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Posts Tagged ‘hare’


Last weekend I went snowshoe hare hunting with a good friend of mine and the snow was pretty deep in the woods with the recent snow fall that had dumped around one foot of snow. When I checked the weather network the night before, I was pretty happy about their forecast, because when it snows it is warmer and hare leads are much more visible along with the droppings and their regurgitated green cuds.

During my pre-planning for the hunt, I packed up some of my gear the night before and I was sure to have the snowshoes as part of the kit that was needed. I really like the new strap mechanisms on those new shoes but unfortunately they are not the best in the deepest of snow, the good old Michigan styles are by far the best which have a larger coverage for the foot placement and of course you do not sink to your waist every two steps and eventually tire yourself out.

Your firearm is by far one of the most important tools during your hunt and of course during your outing it will be exposed to the elements like snow, small branches and pure muck, this can most definitely have an effect on the working parts, along with the water which freezes on the shotgun as you move in and out of the snow-covered pine and cedar.

Years ago, when I purchased my Remington 870 Express, I purposely chose the pump-action, because I knew the type of harsh conditions I was going to expose my shotgun to and I was legitimately concerned that the mechanism would fail if I had gas operated semi-automatic actions. Not only was a pump the right price but the action was more reliable in our Canadian fall and winter months, compared to the semi automatic shotgun which is also double the price of an Express if not more.

After a few hours of tracking through the brush and not locating any hares, we made our way back to the southern barns on my friends farm and placed ourselves at the edge of the tree line. We were going to try our luck with the rock doves, there was a group of seven of them flying around the cattle and then setting themselves in some nearby trees.

I carefully directed my friend into a good shooting position and then placed myself to his right and we chose our birds carefully and prepared ourselves for the harvest. We loaded the shells and made our shotguns ready and when we released our shots, only one gun rang out. My friends semi automatic shotgun clicked into emptiness and no shot came out, two pigeons tumbled to the snowy ground. One step that made all the difference is prior to loading the shells for the pigeons, I rode the pump-action back and forth multiple times with an empty chamber and tube magazine to clear any small ice particles and warm up the slide, this you can do on a pump. This represented for me my third time this year to have had two pigeons harvested in one single shot of number six, but I was truly disappointed for my friend.

The semi-automatic was clear of any snow but the cold had such and impact on the action, that the firing pin was slow to release and come forward to strike the primer, in addition the trigger was frozen which prevented him from depressing it all the way toward the back. Simply releasing the action in order to eject the shell proved to be more challenging than it would have been in warmer weather. I always had my doubts about my choice but now the proof is in the snow.

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As I lifted one snowshoe and placed it in front of the other through the thick powdery snow, I found myself venturing deeper into the wintery woods. With the smell of fresh pine dancing through the cool air, this had to be heaven.

You take a moment and close your eyes then breathe it in, you are absolutely surrounded by the darkness of the coniferous forest which contains all of its mysteries that nature has to offer, far away from all that is logical to the rational mind. The time had come, I found a hare lead and began to navigate further into the thick brush, with large amounts of snow falling upon my shoulders but I kept on pushing ahead.

It did not take long before I found fresh tracks and green droppings, I was close but I could not see any black pearl eyes yet. I knelt down and got closer to the forest floor and focused on the hidden dark areas. I felt a strong presence, something was watching me but I could not yet see it. I took two more steps forward and glanced to my left, there he was the white ghost in the darkness with his black pearl eyes. Neatly tucked away behind some spruce boughs.

A true treasure of the Canadian wilderness, staring right at me with the utmost intensity, nature is cold and ruthless but contains some of the most incredible images, those not always understood by the rational mind.

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My snowshoe aluminium claws broke the silence in the woods, when they crushed through the ice and into the softer snow below the crust. I was well over a kilometer away from the nearest barn and I was surrounded by evergreen trees. They stood tall with their majestic winter coats and seemed on the verge of collapse because of the weight of the snow.

January 15th, 2016 marked the last day of sharp-tailed grouse for my hunting zone. I thought to myself it would be amazing to maybe get a harvest on the last day of their season. I was out hunting snowshoe hare, grouse and maybe if time permitting a few rock doves over by the farm.

Still-hunting for snowshoe hare and grouse are very similar in technique, it is basically scanning the hidden dark spots at the base of spruce bows and fallen logs, walking slowly and frequently stopping to look and try to identify shapes and colors that don’t fit in.

Hares have black tips on their ears and are generally straight up listening for danger, as for their black shiny eyes these are easily spotted with a keen sight.

Grouse can either be sitting at eye level on small branches in a tree or at ground level tucked away in a ball puffing out their feathers to stay warm during the winter months. Or just simply walking about like a domestic chicken, in short but quick bursts.

Once you see one, lock your eyes on them and stay with them because they can lose you in an instant as they dash around foliage. If you decide to follow, then make sure you are well versed in the use of a compass because they will bring you further into the brush but they will always stay in their circuit. Which is invisible to us unless you follow their tracks in the snow.

After about two hours of following hare leads, I was slowly making my way back to the farm, when something caught my eye at the base of a pine tree on my right about twenty meters in from the main trail.

There was a dead fallen log leaning diagonally under the pine tree up against its trunk and the pines lowest branches were buried with its tips buried under the icy snow forming a natural skirting almost all around the base of the tree.

What struck me was this black circle just sitting under the fallen log, I mean it was a perfect black circle. Deep down I had a feeling it was a grouse but I was not sure yet and couldn’t decide if it was a malformation on the tree, like a large accumulation of sap on the log in the shape of a ball.

It would have been unpracticed and unsafe for me to take a shot at the dark object without truly knowing what it was. I was excited and yet physically I remained calm in my decision, I had no choice but to move in closer for a good confirmed shot.

I loaded two shells into the shotgun and pumped one in the chamber then instantly clicked it into safety on position. I lifted my left leg and started to make my way toward the tree through the deep snow and dense brush.

My first two steps through the snow aroused the grouse with a thrashing sound which caused it to turn its head to the right, I had my final confirmation, it was a grouse.

My shot was going to be a very difficult one with over twenty meters between us through several thin branches. In addition while aiming I had to point low below the log where the grouse was hiding. I only had about a five-inch diameter to make the shot and the bird was on the move toward the north.

To make matters worse, my snowshoes had failed me and I went through the snow on the edge of the trail and sunk down to my waist. I was using the more modern pair of snowshoes, my Michigan’s would have kept me at the surface of the snow crust.

Once I got myself into a descent shooting position I shouldered my 870 and fired a shot, aiming to high and missing my shot completely.

The grouse jumped out to the right and made his way north and then back around the front of the tree heading west.

I saw him through the greenery but it was not a clear shot. I tried to chase it but sunk even further into the snow.

I was instantly broken and felt and incredible amount of frustration. Gosh!! I love the winter woods but it can be a tough environment. You might live incredible hunts but you will also have days like these.

I tried to circle around but the grouse he was gone and my hunt was also done as it was getting close to dark.

I know there will be next year’s season but this one was a bust, this is when you must dig deep and find the positive in the experience and not find things to blame.

Like there could have been less snow, I should have used different shot or a different shotgun.

Next fall will remedy this and for now I can continue to pursue pigeon and snowshoe hare and hope to make up for this day.

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When I bought the book Illuminated Manuscripts “Medieval Hunting Scenes”, I had no idea that I had just discovered a true treasure, especially one that was so close to my heart.  Throughout life’s journey, I believe that there are signals that are sent out, messages of the sort, sometimes they materialize through people you meet or place you’ve been. It is through these experiences that you notice as I do that something is always familiar in your chosen path.

At times it seems as if life is one big loop of coincidence or what I define in my own words as synchronicity. It wasn’t until I opened its pages and discovered that this book not only contained ancient hunting scenes that reveal trade secrets but it also had hidden text within its pages, a true masterpiece, shared with us by Gabriel Bise. “The Hunting Book” printed in these very pages was written by Gaston Phoebus the Count of Foix-Bearn and his 14th century text is filled with a wealth of knowledge that will ultimately help me on my quest to become an extremely skilled huntsman.    Gaston was more than an accomplished hunter, he and many adventurous men experienced amazing quests and hunts that took them from the South-West of France to Scandinavia spanning over forty years. Upon his return home, he continued to hunt and this inspired him to write his work of art. I am always seeking out knowledge about our sport and finding old manuscripts like these books help me on my lifelong quest. Such rich text so close to my heart is very neat indeed as his Bearn cultural blood also runs through the veins of my sons.

One of my favourite hunting scenes is a painting with hunters waiting until dusk on the forests edge.  When the time is right they let the Spaniel dogs loose for the chase and when their nets and spears are set they catch the hares. This ambush technique is one that I use today except for the fact that I use a rifle rather than a net.  I also take advantage of dusk just as they did because I too can hunt until a half an hour passed sun down; thus offering me the edge on time and allowing me to harvest when the hare is out looking to feed leaving the safety of the lair in the woods as he shoots to the fields. Patience is a virtue indeed.

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The cool autumn morning air swirled into the truck as I rolled down the country road with my window down listening to John Anderson “Seminole Wind”. It was still dark out and I had planned to drive out and arrive at the farm just before sunlight to have an edge on the ducks, hares and grouse. At dawn they might still be moving about looking for food.

As I got closer to the farm, I turned off the radio and could now only hear my tires on the gravel road along with a few song birds. I took my foot off the gas pedal to slow down without breaking and then turned up the main road to the barn.

By the time I unhooked the electrical fence and drove up the lane way to park the vehicle at the top of the ridge my friend was already outside ready to greet me. We had a hot cup of coffee, and then chatted away about the local news. The sky was pink now and the rock doves were flying just a few feet above us heading south dancing in the wind. To the west a rafter of eastern wild turkeys were playing around in the fresh cow dung looking for seeds, actually they were pretty close to the cattle but that did not seem to bother the young bulls too much.

It was going to be a perfect day with a mixture of sun and cloud, maybe even slight rain but that kind of weather is great for ducks and the temperature was sitting at about thirteen degrees Celsius. On my way in, I had been preparing myself mentally for the approach and having a good hunt, not focusing too much on what I was going to harvest but rather just try to enjoy this time I was going to have alone through the trails in the woods and along the creek.

The fall colors were brilliant, bright reds and yellows surrounded you with the forest just glistening with diamond like light flashes as the water seeped through the cracks of the leaves, rocks and deadfall on the forest floor.

I had decided to start off the morning with grouse, heading west toward higher ground and following some of the trails up to the top of the hill through the woods. So, I packed up the truck put on my gear grabbed a few shells along with my 870 and cut across the western hay-field.

The panoramic view at the top of the hill was stunning and offered a full view of the two southern hay fields where the cattle herd was gathered, the creek running west to east and then the swamp. When hunting grouse I find that the still-hunting method works best for me; essentially I am walking-up the grouse both to get them to burst into flight or get them to drum, so that you can spot them and shoot.

Sometimes if you get lucky you can see them sitting high on a stump or just off to the side of the trail near the forest floor just meters in front of you. If this should happen to you don’t try to get up too close in which case you will scare them into flight and render your shot a difficult one. Try to take the shot from where you’re standing and avoid fast movements. It sometimes depends on which kind of shotgun shell shot you use and how far you are from the bird. # 6 works well for me and I have harvested grouse that were a fair distance away.

Still-hunting requires a lot of focus and careful stalking, which in my case is very slow walking through jagged rocks and deadfall that are hidden under the leaves. It can be slippery and at times dangerous for your ankles. So, after a nice hike through the trails, I decided to turn south and head through the woods down to the creek and follow it back to the barns to the east and try to harvest some rock doves.

The descent was steep, so I unloaded my shotgun and moved my way down the side of the ridge sometimes pushing up against trees so I would not fall over. By the time I got to the edge of the creek, I reloaded my shotgun with some #2 shells and started to walk leisurely to the east through some tall grass and over the beaten down mud trail that the cattle used to navigate back and forth between the fields. 

This part of the creek was wider and you most definitely needed waist-high waders to go through the water, so I chose to stay on the northern side. I had to pull my boots out of thick mud several times and make sure that I stepped on solid ground to avoid falling over. My boots once removed from the muck would release the swamp gas odor into the air.

I started to still-hunt again now that I was closer to the wider part of the creek and further away from the tall grass. I was scanning all around with my 870 at the ready in my shoulder looking into the small brush piles along the sides of the creek, I had only taken four more steps when all of a sudden a “Splash” sound came from my right, I turned my head and saw two black objects shoot up from the water and burst into flight towards the west. I swung my body around one hundred and eighty degrees and identified them as two mallard ducks; I instinctively chose the bird to my right as I was taught. When there are several birds, pick only one out of the group and focus on it for the shot and if you are fast enough then aim for another. The one on my right was closer.

The duck was about fifteen yards away now and about four feet from the ground; I pushed my safety catch off and fired a single shot of #2 into the bird. The duck turned upside down and the wings seem to freeze and the duck fell down to the ground. The mallard flapped its wings a few more times and then lay still. I put my 870 on safe, ran over to the duck and hooked it onto my belt and headed back to the truck.

I made my way east a little further along the edge of the creek in case there were more ducks and turned north toward the truck. At the truck I unlocked the tailgate and laid my gear down along with the mallard and had another chat with my friend. A few minutes had gone by and I was getting ready to head home and call it a morning. There were three curious cows that came to the front of the truck not far from where we were standing, one of them began licking the headlight on the driver side.

This made us laugh as we continued to talk, when all of sudden my friend yelled out and ran frantically over to his tractor which began to smoke. There had been an electrical short in the wiring and there were flames coming from the motor. I ran over as well and noticed that the flames and smoke were intensifying.

We fought the fire for what seemed to be only a few seconds and had it out fairly quickly, allowing us to detach the battery connections. I suppose then that being in the right place at the right time applies to hunting and farming too.

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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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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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