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Posts Tagged ‘shooting’


My snowshoe aluminium claws broke the silence in the woods, when they crushed through the ice and into the softer snow below the crust. I was well over a kilometer away from the nearest barn and I was surrounded by evergreen trees. They stood tall with their majestic winter coats and seemed on the verge of collapse because of the weight of the snow.

January 15th, 2016 marked the last day of sharp-tailed grouse for my hunting zone. I thought to myself it would be amazing to maybe get a harvest on the last day of their season. I was out hunting snowshoe hare, grouse and maybe if time permitting a few rock doves over by the farm.

Still-hunting for snowshoe hare and grouse are very similar in technique, it is basically scanning the hidden dark spots at the base of spruce bows and fallen logs, walking slowly and frequently stopping to look and try to identify shapes and colors that don’t fit in.

Hares have black tips on their ears and are generally straight up listening for danger, as for their black shiny eyes these are easily spotted with a keen sight.

Grouse can either be sitting at eye level on small branches in a tree or at ground level tucked away in a ball puffing out their feathers to stay warm during the winter months. Or just simply walking about like a domestic chicken, in short but quick bursts.

Once you see one, lock your eyes on them and stay with them because they can lose you in an instant as they dash around foliage. If you decide to follow, then make sure you are well versed in the use of a compass because they will bring you further into the brush but they will always stay in their circuit. Which is invisible to us unless you follow their tracks in the snow.

After about two hours of following hare leads, I was slowly making my way back to the farm, when something caught my eye at the base of a pine tree on my right about twenty meters in from the main trail.

There was a dead fallen log leaning diagonally under the pine tree up against its trunk and the pines lowest branches were buried with its tips buried under the icy snow forming a natural skirting almost all around the base of the tree.

What struck me was this black circle just sitting under the fallen log, I mean it was a perfect black circle. Deep down I had a feeling it was a grouse but I was not sure yet and couldn’t decide if it was a malformation on the tree, like a large accumulation of sap on the log in the shape of a ball.

It would have been unpracticed and unsafe for me to take a shot at the dark object without truly knowing what it was. I was excited and yet physically I remained calm in my decision, I had no choice but to move in closer for a good confirmed shot.

I loaded two shells into the shotgun and pumped one in the chamber then instantly clicked it into safety on position. I lifted my left leg and started to make my way toward the tree through the deep snow and dense brush.

My first two steps through the snow aroused the grouse with a thrashing sound which caused it to turn its head to the right, I had my final confirmation, it was a grouse.

My shot was going to be a very difficult one with over twenty meters between us through several thin branches. In addition while aiming I had to point low below the log where the grouse was hiding. I only had about a five-inch diameter to make the shot and the bird was on the move toward the north.

To make matters worse, my snowshoes had failed me and I went through the snow on the edge of the trail and sunk down to my waist. I was using the more modern pair of snowshoes, my Michigan’s would have kept me at the surface of the snow crust.

Once I got myself into a descent shooting position I shouldered my 870 and fired a shot, aiming to high and missing my shot completely.

The grouse jumped out to the right and made his way north and then back around the front of the tree heading west.

I saw him through the greenery but it was not a clear shot. I tried to chase it but sunk even further into the snow.

I was instantly broken and felt and incredible amount of frustration. Gosh!! I love the winter woods but it can be a tough environment. You might live incredible hunts but you will also have days like these.

I tried to circle around but the grouse he was gone and my hunt was also done as it was getting close to dark.

I know there will be next year’s season but this one was a bust, this is when you must dig deep and find the positive in the experience and not find things to blame.

Like there could have been less snow, I should have used different shot or a different shotgun.

Next fall will remedy this and for now I can continue to pursue pigeon and snowshoe hare and hope to make up for this day.

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Two days ago I was reading an online article published by a hunting site, the honest author wrote about waterfowl hunting and how sometimes you can leave the hunting site full of frustration directed at your missed shots and the desire to improve for the next time. Particularly when trying to harvest Canada geese in flight or readying themselves for a landing.

I find it extremely interesting how some authors always need to write and emphasize the number of years of experience they have and choose their best hunting examples to try to educate you on the types of shot sizes you should use and of course write about the importance of patterning. Like many have written before, each gun fires differently or does it?

The other evening while on the water, I felt something very different from the many other waterfowl hunts I have experienced. There was a greater sense of know how and I felt a higher level of calm and as a result if I missed a duck or goose, it did not matter because I knew that I would get the next as I have done before.

Authors and experts write about the best practices when it comes to our sports fundamentals and yes these are important but they remain theories until applied. Once you are on the ground this is when the actual event happens, real life happens. Birds turn and do not land or behave differently and then it is all about you and your personal skill and your gun.

What I felt out there in the wetlands wasn’t that I was becoming a better hunter a so-called expert like those authors, but rather I was living the reality of being out there with geese and ducks and nature at its best. I understood that sometimes there will be missed and sometime successful harvests but that over time I have captured a better sense of understanding about our sport and as a result have gained maturity and field experience that of a veteran waterfowl hunter. Learning and improving based on the fundamentals but also living every experience and correcting the mistakes.

I have missed a lot of birds but I am also the same waterfowl sportsman that took down three adult Canada geese in a single shot last season. It is important to learn the fundamentals, for example choosing the right shot for the right time of the season when the geese are a little heavier. Applying the right amount of lead depending on the bird’s flight, but then there is the bit that not too many people wish to share and that is the knowledge you acquire on your own while on the water, true field experience that is quite often kept as secrets of the sport.

When you go to an outfitter, they help you harvest birds, they may talk about the winds or something but they do not necessarily share the true skills. Sure you go home with some geese or ducks but did you truly harvest the experience and digest the time that took place did you grasp the know how for the next time.

On your next hunt if you are still skybusting, stop shooting and take a few minutes to focus and see what you can change to improve your chances.

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Golfers standing at their first hole just know when he or she has hit a great ball. You can hear the ping sound as your curved wood follows through the air chasing the perfect ball right after contact. You can also feel a slight vibration come up the pole and into your hands. Your swing was flawless and your muscles are totally relaxed yet in full control.

It is a wonderful feeling to see the ball fly directly into the air dead center down your lane. Your game no matter what the score feels great.

It is in fact incredible to finally see that your skill is showing and that you have mastered the stroke. But then there is this unexplained bit. Almost faith; you have taken the shot and you expect to hit something but it could be a slice or maybe not. You know one thing it felt right!

On my last rock dove hunt just a couple of weeks ago, I was walking up the western ridge of the farm heading east. I spotted four pigeons flying around in a spiral formation and then landing out of sight to my front. I kept on walking slowly toward them, and made my way over the gate between the two barns and then reloaded my Winchester 97 pushing a shell into the tubular magazine below until I heard the click and then pumped the action to chamber the shell. It is a beautiful piece of history made of steel and wood.

Now only thirty meters away but well within sight, the rock doves burst back into flight in a diamond shape going south, I shouldered my shotgun and lined up the bead sight directly in line with the last pigeon and moved it one inch to the front of its beak just as Robert Stack had recommended to do in his shotgun book.

I slowly squeezed the trigger and released my shot. This all happened within a few seconds. And once the smoke cleared, I released the action pushing on the slide lock release plunger pin, and the empty shell ejected and spun through the air leaving a spiral of smoke, just like a cigarette would when you flicked it out of your fingers before stepping on it.

The rock dove tumbled and dropped like a stone, I knew it was an incredible shot, part of this success was skill and experience but there was a little bit of faith. After all hunting is never a guarantee.

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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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Many of us have had the privilege of being taught how to read at a very young age and this is without a doubt one of the most prized of skills that is quite often taken for granted. This ability to read allows us to unlock a door and step into a doorway of knowledge, and this know-how is found in books, magazines, pamphlets as well as the World Wide Web.

It is also a fact that some people posses’ academic and intellectual strengths that allow them to share and discuss the content of a specific topic that they have just read. This allows them in sort to plug into any conversation and in a sense project the impression that they may have understood or mastered the subject. This can be a definite asset if you are attempting to impress someone during an academic gathering or trying to earn points with your future father in law, but I believe in the realm of sport hunting it is only the tip of the iceberg. If you can read a book about bush craft and or hunting and then apply the knowledge in a practical way then you are truly gifted.

The people who are able to share this knowledge take great pleasure in doing so, and having the ability to read, learn, and practice then share this knowledge with others using an applied method as well as harvesting wild game is what I consider the true achievement.

There is also another element to this skill called reading and it is not just about going through the pages but rather reading your environment and this my fellow hunters can teach you things that so-called human masters cannot.

One of my favourite quotes written by Saint Bernard de Clairvaux a knight Templar from the 12th century is the following: “Trust one who has tried it, you will find more in woods than in books; trees and stones will teach you what you can never learn from masters”. This is so true, but thanks to some brilliant authors who wrote books about hunting and bush craft with publishing dates ranging from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, we are able to enjoy the wealth of knowledge from both the written and the practical world.

On my OKB page you will find a listing of some of the books that I have read about our sport and related topics. My findings have been that it is very difficult to find a great recent hunting book, that have been written in the last five years that contains the same wealth of knowledge and substance that you would find in books that were written throughout the years of the publishing dates mentioned above.

There is so much to learn and there is so much more to hunting than meets the reading eye.

(If you have read a great book recently and wish to share please write a comment)

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