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Archive for the ‘General Hunting’ Category


My snowshoe aluminium claws broke the silence in the woods, when they crushed through the ice and into the softer snow below the crust. I was well over a kilometer away from the nearest barn and I was surrounded by evergreen trees. They stood tall with their majestic winter coats and seemed on the verge of collapse because of the weight of the snow.

January 15th, 2016 marked the last day of sharp-tailed grouse for my hunting zone. I thought to myself it would be amazing to maybe get a harvest on the last day of their season. I was out hunting snowshoe hare, grouse and maybe if time permitting a few rock doves over by the farm.

Still-hunting for snowshoe hare and grouse are very similar in technique, it is basically scanning the hidden dark spots at the base of spruce bows and fallen logs, walking slowly and frequently stopping to look and try to identify shapes and colors that don’t fit in.

Hares have black tips on their ears and are generally straight up listening for danger, as for their black shiny eyes these are easily spotted with a keen sight.

Grouse can either be sitting at eye level on small branches in a tree or at ground level tucked away in a ball puffing out their feathers to stay warm during the winter months. Or just simply walking about like a domestic chicken, in short but quick bursts.

Once you see one, lock your eyes on them and stay with them because they can lose you in an instant as they dash around foliage. If you decide to follow, then make sure you are well versed in the use of a compass because they will bring you further into the brush but they will always stay in their circuit. Which is invisible to us unless you follow their tracks in the snow.

After about two hours of following hare leads, I was slowly making my way back to the farm, when something caught my eye at the base of a pine tree on my right about twenty meters in from the main trail.

There was a dead fallen log leaning diagonally under the pine tree up against its trunk and the pines lowest branches were buried with its tips buried under the icy snow forming a natural skirting almost all around the base of the tree.

What struck me was this black circle just sitting under the fallen log, I mean it was a perfect black circle. Deep down I had a feeling it was a grouse but I was not sure yet and couldn’t decide if it was a malformation on the tree, like a large accumulation of sap on the log in the shape of a ball.

It would have been unpracticed and unsafe for me to take a shot at the dark object without truly knowing what it was. I was excited and yet physically I remained calm in my decision, I had no choice but to move in closer for a good confirmed shot.

I loaded two shells into the shotgun and pumped one in the chamber then instantly clicked it into safety on position. I lifted my left leg and started to make my way toward the tree through the deep snow and dense brush.

My first two steps through the snow aroused the grouse with a thrashing sound which caused it to turn its head to the right, I had my final confirmation, it was a grouse.

My shot was going to be a very difficult one with over twenty meters between us through several thin branches. In addition while aiming I had to point low below the log where the grouse was hiding. I only had about a five-inch diameter to make the shot and the bird was on the move toward the north.

To make matters worse, my snowshoes had failed me and I went through the snow on the edge of the trail and sunk down to my waist. I was using the more modern pair of snowshoes, my Michigan’s would have kept me at the surface of the snow crust.

Once I got myself into a descent shooting position I shouldered my 870 and fired a shot, aiming to high and missing my shot completely.

The grouse jumped out to the right and made his way north and then back around the front of the tree heading west.

I saw him through the greenery but it was not a clear shot. I tried to chase it but sunk even further into the snow.

I was instantly broken and felt and incredible amount of frustration. Gosh!! I love the winter woods but it can be a tough environment. You might live incredible hunts but you will also have days like these.

I tried to circle around but the grouse he was gone and my hunt was also done as it was getting close to dark.

I know there will be next year’s season but this one was a bust, this is when you must dig deep and find the positive in the experience and not find things to blame.

Like there could have been less snow, I should have used different shot or a different shotgun.

Next fall will remedy this and for now I can continue to pursue pigeon and snowshoe hare and hope to make up for this day.

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There was a light snow fall in effect for my late afternoon walk back from work today. The scenery was stunning and the sun was only minutes from setting for the night, when all of a sudden I was pleasantly surprised by a cottontail rabbit on my pathway. He stood there for a few seconds and then hopped away back into the spruce bushes nearby leaving behind him the classic two dot tracks at the back combined with the two longer hind legs prints at the front in the direction that he was heading.

As a small game hunter I take great pleasure in seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and can spend hours observing them. What I find even more interesting is that this was only my second cottontail sighting in several months.

During last year`s small game season I did not harvest any snowshoe hares or cottontail which is quite unusual as I generally harvest one or two in a season. This is not exceptional numbers I agree but one thing to keep in mind is that I hunt quite often alone and with no dogs.  This season I was convinced that I was experiencing a decrease in numbers due to their natural life cycle for the area where I hunt.

Most books I have read mention this infamous ten-year cycle for rabbit and hare populations but based on my time spent in the field it seems more like a five-year cycle. This year while out on my waterfowl hunts at my favorite woodlands spot, I saw two red foxes and it had been well over five years, since I had seen any in the area, to me this is indicative that there must be food in the area. Could the lagomorphs’ population be on the rise again?

I will be hitting the woods in the next few weeks for pigeon, mourning dove and snowshoe hare; if a harvest is not a confirmation of my findings then I will need to continue my natural research, which I will gladly do since it is our passion. I have a good feeling; now let me reach for my rabbit foot.

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It has been a few weeks since I have blogged about our beloved sport; but the subject was never far from my thoughts or soul. For fourteen days, I walked two hundred and fifty kilometres on part of the Saint James’s trail (Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle) France; more accurately a pilgrimage on the Rocamadour variant.

God knows, no pun intended that I had lots of time to think and reflect about everything, including my upcoming seasons and blog articles. While on the “Chemin,” I was constantly reminded of the beauty of nature and its magnificent wildlife. The hares in France were so large in size that their ears resembled that of a coyote and the palombe (wood pigeons) also impressed me with their size, flight and ability to blend into their environment.

When walking in the open fields alone with no one in sight for miles, I openly called out to the French crows and hawks to see if I would get a response. The crow calls were very different and not as pronounced as their north American cousins. They also did not call in three’s. Furthermore, they did not seem interested in having a conversation with me, unlike they do here.

As for the hawks, they usually called back but it took two or three tries before I got a response. While on the Saint James trail, it was not unusual to spend several hours walking through French forests and even though they also had maple and oak trees just like us, the forests in the region where I walked seemed very damp and dense and very eery at times.

The forest density changed just like our forests from very open pine forests to extremely thick mixed woods. Some trees grew in small groupings of three to five trees with every grouping spaced out. I walked through many private hunting territories in close proximity to agricultural areas, and only saw two deer and was particularly amazed by their rather small body size.

One night while sitting in a French restaurant, I met a fellow boar hunter and eventhough we lived in two different countries seperated by a great sea, we shared the same passion, the same knowledge and as a result we bonded like two brothers. 

It was an incredible experience and I will return for sure, but now my focus is to enjoy the rest of the summer and get ready for the fall. And as for my walk through the amazing French countryside and its forests or as John Muir put it: The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.

My fourteen day walk through the French countryside and wilderness shall be part of me for a lifetime.

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There was a strong breeze coming in from the west that brought with it some cold air; for a moment I felt a chill down my back while descending the ridge toward the creek. The sun was out and the birds were singing and you just felt this renewed source of energy in the air, what an incredible day I had chosen to visit my friends farm and hunt small game.

I was on the lookout for woodchucks and rock doves. By the time my descent had finished I was now standing at the edge of the creek, the water was still incredibly cold with the water levels higher than usual caused by the melting snow and ice.

I crossed over to the other side choosing my path carefully stepping on the large boulders just below the surface of the crystal clear water, high enough to prevent my socks from getting wet, also not to allow the water to reach the top of the boot which was just below the knee.

It was now time for the climb to the rock formation at the top of the southern ridge, it is a really enjoyable walk but I am alway cautious passing through the wall of evergreen, because the cattle have carved out pathways that they use frequently and I would not want to surprise a young bull into a face to face encounter.

As the years go by and as you spend more time outdoors hunting small game it is inevitable that you will make mistakes which causes you to lose out on a few harvest opportunities. I find the trick is once the frustration has been released through a few swear words and licking your wounds; you then decide to learn from them. Observe and then you promise yourself that you will not be doing this twice. The mistakes I mean.

One example of this is, a few years ago I was walking up the whole length of the creek in late October trying to flush ducks and after several hundred meters I was starting to get discouraged and tired of still hunting. Not one duck in sight, as soon as I let my guard down and started walking tall and ordinarily, I scared off two mallards and they got away before I could get a shot off because of the tough angle of the shot.

This has happened to me with Grouse, Woodcock and also Woodchucks. I walked right into their still stance trap and then boom in an explosion of speed they were gone. Once you become an expert in their habitat I believe you get to know when you should flick the on switch for still hunting alert mode.

So on this particular day I put my theory to the test, I made my way through the cattle trail and got up to the rock formation. I could have walked right up to the crest and looked around and gaze over the horizon like a king over his kingdom but every single game would fly off or run for cover. Of course the red squirrel and crow alert calls wouldn’t help.

So, instead I leaned forward and just popped my head over the crest and I found myself practically staring into the eyes of a woodchuck who was sun-bathing just meters in front of me. I put myself in reverse fairly quickly and lowered myself into the low ground and took a few deep breaths. Loaded a shell into my 870, clicked the safety on and then started to lift the top part of my body just above the crest looking right back into the woodchucks eyes.

Lined up my bead sight with the vitals, completed my three breaths then slow pushed my safety off. Moments later I released my shot and harvested my first spring woodchuck. That night I pan-fried some nice thighs in maple syrup with Cajun cowboy spices from Canadian Tire. It was delicious.

Two years ago, I guided a friend duck hunting in my canoe, he was in the front ready to shoot and I was paddling us through a maze of weeds, but because I had learned so much about ducks and their habitat and knew the swamp extremely well, I had also observed like a hawk and mentally recorded certain gold pot spots. I had it down to a science. I knew exactly when he should shoulder his shotgun and be ready. On this day we did not make same mistake twice. Instead we made nice Mallard dishes.

Take your time still hunting on foot or paddling through the weeds, when you feel it, you will know when to flick on the switch and be extremely observant and be ready.

The results are very rewarding and a confirmation that you are learning. Observation just like conservation is paramount.

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Last year I bought myself a small kayak for duck and goose hunting, my goal was to have a boat that would allow me to travel light and go places where even canoes have a hard time. This also provided me with more control and maneuverability, for example having the ability to shift directions with a single stroke of my paddle to being right in line with ducks that are flying in low. The boat was not as long as the canoe.

Also loading it in the truck bed is much faster and not as hard on the back compared to loading a canoe on a roof of the truck.

I made quite a few modifications to the eight foot long-boat, built a camouflage skirt using burlap, attached my paddle to the boat using carabiners, and drilled two “Y” hooks into the front enabling me to rest my shotgun on the top on the bow and be at a constant ready state.

What I can do with this configuration is that when a shot presents itself I can let go of my paddle and switch to the shotgun in seconds and place a shot on the ducks without losing the paddle.

Now there are times when I go duck hunting and I wish to travel even lighter and this is without a boat. It is a little more challenging because I am limited to where I can go on land depending on the terrain in the wetlands.

When I am still-hunting, and I am ready for a shot, I paint the sky and duck with my eyes, follow the bird’s flight and try to calculate where it may land and this allows me to add more precision to my shots toward the birds I choose, so that after a shot they land near me or at an acceptable distance in the water where I can go retrieve them without placing myself in danger but also never leaving any bird behind.

During several bird retrievals, I have gone into the water up to my waist and used long branches to reach the birds with success. Even I know this not the best situation, especially the fact that I hunt alone several times through the season.

Like many other hunters, I appreciate outdoor shows and one of them happens to be “Swamp People”, in the show Willie Edwards uses a particular tool for alligator hunting and it is the very useful treble hooks which are attached to long cords.

While hunting light without a boat, I am a realist and the majority of my shots if they are not a miss, are usually just a short distance away. So my new project for next season is the rig up a treble hook with floaters attached to a line of about thirty feet in length, so that I can throw my hook toward the bird that is floating and pull it back to shore.

I’ve hunted ducks, from canoes, kayaks, duck boats, and blinds as well as using the still hunting method good old flushing ducks. This way, I improve all my skills in various hunting forms.

I hope my project is not a miss and a failed hook, we shall see in the fall.

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This year I did not harvest a deer in the fall; however I did add more knowledge to my repertoire for the next season. During many of my deer hunts, I either came across bucks that were too young, sporting small spikes or saw several does but did not have a tag for one.

One thing is for sure, I love deer especially white-tailed deer which is the predominant species of deer in my area. They are just incredible mammals and I never tire of seeing them in the evening by the road or across the creek in the woods near my home. I also learn so much more every time I pursue them in their environment.

This week I just finished a great book “White-Tailed Deer” written by Mark Raycroft. The photographic images were stunning and its text was very informative. As a biologist with several decades of research and proven time in the field, the author has collected some incredible knowledge, and like many books that I have read, I either want to challenge the author’s words in the field or learn from them.

Mark wrote that through experience he noticed that deer do not snort and or run off using their runways if only one of their primary senses is triggered. They are rather curious animals and will try to find out more about what you are, and see if you are a potential predator or not.

An example would be if a deer has heard you in the woods but may not have seen you, or smelt you then they may not raise their white tails and flee but rather in some cases circle around you in dense woods or come closer to you in an open field while keeping eye contact. I have experienced this many times in the woods. I found this to be a very interesting find and I want to put this theory to the test.

In addition he wrote about the fact that deer are very selective about their bedding which is sometimes used during the day to chew on their cud, rest but also keep watch for predators. The locations of the bedding are often found on slopes, with evergreen vegetation thus providing them with cover. I see this as allowing themselves to capitalize on the benefits of high ground which enables them to have a better chance to escape before being spotted by predators.

So with this newly acquired knowledge, I put on my boots and headed out to an area in the woods where I knew there were several does in a winter yard not far from my home.

I took my time walking along the creek and through the woods; my goal was to try to get as close as I could to one of the deer without triggering all the primary senses together triggering a raised white tail flush.

I was able to approach the doe within thirty meters from across the creek. She had seen me from far but was not alarmed, and we maintained eye contact the whole time until she heard my foot steps in the snow getting closer. This is when she stood up, snorted, raised her white tail and ran off heading south up the hill. She was bedded down under a spruce tree on a slope. Five more deer that were hidden near her took off up the hill as well. It was a textbook case and I had just lived it.

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Chest Deep


I can still remember the experience of getting my first pair of waders like it was yesterday; I remember driving to the store, trying them on, placing myself in various shooting positions, looking in the mirror, bending my knees ensuring they were the right fit. I was incredibly excited and could not wait to get into them and hit the wetlands. I had conducted research and read reviews but I was not too familiar with brand names and their types, one thing was certain they had to be chest high.

I ended up purchasing the Blue Bill Camo Breathable Bootfoot Waders made by the Allen Company. I love my waders and I am very happy with the product, but at the time of the purchase I did not put too much consideration into their one year warranty for my waders but I remember thinking it was quite short. This is an element for some hunting products which I simply do not understand, if you make a great product and you know it is a great product, why not have a lifetime warranty?

Last weekend I was on an early morning duck hunt, I had harvested my first wood duck of the day and it landed on my left in the creek, the depth was just below chest deep . The black lab which we had with us that morning was further down the creek; therefore I decided to retrieve the bird on my own.

I made my shotgun safe and stepped into the cold waters, everything was going well, until I felt my wallet in my back pocket starting to getting wet and then it dawned on me, I had a hole in my waders and my warranty was up.

I was gutted! First thing I did when I got home is I started to do additional research on how repair holes or tears in waders and came across the McNett Aquaseal product. The YouTube video was great. Now three days have passed and I purchased the McNett Aquaseal product, identified the three holes in the waders and applied the urethane rubber sealant in a rectangular shape using small flat Popsicle stick over the holes.

It is now curing as I am typing; and I shall be back on the river very soon and you bet your ducks I will be keeping an eye on this product.

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