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Posts Tagged ‘varmint’


The Red-winged Blackbird is a bird that may be harvested under the Quebec provincial small game permit during its respective hunting season. The males have distinct red feathers on the upper part of the each wing and can weigh in around at 68 grams. They may be found close the agricultural areas such as farms and swamps where the females build their nests in the cattail and on the forest edge; for more information on the season dates and regulations please MFFP site.

My painting of a Red-winged Blackbird

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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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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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I must admit that this is one of the toughest choices anyone can be faced with, even for those who consider themselves experts. The simple reason is that there are so many factors, just like a vehicle purchase. You need to identify what you are looking for and what are your requirements. Examples of this are: Speed, looks, color, make, functionality, practicality, performance, load capacity and most of all keeping the law in mind.

Here are lists of tips that may help you with your purchase in choosing the best firearm for small game hunting:

1. Federal & Provincial regulations for hunting small game with concerns to the gear being used and its caliber or shot size, pellet sizes and speed with concerns to air guns. (Quebec)

2. Budget, my Remington 870 which is my work horse for migratory bird and small game/Varmint cost me just under $400.00 Cdn. The next firearm on my list to acquire is the Browning T-Bolt Composite Target/Varmint using 17 HMR ammunition and it is listed at $780.00 US. Now if you are new at small game hunting, you can get a fantastic firearm that meets all your needs without spending over $200.00. (Hunting magazines and your local hunting store is where you can find great firearms used or new for low prices, if you are just starting out.)
3. “Versatility” This is one of my favorite words because for me it represents savings, practicality, durability and ultimately outstanding performance. Example: I can change my shotgun shell shot size and hunt rabbit, then the next day put back the plastic plug that allows for a total of three shells in the shotgun chamber and tubular magazine then I am ready for Waterfowl. Heck, the 870 can be used for Black bear.
4. Ammunition, shot sizes & ballistics. It is important to know the difference between center-fire and rimfire. Knowing the distances and shot needed to be a successful and accurate small game hunter, is very important. The author Larry Koller mentions this in his book “Treasury of Hunting” he once used a .22 LR and shot a game through the chest cavity but it kept on running and got away. He suggested then using .22 rimfire with hollow point and it contained the shocking power he needed.
5. Action types and ease of disassembly and assembly when cleaning the firearms. I have cleaned bolt-action rifles, shotguns and various other types of weapons in my lifetime and the bolt-action and the shotgun were by far the easiest to clean.
6. Noise, kickback/recoil. Many web articles, books and experts suggest a .22 rifle, bolt-action or semi automatic or even combo guns such as the shotgun and .22 combined for the first firearm. There is practically no recoil on the one’s I listed and they are very accurate, especially with the addition of a scope and they are cheap. (Savage, Remington, Browning, Marlin are all great name brands) It really depends on the buyer, also look for a .22 that allows you to use various .22 Long Rifle or Short.
7. Know the game you will be hunting and study which ammunition would be most effective with the type of game you will be hunting.
8. Safety, Safety, Safety. If you buy a second-hand rifle or shotgun or an old military firearm, make sure it is usable and safe. Inspect the barrel for damage, the safety mechanism and also check the fore-stock or any external components for damages on the firearm.
9. Fitting. Make sure you hold the firearm in the shooting position with the assistance of a professional making sure the rifle or shotgun butt length is the right fit for you. Check the barrel length and make sure it meets the Federal  & Provincial Regulations.

On my “Kit List” page I have listed the firearms that I use for small game and varmint hunting. My Remington 870 pump-action is my latest addition to my collection of hunting tools and is without a doubt one of the shotguns I use the most when I hit the woods or farmland.

In his book “Treasury of hunting” the author Larry Koller did a fantastic job in giving us a few choices of rifles and shotguns for each type of game. List of his suggested firearms are separated into game type.

Small Furred Game: Hare, Rabbits
Remington Model 572, .22 rim-fire
Savage Model 94, all gauges
Savage Model 24 Combination-.22 WMR and 20 Gauge-Magnum
Mossberg Model 500 Pump Gun, in 12 gauge

Guns for Varmints: Coyotes
Winchester Model 70 Varmint Rifle
Browning Safari-grade Sporter
Savage Model 110
Sako Varminter, heavy barrel
Winchester Model 275 Deluxe, .22 WMR

Guns for Upland Birds: Grouse, Pheasant
Winchester Model 21
Winchester Model 59
Winchester Model 1200
Daly Commander, over/under
Browning Superposed, over/under
Remington Model 11-48

Guns for Wild Fowl: Geese, Ducks
Browning Superposed 12 Gauge, 3-inch Magnum
Remington Model 1100 autoloader
Remington 870 Pump Gun
Savage Model 750 Autoloader
Savage Model 30 Pump Gun
Winchester Model 1400 Autoloader
Ithaca Model 37 Deluxe Pump Gun
Winchester Model 101, over/under

In Canada in order to acquire/purchase a firearm you need to be certified and have successfully completed and passed the Federal Firearms Safety Course for the firearm categories you have selected during the registration of the course. Non-restricted is the most common category. You will need your firearms card in order to purchase a firearm and ammunition.

In order to hunt in Quebec with a firearm as a resident, you will also need to successfully complete the hunting course and obtain a passing grade. You will also need to purchase a small game permit at any hunting store that prints them. Migratory bird hunting will also require a permit that can be purchased at any Post Office across Canada and also Online. In Quebec it is important while hunting migratory bird to have your small game permit and Migratory bird permit + Stamp on hand at all times.

Local hunting stores, SAIL, Canadian Tire and many other locations are great places to start. Happy shopping!

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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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After a nice chat with Ron, I thought about my hunting plan for the day ahead, prepared my gear and then set off towards the west down the ridge and across the field. It was full of thorny plants, so I went around them on the left, which brought me over to the south-eastern edge of the woods. From there I went in about ten yards from the forest edge and then continued towards the west, all the while carefully scouting the first large boulder; there was no sign of activity and no fresh dirt from a dig, this first den was abandoned.

So I kept going forward, walking slowly and looking all around for any signs of activity or woodchuck. I heard a branch crack and the sound came from the south, deep in the woods to my left and high above me on the other side of the thirty five foot cliff. I stayed alert because Ron had come across a black bear sow and her cups up the road while picking berries two days prior. So I looked around some more and then kept on inching forward. The forest was so quiet, there were only a few crows overhead and I could hear the breeze blowing around me along with their calls and the rustling of the leaves. It was around ten in the morning now and the sun was coming through the tree canopy and lighting up the stones on the forest floor and causing them to change shapes and color, it was such a neat sight.

Ten minutes into the stalk and I spotted my first woodchuck of the day. He was right in front of me facing north and had a clear view of the field to his front. I was coming up on his right from the east and I was in a bad spot. I could not really move forward any more without him seeing me and I was way out of range. There were a few maple trees to my front so I thought if I move backwards he will see me and scoot in his hole. So I had no choice but to move forward. I waited standing still like a tree for about five minutes, so that he would get more comfortable and not set off his alerting whistle and drumming. I inched forward and then stopped only lifting my feet very carefully and keeping them close to the ground.

I would look down on the ground and place my feet between branches to avoid cracking them, then I tried very hard to move in behind one of the maple trees and then moved to the other. When the wind would shift, I could see the woodchuck turn his head and move in the direction of the wind and this would force me to freeze again. It was one of the toughest stalks of the year but I managed to move forward and get only twenty yards away. My adrenaline level was extremely high as I did not want to miss this harvest; it was very hot out and the woodchucks would soon disappear around noon hour for the most part of the afternoon.

I slowly raised my Model 60, lined up the iron sights and took the rifle off safe. Crack! The shot rang out and struck the woodchuck right into its right flank and then everything went silent. Ron had mentioned that there were two other dens on the southern ridge, so I continued my hunt after a short water break.

Once I crossed the river separating the farm from the southern fields, I walked up the northern side of the ridge following the cattle trail and found myself a large boulder to sit on and had a look around with my binoculars. I felt like a true woodsman sitting high on my chosen boulder surrounded by lush Canadian wilderness and farm fields littered with stumps, jagged rocks, logs and broken branches. The heat was intense but there was a nice breeze blowing in from the north-west and the dandelion seeds floated through the sky where they would fall and then rest in all the darkest corners of the woods. The varmint alliance was solidified once more and my day was now over.

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