Posts Tagged ‘shots’

Last spring on our snow goose hunt just north of Quebec City, I found myself along with my mates putting a lot of trust into a very young guide at a local outfitter. One of many! This was our second season and the previous year we had chosen terrible guides.

I often asked myself. What does it take to be a guide? Being a guide must not be a job which can be taken lightly. You would have to deal with a tremendous amount of pressure; coming from your clients who paid lots of money and sometimes expect the impossible. You would have to be very confident and very skilled. Of course you would also have take into consideration that being a guide is a business, so there is also this whole added world, the existence of the business, your presence on the Internet, marketing and much more.

Were the guides skills and knowledge passed down through a teacher or were they acquired through years of experience? You must have a successful record and great reviews.

As a client though you also have a responsibility of being respectful and most of all being reasonable, most hunters know that the guides have no control over the weather, neither bird or mammal behavior. So be patient and do not allow yourself to get frustrated. I have the perfect example of this.

We had being lying in our blinds for well over an hour and the birds were staying close to the shoreline in groups of five or six and were out of range to the west. So, a couple of impatient and frustrated hunters got up and decided this would be a good time to take a much-needed break, I don’t blame them it was getting really warm. Within ten minutes of them being gone, a group of snow geese flew in nice and low just overhead and I harvested two.

Actually, I just about blew my shoulder off as I was trying out new ammunition and had used two Remington hypersonic steel shells and I found it way too powerful. I much prefer the Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel, three inch, #3 shot for goose and duck and it is very effective.

This is different of course if you are hunting at an outfitter which has a fenced in territory in which case you are pretty much guaranteed your trophy or harvest.

The guide must have the same if not superior knowledge in our case about snow geese. This means being familiar with their feeding patterns, knowing and understanding the tides, the winds and this has a direct impact on your blind placement.

The task at hand can be a very challenging one indeed. This is a topic which I will continue to explore throughout my hunting seasons and over time, I will be able to choose the best guides for my classic hunts.

In the end I realize that if you are a true hunter at heart and you can appreciate the knowledge and experience of the guides you chose then this makes the experience a much more enjoyable and memorable one regardless of age.

Turns out our guide was very skilled and we had a great harvest but most of all, we had a blast. The waterfowl season is only a few weeks away now and I am, like many others extremely excited!

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A flock of Red-winged blackbirds and a few European starlings were chanting and flying around from tree top to tree top, through the pine and cedar woods to the north. Then following a strong breeze that blew in from the west, they would fly over to the nearest barn, as if they were being scooped up by the wind. You could hear their claws gripping the aluminum sheets on the roof as they slipped down its side. And then down they went to the lower brush to the east changing direction in flight with incredible agility allowing them to land directly where there was grain spread out on the muddy ground.

It was a beautiful day out in the country and the temperature was at about sixteen degrees Celsius with a strong breeze coming in from the west bringing along with it some dark grey clouds, that would momentarily hide the sun. Once the clouds had passed you could feel the heat on your face again, the sky then had a light blue color to it. The change of colors in the fields as the clouds cleared was stunning with the sun breaking through and this is a very important time to try and spot game.

On the drive in to the farm, I had noticed quite a few groundhogs all along the highway on the earth mounds on each side of the road and in and around the barns scattered over the countryside. I knew that the “Siffleuse” were active. In Quebec groundhogs are also known as the “Marmotte Siffleuse” because it stomps its feet and whistles if you get too close or when danger lurks.

After having spent the most part of an hour talking to the farmer about the local news over a nice hot cup of coffee, I decided to sight in my rifle scope taking a few shots into a safe shooting pit using a target that I built using Styrofoam. Using a modified sighting technique similar to that which Stephen Archer demonstrates on his Internet instructional video. Now that my grouping was nice and tight, I was ready for the days hunt. The fact that there was no varmint activity beside the cluster of barns to the east, made me change my plan and move toward the larger field to the west staying close to the northern tree line.

The farm consisted of a total of six barns and the network of holes all around them including the very large rock pile to the east had seen no groundhog activity for the past few weeks.

So I set off and was still-hunting for about thirty minutes to the west, until I came up to the wired fence, so I unloaded my rifle, jumped over the small creek and then got down on one knee and lifted the wire with my left hand and pushed my unloaded rifle under the fence and then using my right hand I pushed myself underneath the wire to the other side making myself as low as could.

On the other side of the fence there was dark mixed forest vegetation in the shape of an island between the east and west fields. Immediately to my front was one of the largest hay fields split in two by a ravine and at its top there were clusters of rocks with a network of groundhog holes where I had harvested some varmint last summer.

I also remember seeing some groundhogs hidden on the tree line on the other side of the field toward the south. So, once I made it past the wired fence and stood up in a standing position, I started to still-hunt across the field, loaded my rifle and placed it on safe. About half way across the field I noticed the groundhog sun-bathing on one of the largest rocks on the south side of the tree line.

He was looking right at me and had a great field of view to the north. So, I crouched down and moved across the field in the low ground. At this point I was almost kneeling and it was hard work making it across the field without my head and shoulders going over the crest. I was studying the trees to see which one had the widest trunk, so that I could use it to close in. I found a tree just wide enough to conceal me from the groundhog and I was able to close the gap between us. I would stop quite frequently get down and move slightly to my right towards the west as I was now heading south and I could still see the varmint sun-bathing on the large boulder just inside the tree line.

Once I reached part of the distance for my shot and was just meters from the cluster of rocks, I placed my left hand on the damp ground and moved forward some more than placed the rifle stock using my right hand onto the ground ensuring my movement was stealthy. I then moved into the prone position and started inching forward using the leopard crawl, placing myself in the perfect shooting position.

My heart was racing for several minutes now and I was practically out of breath from all the movement across the field, meanwhile the whole time I was also watching out for the cattle herd and its large bull just over the crest of the ravine.

Now in position behind the rocks on the edge of the forest only twenty-one yards out with my T-Bolt stock and barrel facing the large boulder in the south. Even though I was in position, it did not feel quite right and I had to reposition myself without setting off the groundhog into a whistling alarm causing him to retreat into his den.

So, I moved back inching myself backward using my entire body, I was practically slithering almost lifting myself off the ground using my forearms and the ball of my feet and then moving myself forward back into what I thought was the best shooting prone position.

I started to take my deep breaths and hold my breathing for a few seconds and then release and then breathing in again, this way I was controlling my chest movements. I did this three more times and on the third breath I released half of the air and steadied the Browning T-Bolt like a solid rock.

Once I reconfirmed my cross hairs were perfectly lined up with the groundhog’s vitals, I slowly released the trigger with the tip of my finger and the shot rang out “Snap” then I heard the thump and the varmint tumbled off the boulder near its den entrance.

This was the first groundhog harvest of the season, within minutes of returning to the barn to show the farmer my harvest, all the cattle started moving toward the boulders and rock formation and soon the entire herd filled the western hay-field.

I know that cattle are naturally curious animals but I have never fully understood why the cows always come over to the spot where I just harvested my groundhogs as long as there is no obstacle preventing them from doing so.

It was a great day to be a Varminter indeed!

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