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Posts Tagged ‘fence’

It Exists


The snow was not very deep only coming up half way up my shin-bones. My socks were soaked with sweat and both had slipped down further into my boots. My leg hairs on the front were getting ripped out with my skin irritated from the rubbing of the lips of my boots with laces that were also soaked.

I was breathing heavy from all the pushing forward in the snow and I took a much-needed rest. It was the middle of the month of March and I had been tracking snow shoe hare leads while attempting to harvest the illusive varying hare.

Two hours had passed since the beginning of my hunt as I was moving in and out of snow-covered pine and cedar trees chasing my quarry. There was no shortage of coyote tracks along with fresh droppings and I knew there was more than one dog because coyotes normally form groups when hunting.

When I am out alone in the woods, especially during the winter, I try not to allow my fear or imagination to run wild concerning wolves, bears and coyotes. My awareness and respect for nature work as a guides and allows me to push a little further, deeper into the wilderness but I am not reckless.

By mid afternoon the snowy woods had become an incredible wilderness scene worthy of a painting but the shadows between and under the evergreen were getting darker. Now that I was rested, I continued my push deeper into the woods and there I found more coyote tracks with fresh urine, droppings and under a pine tree to my left or north, I found a cow skull with bits of flesh left on the cheek bones.

I stopped in my tracks, looked around and very carefully looking through the condensation of my breath. I was overcome by a very strong sense and deep within my gut telling me to stop and turn back toward the farm.

In front of me there was a wall of evergreen which separated me from the trees was an old farming fence composed of rotten wooden posts and wire. Behind the trees was total darkness, I could feel something almost like eyes were staring at me but I could not see a thing. I pumped the action of my 870 and loaded a shell into the chamber and pushed the safety on and brought the shotgun butt into my shoulder and completed a half a circle scan and then slowly moved backward and headed back to the farm.

That day I never fired a shot nor did I harvest a hare but I know to this day that I was not alone out there. There was an energy, aura of a sort and knew that it time to leave the wilderness for the day.

We are living creatures and I know that we give off energy and other animals can sense it and we can in hand sense them. The Mayans are known to have harnessed this knowledge in aiding them to hunt deer.

R.D Lawrence writes the following in his book: Paddy, Chapter 2, page 46. “Wild things, especially young ones, are acutely sensitive to mood and are able to pick up “sense waves” from that aura which, like some intangible breeze, seems to be given off by all living creatures. This is a phenomenon of life that defies comprehension at this stage of human enlightenment, but it does, nevertheless, exist-of this I am sure.”

I too know it exists.

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870 & Chuck

My hip was carefully placed up against the tailgate of the truck in an attempt to avoid shaking too much, so that I could focus better with my binoculars. I was looking toward the eastern field and standing just meters from the farm-house; scanning north to south and concentrating in and around the new hay bales which were freshly cut and rolled.

It was thirty-one degrees Celsius and the heat was almost unbearable. The cattle were down by the creek getting some shade under various deciduous trees, while others waded through the cool waters. Once in a while some cloud cover would move in and with it a fresh breeze would blow in, changing the colors of the various weeds and hay.

Earlier in the morning, I had climbed over the electric fence then headed down diagonally through the northern field closest to the farm-house and cut across the hedge row near the creek, just meters from the road. I then looped around to the south-east back into the other field where there was an opening for the tractors.

I had noticed the groundhog several weeks ago in the field to the east but the weather did not roll in my favor with heavy rains. I was forced to abandon my hunt because the groundhog had retreated below the ground.

The network consisted of two main den entrances at the start of the slope toward the west and with two other escape holes one near the fence to the east and the other in the center of the field where the grass was much darker and just high enough to provide good cover.

Only a few minutes had passed and finally I made out what I thought was a small brown animal on its hind legs. So, I adjusted the center focusing wheel on the binoculars and confirmed my findings. I slowly unzipped my right pocket on the orange hunting vest and pulled out my cell phone and checked the time, it was almost three in the afternoon and it was now going to be cooler and the animals would start coming out now; birds too since I had only seen two yellow warblers and four grackles.

I packed away my phone and binoculars, zipped up my pocket and then grabbed a single shell from my ammunition box on the tailgate and headed down the road to the north. I had to move quickly because I did not want the chuck to move underground.

As I made my way over to the eastern field, I was studying the low ground and aligning the groundhog with each hay bale, thus identifying which bale offered the closest shot and then chose the right bale to use as cover.

I decided on the second bale since it was slightly further away from the groundhog but directly in line with me. I moved in through the tractor opening for the second time of the day and turned in toward the low ground. Once in a while I would stop, catch my breath, because I was speed walking and crouched over. I normally pace myself and take about five to six steps then stop, listen and observe, breathe then set off again.

I was closing in on the groundhog and he still couldn’t see me. By the time I reached the first hay bale, I was only thirty meters out and the shot was possible one but I could not guarantee a confirmed harvest. I also wanted my shot to end up in the dirt and not go over the fence toward the tree line.

So, I stopped, took a knee along with a few deep breaths and prepared myself for the shot that would soon come. I leaned over to the right hand side of the bale and noticed that the groundhog was still standing on watch with its head very high above the hay. I then turned back in toward the center of the hay bale and got down on all fours and leopard crawled over to the hay bale to left or east.

I would crawl, and then stop; look up just popping my head above the hay line to make sure the groundhog was still there and then I would inch forward again. Twice I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead with my hunting hat. My forearms were cut and burning because of the grass blades and various insects. It was only six meters away but it took me a while to get across to the other bale.

Once I reached the second bale, I slowly stood up and had a look over the top of the bale and checked that the groundhog was still there. This time it heard something and let out a whistle but did not move instead it stretched its head further up for a better look much like me.

I loaded one shell into my Remington 870, lined up the bead sight with the target using the hay bale as a stabilizer and focused on my breathing. Once I was ready, I took the weapon off safe using the quiet push method, and then slowly squeezed the trigger…Vlam! Grass and dirt spat up, the groundhog was ejected from the den and fell flat on its back side.

I had harvested one of the largest groundhogs this year and it was now time to head back to the truck and find the groundhog on the southern field near the second barn. I took the time to reflect on the hunt and feeling good about having helped a farmer with his varmints. I decided to bury this harvest using one of the abandoned holes in the field closets to the fence.

My painting of Ron's Coyote

A couple of hours had passed and I was now back at the truck having a drink of water planning my next hunt in the southern field. The cattle had moved in closer to the barns for the evening, therefore shooting was no longer an option at least in the southern field; I had to prepare myself and maybe pack up for the day and head home.

I checked my 870 for a third time after my initial shot and cleared it to make it safe, then I carefully placed it on the ground near the truck on its cloth gun case. I then pulled out a granola snack bar and began to relax.

Once in a while, I would look toward the south then over to the east. The birds were singing louder now, the red wing black birds and grackles were flying in low to feed off the grain on the ground nearby.

I took another drink from my water bottle then placed it down on the tailgate and this is when something caught my eye to the south-east. I could not make it out at first as it stealthy made its way out of the tree line to the south just behind the fence about forty meters from where my harvest was buried. It blended in perfectly with the hay color.

As it got closer and within range I was now able to identify my visitor, I could see its ears were straight up and its fur had a healthy golden shine. The animal would stop; look with its tail straight down near its hind legs. It was incredible! I had seen this animal many times before but I was fascinated, this time it was much different.

It was only two hundred meters away just on the other side of the fence, she moved with such grace and prudence. Coyotes are very intelligent and extremely beautiful animals with an incredible sense of smell. It had picked up the scent of my harvest and she was going to get a free meal; this is something that I love about nature. The simple fact that nothing goes to waste and I was quite aware that my harvest would not last long in the soil.

The coyote was moving in toward my harvest and I snapped to; so I grabbed my binoculars and headed down to the creek to circle around. We were like two cowboys in a duel moving in toward each other but by the time I got to the edge of the creek, amid the excitement the coyote caught my scent and disappeared into the hay, through the fence and into the wilderness.

I did not consider this encounter a failure but rather an awesome experience with an amazing animal. For that very moment I was proud as always to be part of this northern wilderness with this Canis Latrans.

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Fresh dirt in front of the den

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awareness is so important during any hunt.

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The first hare lead that I decided to track on this particular day was without a doubt one of the toughest this winter. Even though it had been much warmer over the past couple of days and it had also rained, the most recent snow fall had left the nearby field and swamp with waist deep snow rendering my progress slow. There was a slight overcast in the sky and the temperature was three below zero. Once in a while as the clouds would clear the sun would break through and momentarily warm my face and hands.

I had no choice but to leave the car parked at the main entrance of the property and set off on foot in an easterly direction down a small slope onto the frozen swamp. The snow was just too high on the road. The swamp was located on the northern edge of the main country road and the trees nearby created a natural canopy of pine and cedar mixed in with straw sticking out of the snow and the area was littered with tracks.

Right away I noticed a trail that looked like it belonged to a mink or even a fisher. It had very distinct claw marks in the snow similar to that of raccoons. So I pressed on until I hit the western edge of the hay-field on the northern side, still following the lead. I took advantage of the change in vegetation to stop and catch my breath also to observe. On my left there was a large pine tree, surrounded by smaller bushes. I was looking left and right looking for any sign of snowshoe hare activity. This is when I spotted several more tracks and noticed some fur and then a blood trail.

The ravens above me were being very loud and kind of gliding just above me like turkey vultures. At the base of the tree there were carrion remains and a large skull. It was not a sight for the faint of heart as there was some muscle and fat tissue still attached and all its teeth were intact. A farmer had told me that the hide alone could weigh in at around one hundred pounds and that it would take several coyotes or wolves to drag that away but it was nowhere to be found. I had wanted to hunt hare in the morning and then try for rock dove after lunch, but after a sight like this and being in the bush alone my instinct was telling me that maybe I should move on.

There were canine tracks everywhere in various sizes and the tracks that I found were only a few hours old. I then decided to move north back to the eastern side of the quarry, where I had harvested my last hare and continue to search for more leads. As I left the swamp and the wood line near the road across the field to the south, I saw additional tracks and followed them some more and this is when I found large droppings as well as a well-traveled trail filled with paw marks. There was set in particular that was very large. There wasn’t just one canine with me in the woods like there was a few weeks ago, it was now more like two or three.

The paw tracks were almost too large to be that of a coyote, perhaps a timber wolf. So, I followed the trail some more because there were also fresh hare tracks nearby leading to the creek. When the forest cover got too thick and the snow was still knee-deep, especially with carrion around, I did not dare venture deeper into the darker part of the wilderness.
There were scattered pockets of evergreen, old wooden planks resting up against a barbed wired fence, offering plenty of cover. By this time I was now experiencing a strong feeling, that I was no longer alone and I also felt I was not necessarily a wanted presence.

I slowly turned toward the heavily travelled trail full of paw marks to the west and took several photos before heading back to the car for lunch. You know, a couple of days have passed since this feeling that came over me in the woods and yet while I am sitting on the bus going to work a part of me that is truly curious wanted to seek beyond the darkness in that evergreen.

By mid afternoon, I had made my way to the farm and met up with the farmer who was tending to his cattle and he had granted me the right to attempt to harvest some rock doves that were eating his grain. He had scattered some feed for his cows and then brought several buckets of water to the calves that were taking shelter in one of the smaller barns. He had mentioned to me that the rock doves were clearing out the grain on the ground and that it could start getting expensive. So, some assistance with this would be appreciated.

Even though rock doves are the same bird we see in the city, out in the country their behavior is quite different and this is to be expected. They see very well and if spooked they do not just fly a short distance away to safety then come back. Sometimes they will fly away over the forested ridge and not come back for several hours or not return at all.

For me there was a flock of five birds in my sights. One of the strangest occurrences that I had experienced was several weeks prior I set out to harvest the farm pigeons. I made the mistake of pointing to them and talked about my approach with another hunter out loud and the birds immediately flew away and did not return for two days according to the farmer.

This time it was going to be different, very different. I started by walking over to the car and continued to talk to the farmer and not pay attention to the birds at all. They were sitting on the trim of the barns roof. And a precision shot was out of the question. I had only packed my 870 with me and did not bring my .22.

Down on the southern ridge there were two older barns and the rock doves had made their nest inside. So, I slowly walked up to the gate at the cow enclosure and the opening to the southwestern field.

I stood there for a moment watching for rock dove activity. Sure enough within a few minutes a group of three flew in and landed nearby. I slowly moved back to car to get into a better shooting position but failed and spooked them and they took off circled in the air and descended to the second barn on the southern ridge.

It was very difficult to move about and align a shot. The birds were easily spooked and I could not shoot at the barn roof, I had to watch for the trucks, tractors and finally the cattle.

I slowly re-positioned myself and used an old tractor for cover and managed to get down the slope and enter the first abandoned barn from the northern side. There was a small window and a door on the southern edge and I had a clear shot on the pigeons, but there was one problem. I was carrying my 870 and I could shoot the roof.

With my .22, I could have taken a clear shot through an opening in the barn without exposing myself. This would have been a great shot under total concealment but this was not a possibility. I asked myself: What kind of approach could be used without scaring them? The only option was to jump shoot them, so I stood at the doorway and leaped outside, this seem to work since they hastily bounced into flight.

I took aim at the last one of the group and fired a shot, the bird swerved and dove and broke into an even faster flight and all three disappeared into the tree line to the east. It was a miss. Dang! I had to wait another forty minutes or so for them to come back, so I climbed the ridge and went back to the main gate.

Sure enough two rock doves flew in from the east heading west straight between the two smaller barns and over the gate and settled in the snow nearby. I quickly went down to my knees and crouched my way around the barn to the north and staying as low as I could I positioned myself in a kneeling position on the north-western side of the barn to my right.

The two birds were still feeding but never kept still, once the birds were not in the line of sight with the cattle, I rose my 870 and in one single motion, stood up and sent the rock doves into flight, Vlam! The shot rang out and I had harvested my first pigeon of the season.

Rock dove may not compare to big game trophies but it is most definitely an exhilarating hunt and great practice for the waterfowl season.

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