Archive for July, 2010

I found a nice silver leafed poplar tree offering some shade, then I carefully leaned my rifle up against the old wooden fence and then sat down slowly breathing out in order to relax after a long stalk. The sun was beating down over the field and the birds were flying about and chirping away in their busy ways.  The bugs were also quite active around me and once in a while finding a great bite spot and then they would let me have it.

It was extremely hot and I was taking a break focusing on two rock formations across the ridge on the other side of the western field. Depending on the clouds above, the rocks would take on an almost golden like color with the reflection of the sun but then some more clouds would move in and it would become dark grey once again.

As I wipe the sweat away from my forehead and blink a few times, it seemed as if the rocks were changing shapes in the heat mirage. I thought I saw a large animal on top of one of the rocks but I was not sure. Was I seeing things? So I brought up my binoculars and focused in and sure enough there he was resting on the largest rock of them all.

I now had to figure out how to cross the ridge and come up on the eastern side in order to conduct the best approach for my stalk without being seen or heard. My heart filled with excitement and it was now time for me to start to move. I placed my Remington baseball cap back on my head and carefully fixed the brim with my hands, so that it was round on the sides, just enough to give me some shade and then I sat up.

I started my way down the ridge on the left following a very narrow dirt path going in the direction of the barns where the cattle was resting sheltered from the heat and then I cut across the field heading south. On the other side there was a small copse of wood mixed with muck and water; this gave me great cover as I was able to come around on the far side of the rock formation.

As I got closer, my adrenaline went up and I stopped for a few seconds took a few breaths, focussed and then took a few more steps. I had to get off the field and move into the tree line in order to get in the best shooting position.  I was careful not to make any noise and purposely avoided leaves and branches stuck in the mud. At about forty yards I came up to a small tree that offered some good cover with two large circular rocks below it that I could use to stabilize my rifle to take my shot in the kneeling position. I adjusted my iron sights for the distance, and then checked to see if the woodchuck was still there. 

I had succeeded in getting into position and it took me about forty-five minutes, now it was time for the waiting game to make sure he gets into a better exposed position for me to take a clean shot. The woodchuck had since left the top of the rock and had come around the front to get a better look of the field in front of him and in doing so had exposed his right flank. Once in a while he would move back into his hole just exposing his head and shoulder but then he would move back out into the open and begin chewing on some grass nearby.

I only had one chance at this harvest because half of his body was still in the hole below the rock and if I missed he would disappear for at least an hour before he would come out again. I slowly took the binoculars off my neck and placed them on the ground to my left. I then adjusted myself into a better kneeling position and made sure the rifle forestock was well placed on the rock to my front thus stabilizing it.

I lined up my iron sight and took my deep breaths and then once again adjusted my legs into a better position. I took the rifle slowly off safe and carefully squeezed my trigger. Crack! The shot rang out and then I heard a thumping sound. The woodchuck jumped and then withdrew into the hole. My shot went slightly high and hit the rock causing the woodchuck to withdraw.

Time was the only remedy for this missed shot that went high, so I got up and headed west to check out the second rock formation that was about two hundred yards further up. Once again I stayed just slightly on the forest edge moving along parallel to the field. I had already been to this hole network and had harvested a few weeks earlier but now a new woodchuck had taken over the hole and dug up around the rocks that I had used to cover up the original holes, so that the cattle wouldn’t fall in.

The dirt had been kicked right back and had a bright brown color to it and you could see that it was recently worked on because it had that fresh look to it, maybe about a day or so old. There were also some holes found in the forest about twenty feet in between large boulders at the base of a rock face.

So, with no sign of woodchuck activity in the field I turned around and went south into the woods and walked towards a small cave like hole. Almost in an instant, I was spooked by a loud whistle and then a thump and again four more thumps.  I leaned forward and looked inside the opening and sure enough there he was thumping and whistling letting out a series of warnings. He was quite bold, so I moved back a few steps and stood behind a tree.

I stood behind the tree for about five minutes to see if I could draw out the woodchuck but he only inched forward a few inches and stopped. I could see its eyes looking right at me and his front legs thumping in an assertive fashion. I carefully came around the south-western side of the tree and lined up my iron sights aiming directly into the opening of the hole, took off the safety and crack! The shot rang out, the hole instantly filled with white smoke from the shot. Silence suddenly fell upon the small cave like hole and the woodchuck had been harvested.

It was now time to go back to first rock formation and focus on the first woodchuck but I was making too much noise and there was still no sign of activity, so I cut across the field and worked my way back to the east towards the barn to have a drink of water. A good hour had gone by and still no sign of the woodchuck near the first set of rocks, so I knelt down by the pile of freshly cut wood stumps and once in a while I raised my binoculars and had a look. 

It was very hot and my eyes were having a hard time focussing on the rock and everything was a haze. Finally, almost three-quarters of an hour later the woodchuck came out from beneath the earth and sat like a king on his rock. I packed away my binoculars into my vest and picked up my Cooey Model 60 and started my way down the ridge in a south-westerly direction cutting across the field. Once again and I ended up near the small swampy waters to the south. It did not take me very long to get across the field because the cattle were preparing themselves to come out to feed as the sun was not as strong now, I also did not want to disturb them.

So I got down behind the same two boulders under the tree and found my original shooting position but there was only one problem. Diggin’ deuce had snuck away deep beneath the ground surface and this time he was not coming back out. Diggin’deuce had beaten me today and my day had now come to a finish.

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The Snowshoe hare or “Varying hare” is definitely one of my favorite small game species to hunt. The season is one of the longest starting in Mid-September until the end of March. It is also an extremely enjoyable and challenging pastime to attempt to find and harvest a hare and that is with or without dogs. It can also be very cold in the dead of winter, so be well equipped and dressed. I once spent five hours hunting in the forest with the temperatures at -20 degrees Celsius. The cold was so intense that when you laced up your snowshoes with your bare hands it left you with the sensation that you were wearing big puffy gloves as your hands started to go numb. Some leads or trails may be found where the snow is very deep and snowshoes may be necessary. Practice extreme caution with your rifle or shotgun and do not take any unnecessary risks.

Starting in late September and all through the winter months the hare in eastern Canada will begin to go white as its fur changes color, except for its ear tips that remain black and also their hind legs that have a yellowish stain to them. If you have keen sight look for their black shiny eyes, if you are skilled and you identify the hare while it is in its freeze pose, you may harvest. Remember you are looking for a hare, white on white with about an average size of sixteen to twenty inches.

The varying hare is a very shy animal and during the day it spends most of its time concealed under evergreen trees and hollow logs or a recess in the ground. You can often find them in coniferous forests, relatively close to swamps or marshes. Hares will also sometimes be sun bathing on eastern facing slopes in order to capture some warmth later in the afternoon.

As the title indicates the hare is from the Lagos Morphe order and looks like your common rabbit with the long distinctive ears, which sometimes act as heat deflectors on hot days, carrying the heat away from its body as well as helping them hear and identify dangers.

The hare can also reach speeds of up to fifty kilometers per hour and will use this to break away from predators; they also have the ability to swim over small bodies of water while escaping capture.

Hares will feed on pussy willow and similar twigs, leaves and shrubs. During the winter months they will feed on buds, pine needles and chew the bark off smaller trees. Hares will also practice reingestion of fecal pellets, which are soft and green and still contain plant nutrients’ this is normally done during rest periods.

The two types of pellets that I have come across are the dark solid ones and the soft green ones. If you find yourself following a hare lead or snow tracks and you identify the soft green pellets chances are they are not far. 

I have always been successful in finding active signs of hare presence or actually harvesting a hare while following these next few steps. Study the habitat and range such as thickets or swamps, and then look for signs of hare presence such as hare droppings or branches with chew markings.  Once you have found a lead, follow it using the “Still hunting”  method. Walk a few steps stop and look under every tree and recess and when setting off into the woods avoid making any noise because most mammals have incredible hearing. Wear clothing that does not make too much noise and have colors that match the environment. If there is a strong breeze or if it is raining slightly, I tend to listen carefully and move once the wind picks up so that it covers the noise of my movement. Do not wear deodorants and use specially made soaps that reduce scents for you and your clothing because mammals also have a great sense of smell. Keep in mind the wind direction and try to keep yourself down wind.

If you “Walk the hare” or cause it to sprint, wait a few seconds as it may circle around and freeze once it believes the danger is no longer present. Remember also that during the winter months you are not the only hunter and be aware of your surroundings at all times especially if you see Coyote tracks. I remember very well that on one of my hunting trips I could sense a presence in the forest and my hunting partner heard growling in behind the evergreen out of sight and we soon found four tracks. Safety is paramount. Enjoy your hunt!

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