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Posts Tagged ‘snowshoe hare’


My watercolor of a Snowshoe Hare

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Canine Trail

Canine Trail

The first hare lead that I decided to track on this particular day was without a doubt one of the toughest this winter. Even though it had been much warmer over the past couple of days and it had also rained, the most recent snow fall had left the nearby field and swamp with waist deep snow rendering my progress slow. There was a slight overcast in the sky and the temperature was three below zero. Once in a while as the clouds would clear the sun would break through and momentarily warm my face and hands.

I had no choice but to leave the car parked at the main entrance of the property and set off on foot in an easterly direction down a small slope onto the frozen swamp. The snow was just too high on the road. The swamp was located on the northern edge of the main country road and the trees nearby created a natural canopy of pine and cedar mixed in with straw sticking out of the snow and the area was littered with tracks.

Right away I noticed a trail that looked like it belonged to a mink or even a fisher. It had very distinct claw marks in the snow similar to that of raccoons. So I pressed on until I hit the western edge of the hay-field on the northern side, still following the lead. I took advantage of the change in vegetation to stop and catch my breath also to observe. On my left there was a large pine tree, surrounded by smaller bushes. I was looking left and right looking for any sign of snowshoe hare activity. This is when I spotted several more tracks and noticed some fur and then a blood trail.

The ravens above me were being very loud and kind of gliding just above me like turkey vultures. At the base of the tree there were carrion remains and a large skull. It was not a sight for the faint of heart as there was some muscle and fat tissue still attached and all its teeth were intact. A farmer had told me that the hide alone could weigh in at around one hundred pounds and that it would take several coyotes or wolves to drag that away but it was nowhere to be found. I had wanted to hunt hare in the morning and then try for rock dove after lunch, but after a sight like this and being in the bush alone my instinct was telling me that maybe I should move on.

There were canine tracks everywhere in various sizes and the tracks that I found were only a few hours old. I then decided to move north back to the eastern side of the quarry, where I had harvested my last hare and continue to search for more leads. As I left the swamp and the wood line near the road across the field to the south, I saw additional tracks and followed them some more and this is when I found large droppings as well as a well-traveled trail filled with paw marks. There was set in particular that was very large. There wasn’t just one canine with me in the woods like there was a few weeks ago, it was now more like two or three.

The paw tracks were almost too large to be that of a coyote, perhaps a timber wolf. So, I followed the trail some more because there were also fresh hare tracks nearby leading to the creek. When the forest cover got too thick and the snow was still knee-deep, especially with carrion around, I did not dare venture deeper into the darker part of the wilderness.
There were scattered pockets of evergreen, old wooden planks resting up against a barbed wired fence, offering plenty of cover. By this time I was now experiencing a strong feeling, that I was no longer alone and I also felt I was not necessarily a wanted presence.

I slowly turned toward the heavily travelled trail full of paw marks to the west and took several photos before heading back to the car for lunch. You know, a couple of days have passed since this feeling that came over me in the woods and yet while I am sitting on the bus going to work a part of me that is truly curious wanted to seek beyond the darkness in that evergreen.

By mid afternoon, I had made my way to the farm and met up with the farmer who was tending to his cattle and he had granted me the right to attempt to harvest some rock doves that were eating his grain. He had scattered some feed for his cows and then brought several buckets of water to the calves that were taking shelter in one of the smaller barns. He had mentioned to me that the rock doves were clearing out the grain on the ground and that it could start getting expensive. So, some assistance with this would be appreciated.
 
Even though rock doves are the same bird we see in the city, out in the country their behavior is quite different and this is to be expected. They see very well and if spooked they do not just fly a short distance away to safety then come back. Sometimes they will fly away over the forested ridge and not come back for several hours or not return at all.
 
For me there was a flock of five birds in my sights. One of the strangest occurrences that I had experienced was several weeks prior I set out to harvest the farm pigeons. I made the mistake of pointing to them and talked about my approach with another hunter out loud and the birds immediately flew away and did not return for two days according to the farmer.
 
This time it was going to be different, very different. I started by walking over to the car and continued to talk to the farmer and not pay attention to the birds at all. They were sitting on the trim of the barns roof. And a precision shot was out of the question. I had only packed my 870 with me and did not bring my .22.
 
Down on the southern ridge there were two older barns and the rock doves had made their nest inside. So, I slowly walked up to the gate at the cow enclosure and the opening to the southwestern field.
 
I stood there for a moment watching for rock dove activity. Sure enough within a few minutes a group of three flew in and landed nearby. I slowly moved back to car to get into a better shooting position but failed and spooked them and they took off circled in the air and descended to the second barn on the southern ridge.

It was very difficult to move about and align a shot. The birds were easily spooked and I could not shoot at the barn roof, I had to watch for the trucks, tractors and finally the cattle.
 
I slowly re-positioned myself and used an old tractor for cover and managed to get down the slope and enter the first abandoned barn from the northern side. There was a small window and a door on the southern edge and I had a clear shot on the pigeons, but there was one problem. I was carrying my 870 and I could shoot the roof.
 
With my .22, I could have taken a clear shot through an opening in the barn without exposing myself. This would have been a great shot under total concealment but this was not a possibility. I asked myself: What kind of approach could be used without scaring them? The only option was to jump shoot them, so I stood at the doorway and leaped outside, this seem to work since they hastily bounced into flight.
 
I took aim at the last one of the group and fired a shot, the bird swerved and dove and broke into an even faster flight and all three disappeared into the tree line to the east. It was a miss. Dang! I had to wait another forty minutes or so for them to come back, so I climbed the ridge and went back to the main gate.

Sure enough two rock doves flew in from the east heading west straight between the two smaller barns and over the gate and settled in the snow nearby. I quickly went down to my knees and crouched my way around the barn to the north and staying as low as I could I positioned myself in a kneeling position on the north-western side of the barn to my right.

The two birds were still feeding but never kept still, once the birds were not in the line of sight with the cattle, I rose my 870 and in one single motion, stood up and sent the rock doves into flight, Vlam! The shot rang out and I had harvested my first pigeon of the season.

Rock dove may not compare to big game trophies but it is most definitely an exhilarating hunt and great practice for the waterfowl season.

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In his book The Life of Birds the author David Attenborough wrote that “Each kind of hunter has its own technique for deploying its weapons.” In the “Meat eaters” chapter he talks about birds of prey and the importance of their vision. My vision is without a doubt one of the first tools that I employ when hunting rabbits or hare. In my previous blog entry I demonstrated my technique in a mini video on how I scan the low ground and hideouts to find snowshoe hare; I then deploy my shotgun if I see one.

Our vision is so important to small game hunters as it is for all forms of hunting. Now unless you are hunting in area where there is a high population density of hare then the task of spotting a hare in the woods becomes that much more of a challenge especially during the winter months. White on White! All predators have binocular vision and I believe that this is one of the most used tools when hunting hare or rabbit. What is binocular vision?

The definition for this type of vision is well described on the Wikipedia website. As a human hunter we simply need to understand the fact that our eyes are placed in the front of the head just like several other predatory species this gives us an advantage to our field of view. This is estimated to be approximately two hundred degrees with the use of both eyes.

However having a large field of view can be considered a disadvantage, this really depends on the situation. For example in my rabbit hunting technique, once I have found a lead, I normally stop and look to the front and allow my peripheral vision try to pickup movement that is not considered normal for the environment that I am in. Trees moving in the wind, snow falling off the branches is natural in the woodlands but black furry tips moving very quickly raises a red flag as do shiny black eyes.

With binocular vision our ability to detect faint objects is enhanced, we have a stronger depth perception. Understanding vergence and stereopsis can help a lot when hunting.

Success in rabbit hunting is being able to spot them before they see or hear you and taking your shot before they attempt to run and hide. This rule also applies to meat-eating Buzzards. Eagles for example have adapted their flight attack pattern for this same very reason, so that rabbits do not scoot away from them before it is too late.

Vision is a very important tool; it would be awesome to have more rods in our retina thus improving the acuity of our vision, especially in low light.

Can you imagine the visual advantages we would have while hunting rabbit if we could see them flick their ears two miles away just like a Buzzard? The challenge then would be to come up with a great technique to close the gap just enough to take a clean shot. So if you can see the rabbit or hare from a distance and are capable of closing the gap with great skill then you may harvest.

Yet even Buzzards must adapt their approach of the attack when coming in for a kill, they cannot just drop down from above or the hare will see them and scoot.

So even with their superior sight they still need to concentrate their efforts into their descent flight gradually adjusting their height and coming down almost to ground level flapping their wings to grab the rabbit with great speed and surprise.

In closing the Buzzards vision is definitely more acute than ours because they have far more rods in their retinas as much as 1000000 in comparison to us 200000/mm2. So even with this visual advantage, they still need to complete the approach for the harvest.

Next time I hit the woodlands, I am going to try a new technique, I will find a lead and mark it with a branch. Then I will place myself off set from the lead about twenty meters away with my binoculars in the prone position and wait to see if the hare’s will move about and attempt to spot one. Watching from far just like a Buzzard. It won’t be my first time lying in the snow but I will make sure there are no coyotes around.

I don’t have the luxury of low-level flying like a Buzzard but being already on the ground I will try to get as low as I possibly can. I want to be able to find, see and close in on the hare and attempt to harvest. If it works I will call it the Buzzard method!

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Boreal Forest

When people speak of the taiga, they generally refer to the boreal forests found in the northern regions of our globe. The fact remains that it is the same forests that are also found in the southern regions of North America and Eurasia and this boreal forest wraps itself around the globe like a northern belt. In the Americas it starts in northern Canada and spans almost all the way to the United States border and some experts believe it is around one thousand kilometers wide.

This global belt is the home of thousands of species of bugs, birds, mammals and all kinds of micro organisms. Firstly to the natives it was their home and to the early explorers it was an unforgiving land full of riches. To the modern scientists who work with universities and various organizations or even the government it is an endless encyclopedia of knowledge. As a hunter this vast expanse is a source of adventure, challenge, discovery and constant learning.

At first glance the forest may give you the impression that it could be a nice place for hiking and camping but it can also be quite dark and intimidating to someone who is unfamiliar with this biome. This is why with the use of education and awareness; conservation should become the ultimate goal. This way the forest can remain one of the most beautiful places on earth. Through your eyes you can transform it into a more comfortable environment, then in a sense it becomes familiar ground, which is no longer dark and gloomy when you see it for the first time. I can still remember my first time during a compass and orienteering course, as we stood on the edge of the boreal forest with my peers and we all stared at this dark wall of trees and it was so mysterious and frightening yet we were about to take a plunge into its depths to test our skills.

What intrigues me is this silent attraction that the boreal forest possesses over us. Is it the splendor of the fall colors or is there more to this mystical attraction? What is it that attracts people who have experienced traumatic events, adventure types or even hunters? This forest is very alive indeed and it does possess mystical forces*. This draws visitors for various therapeutic or even adventurous reasons and for us hunters, I know that it is more than just the harvest it is the whole experience of being in the elements at least for me it is.

The following video was taken during one of my small game trips in the boreal forest while hunting the elusive snowshoe hare late in November. Near the end of the video we were being shadowed by a large moose and we made sure to stay close to the larger trees and slowly move away from the nearby swamp and closer to the trail. * Read my blog entry: Her

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