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Last weekend I went snowshoe hare hunting with a good friend of mine and the snow was pretty deep in the woods with the recent snow fall that had dumped around one foot of snow. When I checked the weather network the night before, I was pretty happy about their forecast, because when it snows it is warmer and hare leads are much more visible along with the droppings and their regurgitated green cuds.

During my pre-planning for the hunt, I packed up some of my gear the night before and I was sure to have the snowshoes as part of the kit that was needed. I really like the new strap mechanisms on those new shoes but unfortunately they are not the best in the deepest of snow, the good old Michigan styles are by far the best which have a larger coverage for the foot placement and of course you do not sink to your waist every two steps and eventually tire yourself out.

Your firearm is by far one of the most important tools during your hunt and of course during your outing it will be exposed to the elements like snow, small branches and pure muck, this can most definitely have an effect on the working parts, along with the water which freezes on the shotgun as you move in and out of the snow-covered pine and cedar.

Years ago, when I purchased my Remington 870 Express, I purposely chose the pump-action, because I knew the type of harsh conditions I was going to expose my shotgun to and I was legitimately concerned that the mechanism would fail if I had gas operated semi-automatic actions. Not only was a pump the right price but the action was more reliable in our Canadian fall and winter months, compared to the semi automatic shotgun which is also double the price of an Express if not more.

After a few hours of tracking through the brush and not locating any hares, we made our way back to the southern barns on my friends farm and placed ourselves at the edge of the tree line. We were going to try our luck with the rock doves, there was a group of seven of them flying around the cattle and then setting themselves in some nearby trees.

I carefully directed my friend into a good shooting position and then placed myself to his right and we chose our birds carefully and prepared ourselves for the harvest. We loaded the shells and made our shotguns ready and when we released our shots, only one gun rang out. My friends semi automatic shotgun clicked into emptiness and no shot came out, two pigeons tumbled to the snowy ground. One step that made all the difference is prior to loading the shells for the pigeons, I rode the pump-action back and forth multiple times with an empty chamber and tube magazine to clear any small ice particles and warm up the slide, this you can do on a pump. This represented for me my third time this year to have had two pigeons harvested in one single shot of number six, but I was truly disappointed for my friend.

The semi-automatic was clear of any snow but the cold had such and impact on the action, that the firing pin was slow to release and come forward to strike the primer, in addition the trigger was frozen which prevented him from depressing it all the way toward the back. Simply releasing the action in order to eject the shell proved to be more challenging than it would have been in warmer weather. I always had my doubts about my choice but now the proof is in the snow.

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The red and yellow colors of the fall foliage were breathtaking and the wind was blowing in strong and seemed to be coming in from all directions. The wind currents would sneak in and out like a slithering snake up through the grass and go over the tree tops and then come back around and hit us in the back.

I opened the passenger side door and hopped out of the truck with my right hand still on the inside door handle for leverage and then I made my way to the back in order to load my kit into the Jon boat. We then took turns loosening the straps to lower the boat into the water while sliding it off the trailer guides.

I suited up into my waders and with the rope guided the boat into the water up to my waist, I can confirm that Aquaseal did the job; no more leaks and my inner trousers were dry.

The three of us were very happy and excited about the hunt ahead, yet we all shared some concerns regarding the winds. Before leaving the house we worked on the decoy weights to ensure our spread did not get affected by the wind, and that the birds would not float away.

Once the boat was loaded up with the kit, the group jumped into the boat, then we took off across the open waters to the wetlands heading south-east; it took us about fifteen minutes to get to our chosen spot.

During our decoy setup my friend did not want to use a traditional decoy spread like a W or V shape layout, he rather use a long spread of geese consisted of about twelve geese and then creating a large landing strip in the middle between us and the geese. We then scattered ducks closest to our blind and to our left.  The landing strip was about thirty-five feet wide and no birds on either ends, leaving it open from the left and right.

It worked really well, once the geese started coming in, they circled above completed several turns in the air and came down meters in front of us. We were facing south with our backs to the north and the geese were flying in from the east and west.

On the signal of the lead shooter, we stood up and the birds burst back into flight, this is when we released our shots just feet from the water’s surface. Seeing geese flying in from above is just amazing and it is something I could watch over and over again.

We knew that there was one particular group of about twenty geese that flew in for the evening in the area where we setup and that this was great opportunity and a good hunt during the last thirty minutes of legal shooting, but instead on this particular afternoon we got small groups of two, three, four and sometimes five birds fly within minutes of each other, some geese would call and others not.

It was an incredibly charged hunt, between the waves of geese, we barely had enough time to fumble through our shells and get three loaded back into our shotguns then it was already time to shoot again.

In the end we had harvested ten magnificent Canada geese and I considered this hunt to be one of my best hunts on the wetlands so far this year.

I am always searching for ways to improve my harvests but also keeping the hunts safe, one thing our group does is that when we are in a standing blind configuration, we always identify our shooting arcs, so that no one crosses over into the other shooters lanes.

When recovering the birds with the assistance of a dog, depending on the scenario, we either unload our shotguns or put the safety on and ensure they are always pointing in safe direction. At times I have found myself on my hands and knees leaning forward pulling the dog and the bird back into the boat and this is working in a very tight space. In a situation like this for example, I would immediately unload before moving around in the blind.

Another practice our group uses for quick shotgun shell access is that we empty the shell box into our front pocket and leave the flap open, this way you can reach in and grab a shell and make it ready to put into the shotgun chamber or load into the tubular magazine. I also carry and twenty-five shell belt, which allows you to have a full shell box placed into a belt and when firing your three shells, you can easily grab one shell and reload quickly from the belt into the shotgun, making it ready for the next shot.

It is incredibly easy even for an experienced hunter to get over excited when seeing several birds coming in to your spread. Take deep breaths, calm right down and take your time and make every shot count, aim for one bird at a time. Depending on the size of the geese and distance sometimes it may take two shots, especially if you have a pump shotgun, make sure you pump the slide action right back and forward to eject the empty shell and load a new shell. If this is done properly, especially with three-inch shells you can avoid jams, which may result in a miss.

Keep it safe and have a great rest of the season!

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