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Posts Tagged ‘observation’


There was a strong breeze coming in from the west that brought with it some cold air; for a moment I felt a chill down my back while descending the ridge toward the creek. The sun was out and the birds were singing and you just felt this renewed source of energy in the air, what an incredible day I had chosen to visit my friends farm and hunt small game.

I was on the lookout for woodchucks and rock doves. By the time my descent had finished I was now standing at the edge of the creek, the water was still incredibly cold with the water levels higher than usual caused by the melting snow and ice.

I crossed over to the other side choosing my path carefully stepping on the large boulders just below the surface of the crystal clear water, high enough to prevent my socks from getting wet, also not to allow the water to reach the top of the boot which was just below the knee.

It was now time for the climb to the rock formation at the top of the southern ridge, it is a really enjoyable walk but I am alway cautious passing through the wall of evergreen, because the cattle have carved out pathways that they use frequently and I would not want to surprise a young bull into a face to face encounter.

As the years go by and as you spend more time outdoors hunting small game it is inevitable that you will make mistakes which causes you to lose out on a few harvest opportunities. I find the trick is once the frustration has been released through a few swear words and licking your wounds; you then decide to learn from them. Observe and then you promise yourself that you will not be doing this twice. The mistakes I mean.

One example of this is, a few years ago I was walking up the whole length of the creek in late October trying to flush ducks and after several hundred meters I was starting to get discouraged and tired of still hunting. Not one duck in sight, as soon as I let my guard down and started walking tall and ordinarily, I scared off two mallards and they got away before I could get a shot off because of the tough angle of the shot.

This has happened to me with Grouse, Woodcock and also Woodchucks. I walked right into their still stance trap and then boom in an explosion of speed they were gone. Once you become an expert in their habitat I believe you get to know when you should flick the on switch for still hunting alert mode.

So on this particular day I put my theory to the test, I made my way through the cattle trail and got up to the rock formation. I could have walked right up to the crest and looked around and gaze over the horizon like a king over his kingdom but every single game would fly off or run for cover. Of course the red squirrel and crow alert calls wouldn’t help.

So, instead I leaned forward and just popped my head over the crest and I found myself practically staring into the eyes of a woodchuck who was sun-bathing just meters in front of me. I put myself in reverse fairly quickly and lowered myself into the low ground and took a few deep breaths. Loaded a shell into my 870, clicked the safety on and then started to lift the top part of my body just above the crest looking right back into the woodchucks eyes.

Lined up my bead sight with the vitals, completed my three breaths then slow pushed my safety off. Moments later I released my shot and harvested my first spring woodchuck. That night I pan-fried some nice thighs in maple syrup with Cajun cowboy spices from Canadian Tire. It was delicious.

Two years ago, I guided a friend duck hunting in my canoe, he was in the front ready to shoot and I was paddling us through a maze of weeds, but because I had learned so much about ducks and their habitat and knew the swamp extremely well, I had also observed like a hawk and mentally recorded certain gold pot spots. I had it down to a science. I knew exactly when he should shoulder his shotgun and be ready. On this day we did not make same mistake twice. Instead we made nice Mallard dishes.

Take your time still hunting on foot or paddling through the weeds, when you feel it, you will know when to flick on the switch and be extremely observant and be ready.

The results are very rewarding and a confirmation that you are learning. Observation just like conservation is paramount.

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The Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and Fauna identify the geographic area where I practice sport hunting as Zone 10, for me it is known as the “Swamp” a twenty minute drive up the road or the “Real Woods” a two hour drive north to the woodlands of park Papineau-Labelle. 

The truth is that this land running along the Ottawa River as we know it today provided living, trading and hunting grounds for the Algonquin. Even with the arrival of the Europeans and ongoing skirmishes with the Iroquois, they managed to survive. I want to dig up and find their knowledge about hunting grounds, methods used and tools. In doing so, I will also discover a rich history that took place in my own backyard.

For sport hunters’ modern day hunting seasons are managed by the provincial and federal governments based on studies from data collected throughout the previous seasons and other methods used. Conservation is a critical element as it allows for wildlife to replenish itself from disease, overpopulation and predation as well as sport hunting. What is amazing is that the first nations did not have access to our databases or science labs to assist with these techniques and yet their hunting seasons perfectly overlap the hunting seasons of today. This reveals that they were quite aware of conservation and wildlife management.

It has been documented that the Algonquin would travel up the Ottawa River to the hunting grounds and hunt from late November to February. My small game season this year was practically the same except, I hunted snowshoe hare until the end of the month of March. Whether someone relies on migratory patterns, hunting seasons or data collected in two thousand nine analyzed by the government, we can say that we have followed in the steps of the first nations and have identified the first key. We are hunting at the right time of year.

A very important point of this blog entry is that I am a small game sport hunter and I wish to perfect my skills as a still hunter. Therefore allowing me to become better at my chosen sport, while respecting nature and doing my part as a conservationist and naturalist. However, for the Algonquin, hunting was a necessity for survival as it provided food to the community and for this reason hunting had to be perfected or sometime supplemented with other sources of food such as trading, fishing and agricultural items such as corn.
I want to be able to isolate the Algonquin trapping and hunting from the other trades, then chip away the rough and find information from historical documents, songs, documented stories from elders and finally folklore. Knowledge that will ultimately enrich us in our most humble existence and make us better hunters, as we are just part of the whole cycle of life.

Prior to the government land laws the first nations had no restrictions with concerns to hunting grounds and the invisible boundaries were dictated by migratory patterns and wildlife habitat. It can be said that this fact still applies today but there are still limitations. Today the natives can hunt for food on land in which they have access to; this can be done all year long and with no licenses. However this is different for the sport hunters as they are required to hunt in very specific hunting grounds under controlled hunting seasons and licenses. These grounds could be a pourvoirie, ZEC’s (Controlled zones), Sepaq parks, family, private or crown lands.

It is true that the Algonquin used bows and arrows, spears and knives for hunting large and small game; however trapping was a quicker way to hunt. A few weeks ago, I went hare hunting for a few hours with my .22 rifle, it was an excellent day but I did not harvest any hares. However, the week prior my friend went out and setup several snares in the same area and harvested three hares in a twelve hour period. This is proof that trapping is more efficient than hunting with a bow or a gun. There is a famous engraving done by Claude Collet 1619, showing a deer trap method used by the Algonquians’ that enabled them to harvest large amounts of deer, this would prove to be a great example of trappings success. Snares, natural tree fences or pitfalls where often used for trapping.

Hunting with a rifle makes for a great sport but it is not always a guarantee compared to trapping where at least your chances if done right were higher. The black powder guns that were brought over with the Europeans and then traded with the first nations did assist the natives in a positive way during hunting as it slowly replaced the bow and arrow and proved more efficient.

Let us look at some of the techniques used:

Camouflage:
Paintings have shown that the first nations would use camouflage in a masterful way, creating sort of parkas or ghillie suits with animal hide and fur as well as deer antlers, enabling them to blend in with the environment and get close to the game. This was a must if using a bow and arrow or spear.

Observation:
Algonquin hunters would use their cunning skills such as observing movement in the woodlands or listening for specific noises, this would ultimately aid in finding their game if they were hunting and not trapping.

Drives:
This is an interesting method also used by the natives and is still used in places all over the world. Several teams of hunters break up into the woods and make noise beating through the woods forcing the game into a killing zone, where other hunters are waiting with bows or rifles.

(More techniques will be added shortly)

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