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Posts Tagged ‘rifle’


My woodchuck woodburn

My woodchuck wood-burn

The groundhog numbers this summer at the farm have almost been non-existent with only two harvests recorded so far.

Last year I harvested close to eleven groundhogs and I know that this has had an impact on the overall population in the area; also if we take into consideration disease during hibernation when the parasites attach themselves to the groundhog before they go into their dens for the winter months or if the animal hasn’t stored enough fat it starves.

On my property alone, I removed five and now the only young single groundhog from this spring, is very cautious and only comes out to eat in short periods of time and also later in the evening which is not usual behavior.

If he was part of last years family, then there is a possibility that similarly to crows their awareness of danger is passed down through the genes and learned in the field no pun intended.

So, when I got to the farm and started to still-hunt, my skills would have to aid me in my search of the groundhogs.

They were no longer in the open at their ordinary times taking in sun rays. Neither were they found near their dens but instead they were using the tree line and rock formations just meters inside the forest to use as cover.

I started my way into the western field but had to wait until the cattle crossed over to the south before I could push further west. I then worked my way southeast and parallel to edge of the woods.

It was extremely hot and my sweat was dripping off my forehead like a tap, drinking was so important but also taking breaks. The bugs were also harassing me and my hat came in very handy, not only against the sun.

I finally reached the far side of the field and found the rock formation stone cold with no groundhog in site. I scanned the edge of the woods and this is when my eyes caught some movement up near the base of a tree.

It was lightning quick, I froze in my spot and waited for more movement, if groundhogs are alerted, they will whistle then run and hide either in deep brush to find and escape hole or dart directly for the den but they will come back out if they think that the danger is no longer present. Normally, in small steps and they might even thump their paws and let out sharp whistles, almost like there are provoking the potential danger in order to get a reaction as well as alerting others.

So, I waited patiently and sure enough he came out from hiding but this time he was in the high ground on my left or south. He was moving in an out of the grass and disappearing momentarily in the dark green vegetation, even though he was visible, he was not in a safe shooting position because of the large rocks behind him and a barn on the right.

I chose to wait and this is when the groundhog jumped up on a log and ran along it in short bursts, stopping to check for danger, his nostrils were moving very quickly. I did not move an inch, I waited for him to move further along the log to the east and then I swung around at the same time then got into perfect alignment with his vitals with a well-chosen back stop of solid dirt.

He was indeed the log runner, I took my rifle off safe, fired and released a single shot, it was my third harvest and one varmint less for the farmer.

 

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There are hundreds of gun manufacturers throughout the world and the companies that are known to us; either invest a lot of money in their advertising or just simply make fine firearms. Some manufacturers however achieve both these points and much more by producing outstanding firearms, with beautiful designs, and overall great performance.

Browning, Marlin, ArmaLite, Colt, Remington and Savage are just some of the names that may sound familiar to you or you might have used their firearms while out on a hunt or at the shooting range. Personally, I have actively used firearms for well over two decades and some include the names listed above and still I find it difficult to consider myself an expert in this field, because of all the advancements in the industry.

Today, I am an ordinary fellow that really enjoys small game hunting but I also lead a very busy life which includes unexpected expenses and bills. So when considering a new purchase, the cost of a firearm is without a doubt one of key factors that can affect anyone’s decision. Then of course you also have to think about many other points such as the design, its performance in the field, including both federal and provincial regulations/laws with concerns to munitions being used by that particular firearm or the game you are pursuing. Performance points can be identified as the range of the firearm in various conditions or its overall durability and many others.

I have used the Remington 870, my collection of .22’s from Savage and Cooey for various small game and I absolutely enjoy them; now I wanted to add some flare to my hunts and my choice this year was the T-Bolt Composite Target/Varmint in 17 HMR from Browning.

I spent weeks studying the T-bolt and comparing the rifle to similar types made by Marlin and Savage; the Browning may have been more expensive but I liked the fact that the action was a pull-back instead of the bolt-action like the others; which I find makes it easier to stay in a good shooting position without having to move too much to reload another round in the chamber. I also really liked the features of the Double Helix rotary magazine allowing for a reliable reload with its design; you also have a second magazine tucked away in the butt plate for quick access. Although the T-bolt does not have iron or a bead sight this did not matter to me as I plan to put on a scope.

Because I hunt hare, coyote and groundhog the 22 inch heavy varmint profile barrel was the best choice for my hunting scenario. Some manufacturers are better than others, but ultimately they are all legitimately good, if not they would not be able to sell firearms. My advice is to identify your requirements for your hunting scenario and then set out to buy the firearm you really want regardless of the price. If you find yourselves having to save up like I did for a few months and buy quality, then do so. Not only will you benefit from this great firearm but future generations will also.

Here are some examples of hunting scenario choices:

Barrel length and type, for example heavier barrels provide more accurate shots; keep in mind your federal and provincial or state regulations. It is also easier to walk through thick brush with a shorter barrel.

Look and feel or design, this is really a personal preference with concerned to drawings on the stock, having different gunstock types and grips.

Ammunition, again keeping regulations in mind, whether you want to take close or long distance shots and the type of the game you will be hunting will affect your choice. If you look up rifle cartridges in Wikipedia they have a great photo/chart with various rounds listed. Velocity and range also fall under ammunition and the firearm being used.

Carrying capacity, reloading and firing speed; magazines of any kind will facilitate the ease of reloading to ensure you can shoot rapidly in the event that the game is moving quickly in front of you. Magazine designs can affect the types of loading and can help avoid jams or double feeds.

Game types, know which firearms can be used for the type of animal that you are pursuing and then inform yourselves on the type of firearm that is best suited and most efficient for that hunt. Duck hunting is a good example; I would recommend semi-automatic shotguns over pump-action because of the increase in speed it provides when reloading allowing for a quicker release of your 3 shells.

Conduct a lot of research and talk to fellow hunters who have a lot of field experience and also store owners and pro’s.

Be safe.

When you are thinking of buying and you are not quite sure; you may find yourselves doing research on the web which is not a bad thing, but you can easily drown in all the information that is found on discussion or web forums. And besides what are the chances of that person providing you with their opinion ever going on a hunt with you? Heck! They may not even hunt the same type of game as you or may just go to shooting ranges.

Choose wisely & have a great hunt!

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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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Remington 12

Choosing the right shotgun ammunition for small game hunting is not only a very important choice for a potential harvest but also for your safety.

Whether you own a combo gun, 12, 16, 20, 28 or a 410 shotgun it is very important to choose the right shell length specific to your shotgun. Shotgun shell lengths, shot size, chokes as well as the gauge are all a must know before you purchase ammunition.

It is not necessary to become an expert in the subject because there are always professionals on hand to assist you in the stores during your purchase. But it is advantageous to be informed, so that you make a safe and experienced choice.

The firearm I use the most for small game hunting is my 12 gauge pump-action Remington 870 Express, which shoots 2 3/4 & 3 inch shells and has a five shot capacity.

Familiarize yourselves on shotgun choke types because understanding the patterning and shot concentration over specific distances will have a direct impact on the type of shot you wish to achieve. After all, a one shot harvest is what we all wish to achieve. Insuring a tight pattern once the pellets leave the barrel is one of the responsibilities of the choke. The website “Shotgunworks.com” is great source for this information.

When I choose shotgun shells for my small game hunts, there are several points that I take into consideration. Below I have listed a few:

-Use the right shotgun shell lengths based on your gun’s specifications and design.
-Consult Federal and Provincial regulations, for example where I live in Quebec there is a specific page on the ministries website that provides the acceptable shot dimensions to be used for small game:

-Know and understand shot sizes and their standards. This can mean being able to recognize your game after a shot and actually being able to enjoy a nice meal.
-Consult your local hunting store pro’s, talk with other hunters, and join web forums, read books. These are all great ways to find out about new types of available shot and get expert advise.
-Consider ethics and the environment, with concerns to avoiding unnecessary suffering of the game and also doing your part in maintaining a healthy environment by avoiding the use of lead shot.

One of the books that is listed on my OKB page is the “Shooter’s Bible” and it is a great reference moreover on page 498 of the #89, 1998 edition there is a detailed “Shotshell Game Guide” by Winchester. Other similar tables can be found on the Internet.

The following Wikipedia page provides tables and good explanations for “Shotshell guide” you can find a similar tables that provides a list of game, shell shot size, chokes and gauges.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_shell

Standard shot sizes tables are another great tool, they show the shot number using black circles in varying sizes and are very informative; they often incorporate the shot pattern over a specific distance. I find these very handy because it shows you the distance of the shot using a drawing in a shape of a cone or bar graph and provides you with the effective distance to get a confirm harvest shot. These shot numbers are: 9, 8, 71/2, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, BB, BBB, and T.

Safe hunting and wish you all great shots.

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I must admit that this is one of the toughest choices anyone can be faced with, even for those who consider themselves experts. The simple reason is that there are so many factors, just like a vehicle purchase. You need to identify what you are looking for and what are your requirements. Examples of this are: Speed, looks, color, make, functionality, practicality, performance, load capacity and most of all keeping the law in mind.

Here are lists of tips that may help you with your purchase in choosing the best firearm for small game hunting:

1. Federal & Provincial regulations for hunting small game with concerns to the gear being used and its caliber or shot size, pellet sizes and speed with concerns to air guns. (Quebec)

2. Budget, my Remington 870 which is my work horse for migratory bird and small game/Varmint cost me just under $400.00 Cdn. The next firearm on my list to acquire is the Browning T-Bolt Composite Target/Varmint using 17 HMR ammunition and it is listed at $780.00 US. Now if you are new at small game hunting, you can get a fantastic firearm that meets all your needs without spending over $200.00. (Hunting magazines and your local hunting store is where you can find great firearms used or new for low prices, if you are just starting out.)
3. “Versatility” This is one of my favorite words because for me it represents savings, practicality, durability and ultimately outstanding performance. Example: I can change my shotgun shell shot size and hunt rabbit, then the next day put back the plastic plug that allows for a total of three shells in the shotgun chamber and tubular magazine then I am ready for Waterfowl. Heck, the 870 can be used for Black bear.
4. Ammunition, shot sizes & ballistics. It is important to know the difference between center-fire and rimfire. Knowing the distances and shot needed to be a successful and accurate small game hunter, is very important. The author Larry Koller mentions this in his book “Treasury of Hunting” he once used a .22 LR and shot a game through the chest cavity but it kept on running and got away. He suggested then using .22 rimfire with hollow point and it contained the shocking power he needed.
5. Action types and ease of disassembly and assembly when cleaning the firearms. I have cleaned bolt-action rifles, shotguns and various other types of weapons in my lifetime and the bolt-action and the shotgun were by far the easiest to clean.
6. Noise, kickback/recoil. Many web articles, books and experts suggest a .22 rifle, bolt-action or semi automatic or even combo guns such as the shotgun and .22 combined for the first firearm. There is practically no recoil on the one’s I listed and they are very accurate, especially with the addition of a scope and they are cheap. (Savage, Remington, Browning, Marlin are all great name brands) It really depends on the buyer, also look for a .22 that allows you to use various .22 Long Rifle or Short.
7. Know the game you will be hunting and study which ammunition would be most effective with the type of game you will be hunting.
8. Safety, Safety, Safety. If you buy a second-hand rifle or shotgun or an old military firearm, make sure it is usable and safe. Inspect the barrel for damage, the safety mechanism and also check the fore-stock or any external components for damages on the firearm.
9. Fitting. Make sure you hold the firearm in the shooting position with the assistance of a professional making sure the rifle or shotgun butt length is the right fit for you. Check the barrel length and make sure it meets the Federal  & Provincial Regulations.

On my “Kit List” page I have listed the firearms that I use for small game and varmint hunting. My Remington 870 pump-action is my latest addition to my collection of hunting tools and is without a doubt one of the shotguns I use the most when I hit the woods or farmland.

In his book “Treasury of hunting” the author Larry Koller did a fantastic job in giving us a few choices of rifles and shotguns for each type of game. List of his suggested firearms are separated into game type.

Small Furred Game: Hare, Rabbits
Remington Model 572, .22 rim-fire
Savage Model 94, all gauges
Savage Model 24 Combination-.22 WMR and 20 Gauge-Magnum
Mossberg Model 500 Pump Gun, in 12 gauge

Guns for Varmints: Coyotes
Winchester Model 70 Varmint Rifle
Browning Safari-grade Sporter
Savage Model 110
Sako Varminter, heavy barrel
Winchester Model 275 Deluxe, .22 WMR

Guns for Upland Birds: Grouse, Pheasant
Winchester Model 21
Winchester Model 59
Winchester Model 1200
Daly Commander, over/under
Browning Superposed, over/under
Remington Model 11-48

Guns for Wild Fowl: Geese, Ducks
Browning Superposed 12 Gauge, 3-inch Magnum
Remington Model 1100 autoloader
Remington 870 Pump Gun
Savage Model 750 Autoloader
Savage Model 30 Pump Gun
Winchester Model 1400 Autoloader
Ithaca Model 37 Deluxe Pump Gun
Winchester Model 101, over/under

In Canada in order to acquire/purchase a firearm you need to be certified and have successfully completed and passed the Federal Firearms Safety Course for the firearm categories you have selected during the registration of the course. Non-restricted is the most common category. You will need your firearms card in order to purchase a firearm and ammunition.

In order to hunt in Quebec with a firearm as a resident, you will also need to successfully complete the hunting course and obtain a passing grade. You will also need to purchase a small game permit at any hunting store that prints them. Migratory bird hunting will also require a permit that can be purchased at any Post Office across Canada and also Online. In Quebec it is important while hunting migratory bird to have your small game permit and Migratory bird permit + Stamp on hand at all times.

Local hunting stores, SAIL, Canadian Tire and many other locations are great places to start. Happy shopping!

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In his book The Life of Birds the author David Attenborough wrote that “Each kind of hunter has its own technique for deploying its weapons.” In the “Meat eaters” chapter he talks about birds of prey and the importance of their vision. My vision is without a doubt one of the first tools that I employ when hunting rabbits or hare. In my previous blog entry I demonstrated my technique in a mini video on how I scan the low ground and hideouts to find snowshoe hare; I then deploy my shotgun if I see one.

Our vision is so important to small game hunters as it is for all forms of hunting. Now unless you are hunting in area where there is a high population density of hare then the task of spotting a hare in the woods becomes that much more of a challenge especially during the winter months. White on White! All predators have binocular vision and I believe that this is one of the most used tools when hunting hare or rabbit. What is binocular vision?

The definition for this type of vision is well described on the Wikipedia website. As a human hunter we simply need to understand the fact that our eyes are placed in the front of the head just like several other predatory species this gives us an advantage to our field of view. This is estimated to be approximately two hundred degrees with the use of both eyes.

However having a large field of view can be considered a disadvantage, this really depends on the situation. For example in my rabbit hunting technique, once I have found a lead, I normally stop and look to the front and allow my peripheral vision try to pickup movement that is not considered normal for the environment that I am in. Trees moving in the wind, snow falling off the branches is natural in the woodlands but black furry tips moving very quickly raises a red flag as do shiny black eyes.

With binocular vision our ability to detect faint objects is enhanced, we have a stronger depth perception. Understanding vergence and stereopsis can help a lot when hunting.

Success in rabbit hunting is being able to spot them before they see or hear you and taking your shot before they attempt to run and hide. This rule also applies to meat-eating Buzzards. Eagles for example have adapted their flight attack pattern for this same very reason, so that rabbits do not scoot away from them before it is too late.

Vision is a very important tool; it would be awesome to have more rods in our retina thus improving the acuity of our vision, especially in low light.

Can you imagine the visual advantages we would have while hunting rabbit if we could see them flick their ears two miles away just like a Buzzard? The challenge then would be to come up with a great technique to close the gap just enough to take a clean shot. So if you can see the rabbit or hare from a distance and are capable of closing the gap with great skill then you may harvest.

Yet even Buzzards must adapt their approach of the attack when coming in for a kill, they cannot just drop down from above or the hare will see them and scoot.

So even with their superior sight they still need to concentrate their efforts into their descent flight gradually adjusting their height and coming down almost to ground level flapping their wings to grab the rabbit with great speed and surprise.

In closing the Buzzards vision is definitely more acute than ours because they have far more rods in their retinas as much as 1000000 in comparison to us 200000/mm2. So even with this visual advantage, they still need to complete the approach for the harvest.

Next time I hit the woodlands, I am going to try a new technique, I will find a lead and mark it with a branch. Then I will place myself off set from the lead about twenty meters away with my binoculars in the prone position and wait to see if the hare’s will move about and attempt to spot one. Watching from far just like a Buzzard. It won’t be my first time lying in the snow but I will make sure there are no coyotes around.

I don’t have the luxury of low-level flying like a Buzzard but being already on the ground I will try to get as low as I possibly can. I want to be able to find, see and close in on the hare and attempt to harvest. If it works I will call it the Buzzard method!

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In life it is inevitable that we will all encounter challenging obstacles in some form or another and if time permits the best formula for success when facing them is going back to the basics or fundamentals. This means understanding the core principles, processes and applying them in order to overcome and succeed. 

One example of this is the following: When a brick layer is placing his first block which happens to be the starting point of a wall for a home that is supposed to last several hundred years, he must follow the processes in place for that trade and if the fundamentals are applied then we have ourselves a solid foundation. And if not then having to start over would be both costly and time-consuming, this applies to hunting as well. 

Last week I read the book: “Fundamentals of Bowhunting” written by Dwight Schuh and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was interested in the book not because I wish to purchase a bow or take up bow hunting but because in several of his chapters in the book he carefully covers all the basics of hunting, such as taking the shot and hunting gear and more. 

Dwight wrote in his introduction that bow hunting has been around for several thousands of years and is a rich tradition. This is so true! And I have tremendous respect for the bow hunter. I am not a historian by a long shot but I am a firm believer that bow hunting has been around long before rifle hunting and besides the fact that the weapons of choice may be different the core principles and objectives are the same. And this is reason enough for me to review them or get new ideas from experts such as Dwight Schuh. 

I particularly enjoyed the chapters on hunting gear, physical conditioning, basic hunting methods, making the shot and the final chapters on the animals such as deer, elk and antelope to name a few. 

I wanted to share some points on Dwight’s chapter about hunting gear. In this chapter he breaks the basic elements into subsections and provides his recommendations for each. This is very helpful when focusing on one particular part in the hunting gear. Below are some of these recommendations and some of my personal experiences. 

“Hunting clothes must first contribute to stealth, which means they must be quiet, camouflaged, and soft and flexible, so you can move without restriction.” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 103.) 

Dwight is right that gear alone can not substitute for hunting skills, but as I mentioned in one of my previous blogs entries being dry, warm and basically comfortable will leave you at an advantage. “The right clothing, footwear, camouflage, hunting pack, optical gear, and scent products can make you a better hunter.” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 103.) 

Just as I do, Dwight loves wool clothing but he swears by synthetics in outerwear and the most popular are used in Polar Fleece which uses polyester. This type of clothing used with the principles of layering is brilliant and you can not go wrong while exposed to the elements. 

There is a lot of rave about Gore Tex jackets, pants or even socks and yes they are a great product but my experience with using the socks during long hours in the winter is that they may keep your feet from getting wet on the outside but if your feet sweat like mine, then it works as a trap and your feet end up freezing if you do not change your wool socks on the inside. I always carry a spare pair of socks and sometimes another pair of boots. 

“Head and Neck: Your head and neck are your major body-heat regulators, and keeping them warm helps to keep you warm overall. For cool and cold weather, knits hats are great” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 108.) 

Tips on footwear from the book: In order to prevent blisters, wear smooth, snug-fitting socks next to your feet and lost, bulky socks over these to absorb shock and moisture. 

For backpacking and carrying heavy meat loads, heavy leather boots with Vibram or similar lugs soles are acceptable. (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 108.) 

Hunting packs, most hunting stores have all types of packs to suit the different types of hunts and their prices vary. I really enjoyed what Dwight wrote about hunting packs and I believe it is so true. 

“I consider a hunting pack a necessity. It not only contains items necessary for hunting, but it holds comfort and survival gear that allows you to hunt long and hard, knowing you can survive the worst conditions. A pack not only takes care of your needs, it gives you confidence.” 

Choosing packs made out of fleece instead of nylon which can be noisy, also choose a pack with lots of pockets that allow you to store vital gear like GPS, emergency food and flashlights and first aid kits. 

Binoculars and scopes, look at the different models, compare them and then choose one based on your demands such as designation numbers and objective numbers, size and color and overall performance. In my personal experience having good optics can help you identify if the buck’s spikes are legally long enough for you to take the shot or to see if there is in fact a woodchuck on the other side of the ridge. 

“No matter where you hunt, whether in deep woods or the open desert, you’ll see more and hunt better with good optics” (Hunting Gear Chapter 8, page 112.) 

Finally on scents and attractor scents, first to mask your scent and then use scents to attract game such as urine or the example the author uses is doe in heat attractor. There are tons of great products out there at your local hunting store, Canadian tire or Wal-Mart.

 In closing I have to say that out of these one hundred and seventy-nine pages of fundamentals, the chapters that also apply to rifle hunters is knowledge that you can not do without.

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