White Out in December

Most of the 2007 hunting season was fantastic. The August pre-season warm up went very well. September was a treat. October was an exhilarating marathon of friends, fields, grouse and gundogs. November was even better.

Then came December. Snow, cold, more snow and wind put an end to the season very early on. In fact our first hunt of the month ended up being our last....but what a hunt it was!!

I was joined in the field by my friend Francois who recently moved to Manitoba from France. He and his son Xavier, and Xavier's buddy Russel came along for their very first hunt for ruffed grouse over pointing dogs. Francois hunts pheasants and partridges in his native Picardy but had never hunted in Canada and had never seen a ruffed grouse. Xavier and Russel, teenagers still learning the ropes, were also eager to participate.

Also with us that day was a friend of mine, a very talented young photographer named Dustin Leader. A graduate of my photography school, Dustin is quickly gaining a national reputation for his reportage style of photography. He mainly covers social issues for major newspapers but also finds time to shoot personal projects. One of those projects is a body of work he calls "Point and Shoot". It is an exploration of hunters, dogs and their relationship to nature. Dustin has followed me and other hunters in the field on several occasions and has take some of the most interesting and creative images of the hunt that I have ever seen. His unique style, his genuine curiosity and above all, his brutally honest approach to the issues can be seen in his images.

We all met in an area I call Liliwoods. It is named after my wife Lisa who has fond memories of hunting there with Felix, our first dog . It usually holds a few birds, but being so late in the season, I was not very optimistic that we would see many. Nevertheless, we knew that we would have a nice day afield, and I knew that Dustin would get some great shots.

Well, it turned out that it was not just a nice day in the field, it was a GREAT day in the field. In less than two hours, Souris pointed 11 ruffed grouse! The birds were in tight cover, shots were tough, but we did managed to bag a couple ruffies. And sure enough, Dustin got some fantastic images in his unique style.

And that, in essence, was the sum total of the hunting we managed to do in December; one very memorable hunt, captured by a very sharp eye.

I've posted a gallery of recent images from the ongoing project "Point and Shoot". The first half are shots of Jean Francois Behro and his braque de l'Ariege and of Christophe Oriou and his Weimaraner. The photos in the second half of the gallery, images 25 and on, are from the hunt at Liliwoods described above.