a better opportunity to see birds.
With grouse populations being so plentiful based on the sheer amount of preferred cover and feed, Gowganda Lake region is a popular place to field train a new bird hunting dog. "We have hunters come up every year with a half dozen dogs" explained Brunner. "They bring seasoned dogs as well as young dogs to train because they can flush up two or three dozen grouse a day". With that amount of field experience, a young dog could be bird trained in a few days!
Finding a few birds is easy enough as one can travel the old logging roads and spot birds as they come to the old gravel roads to swallow up small grit sands which is essential in bird digestion. Having met up with another pair of hunters with dogs they attested to the fact that "if you see one bird on the old road, there are 15 more in the bush! If a hunter is looking for lots of birds, get off the roads and beat the transition forests or shorter second growths such as poplar and aspen groves". And so we did...
View Auld Reekie - Wildlife Management Unit 40 in a larger map
Gowganda Lake is located in WMU 40 with WMU 29 close by. The daily grouse limit per hunter is five with a possession limit of fifteen. Unlike the Boreal forests further northwest, the dominant Ruffed grouse species seems to be favoured rather than the Spruce grouse.
While birds are plentiful, so are grouse hunters. You will encounter other hunters on the old roads. Firearm discharge laws from travelled roads do not necessarily apply to unmaintained rights of way, such as an abandoned logging road.
Joe McCambridge, president of the Ontario Conservation Officer Association warns that while hunting on an abandoned road, hunters must always do so in a safe manner. "Consider that even an abandoned roadway is used by all travellers whether be on foot or ATV therefore, shooting down any travel-way is dangerous considering other users may suddenly appear around the corner. Remember: it is illegal to shoot from any motorized vehicle including ATV's, dirt bikes and snowmobiles whether the engine is running or not.
by Dale Hainer
Growing up in a family of old-style deer hunters who insisted on using doggers to push deer to waiting watchers, I was ecstatic when Little River Lodge announced it was offering traditional deer drives.
Little River Lodge is nestled at the convergence of the Little Pickerel River and five lakes, with hunting grounds easily accessible by boat. I volunteered to be a dogger for the week and at 6 a.m. a hearty breakfast and coffee was the charge I needed as our party of 18 hunters shuffled into boats.
As we motored down the lake, the November air chilled my nose with the ironic sting of a hot coal. Reaching our destination, “Drive Master” Carson led us into the bush, dropping doggers off at strategic ridges and instructing us that he would start the drive with one long wolf howl.
With that initial howl from the boss, we systematically tramped our ridges, howling out to not only drive deer south but also to keep in line with the other doggers. The gun shots in the distance sang out that we were doing our job. It was an exhilarating feeling!
Following the drive doggers reunited with watchers. Questions of who shot, where, and what were fired and we worked together with deer recovery. The atmosphere remained highly jovial although this shooter's bullets found trees instead of deerskin.
As the watchers returned to their boats and headed for the next watch, we took the opportunity to rest our legs and have a quick bush snack of venison jerky prepared by veteran guide Vicki Druery.
This scenario was repeated twice more until, following the third drive, I could smell wood smoke and hear the crackling of fire. Some of the watchers could hear us closing in and started preparing the noon lunch location.
Eighteen of us clambered together. Canned goods, hotdogs, and sandwiches started flying out of back packs and crotch sticks were cut to toast sandwiches over the fire. Although the day was not the coldest, I enjoyed the flames, taking the opportunity to remove my upper garments and hang them around the fire to drive out the sweat. Dousing the lunch fire meant there were more deer to chase!
Dogging throughout the week gave me the opportunity to gauge the year’s acorn crop and speculate on grouse populations, black bear locales and wolf numbers. I was even visited by an inquisitive moose. I will never understand why moose are so interested in me prior to the moose season?
By week’s end, seven deer hung from the meat pole and twice that many had been witnessed fleeing past watchers. Sleep had come easy for me every evening and often began in the boat on the return trip to the lodge.
Little River Lodge
Carson and Ellen Hainer
Box 25 On.
Golden Valley Ontario,
Phone: (705) 757-5723
Find out more about planning a hunting trip to Ontario.
I would like to fish every day. I would love to hunt every day! I dream of fishing every morning and hunting every afternoon! I woke up and found it at Golden Eagle Camp & Outfitting in Northeastern Ontario.
Searching out my dream week was made easy via the web by visiting GoHuntInOntario.com. On the website, I quickly came across Golden Eagle Camp located between the towns of Matachewan and Elk Lake. Both communities offered fine services for stocking the food shelf before hitting Camp.
Speaking with host, Jennifer Wilkins on the phone I was blunt and to the point. “Can I catch fish? Lots of fish? Walleye? Bass? Pike? Every Day? Enough for Supper every night? And bear? Can I shoot a bear? In the evening can I hunt for bear? Seriously, i will see a bear and shoot it too?” Jennifer’s answers came back as quickly as i was asking them “Yes. Of course. Sure. You Bet.....” and eventually she rolled into answering something like “Ya-Sure-Definitely-Positive-Yessum-Yessum......”
Meeting hosts Jennifer and Bruce Wilkins, I had to re-confirm the dream-purpose intentions of my visit. It took me about 5 minutes to realize that Bruce was a persona-mirror image of myself, in his intensity, humour and snappy wit. Poor Jennifer.
The late august sun came up bright and clear on the the lake, actually a wide section of Sydney Creek that flows into the Montreal River a short distance out.
I took a walk about, checking out the grounds and facilities. How about all these other folks, the ones with portable kennels and dogs and the ones with tents and trailers and little kids? What are they doing here? What about that cottage with the Ranger Bass Boat parked in front? Are they all hunting bear too? “Its a year-round season family camp”, explained Jennifer. “There is always someone here, coming for the fishing, the hunting, the beach and water-slide, the swimming and water trampoline, or in the winter for ice fishing and snowmobiling, or just to camp outside yet still have clean drinking water and laundry services available, or like right now all of the above.” I was secretly sceptical on how well this cauldron of cultures would mix once we started bringing dead bears into the morgue.
My incredulous instinct was soon laid to rest by the second evening when hunters, hosts and guides gathered at the Bear Shed and began reporting their days kills. Large jet-black furred bears were brought to the shed to be skinned, and prepped for table fare but not before pictures and stories were shared. To my delight, most of the non-hunting guests were present as well. Cameras in hand and some with babies cradled in their arms, they joined in with the excitement, the pride, the camaraderie, and fellowship of the hunters to hear the tales and see the beasts that often lurk outside the eyes of so many.
This was truly a unique situation. This was a very inspirational hunt camp for me, and for my son in law Troy McAdams, whose 241 pound boar bear hung proudly for a moments display as he answered the questions of the non hunting onlookers and guided the children and teens who inquisitively wanted to feel the bears fur and see the claws and teeth.
Troy had to hang up his shooting iron after filling his bear tag and it was time to introduce him to the fishing boat supplied by Golden Eagle Camp. Wilkens encourage the bear hunters to stay for the duration of the week, even after getting their bear and to take in some of the great fishing opportunities.
We were introduced to our boat, a 16 foot stylish aluminium, 25 hp Yamaha motor, electric bow mounted trolling motor, fresh water live well, padded swivel boat seats and an electronic depth sounder.
While I continued with the bear hunt, Troy went to discover the Montreal River. The river bottom was riddled with historic logging debris creating perfect fish habitat. This section of the Montreal River offers enough bends and islands to comfortably shelter a boat fisherman even on a windy day. Before I left camp for a evening sit down near a bear bait station, Troy had already returned with a limit of walleye and was in the fish cleaning station making them ready.
Near weeks end, it was hard to keep up with all the outdoors action and tales. Hunters were seeing bears daily and hanging some in the shed. Others, like Troy were pointing the successful hunters toward the finer fishing spots on the Montreal River. Yet others were heading back into the bush not with gun in hand but with cameras to capture memories of wildlife including the majestic northern Timber wolf.
My bear, a big old sow with worn down teeth, had crept into view long enough for me to make her some prized food for family and friends. Bruce and Byron carefully skinned this one out for me as my intentions were to get a bear hide throw made... something that the grand-kids and ladies back home could appreciate.
By weeks end, most bear hunters had taken their game, filled their bellies with fish, and were relaxing by spending the day preparing the kills for transport home and packing up their gear or like Troy and I, just hanging out in the boat and playing with the local fish populations. 11 bear hunters, seen 26 bear over the past week and killed 7 and all in camp were satisfied as success is measured on a variety of levels.
With daytime temperatures allowing a comfortable level for water activities, the picnic area was everyone’s popular gathering place during the day as some tossed horse-shoes competitively across the pits while others, kids and adults, enjoyed the long water slide to the lake. There is nothing better than a floating trampoline with hydra-catapult to entertain participants and viewers alike!
I give Bruce and Jennifer all the credit in the world for successfully bringing together such a celebrated time and event, for hunters and for those who seek to see what it is we hunters do. Golden Eagle Camp and Outfitting is a pearl in the heart of Northeastern Ontario.
How do you get 4 adult men to screech, squawk and giggle like school girls on the last day of semester? Drop them in on Algoma Country's Brunswick Lake Lodge for a week of FISHING!
Having ventured to many remote Ontario outpost camps in my life, Brunswick Lake Lodge, situated in the historical heart of Algoma, was a thrilling change of pace! This was my first experience to a remote lodge complete with all the amenities including on-site caretakers, hosts, generated hydro, clean drinking well water, hot and cold running water in the showers, wood fired sauna, bleach brightened fish cleaning station with stainless tables, sinks and running water.
Each lakefront cabin is called out to the lake by a long, stable dock with as many Lund SV 16 foot boats as we needed. New 9.9 hp Yamaha motors were easy starting and smooth idling and capable of dead slow trolling. Boats were all adorned with swivel seats for added comfort! I took a walk along the entire fleet of boats and not a one had a leaking rivet. I enquired about this and caretaker Randy told me that the boats are re-riveted on first signs of any leakage.
Ultra clean and tidy European style log cabins consisted of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen with full sized propane fridge and stove, hydro lights, back up propane lighting, large counter surface with cold running water, pots, pans and CAST IRON fry pans! The large dining rooms were surrounded by picture windows in every direction. Each cabin has its own separate outhouse facility just a short walk away. The 4 of us spent much of our late evenings on the large screened in porch where we could watch the sun set and the full moon rise. The cabin could be heated on cooler nights with a large wood stove. Wood was piled in the inside third room/spare room.
Every evening caretakers Randy and Traci would deliver us fresh drinking water from the well and fuel up the boat motors. Upon one of these visits they noticed our screen porch door was not quite fitting properly. The next day, Randy and host Norm were in to jack up the corner of the cabin and re-fit the door.
In the centre of the large well groomed acreage sat a HUGE common Lodge with full kitchen facilities, dining room, sitting room, screened porch overlooking the lake, dart board, quality pool table, Foosball, wet bar, couches, chairs, recliners and TELEVISION with Satellite! Similarly, a satellite WiFi system is available for anyone with a laptop or smartphone that needs to check their email, message friends on Facebook, or post a few teasing Tweets.
Across the walkway from the Lodge is the Office where we had access to a satellite phone for a modest fee. Inside the office a small store of supplies was available to purchase such as fishing tackle, rods and reels, insect repellents, cases of pop, dry food goods and cooking oil.
I skeptically asked if there were any of those large outside deep fryers on site available for deep fryer fish. WELL OF COURSE THERE WAS! Several propane deep fryers and propane tanks were available for use. Perfection!
Slipping into a boat, with waterproof map in hand we started exploring the many back bays and islands. Brunswick Lake is 15 miles in twisty length and contains 37 mid lake islands randomly strewn about. Water depths range from the shallow weeded back bays to over 50 feet deep. My "never leave home without it" portable depth sounder/ fish finder alerted me to the immediate fact that FISH ARE EVERYWHERE!
Brunswick Lake is noted for its plentiful Walleye, chunky Yellow Perch and numerous Northern Pike and seeing is believing! Brunswick Lake was simple enough to fish in, merely find a bit of underwater structure such as rock piles, rubble or weeds, bordering deeper waters and the fish will be there... eventually. Other guests, some of whom have been visiting for over 20 years tell tales of slow fishing rates suddenly becoming explosive and catching 40 or 50 in an hour! That is so true with Brunswick's underwater structures. Pick any see-able island and troll its perimeter with the favoured Red & White Wobbling Spoon, 5 of Diamonds, or a 3/8 ounce round ball pink jig with a 3 inch white curly tailed worm and you will find if the fish are active or not! No fish? Simply move or troll to the next visible structure (island or rocky point) and give it a slow pass with your lure.
These visible structure areas erupt early in the day and later into the afternoon when the sun settles and does not beat so forcefully on the water. Walleye are a bit light sensitive, so if you want to catch them mid-day, you will find them holding in deeper water just off these islands and points. Throughout the course of your fishing day, you will find Walleye and Pike in a mixture together. That is because the great Northerns are feeding on the Walleye! About 10 percent of the Walleye we caught were torn or ripped with escape scars from larger predators.
For the more adventuresome angler, we enjoyed drifting slowly along visible structure and cast our jigs up into the shallows and retrieve them down along the stepping depths. This tactic can result in HUGE amounts of fish catching action...not for the faint of heart! Casting is a great way to localize fish schools and once you find them, continually casting to them often resulted in many "fish per cast" scenarios!
Catching a big Northern Pike was eluding me. The system is literally loaded with shallow watered "Hammer Handles" as I call them. Many of those 1 – 3 pound Pike were also scarred by larger predators. It's a well known fact that Northern Pike are so voracious a feeder that they will cannibalize! Where were the bigger Pike? My Humminbird 110 portable fish finder said they were suspending in deeper water most of the time. BIG fish eat less and spend more time in a neutral state. I tried fast casting and power trolling across these suspended fish in an attempt to create a reaction strike from them. I threw the tackle box at them including large St Clair Hound Bucktails, Tiny Torrent Flash Skirts and even some homemade Bucktail Spinners. Relentlessly, they were pushed aside.
In a final attempt to secure a subtle monster, I pulled out a trusty three quarter ounce, bright yellow and white, double bladed SpinnerBait and found a good weed bed bordering deeper (15 foot) water. I cast that lure as far as I could and would rip it fast through the weeds. Spinner-baits have the luxury of not hanging onto the weeds or sunken logs. This ripping/ stop and go retrieve did the trick! It wasn't the monsters I had seen in Brunswick photos but it was a chunky 32 inch fish approaching 10 lbs! I was satisfied.
View Brunswick Lake Lodge in a larger map
Diverse outdoor experiences, where dreams come true is what keeps me coming back to Algoma Country.
One last note: During the summer at Brunswick Lake, the sun rises a half hour earlier and sets half hour later than Southern Ontario...THAT'S AN ENTIRE EXTRA HOUR OF FISHING PER DAY!
To book your next fly-in fishing trip in Algoma visit the website www.algomaflyinfishing.com
As a 50 year old accomplished angler, hunter, outdoor writer, photographer and videographer, my home province of Ontario continually amazes me with the varying landscapes throughout its half million square miles. Traveling aside, I find myself drawn back to certain regions and Algoma is tops on my list. And it's no surprise to me that many artists frequent this region and tour throughout via the Algoma Central Railway! Even going back 100 years, Canada's own Group of Seven loved to come, explore, depict in charcoal and paints Algoma's grandeur, returning to share it with you all.
Algoma is poised richly at the north shore of Lake Huron and west Superior offering me, as an outdoorsman, easily accessible fishing and hunting opportunities. From my home on Lake St Clair, it's an exciting day's ride through the changing landscapes to get there.
Awaiting me is a host of friendly services and outfitters, all wanting to help make my experience the most rewarding possible. Take my most recent trip for example with Lauzon Aviation. One of the regions oldest service outfitters is now run by three complete generations of the Makela family. As with all outfitters and guides that I have met in the area, the Makelas take great pride in their independent knowledge and skills affording them a modest lifestyle in the north. In no time at all, these northern traders make you feel very welcome and secure with them, as your guest. And when it comes to flying to a remote lake in a float plane, most folk appreciate a decent sense of security!
Algoma's rugged land and lakes was shredded by the last ice age leaving in its retreat, deep cut lakes, sheer ridges and canyons. The waters contained are now clean and clear and teeming with fish! Many visitors may not realize it but fish in Algoma are in most part, native species with tens of thousands of years of genetics in them. Very few species have ever been stocked which makes knowing this fact very exciting to me. Coming from the deep southern end of the province, it's an assumption that most fish and game has been stocked, managed, manipulated and altered for my convenience. Not so with Algoma! These ancient species immediately gain a respect from me as I feel I have been allowed to enter into their world, under their scrutiny, for mutual enjoyment. Weird as it may sound you will see or "feel" what I mean when you get there!
This particular lake that I was allowed to visit, Robb Lake, was pristine to me, clean, quiet and filled with old historical Speckled and Lake trout and some bonus stocked Rainbows. Only once were the rainbow Trout ever stocked in Robb Lake and they flourished immediately to join in the ranks of the residents.
Catching one of these species is not difficult when you fly into an Algoma lake. Brightly coloured spoons, trolling across any one of the numerous underwater ridges finds some active fish. And when you are allowed into a lake that has been respected so well by other visitors that it is hard to find any evidence of human presence, hooking into a fish makes you feel like a 1600's exploring Voyageur!
As an artist, I cannot properly duplicate for you in photos the magnificent beauty of these Trouts. I have fished many regions and Algoma native fishes are surely a vivid, translucent, colourful sub species all in themselves. I almost felt guilty keeping a couple for an open fire supper! For the price of air fare and lodgings, I could have chosen any one of several lakes serviced by Lauzon Aviation including lakes filled with walleye, trophy pike or bass. I was drawn to the Trouts.
My next trip may very well be at a time when I can mix a bit of moose hunting with bird hunting and a day back at some fall walleye fishing. I assure you, after all my years, that if your choice is Algoma, you will be welcomed, made to feel like a local, speechlessly awe-struck, successful on more levels than expected and immediately start to plan your return!
View Lauzon Aviation in a larger map
To Book your Algoma Fly-in Fishing Adventre visit the website at www.algomaflyinfishing.com