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The first time we drove up to my friend’s hunting camp, we decided to take one truck in order to save on gas. We left late in the afternoon the day before our hunt actually started, so that we could also take advantage of the early rise the following morning.

My friend drove north along the river on its winding roads and as he looked around during our two-hour trip, he had a gift for spotting every deer found along the tree line and in the open fields. Even the ones that were quite far away, as time went on and dusk was nearing, they became more difficult to spot but not for his trained eye.

In North America the majority of us have become so dependent on our grocery stores to provide us with food that we have lost some of these basic skills that I believe are still extremely important.

In Haiti after the massive earthquake struck in 2010; shelter, water and food became some of the most important life saving necessities. In situations like these money was now just paper and what mattered most was getting food.

When disaster strikes or in any emergency situation having basic skills is what saves lives. Basic skills like being able to spot game for means of feeding a family, a group or yourself is critical.

For me today spotting game is just one of the components of a sport that I Love so much but it is a skill that I am constantly trying to improve. Whether it is during hikes with my family or driving along country roads, I am always looking for life.

I have seen deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, coyote, ducks, grouse and geese all from my vehicle during late afternoon or early morning drives. I have spent thousands of hours learning wild game, where and when you are most likely to see them.

Knowing their habits and what to look for, such as various shades of color or their movements and understanding the land, vegetation used for cover or the proximity of water.

Practice makes perfect indeed, once you have studied the right material now comes the time to practice, go for a drive or next time you are out in nature add some flavor to your outing and look for game and ultimately life. The safest practice on the road is to have someone else drive for you, so that you can focus on looking for game.

Many of us have seen wildlife before, sometimes they are in plain sight or in some cases you had to look a little harder. In time you will have mastered the gift of seeing game and it may even become instinctive, you will know exactly what you are looking for and catch it with your eyes even before your mind registers it. Almost every time, almost.

Until then see you!

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Allan A Macfarlan writes the following under Indian Hunting Secrets with concerns to reading tracks and foreseeing animal moves. Page 205. Survival Wisdom & Know-How.

After a boy or a man has taken a fair share squirrels and rabbits and has scored on a few deer as a lone stillhunter, he begins to develop something akin to the skill of an Indian hunter or frontiersman. He starts doing the right thing at the right time without thinking too much. That type of skill can’t be learned from any book, but there are some useful things that a book can point out.

The tracks in this book appear on the page as they would in soft snow, damp sand, or mud, though clear prints are rare on the leaf-strewn forest floor or on hard, dry ground. The experienced tracker going into a new region seeks out likely areas where he can clear prints in order to take his own census of the animals in the area. Good trappers are expert at it, and Indians hunters were good too. The trapper doesn’t think in terms of exact number, but somehow, the tracks that he finds tell him whether or not there are enough pelts in the area to make running a trapline there worthwhile.

I wanted to share this excerpt with you because this is the kind of writing and knowledge that needs to become part of you as a hunter. This book compiled by Amy Rost is a true prize. I will also include one of the many tracking tips from Mr. Macfarlan:

Changing the Angle of Vision:
The light is very important because of the shadows it throws. From one angle, the tracks may be almost invisible unless you look closely. From another angle with favorable light, the line of slight depressions or disturbed earth or leaves is clear because or leaves is clear because of the shadows that they cast. If tracks fade or disappear, try the Indian trick of moving from side to side to get the light right.

These pictures are identical with different light, notice how the hoof mark in the top or darker image is more visible.

Survival Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Thrive in the Wilderness. From the Editors of Stackpole Books. Compiled by Amy Rost.

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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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2 Hounds and Bear

I wanted to thank the author Olaus J. Murie and everyone who assisted him in producing this great book from the “Peterson Field Guide Series” on animal tracks. It has now joined the rest of the books I have read on my OKB page, which I consider to be a digital treasure shelf.

I also wanted to include a quote that Olaus put in his book by Henry David Thoreau: “If I were to make a study of the tracks of animals and represent them by plates, I should conclude with the tracks of man.” Now I am pretty sure what he meant as a philosopher, was indeed his interpretation of the evolution of man. I wanted to share this quote from the book because as a tracker it is important to have an open mind, add some flavor of philosophy and abstract thinking to your skill.

Tracks are signs of life and confirm the presence of a species in its respective geographic area, basically its habitat. Animal tracks ignite a curiosity in all of us, and as a hunter it does for me even if it means that sometimes I may not harvest even though I have found a set of tracks. It is the joys of constant learning!

Droppings, tracks, scrapping on trees, small nibbling off a bush all tell a story. My belief is that a good tracker can piece together clues and then interpret actual events and if you are also a good hunter ultimately you could potentially find the game that you are pursuing.

So when hunters type the following key words in a search engine “Small Game Tracks” what is it they are looking for? Technical information or the philosophy behind tracking? If this question can be answered but also be understood, then they may start the hunt following animal tracks and conclude the hunt with the tracks of man.

Check out my Photo Gallery page for my growing collection of animal tracks and droppings.

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There was a light snow fall covering our surrounding wilderness with its white coat. The whole scene was quite picturesque and very serene. My tracking buddy and I were standing still in the low brush having a rest; he looked down at his watch and checked the time. It was only two in the afternoon and yet the sun was quite low, only a few inches over the evergreen tree line if we looked southwest. I removed my hunting hat with my bare hands and whipped off the sweat from my forehead and then we set off again. 

We had been in the woods since eight in the morning tracking some hare leads and just appreciating being out in the elements. Throughout the morning we were checking other animal tracks too and had a ruffed grouse fly out just a few feet in front of us. The bush was extremely thick and at times I was down on my hands and knees looking under the pine and cedar for hiding spots or simply pushing on through branches on very steep ridges. There was a deer trailing us for a while because we heard large branches crack and snap under its hooves but it never came within range for us to see her. 

The hare tracks we discovered in the morning were slowly disappearing under the snowfall. Now after several hours of tracking some more leads we eventually climbed the southern ridge near the gravel pit and headed into some heavy pine between the goose lake and a farm field to the west.

I had taken a mental picture of this spot from the last time I was out about a month earlier and wanted to save it for the final hours of the day. I knew that this pine forest was a gold mine and we just had to walk the hares. So, we followed the first lead nearest to us and continued until we found the principle trail with several other tracks, I often call this the “super highway” as it acts kind of like a main artery.

My tracking buddy was in the lead and I was trailing behind him about twenty feet to his left. Once it a while he would stop and so then I would take a knee look around under every tree, hole and tall grass. A few minutes would pass and then we were pressing forward again. About fifteen minutes had gone by and we came up to an island shaped brush pile full of pine filled with trails and droppings. By the time we got to the other side of the pile, there were two large pines bunched together to our front and just as soon as my buddy was about to push through, he set off “Big Grey.” The chase was on.

He barely had time to call my name and he leaped forward into the air between the two large trees and faded like a ghost leaving nothing but a cloud of snow. It was text-book, the hare took off like a bullet moving at about fifty-five kilometers an hour and he zigzagged dashing left and right and then completed a large circle to the left. The chase had begun and our adrenaline was pumping like mad. My tracking buddy said he was a fat grayish white hare and he would be an amazing harvest.

I stayed put and waited for the hare to circle as my buddy pushed forward and flushed “big grey” out. I was totally focused and looking for any kind of movement, I moved a few feet left making my way around the brush pile for a second time. It was very quiet and there was no sign of movement. I moved forward once again on a few feet and as I was stepping over a fallen log, swish, the hare sprinted directly to my front going from right to left in what seemed to be a second and then disappeared under the snow and brush before I could get a shot off. He was heading west to the edge of the western field and my tracking buddy shortly found his fresh tracks and so we joined up and pushed forward together.

We placed ourselves side by side and continued flushing left like a rake through the tall grass and searched until we completed a full circle but to no avail. The chase had lasted about an hour and it was one of the best hare hunts I had experienced.

“Big Grey” beat us today but we will be back on his track.

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Whether I am at my friend’s farm or in the woods, hunting small game causes me to walk, crawl, climb, kneel, sit, jump and run. This means sometimes doing all these movements in the mud, manure, snow, water, grass, hay and in the woods.

So what about the right bottoms? And I don’t mean underwear, but rather the right trousers. When I am hunting, here are some of the things I look for in my hunting pants.

Comfort, my pants cannot be too tight thus restricting my movement but I also do not want them to be too loose avoiding pant leg rubbing and making noise. When I buy my hunting pants, I try them on and walk around the store and do all the movements I would be doing in the field. I also look for the tightness around the crotch and thighs.

Camouflage, depending on the time of year and the type of game you are hunting concealment can be important but I do not consider it essential.  If you are hunting birds, then camouflage is needed because they have great sight in color but I have successfully harvested woodchucks from only a few feet away wearing blue jeans.

Pockets, I always carry my hunting cards and some form of identification on me in my wallet as well as my car, trigger lock and ammunition box keys. I find good deep pockets with zippers work best for me. Some hunting pants have cargo pockets along the side of each thigh on the pant leg, and this is great for carrying spare shells or small accessories.

Weatherproofing, when I am hunting during the wintertime, I like hunting with pants that are waterproof and windproof yet that allow your body to breathe and keep you dry. I also want my pants to be loose enough so that I can wear thermal clothing underneath providing extra layers and warmth.
During the summer months, at the farm I normally just wear loose-fitting comfortable jeans but when hunting in the woods, I wear lighter camouflage pattern hunting pants with no insulation layer. You can get a pair of old army pants from a surplus store.

Practicality and durability, I love hunting pants that have zippers down the sides just below the knees, this makes it easier to get dressed and undressed as well as placing your pants over top you’re hunting boots.  I also use pants that are tear proof and potentially have added padding on the buttocks and knees.
Stores such as Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, your local hunting store or any outdoor superstore such as SAIL, or LE Barons, Gander Mountain all have a great selection of pants with prices ranging from sixty dollars to a couple hundred dollars. Of course there is the Internet too.

Here are some tricks I use with my pants:

Once I have purchased a pair of hunting pants I like to wear them in, using the pair during hiking trips with my family. I wash them a couple of times with scent killer soap or forest odour soaps and let them hang dry without the use softer of any kind. I also spray my pants every time I go out hunting along with my boots with scent killer products.

While walking through the woods if I get warm, I pull down my zipper to allow air flow for cooling but I avoid red, white or bright blue underwear. I would not want that spot to be mistaken for a Spruce Grouse or Wild Turkey by another hunter.

I sometimes use scent free Vaseline and place some on the inside of my thighs and crouch to avoid chafing, this also works on feet to avoid blisters. Just a light coat is needed.
After a hunting trip, I do not wash my pants but I place them in a container that holds the smell of the woods. Once the odours of sweat get too strong then I wash them again with special soaps and start the cycle again.

Happy Hunting and knock your pants off!

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The skyline was bright pink and the sun wasn’t fully up yet but my hunt had already started a half an hour before sunrise. I was all geared up and ready to go. The car was locked and then I carefully placed my magazine into the Enfield rifle and started my way up a dark forested trail surrounded by fog. This was familiar territory for me as a small game hunter still-hunting up the trail but this stalk though was quite different from the others and it was only going to last a few minutes because my sights were not on a snowshoe hare or grouse but rather on a buck. Over a period of three weeks, I was going to spend a total of twenty-eight hours in my tree stand at the trails end.

The author Larry Koller wrote about snowshoe hare hunting and said that it was reserved for the tougher individual, who was able to withstand the cold for long periods of time during the winter months and that without dogs it was almost an impossible harvest. Also that getting close enough to hare for the shot was even more difficult. I had to be the judge of this and find out for myself and with concerns to the cold, well I am from northern Ontario. Several hunts later, I finally found the white on white ghost and harvested one in the dead of winter without the use of dogs.

Furthermore he wrote about hunting from a tree stand or sitting on a stump and said it had “no connotation of skill” and that it was not in a sense a true form of hunting. Once again I had to find out for myself what he truly meant. So, I signed up with a local outfitter for this year’s deer season.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and some of us who have the privilege of being able to write about it and even sell books are truly lucky but not necessarily right. Sure, if we want to keep the hunt “raw” or in its purest form; still-hunting a deer and harvesting is really something to be proud of but I believe there are more risks involved. The truth is safety is a factor and when you have thousands of anxious hunters that head into Crown land trying to harvest a deer; in which case your orange vest may not suffice to protect you unless it is made of Kevlar.

Tree stand hunting does have its dangers such as the risk of falling asleep or accidentally slipping while coming up and down the stand. During my first ten hours in my tree stand, I was told by a property owner that on the same weekend a hunter had fallen in his stand and that his rifle which was by his side and loaded with no safety on went off and almost struck him in the head and he could have lost his life. I still believe that tree stand hunting has its advantages when you are considering safety.

When you sign up with an outfitter and are assigned a tree stand, that area is yours and if there is someone else there besides you, they are trespassing and are most likely a poacher. Therefore the risk of accidentally shooting another hunter is lower compared to still-hunting through the woods, especially if you look and study your target before you shoot and know what is beyond it.

I was standing very still in my tree stand for about an hour, with my arms resting on the front cross-bar and aiming directly to the north across from my blind. I moved my head slowly to look toward the west after hearing some branches crack off to my left and when I turned back to my original aiming spot a deer was standing right in front of my stand about one hundred yards out. She had made her way down the trail heading east and she gave me the impression that she had just dropped out of the sky. My crosshairs from the scope were perfectly aligned and right on target but she had no antlers, she was a doe, so this was a no shot for my tag.

So, I put down my rifle and I took out my mini binoculars and watched her for about three-quarters of an hour and then she disappeared behind some pine trees just on the edge of the swamp to the east. Tree stand hunting can give you the impression that you are playing the lottery and it is a once in a million chance but with the use of bait and a lot of time your chances of success are increased. You are not out of the woods yet, because you are still at the mercy of the deer.

If the weather is not right such as being too windy then the deer will not roam as their scent is being spread around and it is one of their weaknesses with concerns to predators such as wolves, bears and coyotes. If you fail to mask your scent they will not come either and deer do look up, so do not move around too much. The skill levels required to still-hunt may be slightly different from tree stand hunting but having skills, such as the ability to remain still, mask your scent and ultimately and taking an effective shot does require some level of skill and it is in fact still hunting.

I have about eight hours remaining in my stand with still a chance to harvest a buck, but whether the small gamer like me succeeds or not, I have learned that patience and skills are most definitely things you want to have with you on the stand.

The link below was really great for techniques: Outdoor Adventure Network

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