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Archive for November, 2010


In life it is inevitable that we will all encounter challenging obstacles in some form or another and if time permits the best formula for success when facing them is going back to the basics or fundamentals. This means understanding the core principles, processes and applying them in order to overcome and succeed. 

One example of this is the following: When a brick layer is placing his first block which happens to be the starting point of a wall for a home that is supposed to last several hundred years, he must follow the processes in place for that trade and if the fundamentals are applied then we have ourselves a solid foundation. And if not then having to start over would be both costly and time-consuming, this applies to hunting as well. 

Last week I read the book: “Fundamentals of Bowhunting” written by Dwight Schuh and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was interested in the book not because I wish to purchase a bow or take up bow hunting but because in several of his chapters in the book he carefully covers all the basics of hunting, such as taking the shot and hunting gear and more. 

Dwight wrote in his introduction that bow hunting has been around for several thousands of years and is a rich tradition. This is so true! And I have tremendous respect for the bow hunter. I am not a historian by a long shot but I am a firm believer that bow hunting has been around long before rifle hunting and besides the fact that the weapons of choice may be different the core principles and objectives are the same. And this is reason enough for me to review them or get new ideas from experts such as Dwight Schuh. 

I particularly enjoyed the chapters on hunting gear, physical conditioning, basic hunting methods, making the shot and the final chapters on the animals such as deer, elk and antelope to name a few. 

I wanted to share some points on Dwight’s chapter about hunting gear. In this chapter he breaks the basic elements into subsections and provides his recommendations for each. This is very helpful when focusing on one particular part in the hunting gear. Below are some of these recommendations and some of my personal experiences. 

“Hunting clothes must first contribute to stealth, which means they must be quiet, camouflaged, and soft and flexible, so you can move without restriction.” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 103.) 

Dwight is right that gear alone can not substitute for hunting skills, but as I mentioned in one of my previous blogs entries being dry, warm and basically comfortable will leave you at an advantage. “The right clothing, footwear, camouflage, hunting pack, optical gear, and scent products can make you a better hunter.” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 103.) 

Just as I do, Dwight loves wool clothing but he swears by synthetics in outerwear and the most popular are used in Polar Fleece which uses polyester. This type of clothing used with the principles of layering is brilliant and you can not go wrong while exposed to the elements. 

There is a lot of rave about Gore Tex jackets, pants or even socks and yes they are a great product but my experience with using the socks during long hours in the winter is that they may keep your feet from getting wet on the outside but if your feet sweat like mine, then it works as a trap and your feet end up freezing if you do not change your wool socks on the inside. I always carry a spare pair of socks and sometimes another pair of boots. 

“Head and Neck: Your head and neck are your major body-heat regulators, and keeping them warm helps to keep you warm overall. For cool and cold weather, knits hats are great” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 108.) 

Tips on footwear from the book: In order to prevent blisters, wear smooth, snug-fitting socks next to your feet and lost, bulky socks over these to absorb shock and moisture. 

For backpacking and carrying heavy meat loads, heavy leather boots with Vibram or similar lugs soles are acceptable. (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 108.) 

Hunting packs, most hunting stores have all types of packs to suit the different types of hunts and their prices vary. I really enjoyed what Dwight wrote about hunting packs and I believe it is so true. 

“I consider a hunting pack a necessity. It not only contains items necessary for hunting, but it holds comfort and survival gear that allows you to hunt long and hard, knowing you can survive the worst conditions. A pack not only takes care of your needs, it gives you confidence.” 

Choosing packs made out of fleece instead of nylon which can be noisy, also choose a pack with lots of pockets that allow you to store vital gear like GPS, emergency food and flashlights and first aid kits. 

Binoculars and scopes, look at the different models, compare them and then choose one based on your demands such as designation numbers and objective numbers, size and color and overall performance. In my personal experience having good optics can help you identify if the buck’s spikes are legally long enough for you to take the shot or to see if there is in fact a woodchuck on the other side of the ridge. 

“No matter where you hunt, whether in deep woods or the open desert, you’ll see more and hunt better with good optics” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 112.) 

Finally on scents and attractor scents, first to mask your scent and then use scents to attract game such as urine or the example the author uses is doe in heat attractor. There are tons of great products out there at your local hunting store, Canadian tire or Wal-Mart.

 In closing I have to say that out of these one hundred and seventy-nine pages of fundamentals, the chapters that also apply to rifle hunters is knowledge that you can not do without.

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The final eight hours of my Virginia whitetail hunting season were filled with an overwhelming sense of excitement and fatigue. I had just spent almost the same amount of time perched up in a tree that I would have during an entire work week at the office. Over the course of my three weekends a total of four does; two fawns and a one year old buck came in within shooting range.

Even with the buck’s appearance during the last day of the season, I must admit I had a hard time seeing if the spikes were within the legal size of seven centimetres and if it was worth the risky shot. A well-known trick is often used in which you compare the spikes length to that of the ears but even this was challenging because he was constantly moving them about like radars trying to pickup sounds of danger.

The local farmers told me that there was a ten point buck not far from my stand to the south. The fact that he had not been harvested yet this year meant he will prove to be a positive sign for next year’s season as there roughly eight does in the same area.

As a varminter, I had to live the experience of tree stand hunting and with this I have to say there will most definitely be a next year’s season for me as this one comes to a close. I have learned so much about the art of tree stand hunting and have added to my knowledge about deer while being part of the woodlands.

On my last day the sun was going to set at four thirty and I could legally hunt until five but it got quite dark in the woods here and I had to climb down from the stand and walk several hundred meters to the car. This was a very dark wooded trail and being alone it was not a great idea because on that particular morning, I saw fresh timber wolf tracks close to where I was parked. So I wanted to give myself enough time while I could still see to get back to the car. But just as I moved to stand up I heard a large branch crack to my right and sure enough it was a doe, she had stumbled on a broken tree and was slowly making her way down to the water’s edge.

It was incredible to see how well she blended into the foliage and background of mud and trees. The most impressive part was her behaviour when I noticed she was not alone and that she was the first of three to be out in the open making sure that the area was clear of predators before the others bounced out and exposed themselves. She was acting like a scout in a feeding party and she slowly made her way to the other side of the ridge using their well-known game trail looking for food.
 
So what I learned from this was that if you see one deer there are great chances that there are others nearby especially if you are dealing with does and fawns or even other females. Males will also come out but normally alone and will show up later in the afternoon just before dark or in the morning between eightish and ten that is if they are hungry and depending on the cold weather. I proved to myself that for next year it is not necessary to get to your tree stand really early in the morning if there is no need for it.

It was unfortunate that in my particular tree stand area that there was not a lot of buck activity amongst other factors, so I may not have harvested a buck this season but I sure harvested a wealth of knowledge about deer and enjoyed being part of the wilderness and all its mysteries. You bet I will have to try again next year but until then I have full year of small game and bird hunting to get ready for with my tracking buddy.

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The skyline was bright pink and the sun wasn’t fully up yet but my hunt had already started a half an hour before sunrise. I was all geared up and ready to go. The car was locked and then I carefully placed my magazine into the Enfield rifle and started my way up a dark forested trail surrounded by fog. This was familiar territory for me as a small game hunter still-hunting up the trail but this stalk though was quite different from the others and it was only going to last a few minutes because my sights were not on a snowshoe hare or grouse but rather on a buck. Over a period of three weeks, I was going to spend a total of twenty-eight hours in my tree stand at the trails end.

The author Larry Koller wrote about snowshoe hare hunting and said that it was reserved for the tougher individual, who was able to withstand the cold for long periods of time during the winter months and that without dogs it was almost an impossible harvest. Also that getting close enough to hare for the shot was even more difficult. I had to be the judge of this and find out for myself and with concerns to the cold, well I am from northern Ontario. Several hunts later, I finally found the white on white ghost and harvested one in the dead of winter without the use of dogs.

Furthermore he wrote about hunting from a tree stand or sitting on a stump and said it had “no connotation of skill” and that it was not in a sense a true form of hunting. Once again I had to find out for myself what he truly meant. So, I signed up with a local outfitter for this year’s deer season.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and some of us who have the privilege of being able to write about it and even sell books are truly lucky but not necessarily right. Sure, if we want to keep the hunt “raw” or in its purest form; still-hunting a deer and harvesting is really something to be proud of but I believe there are more risks involved. The truth is safety is a factor and when you have thousands of anxious hunters that head into Crown land trying to harvest a deer; in which case your orange vest may not suffice to protect you unless it is made of Kevlar.

Tree stand hunting does have its dangers such as the risk of falling asleep or accidentally slipping while coming up and down the stand. During my first ten hours in my tree stand, I was told by a property owner that on the same weekend a hunter had fallen in his stand and that his rifle which was by his side and loaded with no safety on went off and almost struck him in the head and he could have lost his life. I still believe that tree stand hunting has its advantages when you are considering safety.

When you sign up with an outfitter and are assigned a tree stand, that area is yours and if there is someone else there besides you, they are trespassing and are most likely a poacher. Therefore the risk of accidentally shooting another hunter is lower compared to still-hunting through the woods, especially if you look and study your target before you shoot and know what is beyond it.

I was standing very still in my tree stand for about an hour, with my arms resting on the front cross-bar and aiming directly to the north across from my blind. I moved my head slowly to look toward the west after hearing some branches crack off to my left and when I turned back to my original aiming spot a deer was standing right in front of my stand about one hundred yards out. She had made her way down the trail heading east and she gave me the impression that she had just dropped out of the sky. My crosshairs from the scope were perfectly aligned and right on target but she had no antlers, she was a doe, so this was a no shot for my tag.

So, I put down my rifle and I took out my mini binoculars and watched her for about three-quarters of an hour and then she disappeared behind some pine trees just on the edge of the swamp to the east. Tree stand hunting can give you the impression that you are playing the lottery and it is a once in a million chance but with the use of bait and a lot of time your chances of success are increased. You are not out of the woods yet, because you are still at the mercy of the deer.

If the weather is not right such as being too windy then the deer will not roam as their scent is being spread around and it is one of their weaknesses with concerns to predators such as wolves, bears and coyotes. If you fail to mask your scent they will not come either and deer do look up, so do not move around too much. The skill levels required to still-hunt may be slightly different from tree stand hunting but having skills, such as the ability to remain still, mask your scent and ultimately and taking an effective shot does require some level of skill and it is in fact still hunting.

I have about eight hours remaining in my stand with still a chance to harvest a buck, but whether the small gamer like me succeeds or not, I have learned that patience and skills are most definitely things you want to have with you on the stand.

The link below was really great for techniques: Outdoor Adventure Network

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“You are what you eat!” There are several expressions about eating right that are used all over the world in several different languages and this is definitely one of them. It would also be fair to say that a great number of us have heard it at least once in our lifetime.

Understanding food and choosing the right types of foods and snacks to eat during your hunting trip has a direct impact on your mental and physical performance. Years ago as a young infantryman, I would spend several hours and sometimes days exposed to the elements such as snow-covered mountains in the Balkans. We patrolled over great distances all the while conducting very physical and mentally demanding work. Sleep was sometimes only a few hours and when it was time to eat, it was done quickly. This meant you had to eat and drink smart and also take into consideration small factors like the amount of noise you made and also being careful not to leave any traces of food or packaging.

My objective as a sport hunter today is not to have such a regimented life style anymore but to continue to make great choices with food and actually take the time needed to eat. I want to have lasting energy throughout the day, so that I can remain focused for a long time. Having a balanced food plan and a list of items you need to buy before going hunting is a process I use during my preparatory stage. This includes high energy foods that are good for you and provide you with the boost and nutrition your body requires to produce heat, feed your brain and muscles. Examples of this are beef jerky, dried fruits, fresh fruits, trail mix nuts. This may also include an emergency food kit like mine such as cans of sardines, spare water canteens and natural multigrain bars.

Still-hunting can be physically demanding and you burn a lot of calories moving through the woods especially on snowshoes. If you are sitting in a blind your body will also use up calories producing heat. This means calories being expended.

Some points such as not making noise while eating may apply if you are in a blind or tree stand but if you are still hunting, you can choose a nice spot to stop for lunch or go back to the car or truck. This makes it easier to dispose of your garbage and not having to carry it around with you in your daypack along with its scents. In one of the hunting magazines I was a subscriber to: “Chasse et Pêche” one snowshoe hunter and author wrote that during the winter months, he would light a fire during his lunch break just to warm up. This is a great idea but I would check with the park to see fires are permitted.

My experience has taught me that if I ate a muffin filled with processed sugar for breakfast at the start point of my day, my energy level would spike as soon as the sugar was absorbed into my bloodstream. As the morning went on however I would feel a crash and just be very tired. This would be an example of poor planning and eating, this could be dangerous if you are out alone in the woods. If you are hungry, your morale will be low and you will eventually become sluggish and tired. This will lead to mistakes being made, your body will weaken and hyperthermia may set in if you are exposed to the cold or wet. I drink a lot of water and stay hydrated; I also carry a bottle of Gatorade for extra carbohydrates and to replenish my electrolytes.

The night before I set out to hunt for the day, I normally have a hardy meal containing meats, vegetables, pasta and or rice. I also drink large amounts of water. Moisture is lost through sweating, going to the washroom and even your breath. Fluids are very important for our bodies.

Below is a list of food and snacks that I like to pack:

Natural granola bars
PowerBars
Trail mix nuts
Beef jerky
Water
Gatorade
Sweets or candies and gum
Canned beans
Sardines in water

Throughout the day, I will have small snacks like dried nuts and bars about every two hours or so and I make sure to drink around the same time. At lunch I have a meal which is normally a sandwich, packaged foods that are not difficult or noisy to open.  I also take into consideration the ease to pack and being lightweight, also that it does not leave too much garbage such as wrappings.

There are some great references on the web and books that are available to assist you in eating right while hunting. Every person has their own budget and system in place, feel free to suggest or comment on food ideas that can ultimately assist all small game hunters.

Bon Appétit!

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I was sitting dead still in the wilderness, which enveloped me with its bright autumn colors like flames from a fire. The snowflakes were falling onto my jacket sleeve making a faint “tock” “tock” sound then it would disappear, and then run off into its water form down the crease. It was cold, windy and the snowfall was becoming heavier. The forest was so alive and for my ten hours that I spent in this environment, I was in my element and part of something so familiar. 
 
The leaves and small branches to my left were being rustled by a red squirrel, as it skipped in and out of the foliage, then along a fallen tree. He was so nervy, he would stop and then jump up on its hind legs look around and then let out a short cheep and then sprint on.
 
He would disappear into the autumn leaves and then reappear a few feet away, let out the sound of a short thump and cheep and then again he would sprint. My leg was cramping up and I had to move in order to get into a more comfortable position and this set “Red” off, he raised his tail and let out a long cheep and thump every time he would raise his tail, followed by another long high-pitched cheep. It made me feel like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and so I promptly whispered “Go away you bugger you will let the other animals know that I am here!” 

If you are able to still hunt without setting off “Red” in the bush then you are truly a master and I applaud you. It does not mean that he or she is necessary pointing you out, it could be another squirrel or small rodent trespassing or a larger animal like a mink. My eyes were wide open and I was scanning in all directions and adjusting my head to see, I was also investigating every sound, broken branch or leaves blowing in the wind.

This is when I spotted him, he came from behind me and cut across the trail and then he too disappeared under the leaves and then sprinted across the forest floor onto a fallen log. I was sitting right on the edge of the swamp on a slope shaped like the letter “u” with the northern and southern sides being the high ground. The mink was scouting for food and he was moving right for the water, he was lightning fast and made it to the swamp and began to swim very quickly in search of food.

I took out my mini binoculars and followed him around for a while; it was such a neat sight until he got too close to “Red”. The American mink is much larger than its European cousin and the red squirrel had no chance, he made a lot of chuckle and cheeping sounds then performed quite a dance around a smaller tree scratching the bark but the mink just faced him and then moved to the south of “Red’s” position, and disappeared into the woods.

It seems as though nature took its course and “Red” was not going to be his next meal or fight but the hierarchical order had been re-enforced. The mink was the dominant one and although he does feed on small mammals and rodents “Red” was not meant to be dead.

As for me my hunt continued until dusk.

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