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I stood there very still for a moment in time on top of the valley of my dear friends farm; waiting as the cool air from the southern breeze made its way up the ridge toward me. Once it enveloped me it felt as though it had cleansed me of all life’s impurities and in doing so, it showed me that no matter from our modern world had any significance in the wild. I was free and the feeling was an overwhelming sense of joy and mixed emotions.

In the woods being surrounded by its raw beauty and ruthlessness, I was free of judgment, free to roam its narrow passages through the dense brush and the dark black waters of the nearby creeks, all the while my soul was being lured further in by the diving beaver as it made its way to the dam.

All my senses were at a heightened state, the sound of the flowing water and the calls of Red-Winged black birds pulled me deeper into the bowels of this vast wilderness. Though my stay as a guest was only for a few short hours, I returned home refreshed.

The smell of smoke from a distant chimney blew in over the vast open fields and as I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, for a moment in time, I found myself standing back in the dark rolling valleys of the Balkans with the sounds of distant gunfire stamped into my memory for all of eternity.

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I love the wilderness for it provides all the ingredients for a sound soul. For I can not wait to return again and in time, I too will become part of this very same southern breeze, and possibly have the chance to share my wisdom through a whisper for the next generation of Canadian outdoor enthusiasts.

I am an old soul and for this I am sure and I feel it through my bushcraft, I have come to realize that I may live now amongst us today but my being is that of a time long ago.

This blog entry is dedicated to all veterans and their families from all over the globe.

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Try to imagine that we were conducting a study on human behavior, about how a person would behave when entering their car as well as the steps involved in preparing themselves for a drive. This study would have to be completed by doing research on thousands of drivers from all over the world; and it could take months or even years to complete. Time we do not necessarily have.

We would need to be recognized as experts in the field of human behavior thus allowing us to know where to begin the study and what to observe. We would have to be educated in that particular field allowing us to be respected by the public in the event we wanted to publish. We would also need to be prepared to defend our work against critics.

The steps of getting into a vehicle might be: First a person might unlock and open the door, get seated, adjust their seat and mirrors if needed, then fasten their seatbelts. Place their keys in the ignition then starting the car, and then maybe turning the radio or music player on.

This could become a complex study but the fact remains we are pretty predictable and even a young child could act out these steps while playing. I have to admit that this form of human behavior has become fairly common and it would not be difficult to write-up a thesis on this process of entering a car.

Now one might ask what the heck does this have to do with small game hunting. The fact remains that as small game hunters in North-America, almost every time we step into the wilderness depending on where we live, we are entering Grizzly or Black Bear country. When we do, we need to bring with us our best weapon every time we step out into the woods and that is, our minds. This is exactly what Stephen writes.

As a small game hunter, I do not have months or years to spend on this type of research and besides it is no longer about my example but rather about animal behavior and more specifically about bears and their attacks. What are the causes and avoidance? Can we become experts in predicting behavior or just be prepared?

In Stephen Herrero’s book “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and avoidance,” he has provided us with a great resource, combining the experience and research completed over three decades. He is by definition an expert. As a result after having read this book I can go out hunting in my case in black bear country with a more elevated sense of awareness and have more tools at my disposal.

I still believe it to be almost impossible to predict animal behavior especially bears. For me it is about taking the wealth of tips and information that Stephen has provided us and applying it to your experience. This is a great book but I must warn you that the first four chapters are very descriptive with concerns to real life incidents of attacks and may be difficult for some people to read.

This is not meant to be a book review by a long shot but rather a thank you note to the author for writing such a book and sparing us the years of work and providing us with tools that may make our hunting experience that much more enjoyable as we now become more aware.

I wanted to share some of the tips and information that I consider important and that Stephen has written and recommends:

-Go to naturalist talks on bears or attend a bear awareness sessions
-Study “Field Signs” such as feeding or bedding areas, areas near rivers (droppings, scrapings on trees, crushed logs, turned over rocks, fresh digging holes for roots or insects)
-Know the difference between the two types of bear attacks, defensive and predatory.
-Playing dead is your best bet for minimizing injury during defensive attacks, but you must be able to tell the difference between a defensive and a predatory attack.
-Fighting back, using any available weapon is essential in a predatory attack. Most serious or fatal attacks by black bears have been predatory.
-Certain bears that are use to feeding on people’s food and garbage can become dangerous or nuisances and in worst cases have killed people.
-Stay away from carcasses found on trails or near river beds, also be aware that there might be bears nearby if you see scavenging birds. (Just like Ravens and Wolves)
-Bears like to use already used game trails, roads and open areas near river banks, be aware of this and attempt to avoid possible in making any sudden contacts.
-When hiking through the woods, always be aware of the wind direction and try to be positioned down wind from the bears if you see one.
-Make sure you get first aid training and always carry a kit with you on your trips.
-Bring along spare food and water in case you may be stranded while waiting for rescue to come.
-Exercise and remain physically and mentally fit and prepare yourself mentally in preparation for injury. (There is a bear attack story in the book, where mental strength saved a woman’s life when she was certainly facing death.)
-Travel with alertness and attention in your immediate area.
-If the bear is aware of you and nearby but hasn’t acted aggressively, slowly back away, talking in an even tone as possible to the bear while slowly waving your arms. Don’t stare at the bear.
-Carry a gas-powered boat horn or pepper/Bear spray as these both have been tested and can be successful in an encounter. (Hiking stores and Outdoor shops carry them)
-Sometimes your first indication that a bear is near is sound. A crashing in the bushes may indicate that you have come too close to a bear, deer, or moose. (This has happened to me with deer)
-When you encounter or see a bear, you want to know not only the species but also whether it is a female with young.
-Be aware that if a bear sees or hears something, it will often move downwind to get more information. (Bears have great sense of smell)

The author put a Native American saying in his book on page 137 and I read it and instantly memorized it: “A pine needle fell. The eagle saw it. The deer heard it. The bear smelled it.”

In chapter 16, –Bears and people in rural and remote areas, there is a section on firearms and it is very informative on the types of rifles or shotguns including shot that should be used for hunting or in self-defense. If you plan on defending yourself with a firearm against a charging bear, then you better have a lot of practice and know exactly where to shoot the bear and be a highly skilled marksman.

This book and its author Stephen Herrero have provided me with more insight and awareness that will make my hunting journeys into black bear country that much more enriched.

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“You are what you eat!” There are several expressions about eating right that are used all over the world in several different languages and this is definitely one of them. It would also be fair to say that a great number of us have heard it at least once in our lifetime.

Understanding food and choosing the right types of foods and snacks to eat during your hunting trip has a direct impact on your mental and physical performance. Years ago as a young infantryman, I would spend several hours and sometimes days exposed to the elements such as snow-covered mountains in the Balkans. We patrolled over great distances all the while conducting very physical and mentally demanding work. Sleep was sometimes only a few hours and when it was time to eat, it was done quickly. This meant you had to eat and drink smart and also take into consideration small factors like the amount of noise you made and also being careful not to leave any traces of food or packaging.

My objective as a sport hunter today is not to have such a regimented life style anymore but to continue to make great choices with food and actually take the time needed to eat. I want to have lasting energy throughout the day, so that I can remain focused for a long time. Having a balanced food plan and a list of items you need to buy before going hunting is a process I use during my preparatory stage. This includes high energy foods that are good for you and provide you with the boost and nutrition your body requires to produce heat, feed your brain and muscles. Examples of this are beef jerky, dried fruits, fresh fruits, trail mix nuts. This may also include an emergency food kit like mine such as cans of sardines, spare water canteens and natural multigrain bars.

Still-hunting can be physically demanding and you burn a lot of calories moving through the woods especially on snowshoes. If you are sitting in a blind your body will also use up calories producing heat. This means calories being expended.

Some points such as not making noise while eating may apply if you are in a blind or tree stand but if you are still hunting, you can choose a nice spot to stop for lunch or go back to the car or truck. This makes it easier to dispose of your garbage and not having to carry it around with you in your daypack along with its scents. In one of the hunting magazines I was a subscriber to: “Chasse et Pêche” one snowshoe hunter and author wrote that during the winter months, he would light a fire during his lunch break just to warm up. This is a great idea but I would check with the park to see fires are permitted.

My experience has taught me that if I ate a muffin filled with processed sugar for breakfast at the start point of my day, my energy level would spike as soon as the sugar was absorbed into my bloodstream. As the morning went on however I would feel a crash and just be very tired. This would be an example of poor planning and eating, this could be dangerous if you are out alone in the woods. If you are hungry, your morale will be low and you will eventually become sluggish and tired. This will lead to mistakes being made, your body will weaken and hyperthermia may set in if you are exposed to the cold or wet. I drink a lot of water and stay hydrated; I also carry a bottle of Gatorade for extra carbohydrates and to replenish my electrolytes.

The night before I set out to hunt for the day, I normally have a hardy meal containing meats, vegetables, pasta and or rice. I also drink large amounts of water. Moisture is lost through sweating, going to the washroom and even your breath. Fluids are very important for our bodies.

Below is a list of food and snacks that I like to pack:

Natural granola bars
PowerBars
Trail mix nuts
Beef jerky
Water
Gatorade
Sweets or candies and gum
Canned beans
Sardines in water

Throughout the day, I will have small snacks like dried nuts and bars about every two hours or so and I make sure to drink around the same time. At lunch I have a meal which is normally a sandwich, packaged foods that are not difficult or noisy to open.  I also take into consideration the ease to pack and being lightweight, also that it does not leave too much garbage such as wrappings.

There are some great references on the web and books that are available to assist you in eating right while hunting. Every person has their own budget and system in place, feel free to suggest or comment on food ideas that can ultimately assist all small game hunters.

Bon Appétit!

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