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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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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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A few weeks ago I sent my tracker friend the web link for my new video on how to field dress a snowshoe hare. I had self recorded the process while I was out in the woods. At first his response to my email made me smile but I also found it quite complimentary. In just a few sentences he told me that I should have been born during the time of Ernest Hemingway and gave me reasons why.

In one of my previous blog entries, I wrote about old hunting books and their author’s and also focused on the writing styles and the fact that they are so different from today’s authors. Is hunting becoming just another fashionable sport? Or is it still a deeply engrained pastime found in our North American blood that is shared by families and friends?

Norman Strung in his book “Deer Hunting” calls himself a “Romantic” and I have to say I truly speak his language. It is quite a different romance then what we are used to, I like to believe it is rather a desire to keep things as they are in their original form. For me the word “Raw” is much better suited and it reveals the true origins.

When I read books on hunting and the outdoors, I become in sort a prospector who is panning for gold. I combine my extensive field experience with the theory that the books I have read provided me with, and then overtime I have developed in turn this natural ability to separate the gold from the black sands. I find myself collecting precious gold which is ultimately knowledge from books, videos and the types of sources available including more field experience.

Authors like Norman Strung and Larry Koller and many other authors listed on my OKB page have a gift to write great material, which is extremely rich in knowledge both in the theoretical and practical sense. Their pages are gold.

As a hunter I am constantly trying to learn more not just about hunting but about wildlife management systems and any element that surrounds this great sport. Great authors like the one’s I have listed make it possible for me to be closer in reaching my goal in becoming a wealthier man in knowledge.

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