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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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I was sitting dead still in the wilderness, which enveloped me with its bright autumn colors like flames from a fire. The snowflakes were falling onto my jacket sleeve making a faint “tock” “tock” sound then it would disappear, and then run off into its water form down the crease. It was cold, windy and the snowfall was becoming heavier. The forest was so alive and for my ten hours that I spent in this environment, I was in my element and part of something so familiar. 
 
The leaves and small branches to my left were being rustled by a red squirrel, as it skipped in and out of the foliage, then along a fallen tree. He was so nervy, he would stop and then jump up on its hind legs look around and then let out a short cheep and then sprint on.
 
He would disappear into the autumn leaves and then reappear a few feet away, let out the sound of a short thump and cheep and then again he would sprint. My leg was cramping up and I had to move in order to get into a more comfortable position and this set “Red” off, he raised his tail and let out a long cheep and thump every time he would raise his tail, followed by another long high-pitched cheep. It made me feel like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and so I promptly whispered “Go away you bugger you will let the other animals know that I am here!” 

If you are able to still hunt without setting off “Red” in the bush then you are truly a master and I applaud you. It does not mean that he or she is necessary pointing you out, it could be another squirrel or small rodent trespassing or a larger animal like a mink. My eyes were wide open and I was scanning in all directions and adjusting my head to see, I was also investigating every sound, broken branch or leaves blowing in the wind.

This is when I spotted him, he came from behind me and cut across the trail and then he too disappeared under the leaves and then sprinted across the forest floor onto a fallen log. I was sitting right on the edge of the swamp on a slope shaped like the letter “u” with the northern and southern sides being the high ground. The mink was scouting for food and he was moving right for the water, he was lightning fast and made it to the swamp and began to swim very quickly in search of food.

I took out my mini binoculars and followed him around for a while; it was such a neat sight until he got too close to “Red”. The American mink is much larger than its European cousin and the red squirrel had no chance, he made a lot of chuckle and cheeping sounds then performed quite a dance around a smaller tree scratching the bark but the mink just faced him and then moved to the south of “Red’s” position, and disappeared into the woods.

It seems as though nature took its course and “Red” was not going to be his next meal or fight but the hierarchical order had been re-enforced. The mink was the dominant one and although he does feed on small mammals and rodents “Red” was not meant to be dead.

As for me my hunt continued until dusk.

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