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The triumph of a hunt is not only measured in having successfully harvested a game bird or waterfowl as a trophy. We should also remember the time spent out in nature, actively practicing the sport we love; additionally there is also the possibility that you could bring home a bird and have a wonderful meal with friends or family.

But before this can be done there are several steps that need to be completed. Ultimately, your decision on how to proceed with the processing of your harvest is the main factor of the final outcome. For example if you staying at a hunting camp and you know that you will be there for several days, then you might not even freeze the meat, once the bird has been field dressed. It could be cooked at the camp within the first few hours following the harvest. This way you can enjoy a nice meal during the hunting trip or decide to bring some home as well. Some hunters just remove the breast meat rather than use the whole bird, which could include the legs and some of the internal organs or even the tongue.

This is done by removing all the feathers on the belly portion of the bird, then slicing through the breast skin, peeling it back and then with a sharp knife, placing the blade point at the top of the breast bone and cutting down each side. Moving from top to bottom. You could end up with two great strips of duck meat.

If you wish to do both, field dress but also keep the feathers and parts of the bird, so that a taxidermist may mount it, then I recommend you conduct the necessary research and see what is needed in order to obtain a great trophy.

If you are out hunting waterfowl and it involves some travelling then it is your obligation to keep at least one wing fully feathered and attached to the bird. This way if you are stopped by a game warden, the wing will enable them to properly identify the species.  For more information or questions, you can consult the following Environment Canada web link concerning transportation of migratory birds.

Field dressing is described as the process of removing the internal organs of a bird or mammal which has been harvested during a hunt. These steps better prepare the meat for cooking, but also facilitate the transportation of the game and decrease your chances of spoiling the meat or getting sick.

I am continuously trying to find ways to improve my skills and one of the methods I use is finding great books to read. My most recent find is the “Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia Volume 7 Birds. It is an incredible book full of knowledge about birds, and the part that interested me the most for this particular blog post is bird anatomy.

It is not necessary to be a surgeon in order to field dress game but it is important to be able to identify the main organs, so that you may conduct a proper field dressing process in a safe manner and prepare the game correctly for transporting and ultimately cooking.

My field dressing kit consists of a very sharp knife with a short but extremely sharp blade, and it does not exceed three inches and has a hooked blade tip for cutting the windpipe and this also allows me to be able to detach certain organs from internal tissue. I have several cheese cloth bags to keep the insects and dirt off the game but plastic bags from the grocery store will work just fine too. I have a box of latex gloves, this way I avoid direct contact with the blood or skin. A cooler filled with two ice packs to keep the meat cool during my transportation. A box of large size Ziploc bags can be quite handy.

During the field dressing of a game bird or waterfowl the first thing I do, is inspect the bird for any abnormalities, checking if the bird is sick or very small. This could help in identifying for spots or even removing flees, and seeing if there are there patches of feathers missing. Then I proceed with removing the feathers from the bird except for one wing. I always complete this process outside avoiding unnecessary mess in the kitchen. The tailgate of the truck or even a cutting board at the hunting camp makes for great work surfaces, having water in a bottle or tap close by is also really great to help clean the bird as well as your hands.

I then place the bird on its back and cut down the center of the breast bone breaking the rib cage and then pushing down on both sides thus flattening and opening the bird as illustrated in my painting.* Be careful as the breast bone is very sharp and thin which can cut your fingers or a broken rib and small bones can poke your hands or fingers and cause you to bleed. This makes it easier to identify the organs. When working with the digestive system, I am also very careful not to sever the intestines, so that its content, excrement or urine does not touch the meat. The heart or gizzard can also be removed for cooking, however, I would do research on the birds’ environment and identify whether or not is recommended to eat. (May contain high levels of lead)

I hope you have great season and wonderful meals too.

Rock Dove Anatomy

Rock Dove Anatomy

*1. Trachea, 2. Crop, 3. Flight Muscles, 4. Heart, 5. Liver, 6 .Gizzard, 7. Lungs, 8. Small intestines, 9. Pancreas, 10. Cloacal opening

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Humility is the right antonym in every sense of the word when dealing with vanity. If Bert Popowski practiced humility while hunting, then he would not be the rightful author of the book that I just finished reading today: The varmint and crow hunter’s bible.

When it comes to reading books on hunting, especially small game, it does not take me long to reach the back cover, but for some reason this book took me longer than usual and it was not because it was a difficult read but rather due to the fact that I considered its text quite rich.

As I was reading, it would be comparable to a person with a sweet tooth eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake and wanting to enjoy every mouthful rather than just polish it off with great speed. Knowledge is what I seek and this book most definitely delivered.

I particularly enjoyed the following chapters: The Canny Coyote, Woodchucks for Rifleman, Cow Pasture Pests, Those Canny Crows as well as the Lesser Bird Pests as the author named them. Also near the ending of the book are two other great chapters: Shotgun Efficiency and Varmint Cartridges which focus on rifle and shot gunning. Both chapters enable you to understand some of the science behind the art of shooting when dealing with varmints.

As an avid varmint hunter, I highly recommend this book. Throughout the pages the author brings out very specific hunting knowledge and skills that are a must know if you wish to be a successful hunter. For example when hunting woodchucks “depending on the elevation, temperatures and food supplies they take the air during the idyllic months of spring and summer.” (Page 10)

“The average mature woodchuck offers a sizeable hunk of target. He owns so tough a hide that, in the days of ox-, horse-, and mule-drawn transportation, a strip of it was often used as the “popper” at the tip of the skinners’ whips. His body, even when encased with considerable fat in preparation for hibernation, is of solid and muscular flesh. And, what is most important, he has considerable life tenacity. He must be hit well -often with power enough to stop a yearling deer-to be dropped in his tracks.” (Page 14)

If you wish to be in business for hunting crows learning the three basic calls: The distress, come-back and mourning calls amongst other great information on crow hunting is well covered in “Those Canny Crows” chapter.

The Canny Coyote”
“A light wind helps conceal what sounds the hunter normally makes, plus hiding the natural movements of mounting the call and his gun. However, if the wind blows up around 10 miles-per-hour, such velocity severely limits the caller’s range of coverage.” (Page 92)

“Coyotes that are thoroughly sold on the authenticity of the dying-rabbit squall have been known to run in almost atop concealed caller-hunters. That’s why some hunters carry both rifles and shotguns. If the tolled critter gets in within 10 to 30 yards the shotgun is ample weapon for clean kills-if loaded with Number 2’s or coarser pellets. But a hesitant, undecided or suspicious ki-dog may have to be taken from 75 to 125 yards, when a scope-sighted rifle is the only suitable weapon.” (Page 93)

Mr. Popowski has now joined the ranks of what I consider to be the authentic authors on the subject of hunting and the outdoors. In doing so he has provided me with the knowledge that will enable me to fine tune my skills as a small game hunter and enjoy many seasons to come. I sincerely hope this book may do the same for you.

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Snare2

Snare2

The early morning air that surrounded me in the woods was crisp and cold. It was almost like time was standing still and every sound in the forest was amplified. The trees had a pure white coat on them after a light January snow fall at dawn.

The temperature was thirty below and the twenty gauge wire that I was working with for my snares was burning my hands as they slowly went numb. I had been tightening the wire around a broken support branch that I had placed overtop my hare lead at its narrowest section.

After carefully placing twigs creating a funnel cone toward the opening of my snare, it was now time for me to tie up my trail marker tape identifying the second snare spot. I was only on my second setup and my goal was to have five more completed by mid morning.

At about eleven o’clock all my snares were in place and had been inspected. A friend and veteran snare hunter had taught me that after the holidays around mid January it was a good idea to adjust your snare openings. Making them slightly larger than the size of your fist and instead of having the wire around five-finger widths from the ground, he suggested it be around three.

Satisfied with my snares, I packed away my gear and prepared myself for the drive home; the anxiety for the next morning’s potential harvest was slowly consuming me. As an avid hunter my excitement level was about the same as someone would experience while waiting to open their gifts on Christmas day. It was now time for nature to take the lead no pun intended.

For those who are familiar with nature, especially North American animals there is a belief that badgers have an interesting relationship with coyotes. This relationship gets even more interesting when they are hunting for food together. Let us imagine they were pursuing a ground dwelling rodent, the badger would attempt to dig him out. The coyote on the other hand would simply wait at one of the escape holes and grab the rodent as it escapes.

Now it is also a known fact that coyotes are smarter than foxes. The question is then: Is it just smarts or is it simply theft? Another interesting fact about this relationship is why the badger doesn’t just kill the coyote that is stealing or trespassing during the combined hunt. Opportunistic or instinct, is it theft or just survival?

The following morning had come and the temperature on the thermostat was showing twenty-four below zero. My goal was to get to the site before nine in the morning, check all my snares and then plan to be home in time for lunch. So I loaded up my gear and headed out to the woods, which was about an hour drive north.

My first snare was intact and although there were fresh tracks in the new snow, they did not lead to my opening, so I slowly removed the wire and marker and placed it in my pocket and prepared myself to move to the second snare. I had put on my yellowish tint shooting glasses, which offer such a visual advantage during the winter when sifting through pine and cedar. I also brought along my .22 bolt-action Savage in the event that a hare may break into a full chase, so with this in mind I decided to stalk between my snare spots.

When I got up to my second snare, I instantly noticed the scattered blood droplets on the white snow and branches. There were obvious signs of a struggle, I also saw several droppings scattered on the fresh snow and there were tuffs of fur stuck on the branches and the log nearby.

My shiny twenty gauge wire had been torn and was still tied off to the main log. I tirelessly looked for a blood trail around the leads but the hare had just vanished and although there were three other leads heading up the ridge there was no sign of blood.

I did however notice prints in the snow heading north-west that looked like coyote tracks; they were headed directly into heavy cedar underbrush and into an area that was quite dark even in daylight. I spent the next forty-five minutes searching the area around the second snare site but did not see any sign of my hare. I gathered up my remaining snares and prepared myself for a challenging season.

The tell-tale signs indicate that I had successfully snared my first hare this year but ended up getting badgered by the local coyote. This most definitely adds a more positive spin to my snowshoe hare and small game season this winter because I now have an added challenge ahead of me.

I do not wish to be badgered again.

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