When outdoor enthusiasts think of Northern Ontario, it is the beautiful remote wilderness, the many lakes and river systems, and the amazing fishing that often comes to mind. What many people may not think of, or may not even be aware of, is the tremendous waterfowl hunting opportunities there as well. This past season was eye-opening for us as we were lucky enough to hunt with Chaudière Lodge and explore all that the Nipissing/French River area has to offer.
Located along the French River in Northern Ontario, Chaudière Lodge is a renowned fishing lodge. Famous for their muskie fishing, they also offer excellent walleye, pike and bass fishing as well; not to mention their stunning lodge and top-notch accommodations. While that alone is enough reason to make the trek north, we were eager to see what they had to offer in the goose fields.
With the leaves changing colours and the temperature starting to drop, we made our way north up Highway 11 towards camp. A special friend would be joining Paul Beasley for this hunt—Bud Fisher of the Catchin’ Deers hunting brand. Growing up in the same area, their families met through minor hockey many years ago, and Paul and Bud were excited to spend some quality hunting time together. After the four hour drive, we arrived and met owner of the lodge Steve Niedzwiecki. After a quick tour of the stunning lodge, we suited up and headed off for an afternoon hunt in a nearby field. Right into the action, just the way we like it.
We met Chuck Collins, our guide for the week, at the edge of a barley field. Together we dragged our layout blinds and full body decoys across the field with the help of Chuck’s handy sleds, making the job much easier than it could have been. By quarter after five, we had all the decoys strategically set up in the field, and we were locked and loaded in our layout blinds. We didn’t have to wait very long for the first flocks to start moving around us. A nice flock of about twenty big Canadian geese came into view, heading in our direction. We hunkered down in our blinds, ready to spring into action at Chuck’s command.
We waited, impatient, as the geese got closer but Chuck called us off. The birds were too high and Chuck was following a hunch. The flock passed over our heads, then turned sharply and began circling around. This time, there was no doubt. Chuck yelled, “take’em” as the flock came in prepared for landing. We jumped up to it! But the excitement wasn’t over just yet. As we climbed out of our blinds to retrieve the fallen geese, three white birds appeared in the sky in front of us, seemingly out of thin air. It was three snow geese; rare for this area. We rushed back to our blinds to get set but they were almost on top of us already. Somehow all the movement and noise didn’t deter these determined geese, and we took down all three. What a start to the night.
We hunted hard until the sun set on the horizon, then collected our bounty and headed back to camp for a delicious meal and well earned sleep. The next day, we got to see why Chaudière Lodge earned its reputation as a fisherman’s paradise.
Our guide Pat Tryon took us out muskie fishing along the Upper French River and Lake Nippissing. In our short time on the water, we spent some time trolling the river and casting in the lake, but the fishing gods weren’t on our side. Paul did have a monster muskie come right out of the water to swipe at his bait a mere two feet from the boat, giving us a small taste of what these waters can hold and why people come from all over to fish here. You just have to look at the pictures or the taxidermy on the wall or listen to the stories of other successful fishermen back at the lodge for proof that this area holds world class fishing.
Our next afternoon hunt was cool and rainy, but that didn’t dampen our spirits in the slightest. Huge flocks of geese were in the air, so our focus was on calling away smaller group towards our decoys. It can be difficult to get birds to commit to your spread when there are so many birds on the move, but we had some success pulling in small groups of one to three geese at a time. And when we did, we made no mistake. Chuck was so successful at calling; he even managed to draw out a black bear sow and her cub to the edge of our field, although they seemed more interested in grazing through the grass than coming into our spread. The night ended with huge flocks of sand hill cranes heading back to their roost as the sun set and the sky shone orange. One final flock of four geese decoying perfectly was the cherry on top of a very enjoyable evening.
Our final morning was bitterly cold. We were up long before the sun, setting decoys and preparing our blinds. With everything set, we hunkered down to wait for first light, the birds, and hopefully some warmer weather. The cold unfortunately resulted in frost forming on the decoys, and for the early part of the morning the geese avoided our spread. But as the sun rays began to melt the frost, the switch flipped, and in came the geese. Multiple flocks of three to six birds at a time came streaming into our spread, decoying perfectly for us and giving us some of our best shooting of the week.
We love waterfowl hunting because it allows us to enjoy the time together with our guests and guides and allows us the freedom to talk and joke during the hunt. Bud had us in stitches all week and Chuck was a delight to hunt with and a very knowledgeable guide. Chaudière Lodge is a special place. Whether you’re looking to shoot some birds, hook some fish, or just enjoy some pristine nature, Northern Ontario is where you need to go.