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Wild PigSeveral months ago, I was sitting in a waiting area of a Chevy truck dealership having just helped myself to a hot cup of coffee. Then comfortably placed in my seat I was waiting for my turn, I can remember turning my head to look around at all the new trucks, and like many others before me I noticed the magazine rack. I remember thinking to myself that “gosh nothing would be of interest to me in that pile of magazines maybe just a few about fashion or cooking topics.” but this is when I spotted the one with a big game hunting title on its cover.

So, I carefully folded and placed my right foot overtop my left knee and brought down my elbows at the same time that I was opening the magazine. I skimmed read through the first few pages that were filled with advertisements, some for rifle scopes and various other hunting accessories. I turned a few more pages and this is when I landed on the picture a model hunter sitting by his trophy in a faraway place, along with a great article. For many of us this was nothing but a far away dream, imagining what it would be like to hunt like Jim Shockey.

I can remember dreaming about how incredible this would be to travel to a remote place in our vast wilderness to hunt for wild game trophies. You would be facing the elements, challenging mind and body in pursuit of a majestic or dangerous game and as a reward being able to claim your trophy.

I am very passionate about sport hunting, especially small game and most of us hunt for the sport but also for the food and for the experiences we share with family and friends. These hunts could take place anywhere, on family land, private or public property. Some of us have our annual deer or moose hunting trips, others are all about waterfowl or upland birds but deep inside us it is hard to put the rest the idea that a great classic hunt could be within reach and that it can in fact be a very realistic dream that we can achieve at least once in a lifetime.

It is almost the end of November now and the holidays are coming up, the small game season is in full swing and the waterfowl season will be coming to its close very soon in just a few weeks on the 21st of December. But for me time seemed almost surreal. I was then just nine days ago sitting in my truck driving at dawn heading north into the snowy Canadian wilderness. I was driving into the unknown toward my first great classic hunt. It was a gift in every sense of the word and a dream come true.

Then just a few hours later, I found myself all alone in the woods staring down a snowy trail surrounded by two hundred acres of wilderness. No guides, just me and the elements in pursuit of my majestic game, the wild pig.

I was standing on frozen ground with the soles of my rubber boots making cracking sounds as I broke through the thin layer of ice and snow that covered the leaves and branches. I had just re-adjusted my footing in order to get a better look around. I could see my every breath as the water vapours condensed.

There was a light snow fall and the wind was blowing in a north-easterly direction, it would come in like an ocean tide and brush the surface of the treetops and as it passed through the mixed woods, it rustled the remaining leaves and branches which cause it to sound like a small engine passing through. But my knowledge has taught me that when you are stalking game, this is the best time to move as the wind and noise that is generated from the forest masks your footsteps, which is really advantageous while still hunting. It is also important to note the direction of the wind because it can help mask your scent or bring an odour towards you. On a good day, I can sometimes smell the same scent of a wet dog and this quite often turns out to be animal which is not too far. The temperature was sitting around minus five degrees Celsius.

If you are gamer and you are familiar with the Xbox Cabelas Dangerous hunts 2011 game and for a few seconds during your game if you let your character just stand still in the snow, the sights and sounds were quite similar. The cold, and late autumn smells filled the air, the forest surrounding me was dark and had an eerie feel to it. I was very much alive and every sense in my body was at a heightened state.

I turned and faced the south and found more trails which lead over a ridge, it was almost magical and I could picture that at any time now a fox, coyote or hare could pass directly in front of me. I went down on one knee near a large tree for cover in order to have a better look around with my binoculars.

Time seemed like it froze as I was being absorbed by the cold wilderness, it was just me and the elements. For that short moment in time, I found myself back in the mountains of Bosnia and although there was no small arms fire or mines sticking out of the ground, I was living the exact same feelings, cold and isolated yet it was a very calming feeling which filled my entire body.

I was alone in pursuit of the famed wild boar a gift a loved one had offered me; it was the one dream of a classic wild game hunt and I was living every second to the fullest. I had spent six hours in the woods and only around four in the afternoon when nightfall was creeping up and it started getting dark, this is when I noticed a sounder of wild boar to the north-west about three hundred meters away.

The hunt was on, I now had to come up with an approach strategy, and I did not want to allow myself to get too excited. So, I got down on one knee brought up my binoculars and studied the ground in front of me as well as the whereabouts of the entire group of wild pigs.

They were feeding in an open area just on the edge of the forest to the northwest, and I needed to get as close as I could without alerting them for my shot. So with my approach plan set, I crouched down and started a slow sprint using the trees as cover, leapfrogging from large trees to boulders, until I got within seventy-five meters. I was now on my hands and knees crawling to the last and largest boulder between the boars and I, which was now only fifty meters away. I always take my gloves off for the shot, so I wiped the mud and snow off my fingers and prepared myself for the shot.

I got myself into the prone position and started to control my breathing in order to catch my breath after covering all that rough terrain. My farming friend had always taught me to be patient before every shot and if you’re lucky the animals may move toward you and get into a better position for your shot.

It was getting dark out and I did not want to track my game, so I wanted to ensure I had a clean and quick shot. I was now so focused on the boar to my front that I did not immediately notice a young elk sneak up on my left behind a tree just meters away. But his presence was a blessing as it startled the group of boars and they came up over the small ridge and were now just twenty-five meters away.

There were six of them now moving from my right to left and feeding, I picked out the largest of the group and lined up my Tasco scope cross-hairs directly in line with its vitals and I followed the boar adjusting my aim accordingly.

Even with a perfectly sighted in scope, quite often hunters will tend to hit lower than where they were aiming, therefore I compensated for this but not by much. The boar moved a few meters ahead and started feeding again. The boar was perfectly set sideways, with my fore-stock sitting on the rock, I re-aligned the cross-hairs with the vitals and pushed the lever forward on the .303 taking the rifle off safe and with my last breath of three and with my lungs now half empty I released the shot.

The boar jumped into the air and darted for the heavier thickets, I kept my eyes glued on the wild pig as it sprinted about forty meters along with two other boars and then it tripped, fell and flipped over a log and lay motionless. It was a brilliant harvest and it was the end to my first classic hunt. Incredible!

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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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