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Posts Tagged ‘deer’


My thirst to never stop learning is what has made me into the bird harvester that I am today, but it is not just about education and information or field experience, it is also about pure observation. As waterfowlers bird species and their flight is knowledge that you must add to your bag if you wish to harvest in confidence.

Have you ever noticed that when drive with a deer hunter, they can spot almost every deer on the side of the road and they can tell you the size and sex of the animal and they get excited every time they see one. Beside all the fun of seeing them, it is an acquired skill because most people just see landscapes. Also it is not about just seeing a deer randomly standing there. There is the weather, time of day and what they feed on and their behaviour and habits.

I find myself doing the same all year round for all birds and it keeps me busy, I am also noticing that I am getting really good at it; so that I can spot ducks at great distances and can tell you the type of birds they are based on their flight and coloration and placement of wings on their bodies or even their calls.

I take in every detail and this is crucial to success on any hunt. Pigeons are by far one of my favorite, because like many other bird species they have incredible eye sight and their flight capabilities are just out of the world, I would say similar to that of Teal. I can recall one Teal hunt, I had four birds closing in, heading directly toward me, and I as soon as I raised my barrel and released the shot, every single one of them spread and flipped like the infamous Matrix move and believe or not I missed them. Arial aerobatics that to this day baffled my mind.

I am so fortunate that in my hunting zone in the province of Quebec, Rock dove hunting is open all year round and not only do pigeons taste amazing, it provides the necessary preparation and skill development needed for duck and goose harvesting. Farm pigeons can be taken from the ground or top of barns but I prefer sky shots in flight.

Observe, learn and adapt and you will harvest more birds and waste less shells. There is more than meets the feather!

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Day after day, I drive into work and park at the same old spot in the underground parking tucked in right at the back, away from any other vehicles. There is only one other car that shares the back with me and this car is only there every other day. It is a pretty fancy sedan compared to my older truck. So, when it is parked near my spot I have to manoeuvre a little more in order to place myself in a reverse position which makes it easier to get out at the end of the day as well as avoiding a collision.

But this blog entry is not about vehicles or parking. When I drive up to the last turn inside the underground parking in the morning where the other car is usually parked, I have now turned it into a game; can I really try to guess if the car will be there or not? This is also before I can physically see it. Almost like I can predict its presence, but it is after all just a mass of steel and rubber and so far my ability to be able to read the presence of the car without seeing it has turned up empty. And this is most likely because there is no soul or energy coming from the car.

I am a believer that if any hunter is fully immersed in natures elements and that their senses are in perfect tune even the unexplained one’s. I know that we can feel the presence of animal in the woods. On my last snowshoe hare hunt, I knew I was being watched and I had this un-explained feeling within me that I was not alone in the woods and only meters from me was a snowshoe hare in its freeze pose, staring right at me.

Another interesting experience that I had with wildlife in their elements was during a drive home in the winter time, I like to take the country roads on my drive home at night and on this particular evening there was a light snow fall, and on this road at one point there is a very sharp turn but people generally take it pretty fast. For some reason while I was driving up the to the turn, I had a strong feeling in my gut, it was like an instinctive queue to slow down. I let off the gas pedal and just as soon as I did a deer leapt out from the ravine and landed directly in front of my bumper and it turned facing away from me. I tapped the break gently and I slid on the snow and gently bumped it two more times, the deer tried to outrun the truck but slid in the ice below then as soon as it got traction it bounced again and disappeared into the brush.

It was not instinct, I felt the deer and I am a believer that over time I will be able to hone this gift.

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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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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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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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It is very difficult at times for the general public to see or even believe that modern sport hunters are not blood thirsty parasites who have no regard for wildlife and conservation. This has never been the case and in fact it is rather the contrary. Modern sport hunters have a deep connection with the outdoors, with wildlife also and wish to perserve it. Hunters may even do more as a whole toward conservation and protection than the majority of the public when it comes to contributing to both these points. Sometimes, hunters themselves aren’t even aware that they are contributing to wildlife management programs and land conservation projects.

It can be as simple as purchasing hunting accessories or clothing that have a logo of a conservation organization such as Ducks Unlimited. The purchasing of waterfowl permits including stamps, and also simply by registering your game once it has been harvested. Stamps on a waterfowl permit or purchasing gear allows for some of the funds to support wetland conservation programs. The registration of big game and wild turkey allows for the crucial collection of the numbers of species harvested when dealing with population control programs as well as provides great statistical information in direct support of research.
In Quebec where I hunt, it is mandatory to register big game animals or wild turkeys at a registration station authorized by the provincial government. The concept of registration for big game and wild turkeys is also very present in other provinces, territories and states. For more information on this visit your local ministry of natural resources or fish and game websites. Below is the Quebec page on the MRNF site: 

http://www.mrnf.gouv.qc.ca/english/wildlife/registration-stations/index.jsp

A registration center can be any establishment that is recognized by in Quebec’s case the province, this can be a local hunting shop, provincial building belonging to the Ministry or even a corner store. These registration centers will all have the following panel outside their building.

Authorized Registration Center in Quebec

 

The ministry of natural resources and fauna in Quebec state the following:

“In order to take advantage of the maximum availability of registration services, the Department recommends registering your game as close as possible to the harvesting site, rather than near your residence.
Some registration stations are open during all hunting and trapping seasons. Other stations are open only during hunting seasons and, in this case; the hours of operation may vary. When in doubt, hunters and trappers are invited to contact the registration station to avoid needless travel.
For more information on the location and the dates and times when registration stations are open, consult the lists below. You can also get in touch with the Service à la clientèle or one of our regional offices. All of this information is also posted on the door of our offices.”
In order to find the registration center nearest to you in Quebec go to following website on your portable device or print out the centers located in the area where you will be hunting big game and wild turkey.

http://www.mrnf.gouv.qc.ca/english/wildlife/registration-stations/big-game-stations.jsp

Then select the region on the link above and then the local municipality, there you will find a list including, the type of organization, their contact telephone number and their hours of operation. The cost of registering big game and turkey is six Canadian dollars.
When you register your game make sure you look up the rules in regulations with concerns to the transportation of the game, for example not removing the wings of the turkey during transportation thus making it easier for identification purposes. Ensure that the transportations tags are attached. (I personally like to use twist ties)

When you register the game, the officer/agent/store owner will visually inspect the animal or turkey, transportation tags; record the date and time as well as a location using GPS software where it was harvested. He or she will record the type of weapon that was used. You may also have the animal or turkey weighed. After the inspection, an electronic form will have been filled out and you will receive a printed receipt.
Registering your game and having an officer/agent/store owner congratulate you on your harvest, is also part of a successful hunt as he or she may be one of the first persons to validate your harvest and make it legitimate. This is confirmation that you did your part and that you are a respected member of this exclusive club of outdoorsman/Woman 😉

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