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Posts Tagged ‘sun’


Ducks

The sun was slowly setting over the hunting camp with its bright pink lines cutting through the cool October sky.  Six field dressed ducks sat in the freezer as our duck hunt had come to an end for the day. Now we were all sitting around the table sharing stories, laughs about family, life and the day’s hunt. Each of us with our cold drinks, and various snack bags, bottle caps littered the table top along with a chipped crystal clear ashtray where seniors’ cigarette was smoldering and its smoke was spiraling into the ceiling fan. Wet pants hung on the line right above the wood burning fire-place, and the boots stood neatly by the door. In the morrow, we would set out for the wetlands again, so I took a few minutes to clear the shotguns outside and put a light coat of oil on them before calling it a night.

During my quick cleaning, I grabbed my Remington 870 pointed it in a safe direction cleared the shotgun running though the action to activate the ejection steps, nothing came out since it had already cleared twice before down by the creek. Always treat a gun like it is loaded eh! I inspected the chamber first visually and then with my fingers and also checked the tubular magazine making sure it was also cleared. Once I deemed it safe, I squirted a few drops of Break Free oil on some swabs and gently covered all metal parts of the shotgun. I then proceeded to use my cleaning rod and pulled through the barrel several times first with my wired brush and then with a lightly coated swab, then with my shotgun barrel cleaner.

The action was pulled back to the rear of the receiver and the shotgun was aimed down on an angle, so that I could see down the barrel; it can be difficult to see if the barrel is clean and cleared of swab lint, gun powder residue or debris, depending on the lighting. Break-Action shotguns are much easier to look down the barrel once you have pulled through with the cleaning rod.

My friend handed me a piece of white cloth and I placed it at the back of the receiver, so that I can still see in through the ejection port. I then turned the gun around and looked down the barrel. Having the white cloth or even a white piece of paper allows light to reflect and now I could see clearly down the barrel with the outside light.
It was all clean and free of any obstructions, ready for the next outing.  I always practice the ACTS & PROVE when handling a firearm or preparing it for cleaning.

ACTS
Assume every firearm is loaded.
Control the muzzle direction at all times.
Trigger finger must be kept off the trigger and out of the trigger guard.
See that the firearm is unloaded – PROVE it safe.

PROVE
Point the firearm in the safest available direction.
Remove all ammunition.
Observe the chamber.
Verify the feeding path.
Examine the bore.

Be Safe!

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Setting off on a hunt in farming country is quite different from hunting in the woods, especially in an area where you have never been before. While I am hunting I do not want to spend most of my time trying to figure out where I am.

Imagine your phone suddenly rings and a friend asks you to meet them for drinks or maybe you are telling them a story and you wish to share with them the information about where it took place.

This type of communication exchange takes place almost every second around the world, and there is always one thing in common; we share directions. This is accomplished with the use of points of reference, such as street names or that of a restaurant, maybe even a nickname for your favorite hangouts. Physical descriptions such as features are also used as an example -where there is a very large tree found at the entrance of the pub.

Your ultimate goal is to choose an exact geographic point, in which everyone is familiar with, thus making it easier to meet or imagine during a story telling. Several nights ago I had a chat with my neighbor and he talked about his grandfather and where they grew up; one of the things he remembers the most was the fact that during their walks on their land his grandfather had a constant awareness of his whereabouts.

At times choosing a meeting spot in an urban setting or even describing directions could be challenging, now imagine having to do so outside the city. How does someone know where they are, especially in the woods?

Having such a level of comfort and constant awareness of your whereabouts makes it easier to enjoy your hunt as the territory transforms itself into something familiar. Last winter I was alone in the woods hunting the elusive snowshoe hare on my friend’s property and I had noticed a lot of coyote tracks in the area.

There were two tracks in particular which caught my attention and they were both heading west near a lake that I named “Goose Lake”, I had noticed fur clumps and a cow skull several yards away under the largest pine tree in this part of the woods.

At the end of my hunt, I met up with the farmer and described what I had seen before heading home. He knew exactly which spot I was referring to. It was quite amazing to be able to talk about a single point in the woods as if we were talking about a very specific coffee-house found on a well-known street corner and we both knew exactly where it was.

When I set out on a hunt, I always let my family know where I am going along with instructions to call the authorities and provide them with the spot on the map of where I will be, if ever I fail to return at a specific time or to contact them. This is one precaution that can be taken, so that you are found if you ever get lost. But what I ask myself is: What can be done or learned for the actual hunt? If you are hunting with an outfitter, you can ask for a guided hunt. Myself, I like to have a map of the area where I will be hunting; I also use my GPS along with my Bushnell Backtrack tool. But I know that there is much more to it then this.

I am a strong believer that farmers and the older generation of hunters have a lot to teach us about recognizing very specific points of reference and land features also possibly following the position of the sun and using it as a guide or similar knowledge.

I have had the privilege to be able to hunt on the same property for several years now and here are some practices that I use to know my whereabouts:

1) While I am standing at my departure point, I will set my Bushnell Backtrack with a return point back to my vehicle. I also study my map of the area.
2) I set my Garmin GPS with waypoints and enter prominent names.
3) I use my compass and aim at a prominent object such as a very distinctive large tree or lake even a building and record my current and back bearings.
4) I look at the position of the sun and use it as a guide.
5) I find prominent features such as lakes, creeks, strange-looking trees, fields and cliffs and use them as reference points and provide them with names.
6) I also use trail maker tape (Quite often orange) or I use sticks and make markings on the ground or on the trail.
7) I also familiarize myself with the dominant winds in my region which tend to be North-easterly winds and then I use the cloud movement as a guide or the movement in the trees.

I shall continue my endless search of tips and tricks about knowing your whereabouts, so that myself and many others may enjoy our hunts without losing time trying to figure out where we are and do so with a positive sense of direction.

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The sun rays were beating down on our arms and the nape of our necks. It was twenty-five degree Celcius and the heat was intense, you could feel the heavy air. Deer flies and wasps flew around in their frenzied flights; and the silence that surrounded us was suddenly broken by crow and red wing black bird calls.
 
Thermos in hand I slowly walked down the dusty path up to the gate between the two old barns where Ron was standing. I slowly untwisted the lid and poured a fresh cup of coffee. As the steam rose, I leaned forward and rested my forearms on the upper bar of the gate. I then let out a relaxing sigh and began talking about a home building job he had been working on with a friend.
 
Time was of no importance, I had the whole afternoon, besides the days were much longer now. Once in a while I would look up at the largest boulder in the western field about two hundred meters away. Ron then turned to me and said “I swear I see something at the entrance of the boulder but it is very hard to tell from here.”
 
So, I raised my head once again, had a look and agreed that there was definitely something moving in and out of the den. The only color I could make out, which was different from the fresh dirt at the base of the rock was the reddish fur under its chin.
 
During our conversation the farmer shared with me some woodchuck hunting tips that he employed when he was younger. He would still-hunt then sneak up in behind the den’s entrance and shoot through the roughly two inches of dirt and target the nape of the neck while the woodchuck was exiting the den. This may seem like an easy method but it is quite common for woodchucks to dig at the base of large rocks and boulders making it difficult for predators to dig them out, thus making it a challenging shot at close range and potentially dangerous with the possibilities of a ricochet.

Well, it was now time for me to set off toward the boulder, I walked over to the car picked up my binoculars, the shotgun and a few shells then turned back toward the gate and headed into the field. The farmer had also seen several other woodchucks to the left of the large boulder in another group of rocks.

I passed the gate and then headed down the ridge between some hay bales and then moved around the northern edge of the swamp separating the woods from the barns. This time I made sure there were no bulls around. Normally on very warm days the cattle crossed the creek and stayed along the wood line on the southern edge of the hay fields.

By the time I reached the swampy waters, the ground became very uneven and I had to be careful when placing my boots down not to twist an ankle. I slowed my pace right down and began still-hunting up the western ridge toward the large group of rocks on my right. My plan was to keep as low as I could so that the woodchuck would not see me coming up over the crest and this would lead me to the right hand side of the largest boulder.

I was able to make my way to the forest edge and tuck myself under the famous tall pine and kneel down behind some rocks. I now had two choices, take a twenty meter shot from under the tree at the woodchuck once it stuck its head out or attempt to close the gap for a closer shot and maybe even come in from behind.

I chose the second choice as it was the more challenging of the two, still-hunting and being able to sneak up on your game without it spotting you is quite rewarding indeed. So, I loaded my 870 with a single shell and stood up very slowly and starting stalking toward the boulder on leveled ground.

I waited for the woodchuck to come out and stop, he was about half way out of the den, he was not moving out any further. The woodchuck could sense that there was something around because when I was more than two hundred meters away, he had come right out and was sun bathing on the top of the large rock.

The forest edge was on my left and the grass around the woodchucks den was knee-high, I was being very careful to walk on the edge of my boots and slowly pushing down on the grass and looking to see if there were small branches that I could avoid. I slowed my breathing right down and I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body.

I made it within six meters and the woodchuck finally spotted me and sunk back into his hole but he did not go very deep, because he started to thump and whistle and this went on for about ten minutes or so. Therefore I decided to take a closer look and came around the front of the den and see down into the hole.

He was down there alright because the thumping sound was very clear, and he was not going to come out until I was far enough away. So, I turned around and headed back to the large pine and planned on sitting and waiting it out. By the time I got back to the large pine and got down with a clear western view of the boulder the thumping and whistling had ceased but there were still some bugs hanging around the den entrance.

Sometimes what I like to do is find a large rock and sit on it, so that I am elevated off the ground this way I am sure not to cause any vibrations or sounds on the forest floor or ground thus alerting the woodchucks. I must have waited a good twenty minutes or so and I kept a watchful eye around me the whole time but mainly on the large boulder and the den entrance.

To my south there was a small slope leading to the swamp and between us there was another large group of rocks. I wanted to make sure the cattle were still on the southern fields across the creek, so that they would not come between me and the barns on my way back and this is when I noticed “tick bag”. He was standing right up on his two hind legs and was keeping watch on me. It was indeed tick bag lookin’ the shape of his head and the reflection of the sun on his fur made him look like a rock.

I immediately turned around took my 870 off safe and began my slow stalk down the small slope to that rock formation. Tick bag, did not move and then he skipped on his two hind legs and started to thump, let out another whistle and darted under the biggest rock which looked like a large vertical dagger just above this hole.

I came around its left and in behind the third and fourth rock which was part of this rock fortress. I managed to sneak up from behind just like the farmer had done in the past and was able to line up my bead sight with the nape of the woodchuck who was inching out to check if I was still to its north or my right. This hole was deep and in the vertical and I did not have another chance for a second shot, if I missed or just wounded the chuck, tick bag would disappear underground.

I was now crouched over in a perfect shooting position with the 870 sitting tightly in my shoulder; I slowly raised the barrel and squeezed the trigger. Vlam! The shot rang out and once the dust settled the woodchuck lay very still under the large dagger like rock.

I removed the woodchuck from the den then placed the rocks back into a safe position blocking the hole, so that the cattle could not come near it. I then layed the woodchuck on its back so that it was resting on a patch of fresh grass allowing me to inspect its size while using my hunting knife to raise it front legs. And noticed its chest was full of ticks and fleas. He was without a doubt a tick bag and he sure was lookin’ right at me. One thing I have learned while hunting woodchuck is that there will always be an escape or spy hole, and if they can -they will be watching you too, so do not just focus on the one den once you’ve spotted the woodchuck but constantly check all the nearby holes and sometimes look right into the woods near the forest floor if the den is close to its edge.

There is one thing that is clear -the’re are always eyes on you when you are hunting.

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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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You are standing still surrounded by the elements feeling cold and fatigued, ready to go home after eight hours in the wilderness. The sun is going down quickly and is now just resting above the tree tops of the dark evergreen and there is a heavy snowfall starting to come down. It is still light out but the visibility is now only thirty meters because of the snow and you must now make your way to the car safely.
The small map and compass are still in your pocket and you set a course to the west and begin walking quickly through the bush. A few minutes later you stop and check your direction travel and come to a startling realization that you are back at the same spot where you started. You have no signal on your phone and the nearest safety shack is twenty-five kilometers away and winter is only a few weeks old.
Luckily you knew the main road ran north to south and you had to head left or west to get to the road. You pull out the compass and set it to true north and then go west. You made it! We came out about fifty meters south of the car and I was truly annoyed that something like this would occur to someone who is comfortable and knowledgeable in the woods. Ego prevented us from taking out the compass sooner and for a while we were lost only forty meters from the dirt road. It happened so quickly, even to experienced people. Let us look into this story and try to understand and identify important knowledge skill sets that are a must in order for you to enjoy your hunt worry free and come home safely.
If you are a tracking hunter, the last thing you want to do is spend half of your time trying to find yourself on a map. I know that when I am in the bush and I find a small game trail to follow, I can easily walk several hours or more and I do not want to constantly worry about getting lost.
When we read my story and look at what happened, the first thing I identified is that combined with my ego, I under estimated the dangers and failed to call on my hardware when I truly needed it, in this case it was the compass. A great friend of mine used to be an elite army scout and he had always taught me to trust your equipment and if used properly you would always find your way.
I can guarantee you based on experience that the first mix of emotions and feelings you get when you are lost are panic and then annoyance, for me it was all annoyance. I asked my tracking buddy, “how in the hell does this happen to two experienced guys like us?” The key was to get these emotions in check, the sooner these are under control; the better off you will be, as mentioned by the author Bill Riviere under the “Gun and Hunting Safety” chapter. He wrote the following “He’ll get into trouble only when he gives way to panic which is a prelude to tragedy.” (Riviere, 1965, 183)
Once we pulled out the compass and set out to the West we were fine in a matter of fifteen minutes, unfortunately there are hunters and hikers that are not so fortunate. Therefore I ask the same question as the author Bill Riviere: What is the difference? Bill gives us the answer, it is experience.
Even expert woodsman or seasoned hunters get lost in the woods and it is because they have confidence in their abilities and this along with their experience eliminates the fear allowing them to think clearly. The second thing I identified is that you must trust yourself as well as your knowledge and practice your navigation skills. The author Bill Riviere actually suggest finding a small wooded area in a state park or forest and allow yourself to get lost and spend the night out, practice you bush craft skills and then head back home the following day with the help of a compass and map. Nowadays, you could use your Backtrack or GPS. This is to be done with careful consideration and not just anyone should do this and alone would not be recommended.
The sooner you accept that you are lost and start working toward a solution the better off you are. Now you either find your own way out of the woods or you can accept the fact that you are lost and setup camp if it is nearing the end of the day. Start preparing a fire, lean-to and light up a pipe for comfort as Bill mentions in his book as someone is bound to come and find you.
Riviere, Bill (1965).The Gunner’s Bible, 183
Tips:
-Always carry enough water and food or snacks in a day pack.
-Get a small pocket-size first aid kit and add water proof matches and starter sticks to the kit. Also include a knife and a small field axe if you are leaving for several days.
-Always carry a back up compass if you are using a GPS or Backtrack and carry spare batteries + topographical map or satelite photo map.
-If you are lost in the morning, you may attempt to find your way home if you are confident with your navigation skills. If it is late in the afternoon and you are starting to lose hope and panic is setting in, prepare yourself to spend the night. Setup a Lean-to, build a fire and find evergreen boughs to make a layer between you and the ground. Stay warm, dry and keep occupied. When I was sixteen, I spent three days in the woods alone during a wilderness survival course. One of the biggest challenges I found was keeping my mind from racing, so I kept busy building my lean-to making my living space more comfortable and hunting small game for food making sure not to wonder too far from my site. There are tons of great websites and books available in order to teach you the basics of bush craft.
-Learn and master alternate ways to navigate such as using the stars, sun and wind. One of my favorite is the “The Shadow-Tip” method using the sun, two sticks and pebbles and roughly in fifteen minutes you have found north, south, east and west.
-Leave a detailed map of where you will be hunting with emergency contact information and advise your family or friends to come looking for you if you do not contact them or come home within a set time and date.

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