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Archive for December, 2012


There I was standing in my kitchen by the fridge getting myself something to drink, the milk container carefully placed on the counter top, I opened the cupboard door with my other hand in order to reach in for a glass.

Glass in hand, I spun around and faced the milk then the glass slipped out of my grip; fell to the floor sending chards of glass everywhere. I was quite upset and let out a few swear words but after all it was done, I just had an accident. I was mad because I knew that it could have been avoided, if only I had been more careful or moved slower.

For every accident this is the unfortunate truth, they can be avoided but sometimes other factors weigh into the situation and cause them to occur. Road conditions, your mental state or even over confidence and many other reasons can be a trigger.

The only thing we can do is be prepared for them with the right tools, whether they be in the form of knowledge or hardware such as a first aid kit, field craft kit like matches, a compass and other important items.

With the river now covered in ice, my waterfowl season is over until the spring snow goose hunt. This means, I will be spending long hours in the forest practicing one of my favorite hunts during the winter months, looking for the snowshoe hare.

Every time I step into the cold white forests, an accident could occur and the one I wish to focus on this time is getting lost. I consider myself an experienced woodsman, and even though we do not wish for it to happen, getting lost is very real and in the winter especially being unprepared could prove to be deadly.

My experiences have taught me that the sooner you accept the reality that you are lost and that now you must deal with it; your situation will have already improved. Last year, I read a book about wilderness survival and the author wrote that if you are lost, and your family or friends have a general idea where you are then they will come and find you so stay where you are. Make yourself comfortable! There was even mention of bringing a cigar or cigarette along to smoke, my interpretation was maybe this is to help you relax and prevent your mind from wandering too much, thinking about family and about predators such as bears and wolves or other potential dangers such as hyperthermia.

We know that every situation is unique and in some cases you might have to attempt finding your own way back, in this case travelling earlier in the day is best, so that you avoid getting stuck travelling at night. Because of the poor visibility at night you could walk right off a cliff or ravine and add additional challenges to your current situation. Always make sure you stay current and practice your map and compass skills prior to setting out, in case your GPS fails. When I go hunting, I always let my family know where I will be, I also provide them with a map and emergency contact numbers along with a cut off time to call if they do not hear from me.

ShelterSo, for this situation or blog post, if I were lost, I would plan on staying where I am until I was found and therefore building a shelter is absolutely necessary giving me a chance of survival. It can also offer protection against the wind, rain, snow and ultimately provide some comfort in your current predicament.

For well over two decades, I have spent many nights out in the wilderness, during all seasons using all kinds of shelters, lean-to, 3 sided lean-to, ice shelters, A-frame ponchos tents with bungee cords, tents, arctic tents as well as without any cover at all.

The 3 sided lean-tos is one of my favorite and is the one that I will be illustrating for this blog entry. One of the reasons, I really like the lean-to is because if you have rope and a small axe, then your shelter can be built really well but tools are not always readily available during an emergency or accidental situation and yet a lean-to can be built without the luxury of tools and rope.

Paul Tawrell in his book on camping & wilderness survival book writes about panic and fear, he actually says, “keep your mind busy and plan for survival”. Building a shelter can help with this very element of fear and by focusing on building your shelter, you prevent your mind from racing.

I actually spent three days alone in the woods and worked constantly at perfecting my shelter; I even went to the extent of removing all the rocks one by one from my lean-to all the way down to the river’s edge. First we should focus on choosing a spot to build the 3 sided lean-to, you will need to find two large trees about 7 feet apart , each one having a limb stump on the same side  and at the same height. I like to have mine just above the waist height; the reason for this is that you do not want to lose too much heat during cold weather ensuring your heat/fire reflecting wall where you will provide you with the most heat.

If you are building a shelter in cold weather, find a naturally covered area with lots of evergreen trees and avoid slopping areas, so that water may not run down into your shelter. Avoid open areas where snow can blow in and cover you with snow.

Find a cross beam pole about 8 feet long which will hold poles for your roof, if you have rope secure the two corners and prepare yourself by finding as many roof poles about 9 feet long and as many as you need to complete your roof and secure them with snow and debris at the base. Heavy snow works well.

For the two sides of the shelter find gradual sized logs and place them up against the side of the shelter and use snow and vines to hold them in place. Once all the three-sided framing is in place, if you have a poncho or even in some cases a parachute, place it over the roof part and cover it with snow and cedar and pine boughs and layer it, some even recommend using latticework in order to secure your shelter.

Once the outer part of your shelter is ready, you can now start focusing on the inside, you can make a rectangular mattress like shape with snow and then cover it with lots of evergreen boughs to provide a pocket of air between you and the snow. This creates a natural mattress and will help with keeping you dry and warm. If you have lots of wood readily available you can also place two small logs vertically the length of your body and then place small sticks across from top to bottom, then place cedar branches above this thus making a natural bed.

Now that the 3 sided lean-to shelter is complete, you can now focus on building the fire reflector wall. Bernard Mason in his book “Camping Craft” shows the distance from your lean-to entrance and the fire wall being at about 7 feet away. This is acceptable and shall reflect the heat back into your lean-to but will also be at a safe distance away.

The reflector wall can be built using two or four posts, two at each end spaced out from each other and by placing several logs about 6 feet long between them thus creating the wall, the fire is then placed and started in the inside part of the wall facing you. A teepee fire will work just fine, also make sure you choose your wood carefully for example choose Ash, Birch, dogwood or oak, you want to use wood that will burn for a long time provide good coals but also produce lots of heat once the flames have died down.

There are many great resources on the Internet as well as great books available and even companies that offer survival courses. On my OKB page, there are several books listed which I have read and used as references throughout the years.

Stay warm and be safe!

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Four years ago while out hunting the eastern wild turkey during the month of May, I was a victim of a poaching incident. My decoys were setup in their rightful spot. Just twenty-five meters in front of me on the edge of my friend’s farm field. I was tucked away nice and low inside the tree line facing south with the dirt road just fifty-five meters away.

I had been in my shooting position well over two hours and managed to call in two hens and a large tom. Once the male turkey was within shooting range, I had slow pushed my safety off and was only milliseconds from taking my shot. The turkey had a long beautiful beard; unfortunately this is when another shot rang out and hit my bird which caused it to jump into the air yet only wounding the bird, it leaped and disappeared into the woods to the east.

The poacher had total disregard for my safety and I know he saw my decoys, additionally it was on private property, and his shot was right in my direction as he was hidden behind a dead tree to my front on my left. He took a shot from a distance of only forty meters. Luckily for me he was a poor shot but my season was a total bust as it was nearing its end, and I could no longer take any more days off, as for the turkey he was injured and I went home empty-handed.

I still get very mad when I think about the incident but this blog entry is not about the poacher and my lost turkey but rather the proximity of the danger and yet I was able to go home alive and un-injured that afternoon.

Turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting share some similarities and one of them is the fact that hunters are not obligated to wear the orange safety vests. Birds can see very well in color, therefore not wearing the vest gives us hunters an advantage. However this adds a whole new level of risk and potential for danger because if you are concealed in camouflaged attire and you find yourself moving around in the woods or open fields, a hunter can mistake you for game.

During the turkey hunter’s awareness course, they teach us to avoid wearing red, white or blue which are the colors of the male turkey head. We are also instructed on methods used to carry your decoys into the field either using a large bag or other safe methods of transportation such as bins, so that the plastic birds do not attract shots from other hunters.

Some experienced hunters suggest setting up your decoys the night before once you have located the roost using crow or owl calls and chosen your spot. This way you can avoid the risk of being shot during their setup and layout in the early morning hours often done in the dark. Additionally if you see another hunter approach your chosen shooting position, yell at them to alert them of your presence, do not stand up or wave your arms.

Another safety item I wanted to write about is methods on how to carry your successfully harvested game out of the field. Now that the hunt is done and you have successfully harvested your game, we should also take into consideration safety of transporting your harvest for registration. (This applies to turkeys, deer and moose) For more information on game registration please visit the ministry site.

I have often seen proud hunters, once they have harvested their bull moose, if they are in a remote area, they will often cut the moose into quarters which may be a necessity depending on where you are hunting but then the hunter will also attach the moose antlers across their backs attached the backpack. To an inexperienced hunter you could look like a moose moving through the bush and be shot. A good friend of mine’s father built a very light carrying wagon with bicycle wheels as an alternative, this way he avoids damaging his back muscles but also he can also place his game on the wagon and cover it with a tarp. Using this method the hunting party is much less of a moving target because the large body parts of a moose or deer are not exposed to the eye to see.

Once your hunt is done you may also want to consider putting your orange safety vest back on and maybe even carry a second pair which you can then attach to your turkey or game. The location of your hunt can also be a positive player toward your safety, for example if you are hunting at an outfitter who has exclusive hunting rights on that particular piece of land, then the likelihood of you being shot could be reduced, however in my case I was hunting on private property and was still shot at by a poacher.

Using motorized vehicles such as four wheelers and other such vehicles can also be interesting, when removing game from the hunting grounds. The sound of the motor will alert other hunters to be careful and make them aware that they are not alone in the bush.

Crown land during deer season can be a very dangerous place, because there are a lot of new eager hunters that are ready to harvest their first ten pointers during the first fifteen minutes of their hunt. Always be vigilant and practice safe hunting, know where your partner is at all times, maybe you can carry two-way radios to help with this. Know what is beyond your shot. I was out boar-hunting a few weeks ago, and I had many opportunities to hit my wild boar but I waited for the pig to be in a perfect shooting position with a ridge as a backdrop to catch my bullet, which was by the way through and through, therefore had to potential to hit another game or worse.

Always practice safe hunting techniques, whether it be handing of a firearm, setting up your decoys, or carrying your game out of the field. I was once told a story about a bear hunter who harvested his game and carried it out of the bush on his shoulders; he was shot five times and killed by other hunters. I know his cousin very well.

Please practice safe and ethical hunting and do not rely just on your hunting and wild turkey safety courses, conduct research, spend as much time as you can in the field, talk to experienced hunters, guides and outfitter owners and get informed, never stop learning.

When you are dead there is no cool factor, people who practice safe and ethical hunting are great hunters indeed and have my utmost respect.

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Wild PigSeveral months ago, I was sitting in a waiting area of a Chevy truck dealership having just helped myself to a hot cup of coffee. Then comfortably placed in my seat I was waiting for my turn, I can remember turning my head to look around at all the new trucks, and like many others before me I noticed the magazine rack. I remember thinking to myself that “gosh nothing would be of interest to me in that pile of magazines maybe just a few about fashion or cooking topics.” but this is when I spotted the one with a big game hunting title on its cover.

So, I carefully folded and placed my right foot overtop my left knee and brought down my elbows at the same time that I was opening the magazine. I skimmed read through the first few pages that were filled with advertisements, some for rifle scopes and various other hunting accessories. I turned a few more pages and this is when I landed on the picture a model hunter sitting by his trophy in a faraway place, along with a great article. For many of us this was nothing but a far away dream, imagining what it would be like to hunt like Jim Shockey.

I can remember dreaming about how incredible this would be to travel to a remote place in our vast wilderness to hunt for wild game trophies. You would be facing the elements, challenging mind and body in pursuit of a majestic or dangerous game and as a reward being able to claim your trophy.

I am very passionate about sport hunting, especially small game and most of us hunt for the sport but also for the food and for the experiences we share with family and friends. These hunts could take place anywhere, on family land, private or public property. Some of us have our annual deer or moose hunting trips, others are all about waterfowl or upland birds but deep inside us it is hard to put the rest the idea that a great classic hunt could be within reach and that it can in fact be a very realistic dream that we can achieve at least once in a lifetime.

It is almost the end of November now and the holidays are coming up, the small game season is in full swing and the waterfowl season will be coming to its close very soon in just a few weeks on the 21st of December. But for me time seemed almost surreal. I was then just nine days ago sitting in my truck driving at dawn heading north into the snowy Canadian wilderness. I was driving into the unknown toward my first great classic hunt. It was a gift in every sense of the word and a dream come true.

Then just a few hours later, I found myself all alone in the woods staring down a snowy trail surrounded by two hundred acres of wilderness. No guides, just me and the elements in pursuit of my majestic game, the wild pig.

I was standing on frozen ground with the soles of my rubber boots making cracking sounds as I broke through the thin layer of ice and snow that covered the leaves and branches. I had just re-adjusted my footing in order to get a better look around. I could see my every breath as the water vapours condensed.

There was a light snow fall and the wind was blowing in a north-easterly direction, it would come in like an ocean tide and brush the surface of the treetops and as it passed through the mixed woods, it rustled the remaining leaves and branches which cause it to sound like a small engine passing through. But my knowledge has taught me that when you are stalking game, this is the best time to move as the wind and noise that is generated from the forest masks your footsteps, which is really advantageous while still hunting. It is also important to note the direction of the wind because it can help mask your scent or bring an odour towards you. On a good day, I can sometimes smell the same scent of a wet dog and this quite often turns out to be animal which is not too far. The temperature was sitting around minus five degrees Celsius.

If you are gamer and you are familiar with the Xbox Cabelas Dangerous hunts 2011 game and for a few seconds during your game if you let your character just stand still in the snow, the sights and sounds were quite similar. The cold, and late autumn smells filled the air, the forest surrounding me was dark and had an eerie feel to it. I was very much alive and every sense in my body was at a heightened state.

I turned and faced the south and found more trails which lead over a ridge, it was almost magical and I could picture that at any time now a fox, coyote or hare could pass directly in front of me. I went down on one knee near a large tree for cover in order to have a better look around with my binoculars.

Time seemed like it froze as I was being absorbed by the cold wilderness, it was just me and the elements. For that short moment in time, I found myself back in the mountains of Bosnia and although there was no small arms fire or mines sticking out of the ground, I was living the exact same feelings, cold and isolated yet it was a very calming feeling which filled my entire body.

I was alone in pursuit of the famed wild boar a gift a loved one had offered me; it was the one dream of a classic wild game hunt and I was living every second to the fullest. I had spent six hours in the woods and only around four in the afternoon when nightfall was creeping up and it started getting dark, this is when I noticed a sounder of wild boar to the north-west about three hundred meters away.

The hunt was on, I now had to come up with an approach strategy, and I did not want to allow myself to get too excited. So, I got down on one knee brought up my binoculars and studied the ground in front of me as well as the whereabouts of the entire group of wild pigs.

They were feeding in an open area just on the edge of the forest to the northwest, and I needed to get as close as I could without alerting them for my shot. So with my approach plan set, I crouched down and started a slow sprint using the trees as cover, leapfrogging from large trees to boulders, until I got within seventy-five meters. I was now on my hands and knees crawling to the last and largest boulder between the boars and I, which was now only fifty meters away. I always take my gloves off for the shot, so I wiped the mud and snow off my fingers and prepared myself for the shot.

I got myself into the prone position and started to control my breathing in order to catch my breath after covering all that rough terrain. My farming friend had always taught me to be patient before every shot and if you’re lucky the animals may move toward you and get into a better position for your shot.

It was getting dark out and I did not want to track my game, so I wanted to ensure I had a clean and quick shot. I was now so focused on the boar to my front that I did not immediately notice a young elk sneak up on my left behind a tree just meters away. But his presence was a blessing as it startled the group of boars and they came up over the small ridge and were now just twenty-five meters away.

There were six of them now moving from my right to left and feeding, I picked out the largest of the group and lined up my Tasco scope cross-hairs directly in line with its vitals and I followed the boar adjusting my aim accordingly.

Even with a perfectly sighted in scope, quite often hunters will tend to hit lower than where they were aiming, therefore I compensated for this but not by much. The boar moved a few meters ahead and started feeding again. The boar was perfectly set sideways, with my fore-stock sitting on the rock, I re-aligned the cross-hairs with the vitals and pushed the lever forward on the .303 taking the rifle off safe and with my last breath of three and with my lungs now half empty I released the shot.

The boar jumped into the air and darted for the heavier thickets, I kept my eyes glued on the wild pig as it sprinted about forty meters along with two other boars and then it tripped, fell and flipped over a log and lay motionless. It was a brilliant harvest and it was the end to my first classic hunt. Incredible!

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