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Setting off on a hunt in farming country is quite different from hunting in the woods, especially in an area where you have never been before. While I am hunting I do not want to spend most of my time trying to figure out where I am.

Imagine your phone suddenly rings and a friend asks you to meet them for drinks or maybe you are telling them a story and you wish to share with them the information about where it took place.

This type of communication exchange takes place almost every second around the world, and there is always one thing in common; we share directions. This is accomplished with the use of points of reference, such as street names or that of a restaurant, maybe even a nickname for your favorite hangouts. Physical descriptions such as features are also used as an example -where there is a very large tree found at the entrance of the pub.

Your ultimate goal is to choose an exact geographic point, in which everyone is familiar with, thus making it easier to meet or imagine during a story telling. Several nights ago I had a chat with my neighbor and he talked about his grandfather and where they grew up; one of the things he remembers the most was the fact that during their walks on their land his grandfather had a constant awareness of his whereabouts.

At times choosing a meeting spot in an urban setting or even describing directions could be challenging, now imagine having to do so outside the city. How does someone know where they are, especially in the woods?

Having such a level of comfort and constant awareness of your whereabouts makes it easier to enjoy your hunt as the territory transforms itself into something familiar. Last winter I was alone in the woods hunting the elusive snowshoe hare on my friend’s property and I had noticed a lot of coyote tracks in the area.

There were two tracks in particular which caught my attention and they were both heading west near a lake that I named “Goose Lake”, I had noticed fur clumps and a cow skull several yards away under the largest pine tree in this part of the woods.

At the end of my hunt, I met up with the farmer and described what I had seen before heading home. He knew exactly which spot I was referring to. It was quite amazing to be able to talk about a single point in the woods as if we were talking about a very specific coffee-house found on a well-known street corner and we both knew exactly where it was.

When I set out on a hunt, I always let my family know where I am going along with instructions to call the authorities and provide them with the spot on the map of where I will be, if ever I fail to return at a specific time or to contact them. This is one precaution that can be taken, so that you are found if you ever get lost. But what I ask myself is: What can be done or learned for the actual hunt? If you are hunting with an outfitter, you can ask for a guided hunt. Myself, I like to have a map of the area where I will be hunting; I also use my GPS along with my Bushnell Backtrack tool. But I know that there is much more to it then this.

I am a strong believer that farmers and the older generation of hunters have a lot to teach us about recognizing very specific points of reference and land features also possibly following the position of the sun and using it as a guide or similar knowledge.

I have had the privilege to be able to hunt on the same property for several years now and here are some practices that I use to know my whereabouts:

1) While I am standing at my departure point, I will set my Bushnell Backtrack with a return point back to my vehicle. I also study my map of the area.
2) I set my Garmin GPS with waypoints and enter prominent names.
3) I use my compass and aim at a prominent object such as a very distinctive large tree or lake even a building and record my current and back bearings.
4) I look at the position of the sun and use it as a guide.
5) I find prominent features such as lakes, creeks, strange-looking trees, fields and cliffs and use them as reference points and provide them with names.
6) I also use trail maker tape (Quite often orange) or I use sticks and make markings on the ground or on the trail.
7) I also familiarize myself with the dominant winds in my region which tend to be North-easterly winds and then I use the cloud movement as a guide or the movement in the trees.

I shall continue my endless search of tips and tricks about knowing your whereabouts, so that myself and many others may enjoy our hunts without losing time trying to figure out where we are and do so with a positive sense of direction.

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At the start of every hunt, one of my preparatory steps is getting all my documents and cards ready, so that I am stacked for my outing. This can include maps of the hunting areas, my federal firearms card, and a copy of the firearm registration certificate for the gun that I will be using on that particular day, my permits, and sometimes a copy of the hunting regulations. In Quebec, where I most often hunt it is not necessary to carry your hunter’s card with you during the hunt but if I was hunting in Ontario, I would carry my non-resident permit and the Ontario outdoors card.

Now even though it may only take me a few minutes to complete this process, every hunter that has taken part in the Federal Firearms and hunters courses knows that there is both a lot of time and money invested into acquiring all the permits and cards. Furthermore there is also the purchasing of hunting equipment and all of this is mixed up with the anticipation of finally being able to practice the sport you love.

Ok! Now I am ready but where can I hunt? There are several methods to finding out where you can hunt, you can call the Ministry of Natural Resources or consult their websites, you can book with an outfitter, and you can hunt on crown land, on friends or family farms or wooded properties if permitted by law. Sometimes you can discover great hunting spots just by speaking with other hunters or store owners in your area. This is not always easy because some of them treat their sites like a great fishing spot and do not wish to share their secrets.

When I first started hunting in my region, I found it difficult to locate great hunting spots even with the resources listed above, besides I did not have many friends that were hunters or that owned land. So, I did some searching on my own and in time I discovered a series of great spots for hunting, especially for waterfowl.

These Quebec hunting sites were all located along the 148 on the shores of the Ottawa River (Rivière des Outaouais ) and the majority have parking spots available. The sites may vary some being accessible only by boat and others on foot. In order to find these hunting sites, look for the following sign boards.
These sign boards are found at each of the parking lot entrances and show you a wealth of information including the access paths with an informative legend.

The legend shows the wetland boundaries, the pathways in orange, the boundaries for public access land, parking locations and the boundaries for the land belonging to Ducks Unlimited. Also part of the legend is a series of activities listed; the one’s that have a check mark beside it indicates which activity is permitted for that specific site. The board signs also have usually thirteen regulations listed under the code of ethics for people using that site. There is also the following number listed on the sign in order to get more information: 1-800-565-1650.

I have translated some examples of the code of ethics for the persons using the sites: Use the paths and managed access ways that are provided. Do not damage the agricultural terrain, do not use motorized vehicles in the wetlands, follow all the laws with concerns to safe weapon handling and to the type of vehicles or boats being used, keep a safe distance from any building or residence including other hunters, respect others persons lookouts or blinds. Use non-toxic shot (Steel as an example) and pickup all your spent shotgun shells, respect all the laws and regulations that are in place for specific species, the zones and the seasons for that time of year. With concerns to hunting, immediately pick up your harvested game, either using a floatation device or boat or a dog that can retrieve game, Do not put up more than one sign per hunter site, At the end of the fall season pickup and remove all blinds, lookouts and caches from the site, share the site with others for example: Fall hunters for migratory birds, or bird watchers in the springtime etc, pick up and remove any garbage at the end of your outing.

I have not only enjoyed great migratory bird hunting because of the awesome work being done by the following organizations: Ducks Unlimited, The North American Waterfowl Management plan, Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec, but I have also enjoyed quiet walks amongst bald eagles, blue herons and hundreds of bird species.

Conservation is key to this spot!

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