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Archive for April, 2010


It was early in the afternoon when my friend and I decided to set out for the wetlands in search of ducks. I was eager to show him where I had set up my blind as well as share the beautiful scenery. He tagged along as an observer as it was his first time out to the marsh and this would give him an opportunity to get familiar with the area.

The sky was crystal clear and the sun was shinning high above us over the golden marsh hay fields and cattail as they swayed in the cold breeze. We parked the car a few meters up the dirt road, gathered our gear and then headed south up the rest of the way along an embankment that cut the two large ponds in half.

Once we came up to the river we started out to the left heading east carefully following the trail stepping over branches in order to avoid making too much noise. I was in the lead and my friend was right behind me with about fifteen feet between us. The winter was finally coming in and we could hear the ice cracking nearby as the temperature changed.

The season was soon coming to a close and we only had a few hours before this day was going to come to its end. I can recall the wetlands being very strange that day as there were only a handful of sparrows and crows from the farms nearby but besides that the ponds were dead silent. I also noticed that the usual Heron was staying close to his nest on the north side of the easterly pond. We stopped and took a little rest while scanning both ponds once more and with the help of my duck caller I let out a double reed, and then we started walking east again.

My friend and I had only taken a few steps each while we were both looking northward and out of nowhere a bald eagle took flight and flew high up into the blue right above us and then a second one took flight right over the west pond behind us. We were instantly stunned just like a deer caught in the headlights. It was a magical experience and for a moment everything seemed so surreal. 

Everything around us suddenly came to life in the marsh, ducks and other bird species flying in every direction, they too had spotted the eagle and it was time to find a safer place. My excitement took over and I had lost a few seconds while trying to grab my duck caller again, I put out another double reed and in the frenzied flight a drake and hen circled and came right at me, in a flash I brought up my Remington 12 gauge and fired a shot right at the drake, the bird twisted and turned in mid-air and my shot went right under him.

Damn! It was a miss. They changed direction and flew over the river which put the sun directly into my eyes blinding me and preventing me from taking a clear second shot. I had completed a ninety degree turn. My friend who was right behind me also spun around where he stood and was instantly blinded by the sun too and this caused him to fall backwards off the embankment into a ditch just a few feet away from the water. We had a great laugh and we felt privileged seeing two bald eagles take flight and cause so much excitement.

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The original hunter image has a special place in my mind and imagination. Humans have been hunting since their very existence on this planet. Dressed like Rahan the French comic figure, they used drives and spears amongst other tools to hunt mammoths, saber tooth tigers as well as the distant cousins of today’s Cervidae.

In order to appreciate the image of these hunters we had to rely on artifacts, cave paintings and finally our history books. But do we truly possess the expertise or knowledge to create an exact mental image of them or even an opinion?

If we jump forward in time and look at the North American natives, it is true that they hunted for food and fur trading. But I am confident there was a type of hunt similar to today’s sport hunting and this hunt may have been used for young men to prove themselves capable of mastering their fears and demonstrating their courage and abilities to provide for their tribes. This would have been a brilliant image for hunters. They were the providers and it did not matter what kind of rituals were associated to this practice of hunting but at least for that moment in time they were not judged but rather respected.

I recently read a book called “Adventures in the new world” The saga of the Coureurs des Bois, Written by George-Herbert Germain. This book is not just about their saga but about their history and more importantly about building an image of a nation. All Canadians share a sense of pride in this history and we can almost all identify ourselves with the Coureurs des Bois as they are part founders of Canada. There are several Québécois festivals that I have participated in or watched where the image and clothing of the Coureurs des Bois was quite visible. They are in a sense pioneers and hero hunters that are respected for their accomplishments and contributions.

One thing that struck me in this book is the chapter about the young and often poor Normans who left French ports such as Honfleur in search of new wealth. And in their quest to become the new bourgeoisie in this new land, instead they became negotiators with the natives sparing several European lives from being lost under the scalping blades of the Iroquois. They also learned the first nation’s languages and married native women bringing into perspective the importance of cultural awareness to improve trading. Yes, some did become wealthy but the majority lived a very tough life as hunters, trappers, traders and farmers all this under the shadows of the war between their nation and the British Empire.

Let us jump forward in time once again to 1901 until the mid 1940’s during the time of Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold “The father of wildlife management.” Let us observe their contributions towards the image of the sport hunter. The twenty-sixth president of the United-States was an avid hunter and promoted conservation in an exceptional way by assisting in establishing millions of acres of national parks and preserves. (The following article below is an interesting read)

http://www.calwaterfowl.org/web2/communications/magazine/magazinepdfs/ND%2016-30.pdf

Modern day sport hunters whether they are aware of it or not are conservationists and the majority of their purchases of material and licenses goes towards wildlife management and conservation programs. This is part of our image and we should be proud of it. We are also taught ethics, respect and laws during the hunters’ education course. A great example of this is the following; it is not illegal to parade your trophy on the hood of your vehicle through a busy urban street, however you might create reactions and not all would be positive, therefore damaging the image of the hunter. Discretion is a great form of respect.

Activists have sport hunters in their sights for a wide variety of issues, ranging from animal survivability to gun ownership; the unfortunate thing is they often show up at the range without any ammo due to misleading facts amongst other reasons. Unfortunately there is still a lot of work to be done against the illegal activity of poaching and working on improving the stereotypical image of hunters.

We are all ambassadors of the sport and with this we have a responsibility to educate not only ourselves but others on issues that are directly related to our sport and its traditions, so that our image remains a proud one. On that note, I love my plaid shirt and my Browning sticker on my car.

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Ammunition and ballistics have been part of my vocabulary since I was a young shooter at the local ranges but even today almost two decades later, I still have not stopped learning about the subjects. We are all taught during our hunter education course how to identify different types of ammunition with respect to weapon being used and even go through loading and unloading drills. Most of us get a passing grade. Is this enough? I would recommend talking to experts in the field and continuously try to learn more.

Just an example, when dealing with certain shotguns that have interchangeable barrels or guns of different bore sizes, it is absolutely critical to have mastered this knowledge. Not only will it make things safer for you but it will also allow you to communicate using the precise language when dealing with outfitters and hunting stores when purchasing ammunition, rifles or a shotguns. You will also be able to maximize your performance and get a clean shot and game.

Here are a few of the basics that have helped me:

The bore is considered the inside diameter of the barrel which essentially dictates the size of the projectile/s fired. Understanding the gauge measurement and bore sizes will allow you to choose the right ammunition for your gun and game. Every rifle or shotgun that I have come across over the years and some were as old as 1902, every one had the bore size or ammunition used specifications engraved into the barrel.
When dealing with shotgun shells, one rule I remember is the smaller the gauge the bigger the bore. This is based on the number of balls matching the bore diameter that could be cast from one pound of lead.

Ballistics is the science of flight and behavior of the projectile/s once fired from the gun or rifle.

Here are two books taken from my OKB page that were incredibly informative on the subject of ammunition and ballistics. What I found brilliant in Larry Koller’s book is that throughout the chapters he shows you the recommended firearms for each type of game you wish to hunt and he does not discriminate based on model or brand name. Mr. Riviere however gets incredibly technical and offers ballistic charts and various ammunition tables.

KOLLER, LARRY.The Treasury of Hunting.New York, the odyssey Press. 1965.

RIVIERE, BILL. The Gunner’s Bible-The classic guide to sporting firearms, expert advice on shooting, ammunition, and accessories.New York, Doubleday and Company. 1985.

There are many great books to be read on this subject and the Internet is also a great source for information. One thing I have discovered is that even your local gunsmith found at hunting stores in your area can often be used as a great source of knowledge, especially when it comes to discovering new types of ammunition such as Tungsten steel or bismuth for waterfowling.

On my kit list page I have listed the types of ammunition along with the firearms that I use for small game hunting. Once you have chosen the right ammunition and it has been placed in your shotgun or rifle breach and then you pulled the trigger knowing and understanding everything from the time the projectile leaves your muzzle to the point of impact on your game is so important for a successful hunt. If you can understand the following “You would not use an elephant gun with 4 bore ammunition on a squirrel ten meters away.” Then you are on the right track to understanding ammunition and ballistics.

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