Archive for February, 2010

The difference

Hunting is much more than just a sport to me, just being out in nature creates a relationship with the past and a challenge for the present. It brings me back to the stories of my father’s youth at the family camp in the hills of New-Brunswick. After a long day of target shooting cans and chasing the raccoons that would chew the salt out of the cabins wooden hand rail, they would all sit around the fireplace on a cold Saturday night and have their beans and hotdog meal, all wrapped up in their Hudson Bay blankets. Once the dishes were done the charcoal color pots would be hung beside the fireplace where the bugle sat on its pedestal. There was also the magazine rack with the ninety sixty five issue of Life magazine amongts others right nearby aging in time over the stories of family and history.

In order to enjoy such an experience the right way just as you would in any hobby, you need to be equipped. Last year I saved up for over a year in order to prepare myself to buy a Browning shotgun for water fowling and small game hunting. This purchase experience would for ever change my way of thinking and dealing with hunting stores and outfitters. Once the funds were all saved up, I eagerly jumped in the car early on a Saturday morning and went to the most popular hunting store on the main boulevard. I walked in the store and it was not too busy as there were only a few customers. A couple of store clerks walked about and smiled but never came over to welcome me or even ask me if I needed assistance, this was quite unusual as I was always greeted before in the same store by clerks that acted like they were fed off commission. Here I was invisible and just another number, yet I was ready to spend close to twelve hundred dollars. It did not make sense to me and in less than two minutes, I had turned around and went right back out the door, jumped in the car and headed east. I remembered seeing a very small place at the cross roads not far from my home on the way to my last hunting trip, so I decided to check it out. There was no doubt that the first store was amazing compared to this one but the cross roads store had so much charm to it and the two fellows inside made me feel welcome and important right away. In less than an hour, I had walked out of this store with a great Remington pump-action 870 express, a gun case, a trigger lock and an ammo case all for less than four hundred dollars. I had just made savings of around eight hundred dollars and was still able to purchase what I set out to get and more.

Now another year has past and I have found a second pot of gold along with my store at the cross roads and the owner even offered to go duck hunting with me. This is brilliant! I know that people will read this blog entry and say “What is the big deal?” Well my response is the following, I saved tons of money allowing me to buy more supplies and I have created a relationship with both store owners that will always benefit each side. Do the larger stores have so many customers that if they make a sale with you or the next customer it does not matter? What ever happened to treating a customer like they are the person of the hour? By doing so, they will keep coming back to purchase hardware and essentially keep your store alive through these challenging financial times. One of the stores I go to, or what I would call a gold pot, tries to sell products made locally. I think this is brilliant and it makes the experience that much more worth while to do my purchasing there.

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In order to complete this comparison and end up with the best choice and time of year to hunt, the first thing we need to do is identify the important elements of a successful small game hunt and how each one fits into the chosen season. Weather, clothing/gear, geography and natural camouflage are all elements that must be taken into consideration.

The weather will vary depending on the season and this can mean the difference between being wet and cold or warm and dry, maybe even avoiding hypothermia. Even though winter hunting does have its advantages such as being able to see long distances through thick brush especially in deciduous forest, because the majority of the trees are bare.  It can also be very hazardous if you are un-prepared and ill-equipped in the presence of cold weather. When it comes to weather, fall hunting will be much more enjoyable.

Knowing the different types of clothing that are available and what to wear for your hunt during the season of choice is paramount. This will lead to decisions being made that will have a direct impact on how you remain comfortable, healthy and enjoy your hunt. If you are cold, wet and hungry and your morale is low because you haven’t seen any game, you will become tired, frustrated, and reckless then mistakes will be made. This can be deadly as you can get lost in the woods or even dangerously handle your weapons endangering yourself or others in your hunting party. The scout principles of wearing layers in the fall or in winter holds true and is even used by armies of the twenty-first century.

When considering the amount of gear needed, it is true that with small game hunting it is not as demanding compared to big game hunting but in the winter you will be carrying extra clothing such as a four system parka, snowshoes and a backpack with an emergency and field dressing kits as well as food and water. This can be heavy, cumbersome and be quite frustrating and tiring while trekking through the thick brush. Also during the winter months it is important not to over exert yourself as sweat can lead to getting cold and this is practically inevitable during winter months.

Fall hunting on the other hand can be warmer and requires less clothing making it easier to move through the woods but on the other hand visibility is poor because of the large amounts of leaves and their bright colors. We are truly blessed with Canada’s wonderful geography from the Rockies to flat prairies in the west and the rolling hills of Ontario to the lakes of Quebec all surrounded by lush forests. Depending on the type of game you wish to harvest in the fall, large distances can be covered with ease but during the winter months it is tough going and you must sometimes rely on already existing trails and the use of snowshoes. While covering large distances in the fall your chances of coming across large game is higher. 
In two thousand and nine, it was a very bad year for bears because of the large amounts of rain during the summer months, therefore finding food forced them to cover large distances and getting too close to man. This unfortunately resulted in a fatality near La Tuque, Quebec with several other sightings across the country. Sightings can occur at any time during the fall if one is not careful and aware of their surrounding geography.
Natural camouflage plays a natural role as do show the members of the Leporidae family. They possess certain abilities to conceal themselves except in south West British Columbia, to change their fur color from a brown to white at the end of the fall making them very difficult to spot during in either season. If a snowshoe hare hunter is well versed in the habits and geography of this type of game, then spotting them is that much easier, especially during the winter when following their tracks leading to their daytime hiding spots. Based on my personal experience in the fall, unless the animal is moving or you know what to look for, you may find yourself walking right by a hare.

For example, on one of my fall hunting trips, my tracking buddy and I were walking grouse along a large open area surrounded by dense forest. I was in the lead and I had my shotgun in my shoulder and I was stalking very slowly along a ridge line with the woods to my left. I walked right by a sage grouse and never even saw him. The grouse had waited for me to walk right by and once I got five meters ahead of him the sage grouse came out between the two of us, thumping his wings flying towards the dense forest, I swung around and took the shot but missed him by inches. The natural camouflage of the sage grouse and its explosive flight turned him into a true fall challenge.

Fall hunting is absolutely beautiful and if you do well it can be very rewarding. But my love and endless search for the true Canadian spirit with lady luck on my side has always been with me during the winter. I find myself at times out in the wilderness just before the sun sets, working my way through the woods with snowshoes, surrounded by the elements and I long to hear the songs of the famed coureur des bois through the sweet melody of the crisp breeze,  now it is your choice to choose.

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