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Posts Tagged ‘forest’


Life has been moving so quickly these days with so much going on in the early part of two thousand and seventeen, that I haven’t really been able to digest the passing of my great-aunt. And when I speak with colleagues at work about life in general, it seems to be the same for them, this early period of the year is throwing everything it has at us and we are put to the test with deaths in the family, some with financial or others health issues.

My great-aunt took great pleasure in feeding the local wildlife in her yard and this gave her comfort and countless hours of pleasure. It was a way to break away from the constant distractions of life. And in her final days this is where she chose to be, in her home close to the squirrels that she fed. Her family was never far from our beautiful North-American wilderness and she knew her trees and wildlife very well.

Many years ago she owned a cabin in the woods where she would spend some time away from the town, there she was free to spend hours with the local wildlife. On my second last trip to go see her, we sat in a park surrounded by tall evergreen trees and we had nice talk about the importance of nature and the history of the woods in her region.

I remember her telling me “The forest is my church” and these words will for ever be etched in my memory when I think of her. Last weekend shortly after breakfast, I fed my local crows and squirrels, and I could not put it into words how I felt. The excitement and joy I experienced when the crows came flying in answering my calls as they fed, it was rewarding and calming.

Almost every morning over the past few days, when I looked out my kitchen window and stare into the woods, I took a few deep breaths and thought about my great-aunt feeding her squirrels and I can hear her voice talking about her love of nature and enjoying the simple things like feeding them.

I will continue the family tradition of feeding the local squirrels and will take time to think of her in doing so, because the very same forest that is spread right across our great nation is my church as well.

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It has only been a short while now yet time still feels incredibly strange. Just a few hours ago I was driving into a hidden part of Mexico. What an amazing country! I found myself driving through dangerous mountain roads, heading deep into the arid mountain jungles and for a moment I was re-living my childhood all over again in Central Africa.

Here I was still in the Americas but when I closed my eyes, I felt this incredible bond with the land and its people. The connection intensity was identical to the energy that is felt when the African continent gets its claws piercing into your soul. You never want to leave.

When I am out in the Canadian wilderness practicing our beloved sport, I live something powerful, a sense of pride in being a Canadian outdoors-man, it is raw. It is like I breathe the same air that Samuel Hearn took in.

My day trip into the jungle was set on visiting a coffee factory and there I met one of the founders son’s, it was very interesting to see the harvesting and processing of coffee but what also caught my eye was an amazing piece of history on their wall. It was his grand father’s hand made black powder shotgun that he used for small game.

He told me it was used for hunting pigeon in the jungle; no need to write more the connection was sealed.

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Wild PigSeveral months ago, I was sitting in a waiting area of a Chevy truck dealership having just helped myself to a hot cup of coffee. Then comfortably placed in my seat I was waiting for my turn, I can remember turning my head to look around at all the new trucks, and like many others before me I noticed the magazine rack. I remember thinking to myself that “gosh nothing would be of interest to me in that pile of magazines maybe just a few about fashion or cooking topics.” but this is when I spotted the one with a big game hunting title on its cover.

So, I carefully folded and placed my right foot overtop my left knee and brought down my elbows at the same time that I was opening the magazine. I skimmed read through the first few pages that were filled with advertisements, some for rifle scopes and various other hunting accessories. I turned a few more pages and this is when I landed on the picture a model hunter sitting by his trophy in a faraway place, along with a great article. For many of us this was nothing but a far away dream, imagining what it would be like to hunt like Jim Shockey.

I can remember dreaming about how incredible this would be to travel to a remote place in our vast wilderness to hunt for wild game trophies. You would be facing the elements, challenging mind and body in pursuit of a majestic or dangerous game and as a reward being able to claim your trophy.

I am very passionate about sport hunting, especially small game and most of us hunt for the sport but also for the food and for the experiences we share with family and friends. These hunts could take place anywhere, on family land, private or public property. Some of us have our annual deer or moose hunting trips, others are all about waterfowl or upland birds but deep inside us it is hard to put the rest the idea that a great classic hunt could be within reach and that it can in fact be a very realistic dream that we can achieve at least once in a lifetime.

It is almost the end of November now and the holidays are coming up, the small game season is in full swing and the waterfowl season will be coming to its close very soon in just a few weeks on the 21st of December. But for me time seemed almost surreal. I was then just nine days ago sitting in my truck driving at dawn heading north into the snowy Canadian wilderness. I was driving into the unknown toward my first great classic hunt. It was a gift in every sense of the word and a dream come true.

Then just a few hours later, I found myself all alone in the woods staring down a snowy trail surrounded by two hundred acres of wilderness. No guides, just me and the elements in pursuit of my majestic game, the wild pig.

I was standing on frozen ground with the soles of my rubber boots making cracking sounds as I broke through the thin layer of ice and snow that covered the leaves and branches. I had just re-adjusted my footing in order to get a better look around. I could see my every breath as the water vapours condensed.

There was a light snow fall and the wind was blowing in a north-easterly direction, it would come in like an ocean tide and brush the surface of the treetops and as it passed through the mixed woods, it rustled the remaining leaves and branches which cause it to sound like a small engine passing through. But my knowledge has taught me that when you are stalking game, this is the best time to move as the wind and noise that is generated from the forest masks your footsteps, which is really advantageous while still hunting. It is also important to note the direction of the wind because it can help mask your scent or bring an odour towards you. On a good day, I can sometimes smell the same scent of a wet dog and this quite often turns out to be animal which is not too far. The temperature was sitting around minus five degrees Celsius.

If you are gamer and you are familiar with the Xbox Cabelas Dangerous hunts 2011 game and for a few seconds during your game if you let your character just stand still in the snow, the sights and sounds were quite similar. The cold, and late autumn smells filled the air, the forest surrounding me was dark and had an eerie feel to it. I was very much alive and every sense in my body was at a heightened state.

I turned and faced the south and found more trails which lead over a ridge, it was almost magical and I could picture that at any time now a fox, coyote or hare could pass directly in front of me. I went down on one knee near a large tree for cover in order to have a better look around with my binoculars.

Time seemed like it froze as I was being absorbed by the cold wilderness, it was just me and the elements. For that short moment in time, I found myself back in the mountains of Bosnia and although there was no small arms fire or mines sticking out of the ground, I was living the exact same feelings, cold and isolated yet it was a very calming feeling which filled my entire body.

I was alone in pursuit of the famed wild boar a gift a loved one had offered me; it was the one dream of a classic wild game hunt and I was living every second to the fullest. I had spent six hours in the woods and only around four in the afternoon when nightfall was creeping up and it started getting dark, this is when I noticed a sounder of wild boar to the north-west about three hundred meters away.

The hunt was on, I now had to come up with an approach strategy, and I did not want to allow myself to get too excited. So, I got down on one knee brought up my binoculars and studied the ground in front of me as well as the whereabouts of the entire group of wild pigs.

They were feeding in an open area just on the edge of the forest to the northwest, and I needed to get as close as I could without alerting them for my shot. So with my approach plan set, I crouched down and started a slow sprint using the trees as cover, leapfrogging from large trees to boulders, until I got within seventy-five meters. I was now on my hands and knees crawling to the last and largest boulder between the boars and I, which was now only fifty meters away. I always take my gloves off for the shot, so I wiped the mud and snow off my fingers and prepared myself for the shot.

I got myself into the prone position and started to control my breathing in order to catch my breath after covering all that rough terrain. My farming friend had always taught me to be patient before every shot and if you’re lucky the animals may move toward you and get into a better position for your shot.

It was getting dark out and I did not want to track my game, so I wanted to ensure I had a clean and quick shot. I was now so focused on the boar to my front that I did not immediately notice a young elk sneak up on my left behind a tree just meters away. But his presence was a blessing as it startled the group of boars and they came up over the small ridge and were now just twenty-five meters away.

There were six of them now moving from my right to left and feeding, I picked out the largest of the group and lined up my Tasco scope cross-hairs directly in line with its vitals and I followed the boar adjusting my aim accordingly.

Even with a perfectly sighted in scope, quite often hunters will tend to hit lower than where they were aiming, therefore I compensated for this but not by much. The boar moved a few meters ahead and started feeding again. The boar was perfectly set sideways, with my fore-stock sitting on the rock, I re-aligned the cross-hairs with the vitals and pushed the lever forward on the .303 taking the rifle off safe and with my last breath of three and with my lungs now half empty I released the shot.

The boar jumped into the air and darted for the heavier thickets, I kept my eyes glued on the wild pig as it sprinted about forty meters along with two other boars and then it tripped, fell and flipped over a log and lay motionless. It was a brilliant harvest and it was the end to my first classic hunt. Incredible!

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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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In two days, I will be heading back into the woods and I can barely contain my excitement. I will have spent almost the whole week preparing my gear and rifles for the day trip. It is very difficult to describe this strange magnetic draw I feel toward the wilderness.
 
In Dianne Macmillan’s book “Life in a deciduous forest” she writes about energy and how it is transformed into food when it pertains to the relationships between the sun, the North American biome and its ecosystems, which also include wildlife.
 
She describes the different levels of a forest from high above in the canopy down through the understory and finally to the forest floor; there is in fact energy and not just at the solar or nutrient levels. She writes the following on page six: “A constant exchange of matter and energy creates a natural balance.”

It is all it takes just a few hours in the woods and I am able to grasp the balance I need. Although the majority of us live in urban areas, we are very much part of the link and this relationship that the author writes about, futhermore at the end of the book she provides websites and suggestions on activities and practices that are great for the environment.

This blog is not just about small game and varmint hunting but also about conservation, if you leave a room -shut off the light. This simple yet great gesture will indirectly affect your hunting environment in a positive way allowing you and future generations to benefit from the wilderness as well.

I highly recommend this book as it was an enjoyable read, so much so that I finished it in just two hours. The book is extremely informative and helps you better understand life in a deciduous forest and there are some great points about its wildlife such as the black bears, ruffed grouse and other small game.

Education and awareness are key, thank you Dianne!

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Whether I am at my friend’s farm or in the woods, hunting small game causes me to walk, crawl, climb, kneel, sit, jump and run. This means sometimes doing all these movements in the mud, manure, snow, water, grass, hay and in the woods.

So what about the right bottoms? And I don’t mean underwear, but rather the right trousers. When I am hunting, here are some of the things I look for in my hunting pants.

Comfort, my pants cannot be too tight thus restricting my movement but I also do not want them to be too loose avoiding pant leg rubbing and making noise. When I buy my hunting pants, I try them on and walk around the store and do all the movements I would be doing in the field. I also look for the tightness around the crotch and thighs.

Camouflage, depending on the time of year and the type of game you are hunting concealment can be important but I do not consider it essential.  If you are hunting birds, then camouflage is needed because they have great sight in color but I have successfully harvested woodchucks from only a few feet away wearing blue jeans.

Pockets, I always carry my hunting cards and some form of identification on me in my wallet as well as my car, trigger lock and ammunition box keys. I find good deep pockets with zippers work best for me. Some hunting pants have cargo pockets along the side of each thigh on the pant leg, and this is great for carrying spare shells or small accessories.

Weatherproofing, when I am hunting during the wintertime, I like hunting with pants that are waterproof and windproof yet that allow your body to breathe and keep you dry. I also want my pants to be loose enough so that I can wear thermal clothing underneath providing extra layers and warmth.
During the summer months, at the farm I normally just wear loose-fitting comfortable jeans but when hunting in the woods, I wear lighter camouflage pattern hunting pants with no insulation layer. You can get a pair of old army pants from a surplus store.

Practicality and durability, I love hunting pants that have zippers down the sides just below the knees, this makes it easier to get dressed and undressed as well as placing your pants over top you’re hunting boots.  I also use pants that are tear proof and potentially have added padding on the buttocks and knees.
Stores such as Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, your local hunting store or any outdoor superstore such as SAIL, or LE Barons, Gander Mountain all have a great selection of pants with prices ranging from sixty dollars to a couple hundred dollars. Of course there is the Internet too.

Here are some tricks I use with my pants:

Once I have purchased a pair of hunting pants I like to wear them in, using the pair during hiking trips with my family. I wash them a couple of times with scent killer soap or forest odour soaps and let them hang dry without the use softer of any kind. I also spray my pants every time I go out hunting along with my boots with scent killer products.

While walking through the woods if I get warm, I pull down my zipper to allow air flow for cooling but I avoid red, white or bright blue underwear. I would not want that spot to be mistaken for a Spruce Grouse or Wild Turkey by another hunter.

I sometimes use scent free Vaseline and place some on the inside of my thighs and crouch to avoid chafing, this also works on feet to avoid blisters. Just a light coat is needed.
After a hunting trip, I do not wash my pants but I place them in a container that holds the smell of the woods. Once the odours of sweat get too strong then I wash them again with special soaps and start the cycle again.

Happy Hunting and knock your pants off!

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

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

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

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