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Posts Tagged ‘binoculars’


Fresh dirt in front of the den

I slowly adjusted the diopter setting wheel on my Bushnell binoculars all the while taking in the heat from the engine on my chest and elbows. The driver side door was wide open and I had just come around the front and was now resting on top of the hood in order to stabilize my body providing me with a better focus base.

The weather network had predicted around three millimeters of rain but it never came, and although the sky had a slight overcast, it was still very clear. The temperature was at about twenty degrees Celsius above zero and every few minutes there was a very refreshing north-easterly breeze that swept across. This helped with the bugs but only for a short time; therefore I had also sprayed myself with some much-needed bug repellent.

I had a full panoramic view of the eastern hayfield which included its trees, the wired fence with its old wooden posts, and the dense brush on its south side. I started scanning the northern part of the field and then tediously moving my way to the right towards the southern edge, examining every dark object and anything that looked out of the ordinary.

It was now early in the afternoon and it would be feeding time soon for the woodchucks as they often feed on average about three to four times a day. An experienced varminter would focus on known openings of their dens looking for fresh dirt that had been pushed out from under their claws. This could be seen from quite a distance unless it was hidden behind tall grass. He or she may even inspect the nearby boulders to check and see if they were sunbathing. But would you think of looking up?

At the top of the seventh post there was a large brown object perched in a ball and it looked like a wet piece of dark wood. So, I opened my eyes as wide as I possibly could, adjusted my eye relief behind the lenses and noticed some slight movement. I remember reading in one of my books “Mammals of North America” that woodchucks can be accomplished climbers. Well this is true!

There he was: a large chuck on picket duty keeping a watchful eye on his territory. I now had to come up with a plan to flank the woodchuck from the north-west, and the hunt was on.

Now that I had a plan in mind and had located my first chuck of the day, I took my time to analyze my approach. It does not necessarily matter if you scare the woodchuck because it might often come right back out within a few minutes or sometimes it can take several hours. It becomes more of a personal challenge to get as close as you can without causing them to scoot and it also depends on if you want it to be a quick hunt.

Almost every time they come out of their dens, they will sit back in their holes about three or four feet deep from the entrance and listen for danger. Then, if there is no further un-natural sound, they will inch out and come out to feed or sun bathe.  I have also noticed small insects will hang around the entrance of the den on very warm days and normally shortly thereafter the woodchuck will appear. Just like flies in proximity to cattle or horses.

I like to let them come right out, so that I may get a clean shot because they have a very tough layer of fat and fur later in the spring and summer.

So, with this in mind I stowed away some of my unwanted gear, took a drink of water, locked the car and set off across the field to my left heading north. The field was extremely wet, quite similar to that of a rice patty and I placed my boots very carefully into the water so that I did not make too much noise nor did I want to trip and fall.

I took my time cutting across the field, taking everything in and picking up every scent in the air. There was the musky smell from the woods, the pine, cedar and the odor coming up from the creek. The grass all along the fence was about knee-high, so once I crossed the creek separating the east to west fields, I hugged the fence line and moved my way closer to the seventh post.

If you are able to tell when the woodchuck is eating or when he is watching, you can attempt to still-hunt until you are close enough for a shot. I once got within ten meters. I got right up close and the woodchuck climbed down the post and made his way through the wire and down his hole.

I moved away from the den entrance and stood still for several minutes then advanced toward the hole. Sure enough the chuck slowly inched forward exposing just his head and shoulders.

I carefully took the Savage off safe then squeezed the trigger and the woodchuck tumbled back into his hole. I had harvested the eastern field Picket Chuck.

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I was standing very still with my binoculars surveying the low ground over on the eastern field, trying to find any early signs of woodchuck presence. I set out to the farm shortly after lunch knowing that the groundhogs preferred to come out and move later in the afternoon. The wind was blowing hard in a north-easterly direction and the low dark clouds moved quickly through the sky and caused the field to change color. The spots where there was fresh dirt turned over or where a broken fence post lay played visual tricks on your eyes.

The air was chilled and the temperature was at about plus two degrees Celsius, the weather station had predicted about two centimeters of snow and this definitely was not ideal weather for the chucks. But I had seen about four others in nearby fields located at the other farms. As soon as it started to snow, the ice pellets started bouncing off the mud and the car parked on the side of the road, the sky got dark quite fast.

I had no choice but to sit and wait it out until the sky cleared. Twenty minutes had passed and the sun finally broke though. Still no sign of the woodchucks and I did not blame them especially with this weather being so un-predictable.  So, I decided to turn my focus on the Red Wing black birds and Rock Doves.

The farmer had scattered some grain for his cattle along with a few hay bales and this had drawn in a flock of Red wing black birds; this presented a fun challenge as they can be a difficult bird to harvest because they are easily alarmed and they travel in flocks so if you startle one bird they all disperse.

On the southern field and its northern side of the creek, were three old barns where I had harvested one of my first woodchucks of last summer. The first two barns were smaller and bunched together with only a few meters apart resting on the slope but the third barn was about thirty meters away and closer to the creek on leveled ground near the forest’s south-western edge.

The pigeons, red wing black birds along with robins and starlings were all gathered in the flooded field to the south of the third barn. So, I decided to descend the southern ridge and move my way along the electrical fence between the first two barns and begin a very slow and muddy stalk to the third barn towards the birds.

Earlier in the afternoon I had noticed the cattle were still feeding on the north side of the western field which was connected to the southern field with no fence separating the two. If you were to include the eastern hay field combined they would create a “U” shape around the main farming complex. As a general rule and as a question of respect, I always kept a safe distance from the cattle especially since they had several new calves this year and I was quite aware that this could change the whole dynamics of my current situation.

As I carefully stalked toward the third barn, I was constantly keeping watch for the larger bulls that were part of the drift of cattle. I made sure; I was stepping on solid ground and not sinking into the mud and always watching up the ridge to my right. The only time I did not have control over my position was between the second and third barn. So as I approached the western side of the second barn and made my way over a worn out wired fence. I positioned myself so that I could see the eastern side of the third barn to my front, the creek to my left and on my right the southern edge of the western field where the mob of cattle were feeding.

After several minutes of hard stalking I was now inching into position, and the birds were now within shooting distance lined up in my sights. Unknown to me for the first few seconds, I was also being stalked and considered a moving target. My right eye caught some movement and when I turned my head, I found myself face to face with a two thousand pound bull and he was only forty meters away.

He had seen me come down the ridge on his left and he had subsequently moved in parallel into the middle of the field were there was a slight depression and caused him to disappear momentarily; from there he could protect his drove of cattle and calves.

We were both looking right at each other and for those who thought cattle can not see very well; I just proved it they sure can. He lowered his head and was swinging it aggressively left to right letting out these incredible huffs that came from deep within the beast. He had this thick white saliva dropping out of its nose and from around its mouth and I can assure you it did not take me long to get the message. Just like in the Spanish Corrida de Torros, he dug his front legs into the fresh mud and lifted large chunks of dirt and then would lower his head into the mud and rub the saliva into the ground.

The charge was coming but I had anticipated this and only had six meters to cover back to the second barn or a fifty meter dash to the tree line to the west, so I slowly moved backward to the northern side of the barn and took cover behind the old wired fence and made my way back around the first barn and then behind the electrical fence.

Once I showed the bull, my intentions were to stay clear and move away, he just locked his eyes on me and continued to move large chucks of dirt under his hooves, letting out huffs and puffs.

I finally circled the bull from the east behind the protection of the electrical fence, and then I talked to him in a gentle voice complementing him on the way he protected his drove. He was an absolute stunning bull, pure black, the true definition of power and I will never forget his huffing and puffing, it was so deep like a fog horn and it made every bone in my body shake.

Awareness is so important during any hunt.

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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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