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Posts Tagged ‘safety’


There are no doubts that crows are intelligent species, especially when you observe their ability to use other objects placed into their bills to retrieve food found in difficult places. I believe the same can be said about Rock doves or pigeons, the simple fact that they were used to carry messages during wars and also seen in their social behaviour speaks volumes.

In the province of Quebec it is an interesting time of year right now for small game hunting, as the season is nearing its end at the end March and a new cycle begins; snowshoe hare, cotton-tailed rabbit along with coyote will soon close, but pigeon is open all year round. In addition, nothing compares to a pan-fried pigeon with Montreal spices, it is just as delicious as Mallard duck breast.

I have proven over time that pigeons are extremely observant and can identify specific vehicles and people, for example when ever I get to my friends farm for a morning or afternoon hunt, if the pigeons spot me before I do, they generally leave the area and do not return until it is time for me to leave. So, as mentioned in previous blog entries, I have to change my arrival, either I pretend to be the farmer by carrying a white bucket for seed but in my case it is empty, or park my truck in the low ground at the entrance of the farm.

This way, I can get my kit ready and sneak up the side of the tree line and barns for a good shot. On Saturday, I took a chance and parked near the house and jumped out and walked up to the barn to have a quick look before getting my kit ready. I played around with the Beagle and gave him a few hugs and then started to get ready.

There were three pigeons down in the mud not far from the cattle feeding away at some left over corn from the cow feed. Unfortunately they spotted me first and flapped their wings aggressively and dove to the right into some evasive flight and disappeared over the tree line to the East. Well darn it, I hadn’t even unpacked my kit and my potential harvests were gone.

At least I thought so, when I heard some claws scratching the aluminum roof of the barn to my right, and there he was the odd one out, looking down at me. He was a character, he had this funny look in his eyes and was checking me out the whole time. It seemed like something out of a cartoon movie, he looked a little funny.

I kept my eyes locked with his and we were in a deep stare, I started to move slowly to the edge of the barn, so that part of the roof would cover my movement and all the while I swung my 870 around and popped a shell into the chamber and pushed locked the safety in one single motion like I have done thousands of times.

He called out and then flapped away but banked to the West and landed near the cattle, this is a no shot zone. So, I watched him land and bounce around the cattle, this gave me some time to head to the East and loop around the barn and into the woods off to the North. The snow was still thick and I was sinking pretty deep and quite frankly it was noisy and simply frustrating as I kept tipping over. So I chose to walk along the tree line and leave an open shot to the South facing the open fields.

Something scared the odd one out into the air and he seem to accelerate when he noticed me in my shooting position, just like crows if you aim at them and they are used to being shot at, they break their flight and conduct evasive flight, Canada geese do this as well. This puts your shooting skills to the test and if you are not quick or skilled you will miss.

I swung around in the mud and completed a full pivot all the while conducting my lead and released my first shot, the pigeon was hit but spun around and headed into the pine trees to land in the North, which is quite unusual as they prefer trees that are open without many leaves. It was like he was trying to lose me or trick me into not seeing him like snowshoe hare do as well.

So I waited patiently, all the while keeping my eyes on the large bulls just meters away. My patience paid off, the pigeon set off a second time and this time I completed a downward swing in my lead and released my shot. In seconds, I had harvested my first pigeon of the day and he landed just meters away. Some feathers were still floating down from the aerial point of impact, it was a difficult shot but a harvest just the same and great practice for fast flying ducks like Teal.

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The paddle blades cut through the cold waters, one stroke at a time, water dripping onto the hull of the kayak then rolling off back into the dark waters, it was incredibly peaceful. The bow of the kayak was gliding through the tall grass; ever so often I had to pull hard on one side to keep the boat aligned with my chosen spot for this waterfowl hunt. On the Northern side, there was a wooded area between me and the large wetlands and to the South was the river.

I like this area very much because you can only access it by boat and you do not get a lot of other hunters too close to your natural blind. And it is the place where I shared a great hunt last year with other passionate waterfowlers, along with great stories and laughter. After a final push, I slid right into the large fallen tree.

I Leapt out of my kayak and tucked it under the gap just above the water’s surface and the lower part of the tree with the kayak locked into the muddy bottom . With the boat secure it was now time to prepare myself for the hunt. I quickly moved around the tree, climbed over the easiest section and got tucked away behind the largest part. The fallen tree is large on one side, and get smaller near the East, I can stand behind it and three-quarters of my body is hidden. Then I simply lean forward with my 870 in position and place three shells at the ready on top of the log, which is wide enough to be a natural table.

The view is spectacular and as the day slowly comes to its end, the lights across the river sparkle like Christmas lights in the distance, with bright yellow and orange, reds and whites. With still an hour and a half of daylight, I was in heaven and ready for the harvest. Now that I was nice and settled in, I started to call out with a few goose and duck calls and also observed several few geese and ducks flying about along with several seagulls.

Within minutes the shots started to ring out, especially the newer hunters who were shooting into the air and made it sound like I was back in the Balkans; birds were flying scattering and ending up in every direction. I kept on calling and then after a few minutes took a break and just observed.

I was thinking about my last hunt on farmland and how I missed a bird that was close range above the trees using my new full choke. It does take getting used to, even with experienced shooters. As mentioned in the videos, that I posted on my Twitter account, with a full choke under a forty yard shot you want to keep the bead directly on the bird and not lead too much compared to a Modified choke which I had been using for the past few years, where you tend to lead as much as five inches from the birds bill.

After a few minutes of keeping an eye on the horizon and a few more calls, I finally got my break with a Canada moving in from the North-West to my right, he was about twenty-seven yards out, I instantly shouldered my 870, pushed it off safe and released the shot in one single motion.

There is no doubt that there was some practice and patterning that had taken place with the pigeons over this summer but it paid off, I love my full choke. My goose tumbled forward and into the dark waters and I had harvested my first bird of the season, this is it, I was finally off to a great start.

I better get my Rillettes jars ready!

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Four years ago while out hunting the eastern wild turkey during the month of May, I was a victim of a poaching incident. My decoys were setup in their rightful spot. Just twenty-five meters in front of me on the edge of my friend’s farm field. I was tucked away nice and low inside the tree line facing south with the dirt road just fifty-five meters away.

I had been in my shooting position well over two hours and managed to call in two hens and a large tom. Once the male turkey was within shooting range, I had slow pushed my safety off and was only milliseconds from taking my shot. The turkey had a long beautiful beard; unfortunately this is when another shot rang out and hit my bird which caused it to jump into the air yet only wounding the bird, it leaped and disappeared into the woods to the east.

The poacher had total disregard for my safety and I know he saw my decoys, additionally it was on private property, and his shot was right in my direction as he was hidden behind a dead tree to my front on my left. He took a shot from a distance of only forty meters. Luckily for me he was a poor shot but my season was a total bust as it was nearing its end, and I could no longer take any more days off, as for the turkey he was injured and I went home empty-handed.

I still get very mad when I think about the incident but this blog entry is not about the poacher and my lost turkey but rather the proximity of the danger and yet I was able to go home alive and un-injured that afternoon.

Turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting share some similarities and one of them is the fact that hunters are not obligated to wear the orange safety vests. Birds can see very well in color, therefore not wearing the vest gives us hunters an advantage. However this adds a whole new level of risk and potential for danger because if you are concealed in camouflaged attire and you find yourself moving around in the woods or open fields, a hunter can mistake you for game.

During the turkey hunter’s awareness course, they teach us to avoid wearing red, white or blue which are the colors of the male turkey head. We are also instructed on methods used to carry your decoys into the field either using a large bag or other safe methods of transportation such as bins, so that the plastic birds do not attract shots from other hunters.

Some experienced hunters suggest setting up your decoys the night before once you have located the roost using crow or owl calls and chosen your spot. This way you can avoid the risk of being shot during their setup and layout in the early morning hours often done in the dark. Additionally if you see another hunter approach your chosen shooting position, yell at them to alert them of your presence, do not stand up or wave your arms.

Another safety item I wanted to write about is methods on how to carry your successfully harvested game out of the field. Now that the hunt is done and you have successfully harvested your game, we should also take into consideration safety of transporting your harvest for registration. (This applies to turkeys, deer and moose) For more information on game registration please visit the ministry site.

I have often seen proud hunters, once they have harvested their bull moose, if they are in a remote area, they will often cut the moose into quarters which may be a necessity depending on where you are hunting but then the hunter will also attach the moose antlers across their backs attached the backpack. To an inexperienced hunter you could look like a moose moving through the bush and be shot. A good friend of mine’s father built a very light carrying wagon with bicycle wheels as an alternative, this way he avoids damaging his back muscles but also he can also place his game on the wagon and cover it with a tarp. Using this method the hunting party is much less of a moving target because the large body parts of a moose or deer are not exposed to the eye to see.

Once your hunt is done you may also want to consider putting your orange safety vest back on and maybe even carry a second pair which you can then attach to your turkey or game. The location of your hunt can also be a positive player toward your safety, for example if you are hunting at an outfitter who has exclusive hunting rights on that particular piece of land, then the likelihood of you being shot could be reduced, however in my case I was hunting on private property and was still shot at by a poacher.

Using motorized vehicles such as four wheelers and other such vehicles can also be interesting, when removing game from the hunting grounds. The sound of the motor will alert other hunters to be careful and make them aware that they are not alone in the bush.

Crown land during deer season can be a very dangerous place, because there are a lot of new eager hunters that are ready to harvest their first ten pointers during the first fifteen minutes of their hunt. Always be vigilant and practice safe hunting, know where your partner is at all times, maybe you can carry two-way radios to help with this. Know what is beyond your shot. I was out boar-hunting a few weeks ago, and I had many opportunities to hit my wild boar but I waited for the pig to be in a perfect shooting position with a ridge as a backdrop to catch my bullet, which was by the way through and through, therefore had to potential to hit another game or worse.

Always practice safe hunting techniques, whether it be handing of a firearm, setting up your decoys, or carrying your game out of the field. I was once told a story about a bear hunter who harvested his game and carried it out of the bush on his shoulders; he was shot five times and killed by other hunters. I know his cousin very well.

Please practice safe and ethical hunting and do not rely just on your hunting and wild turkey safety courses, conduct research, spend as much time as you can in the field, talk to experienced hunters, guides and outfitter owners and get informed, never stop learning.

When you are dead there is no cool factor, people who practice safe and ethical hunting are great hunters indeed and have my utmost respect.

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In the past few weeks two Canadian families have been torn by a powerful sense of grief and the unimaginable while their loved ones were practicing the sport we love so much and hold dear to our hearts.

In times of emptiness like these the word accident is just one more word in a million found in the English language which is miles away in someone’s mind who has gone through such a tragic experience or loss.

An accident according to an online dictionary is an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss.
Our sport is dangerous, extremely dangerous but it does not have to be. Yet how dare we judge or preach the safe practice of firearm handling during times like these and how dare we have an opinion on someone or a situation we were not part of and have not fully understood the circumstances.

When an accident such as this occurs in our international community of hunters and to our fellow brethren, it is not criticism or judgment which should be released; rather it should be is a promise to have a higher sense of awareness and going back to the fundamentals which we were taught during our firearm and hunter courses.

A few weeks ago, I was out hunting snowshoe hare and I had to pass over a wired fence and I thought to myself, must I really unload my shotgun like I was taught? Then pass the weapon under the wire and then only pick it up and load it only once I was on the other side or should I just place it on safe and keep it in my hands? What if a hare sprints out as I am climbing over? …Maybe I will miss the shot of a lifetime. In the end I did take the time to do it right and passing the unloaded firearm under the fence. What is a few seconds more in a lifetime? Especially when you have friends, family and loved ones waiting for you at home. A great hunter is not one who brings a trophy or a harvest home every time, it is a hunter who learns and appreciates and knows their place in nature.

I shall dedicate my next hunt to the two families who have experienced extreme loss, and excruciating pain, and hopefully are heading toward the path of healing. While I stand on the damp soil of my hunting path with the fall tree colors burning around me and the breeze blowing in my face, I promise to take a moment and deep breath to think of the two young men who like me were practicing the sport we love so much.

To me they are not just another news article, they are ambassadors of safety and for this I thank them.

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Ducks

The sun was slowly setting over the hunting camp with its bright pink lines cutting through the cool October sky.  Six field dressed ducks sat in the freezer as our duck hunt had come to an end for the day. Now we were all sitting around the table sharing stories, laughs about family, life and the day’s hunt. Each of us with our cold drinks, and various snack bags, bottle caps littered the table top along with a chipped crystal clear ashtray where seniors’ cigarette was smoldering and its smoke was spiraling into the ceiling fan. Wet pants hung on the line right above the wood burning fire-place, and the boots stood neatly by the door. In the morrow, we would set out for the wetlands again, so I took a few minutes to clear the shotguns outside and put a light coat of oil on them before calling it a night.

During my quick cleaning, I grabbed my Remington 870 pointed it in a safe direction cleared the shotgun running though the action to activate the ejection steps, nothing came out since it had already cleared twice before down by the creek. Always treat a gun like it is loaded eh! I inspected the chamber first visually and then with my fingers and also checked the tubular magazine making sure it was also cleared. Once I deemed it safe, I squirted a few drops of Break Free oil on some swabs and gently covered all metal parts of the shotgun. I then proceeded to use my cleaning rod and pulled through the barrel several times first with my wired brush and then with a lightly coated swab, then with my shotgun barrel cleaner.

The action was pulled back to the rear of the receiver and the shotgun was aimed down on an angle, so that I could see down the barrel; it can be difficult to see if the barrel is clean and cleared of swab lint, gun powder residue or debris, depending on the lighting. Break-Action shotguns are much easier to look down the barrel once you have pulled through with the cleaning rod.

My friend handed me a piece of white cloth and I placed it at the back of the receiver, so that I can still see in through the ejection port. I then turned the gun around and looked down the barrel. Having the white cloth or even a white piece of paper allows light to reflect and now I could see clearly down the barrel with the outside light.
It was all clean and free of any obstructions, ready for the next outing.  I always practice the ACTS & PROVE when handling a firearm or preparing it for cleaning.

ACTS
Assume every firearm is loaded.
Control the muzzle direction at all times.
Trigger finger must be kept off the trigger and out of the trigger guard.
See that the firearm is unloaded – PROVE it safe.

PROVE
Point the firearm in the safest available direction.
Remove all ammunition.
Observe the chamber.
Verify the feeding path.
Examine the bore.

Be Safe!

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870 & Chuck

My hip was carefully placed up against the tailgate of the truck in an attempt to avoid shaking too much, so that I could focus better with my binoculars. I was looking toward the eastern field and standing just meters from the farm-house; scanning north to south and concentrating in and around the new hay bales which were freshly cut and rolled.

It was thirty-one degrees Celsius and the heat was almost unbearable. The cattle were down by the creek getting some shade under various deciduous trees, while others waded through the cool waters. Once in a while some cloud cover would move in and with it a fresh breeze would blow in, changing the colors of the various weeds and hay.

Earlier in the morning, I had climbed over the electric fence then headed down diagonally through the northern field closest to the farm-house and cut across the hedge row near the creek, just meters from the road. I then looped around to the south-east back into the other field where there was an opening for the tractors.

I had noticed the groundhog several weeks ago in the field to the east but the weather did not roll in my favor with heavy rains. I was forced to abandon my hunt because the groundhog had retreated below the ground.

The network consisted of two main den entrances at the start of the slope toward the west and with two other escape holes one near the fence to the east and the other in the center of the field where the grass was much darker and just high enough to provide good cover.

Only a few minutes had passed and finally I made out what I thought was a small brown animal on its hind legs. So, I adjusted the center focusing wheel on the binoculars and confirmed my findings. I slowly unzipped my right pocket on the orange hunting vest and pulled out my cell phone and checked the time, it was almost three in the afternoon and it was now going to be cooler and the animals would start coming out now; birds too since I had only seen two yellow warblers and four grackles.

I packed away my phone and binoculars, zipped up my pocket and then grabbed a single shell from my ammunition box on the tailgate and headed down the road to the north. I had to move quickly because I did not want the chuck to move underground.

As I made my way over to the eastern field, I was studying the low ground and aligning the groundhog with each hay bale, thus identifying which bale offered the closest shot and then chose the right bale to use as cover.

I decided on the second bale since it was slightly further away from the groundhog but directly in line with me. I moved in through the tractor opening for the second time of the day and turned in toward the low ground. Once in a while I would stop, catch my breath, because I was speed walking and crouched over. I normally pace myself and take about five to six steps then stop, listen and observe, breathe then set off again.

I was closing in on the groundhog and he still couldn’t see me. By the time I reached the first hay bale, I was only thirty meters out and the shot was possible one but I could not guarantee a confirmed harvest. I also wanted my shot to end up in the dirt and not go over the fence toward the tree line.

So, I stopped, took a knee along with a few deep breaths and prepared myself for the shot that would soon come. I leaned over to the right hand side of the bale and noticed that the groundhog was still standing on watch with its head very high above the hay. I then turned back in toward the center of the hay bale and got down on all fours and leopard crawled over to the hay bale to left or east.

I would crawl, and then stop; look up just popping my head above the hay line to make sure the groundhog was still there and then I would inch forward again. Twice I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead with my hunting hat. My forearms were cut and burning because of the grass blades and various insects. It was only six meters away but it took me a while to get across to the other bale.

Once I reached the second bale, I slowly stood up and had a look over the top of the bale and checked that the groundhog was still there. This time it heard something and let out a whistle but did not move instead it stretched its head further up for a better look much like me.

I loaded one shell into my Remington 870, lined up the bead sight with the target using the hay bale as a stabilizer and focused on my breathing. Once I was ready, I took the weapon off safe using the quiet push method, and then slowly squeezed the trigger…Vlam! Grass and dirt spat up, the groundhog was ejected from the den and fell flat on its back side.

I had harvested one of the largest groundhogs this year and it was now time to head back to the truck and find the groundhog on the southern field near the second barn. I took the time to reflect on the hunt and feeling good about having helped a farmer with his varmints. I decided to bury this harvest using one of the abandoned holes in the field closets to the fence.

My painting of Ron's Coyote

A couple of hours had passed and I was now back at the truck having a drink of water planning my next hunt in the southern field. The cattle had moved in closer to the barns for the evening, therefore shooting was no longer an option at least in the southern field; I had to prepare myself and maybe pack up for the day and head home.

I checked my 870 for a third time after my initial shot and cleared it to make it safe, then I carefully placed it on the ground near the truck on its cloth gun case. I then pulled out a granola snack bar and began to relax.

Once in a while, I would look toward the south then over to the east. The birds were singing louder now, the red wing black birds and grackles were flying in low to feed off the grain on the ground nearby.

I took another drink from my water bottle then placed it down on the tailgate and this is when something caught my eye to the south-east. I could not make it out at first as it stealthy made its way out of the tree line to the south just behind the fence about forty meters from where my harvest was buried. It blended in perfectly with the hay color.

As it got closer and within range I was now able to identify my visitor, I could see its ears were straight up and its fur had a healthy golden shine. The animal would stop; look with its tail straight down near its hind legs. It was incredible! I had seen this animal many times before but I was fascinated, this time it was much different.

It was only two hundred meters away just on the other side of the fence, she moved with such grace and prudence. Coyotes are very intelligent and extremely beautiful animals with an incredible sense of smell. It had picked up the scent of my harvest and she was going to get a free meal; this is something that I love about nature. The simple fact that nothing goes to waste and I was quite aware that my harvest would not last long in the soil.

The coyote was moving in toward my harvest and I snapped to; so I grabbed my binoculars and headed down to the creek to circle around. We were like two cowboys in a duel moving in toward each other but by the time I got to the edge of the creek, amid the excitement the coyote caught my scent and disappeared into the hay, through the fence and into the wilderness.

I did not consider this encounter a failure but rather an awesome experience with an amazing animal. For that very moment I was proud as always to be part of this northern wilderness with this Canis Latrans.

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