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Several hours had passed now and I was still tucked away between three trees on top of a ridge of rock overlooking a clearing to my left, a swamp directly to my front and dense brush to my right mixed with pine, cedar, birch and various other trees, very soon it was going to be time to start heading back to the motor boat before it got too dark.

The wind would pick up; brush along the forest ceiling and create a ghostly sound right above me and then a few branches would crack and you kept as still as possible just in case a buck came out within shooting range for the last few minutes of daylight. I know that deer are intelligent enough to move only when the sound of the breeze covers the sound made by their steps especially in the dry autumn leaves and twigs.

Last year in my tree stand I turned my head for a second while the wind was blowing and when I looked toward my shooting spot, a doe was standing there as if she had dropped out of the sky, unfortunately for me I did not have a doe tag.

The red squirrel in the tree nearby kept me company and was busy rustling through the leaves and would call out if something moved. The blue jays also sang as they foraged through the forest floor and then flew away hastily to the nearest tree offering just enough height to keep them away from the danger below.

I could now hear more branches cracking on my left about one hundred yards out and it was getting louder and then I saw a bright orange square, which turned out to be a hunting vest. It was one of my hunting partners and he had been scouring through the eastern ridge all afternoon to see if he could still-hunt a trophy buck.

If you are a composed, experienced hunter and not an eager beaver full of piss and vinegar bouncing with nerves, you can make out another hunter pretty easily and the orange vest is really visible. I slowly unloaded my rifle and then made my way down the ridge where we met up and then started to make our way back to the boat. He was in the lead and with fifteen yards between us; we were scanning the whole way back looking for any sign of white-tailed deer.

The country was breath-taking with steep ridges, mixed and pine forests, sometimes the trees were quite far apart and the forest floor was littered with timber wolf scat, deer scrapes and droppings. It was without a doubt one of my favorite hunting areas and heaven for any outdoorsman/woman. This land was magical, and comparable to the forest scenery from the movie “Lord of the Rings”.

Once our gear was all packed up in the motor boat, we took our twenty-minute boat ride back to the truck, leaving the dark forest behind us and then drove another forty minutes or so through winding dirt roads back to the hunting camp. We were going to be spoiled after having spent an awesome day in the bush; we now had a delicious warm supper waiting for us that had been cooking in the Crock Pot. One of the guys had prepared some black bear that we ate with fries and melted cheese curds and gravy.

After having spent a couple of hours at the dining table and playing darts, sharing stories and laughter, we all jumped in our beds and went to sleep fairly early because we were going to have yet another early rise.

The alarm rang for five and by six we were all up and ready to go, breakfast and all. The radio was turned on and we were listening for the days forecast. It was snowing and we had a strong westerly wind blowing across the lake with the temperature at minus one degree Celsius. We thought that the water would be a little too rough at the bigger lake to use the boat in order to get across to our hunting grounds, so we decided to go duck hunting instead in the morning.

Because deer season was still on, we wanted to stay clear of the farmer fields and nearby forests, so we chose to hit the narrow river crossing with the canoe. The only problem was that we had left the motor boat at the other spot along with the paddles. But this was not going to deter avid duck hunters like us. The river crossing was not very wide and we only wanted to make our way to the island in the middle. This was prime duck property. So, we loaded up the canoe on the trailer with our boat safety jackets and made our way to our drop off spot and we each had our own shovels as paddles. It worked like a charm but I would not recommend it for anyone who does not have experience with Canadian canoes and no white water skills. Within the hour we had harvested two common mergansers and one mallard. We were proud shovelers but not the duck!

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My theory and belief about the approach may not always apply to all forms of bird hunting, but it is most definitely linked to all other types of game such as hare, fox, coyote and more so with big game like deer.

So, what do I mean by the approach? We are all aware of the use of stealth; scent free clothing or products of that nature, as well as the necessity of wearing camouflaged clothing. Yes, the way we walk through the wilderness is part of the approach but it is not just about trying hard not to be noticed.

There is much more substance to the approach, more depth if you will and I know that it is not just about your clothing or stalking techniques. In fact, it is almost found at the spiritual level. You might say “Oh! No, he is writing about the warm fuzzy stuff.” Not at all, it is about the state of mind in which the person is in, the sense of awareness and the hunter’s ora.

To me anxiety, nervousness’s, impatience and lack of confidence or faith in your abilities as a hunter will spill like a bad energy beyond the boundaries of your physical being and animals will smell, taste and feel those energies and if detected you might end up spending the entire duration of your hunt without seeing a single living thing.

On the second evening of my duck hunting season, I met up with a veteran hunter and good friend of mine who has been deer hunting for the past three decades. He is what I would consider an elder, the real deal and his presence is about as pure as the province of Quebec can produce.
He shared stories about his youth and how impatient he was as a young hunter sitting in his ambush spot in the woods; he spoke of his frustration that would spill out if a deer did not come by within the first few hours of the day.

His father who was an experienced guide, taught him to shed these negative energies, it was a type of meditation, clearing his mind and imagining the perfect hunt while he was sitting in his ambush site. He would imagine and create the hunt that would unfold in front of him.

He told me that he would raise his arm like a rifle and point his hand toward the opening in the woods or the edge of the field and let his imagination run and more often than not a deer would appear within a few hours and when it was a trophy buck he took his shot and harvested.
I once read a book about a bow hunter that would take the time to sit by the road and leave all the stresses of the city behind and then when he felt ready to hunt, he would get up and off he went.

For me, it starts during the drive to the site; I turn off the radio and try to think about something other than the hunt. Sometimes, at the start of a hunt with my good tracking friend we normally take the tobacco out of a cigarette and do a sort of offering by spreading it around our starting point.

Like I have written about many times, it’s not about having hundreds of trophies in your den, or sharing over exaggerated war stories, it is about keeping the hunt raw and I do not consider a meditation ritual one bit silly.

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Quick Tom

The truck drove slowly up the long dirt road between the north and south-western hay fields carefully avoiding the mud holes. The creaking sounds of the suspension faded into the country music that was playing low on the radio. Once we reached our spot, the driver put it into park and stopped at the top of the eastern ridge on the forest edge.

It had been raining for a few hours now and the temperature was starting to drop at about six degrees Celsius, we had lowered our windows, so that we could hear the nightly sounds and hopefully get a gobble or an owl hoot. I then carefully swung my door open, stepped out into the mud and moved my way to the back to the truck, unzipped my hunting bag and grabbed my crow caller.

It had been dark for about thirty minutes now and we were slowly sinking further into darkness. I cupped my hands around my mouth and started with a few owl calls and then waited a few minutes, then called again with my crow caller. This went on for a few minutes and would stop, listening with my hands cupped around my ears, and then I would start calling again. I was anticipating a call back from a gobbler but instead I heard crickets, geese from the lake nearby and some other nocturnal animals. The farmer had said that the field on our left was full of turkeys during the week and so we were attempting to find their roost.

After a few failed attempts, we packed up and made our way back to the cabin for the night. It was going to be a short sleep because we wanted to be back on site about half an hour before sunrise in order to get the best setup. Since I had not located the roost, we decided that in the morning we were going to still-hunt along the edge of the fields just like Ray Eye had done in his book. You must exercise a great deal of discipline while moving through the woods and fields, know your terrain, be patient as well as have a good eye.

Turkeys can hear and see extremely well and it is absolutely critical that you know and understand the game you are pursuing.

It was now five in the morning and I awoke to some nice song birds. Within minutes we had eaten breakfast, which was a few pieces of toast and a cold glass of milk, and then we loaded the gear into truck and drove back to the very same spot. My good friend was carrying my decoys in a bag, along with green mosquito netting for cover. I had my Quaker Boy slate caller around my neck, a set of binoculars and my pump-action Remington 870.

The hunt was on and we were extremely excited, we slowly moved our way east through some copse of trees between the east and western fields and as we broke the forest edge two deer leapt into the tree line to our right and disappeared. We decided to go up the left hand side of the field north-east of the truck and then cut across about half way through as there was a crest in the field leading to a point which offered a great shooting spot.

As we slowly made our way up the forested edge of the third field, I went down on one knee and completed Wade Bourne’s Fly down Cackle hitting my hat against the tree bark and boy it sounded authentic.

I must have alerted some animals nearby because within an instant of finishing my call a coyote came trotting along the field to our right and then when he saw us he disappeared just as fast as the two does. We did however find his meal left over’s which was a porcupine carcass. Several minutes had gone by and now after having seen some wildlife our senses were set to high gear and then almost every dark object in the fields looked like an animal.

We must have taken around forty more steps and had stopped by a pile of logs when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to our left. We instantly took a knee and stared at the large black mark in the center of the field down in the low ground. As we looked on, I noticed that it was lifting and lowering its head but it was too far out to make out what it was. I whispered “It looks like a coyote” but my friend was not so sure, so I handed him my binoculars and he focused on the animal. He was several hundred yards away down in the low ground. Behind him was a beautiful valley and on its crest there were very large trees mixed with pine and aspen, oak and birch.

To his north there was a very large hay-field and a small lake behind some more trees which formed a sort of barrier between the two features. To his south there was another field and it was on its southern edge where my point and best shooting spot was located. By the time my friend handed me the binoculars to have a look, he had already whispered back that it was a very large tom and he had a huge smile on his face. It seems that my calls had worked and he was spreading his wings in a feathered dance then moving slowly into the direction of my calls. He was all alone with no other turkeys in sight.

We kept very low and slowly moved back toward the southern edge and decided to place the two decoys twenty-five yards from the brush. My friend walked back to the logs some thirty yards to the west providing me with a safe and wide shooting arc. Ideally, I needed to be further east on the point but I could no longer move as the tom was closing in on my decoys and would have instantly seen me.

I tucked myself into the bushes on the edge of the forest my back facing south with my decoys slightly to my left to the west about fifteen yards out. I carefully placed my Remington 870 aiming directly to my front and lifted my slate caller and let out a few cutts, yelps and purrs. I would then lift my binoculars, look for the tom’s position and reaction.

At first I could see him moving toward me but then he would fade into the low ground, and I thought to myself “Damn! He saw me.” Then I would see this very long neck pop up like a submarine periscope and then disappear again behind the grassy knoll. It was quite comical. What I found very neat is that he never once communicated with me, not even a few clucks or a gobble.

There was one thing which was clear and this is that this tom was quick and he was in a hurry to see my hen decoys. He was now fifty yards out to my right, I had tucked myself away into a ball and pulled my camouflage hood over my head, I looked like a Real Tree bush with just my eyes moving, he was moving quickly but cautiously towards my two decoys. He would complete another feather dance which was just breath-taking and you could see his beard dragging along the ground. He would then tuck his head back in and move forward a few more steps, then stop and move yet again.

My heart was racing like crazy and I kept on going through my shot scenarios and wanted to insure I chose the best time to take my shot, so I waited for him to walk directly to my front, I slowly raised my Remington 870 and unlocked the safety using the slow push technique which Wade Bourne had shown on his video. It made no sound at all, took my breaths and when he was twenty-five yards out, I lined up my bead sight with his head and neck and let out a shot of number four.

It struck him by surprise and made him jump into a winged frenzy, I instantly leapt out of the bushes and while on my second step toward the bird I fired a second shot. Upon the second impact he spun around and the twenty-three pound beast fell to the ground. I had just harvested my turkey on the second day of this year’s season and it was all over in less than two hours. Brilliant!

I may never meet Wade Bourne, Ray Eye and Preston Pittman in my lifetime but they were all present during my hunt. Thank you!

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Remington 12

Choosing the right shotgun ammunition for small game hunting is not only a very important choice for a potential harvest but also for your safety.

Whether you own a combo gun, 12, 16, 20, 28 or a 410 shotgun it is very important to choose the right shell length specific to your shotgun. Shotgun shell lengths, shot size, chokes as well as the gauge are all a must know before you purchase ammunition.

It is not necessary to become an expert in the subject because there are always professionals on hand to assist you in the stores during your purchase. But it is advantageous to be informed, so that you make a safe and experienced choice.

The firearm I use the most for small game hunting is my 12 gauge pump-action Remington 870 Express, which shoots 2 3/4 & 3 inch shells and has a five shot capacity.

Familiarize yourselves on shotgun choke types because understanding the patterning and shot concentration over specific distances will have a direct impact on the type of shot you wish to achieve. After all, a one shot harvest is what we all wish to achieve. Insuring a tight pattern once the pellets leave the barrel is one of the responsibilities of the choke. The website “Shotgunworks.com” is great source for this information.

When I choose shotgun shells for my small game hunts, there are several points that I take into consideration. Below I have listed a few:

-Use the right shotgun shell lengths based on your gun’s specifications and design.
-Consult Federal and Provincial regulations, for example where I live in Quebec there is a specific page on the ministries website that provides the acceptable shot dimensions to be used for small game:

-Know and understand shot sizes and their standards. This can mean being able to recognize your game after a shot and actually being able to enjoy a nice meal.
-Consult your local hunting store pro’s, talk with other hunters, and join web forums, read books. These are all great ways to find out about new types of available shot and get expert advise.
-Consider ethics and the environment, with concerns to avoiding unnecessary suffering of the game and also doing your part in maintaining a healthy environment by avoiding the use of lead shot.

One of the books that is listed on my OKB page is the “Shooter’s Bible” and it is a great reference moreover on page 498 of the #89, 1998 edition there is a detailed “Shotshell Game Guide” by Winchester. Other similar tables can be found on the Internet.

The following Wikipedia page provides tables and good explanations for “Shotshell guide” you can find a similar tables that provides a list of game, shell shot size, chokes and gauges.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_shell

Standard shot sizes tables are another great tool, they show the shot number using black circles in varying sizes and are very informative; they often incorporate the shot pattern over a specific distance. I find these very handy because it shows you the distance of the shot using a drawing in a shape of a cone or bar graph and provides you with the effective distance to get a confirm harvest shot. These shot numbers are: 9, 8, 71/2, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, BB, BBB, and T.

Safe hunting and wish you all great shots.

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Here is a story I wanted to share with you written by a good friend and fellow hunter while he was deer hunting:

Bit of a heartbreaking start to the day. I left my spot alone as I have been traveling and just plain busy. Got in the bush mid day and hiked into my Stand. I have been excited to get out knowing there was a good dusting of snow, real helpful for someone with my tracking skills.
 
Got to my spot and there was nothing on the ground, nothing. I was pretty disappointed, I gathered up the camera, stand is still there and planned to spend the rest of the day looking for yet another spot.
 
In about half an hour I came across survivor-man’s shack speed tied and duck tape.
 
Hiked out about two kilometers and had a thick track crossing the trail so I went in the bush deeper. This is where I started to have some fun. I decided to pay more attention to the sound I was making. I always am aware but I really wanted to work on being quieter… it was good fun. Wind was cutting into me and I kept working through a swampy area followed by thick bunny filled hanging pine.
 
Then I found a really weird mound. Very flat bush and this mound was about thirty meters around and there was ever type of track you can imagine going to the top only a ten foot rise. The most pronounced and recent was moose. I made out two different tracks near the top and decided to follow one.
 
The bush got much thicker and my travel much slower. For another hour I worked through the bush and I came across a spot that just looked different. Scrub opened up a bit, more hanging pine, bent low with the bit of snow. I liked it. Not long and my moose trail crossed 3 or 4 deer. I trailed off on one track and shortly found a huge pile of droppings that was not that old.
 
I walked that track out and found another heap.
 
Then… boots. I came across boots a few hundred yards from there…. relatively fresh snow, I was bummed. Someone else knew what I just learned.
 
Too late to replant my stand, I decided to walk out and keep working on my noise. I had a sit about a one kilometer down (and yes had a smoke). Almost dozing off, as I like to do, about ten minutes later I hear a deep and nasty growl behind me. It felt like it was right behind me….scared the crap out of me. Frozen with my back to a tree I did nothing but drop the safety on my X Bow. I stayed as still as I could manage and heard nothing more than a twig snap. When I went looking, I could not find any track but I did not look far….
 
The great white poseur had another great day. I had a few recent posts running through my head as I spent some quality time with myself. I thought a lot about while I am out there.
 
I live in a world of consultants and bullsh**t, not much is very real.

For the few hours I am in the bush, I am a different guy. More aware of my surroundings, more aware of my heartbeat and happier than I can explain. I don’t hunt for meat but I can’t wait to be able to share it, I don’t hunt to brag but you will hear from me when I am successful.
 
I hunt because it is a connection to something very real for me. I see, hear and feel more crisply…. now I have to bring that to the rest of my life…

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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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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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