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Try to imagine that we were conducting a study on human behavior, about how a person would behave when entering their car as well as the steps involved in preparing themselves for a drive. This study would have to be completed by doing research on thousands of drivers from all over the world; and it could take months or even years to complete. Time we do not necessarily have.

We would need to be recognized as experts in the field of human behavior thus allowing us to know where to begin the study and what to observe. We would have to be educated in that particular field allowing us to be respected by the public in the event we wanted to publish. We would also need to be prepared to defend our work against critics.

The steps of getting into a vehicle might be: First a person might unlock and open the door, get seated, adjust their seat and mirrors if needed, then fasten their seatbelts. Place their keys in the ignition then starting the car, and then maybe turning the radio or music player on.

This could become a complex study but the fact remains we are pretty predictable and even a young child could act out these steps while playing. I have to admit that this form of human behavior has become fairly common and it would not be difficult to write-up a thesis on this process of entering a car.

Now one might ask what the heck does this have to do with small game hunting. The fact remains that as small game hunters in North-America, almost every time we step into the wilderness depending on where we live, we are entering Grizzly or Black Bear country. When we do, we need to bring with us our best weapon every time we step out into the woods and that is, our minds. This is exactly what Stephen writes.

As a small game hunter, I do not have months or years to spend on this type of research and besides it is no longer about my example but rather about animal behavior and more specifically about bears and their attacks. What are the causes and avoidance? Can we become experts in predicting behavior or just be prepared?

In Stephen Herrero’s book “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and avoidance,” he has provided us with a great resource, combining the experience and research completed over three decades. He is by definition an expert. As a result after having read this book I can go out hunting in my case in black bear country with a more elevated sense of awareness and have more tools at my disposal.

I still believe it to be almost impossible to predict animal behavior especially bears. For me it is about taking the wealth of tips and information that Stephen has provided us and applying it to your experience. This is a great book but I must warn you that the first four chapters are very descriptive with concerns to real life incidents of attacks and may be difficult for some people to read.

This is not meant to be a book review by a long shot but rather a thank you note to the author for writing such a book and sparing us the years of work and providing us with tools that may make our hunting experience that much more enjoyable as we now become more aware.

I wanted to share some of the tips and information that I consider important and that Stephen has written and recommends:

-Go to naturalist talks on bears or attend a bear awareness sessions
-Study “Field Signs” such as feeding or bedding areas, areas near rivers (droppings, scrapings on trees, crushed logs, turned over rocks, fresh digging holes for roots or insects)
-Know the difference between the two types of bear attacks, defensive and predatory.
-Playing dead is your best bet for minimizing injury during defensive attacks, but you must be able to tell the difference between a defensive and a predatory attack.
-Fighting back, using any available weapon is essential in a predatory attack. Most serious or fatal attacks by black bears have been predatory.
-Certain bears that are use to feeding on people’s food and garbage can become dangerous or nuisances and in worst cases have killed people.
-Stay away from carcasses found on trails or near river beds, also be aware that there might be bears nearby if you see scavenging birds. (Just like Ravens and Wolves)
-Bears like to use already used game trails, roads and open areas near river banks, be aware of this and attempt to avoid possible in making any sudden contacts.
-When hiking through the woods, always be aware of the wind direction and try to be positioned down wind from the bears if you see one.
-Make sure you get first aid training and always carry a kit with you on your trips.
-Bring along spare food and water in case you may be stranded while waiting for rescue to come.
-Exercise and remain physically and mentally fit and prepare yourself mentally in preparation for injury. (There is a bear attack story in the book, where mental strength saved a woman’s life when she was certainly facing death.)
-Travel with alertness and attention in your immediate area.
-If the bear is aware of you and nearby but hasn’t acted aggressively, slowly back away, talking in an even tone as possible to the bear while slowly waving your arms. Don’t stare at the bear.
-Carry a gas-powered boat horn or pepper/Bear spray as these both have been tested and can be successful in an encounter. (Hiking stores and Outdoor shops carry them)
-Sometimes your first indication that a bear is near is sound. A crashing in the bushes may indicate that you have come too close to a bear, deer, or moose. (This has happened to me with deer)
-When you encounter or see a bear, you want to know not only the species but also whether it is a female with young.
-Be aware that if a bear sees or hears something, it will often move downwind to get more information. (Bears have great sense of smell)

The author put a Native American saying in his book on page 137 and I read it and instantly memorized it: “A pine needle fell. The eagle saw it. The deer heard it. The bear smelled it.”

In chapter 16, –Bears and people in rural and remote areas, there is a section on firearms and it is very informative on the types of rifles or shotguns including shot that should be used for hunting or in self-defense. If you plan on defending yourself with a firearm against a charging bear, then you better have a lot of practice and know exactly where to shoot the bear and be a highly skilled marksman.

This book and its author Stephen Herrero have provided me with more insight and awareness that will make my hunting journeys into black bear country that much more enriched.

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Robert Burton’s book “Bird behaviour” is not only a great book for naturalists and oronthologists but it is also an important book for small game hunters and waterfowler’s.
 
Knowing and understanding the concepts of thermals, air masses and fronts can help you choose the best time of day to hunt larger birds. I really enjoyed the book and I am going to share with you some of the key points that I thought would be quite interesting to fellow waterfowlers and small game hunters and provided you with the page number and text excerpts identified in double quotes.

“As thermals begin to form under the early morning sun, the smallest vultures take off first and only when the thermals become stronger are they followed by the larger species, unless slope soaring can give them enough lift for an early start.” Pg. 23

In the introduction of the book Robert writes the following: “Birds are, perhaps, the most popular group of animals and they give pleasure to thousands of people around the world.” Wild turkeys are the most majestic bird I have seen and when they spread their feathers to impress, I can tell you they do just that; or the sight of a flock of geese flying overhead is so humbling and really stirs up my desire to learn more about the outdoors and spend as much time in the woodlands of this great nation.

Understanding the bird’s actions such as take off and landings can help a waterfowler predict and identify certain birds for example, if an American wigeon is about to touch down it swings its feet forward, this allows the hunter to identify the bird and duck species. Some ducks and geese can leap straight into the air but swans, divers, cormorants, auks and petrels patter over the surface, wings beating rapidly but shallowly, until flying speed is reached. Pg. 18

“Stiff-tailed ducks can adjust their buoyancy further by compressing their feathers and respiratory airsacs to force out air.” Pg. 26 This may also assist you with being able to identify specific duck species during the migratory hunting season.

“Birds are equipped with the same sense organs as other land dwelling vertebrates, but they have been altered and adapted during their evolution to suit the requirements of flying animals. Travelling at speed through the air is only possible if an animal can make and accurate and rapid assessment of its environment. It must also have a very fine appreciation of the forces acting on it body, and have precise muscular control for the complex movements of flight.” Pg. 40

On one of my previous blog entries “Chasse fine” I mentioned the fact that a flock of ducks flew right over me and completed a kind of environment assessment, this is living proof of their evolution and adaptability.

When I am hunting Woodchuck I can sneak up to the animal and get right up close while it is feeding, because even with monocular eyes it lowers its head to eat, allowing me to move closer without being spotted. However sneaking up to a Woodcock while it is feeding is a very difficult skill to master.

“The woodcock, which feeds by thrusting its long bill deep into the soil, has eyes set high on the head, and their fields overlap both fore and aft. As a result, there is binocular vision to the rear as well as to the front, and the woodcock cans spot danger when it is feeding.” Pg. 43

When hunting wild turkey it is one of the few hunts when you do not have to wear orange safety vests and I believe this gives us an advantage. “Birds have well-developed color vision that is broadly similar to our own and plays and equally important role in their lives, but there are some basic differences. Like amphibians and reptiles, but unlike any mammals, birds have coloured droplets of oil in cone cells of the retina. The function of the droplets has long been disputed, but there is now evidence that they significantly affect the bird’s perception of its environment.” Pg. 44

“In the arctic, ptarmigan save themselves the task of digging through snow by feeding where the caribou and hares have already exposed the vegetation.” Pg. 86

This reveals and interesting relationship between birds and other animals as it relates to feeding and can help you find your bird or game that you are pursuing. If you are looking for ptarmigan you might very well find yourself a hare as well.

“The distinction between seabirds and freshwater birds is rather arbitrary since several groups of birds are to be found in both fresh and seawater.” “The ‘dabbling’, or surface-feeding’, ducks are largely omnivorous. Their bills are lined with three sets of horny or rubbery comb-like plates, known as lamellae, one along the inner side of the edge of the upper mandible and one on each side of the edge of the lower mandible. Water is pumped in and out of the mouth, and food is retained by the lamellae.”

“The ‘diving’ duck may feed at the surface, but they more frequently dive to search for food. Many of these species, such as the long-tailed ducks, the scoters and eiders spend most of their lives at sea.” Pg. 92

Knowing their habitat and feeding habits will help in finding the duck you are wishing to harvest and will increase your chances in having a successful hunt. It is a great book!

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