Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘varmints’


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!

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »


In two days, I will be heading back into the woods and I can barely contain my excitement. I will have spent almost the whole week preparing my gear and rifles for the day trip. It is very difficult to describe this strange magnetic draw I feel toward the wilderness.
 
In Dianne Macmillan’s book “Life in a deciduous forest” she writes about energy and how it is transformed into food when it pertains to the relationships between the sun, the North American biome and its ecosystems, which also include wildlife.
 
She describes the different levels of a forest from high above in the canopy down through the understory and finally to the forest floor; there is in fact energy and not just at the solar or nutrient levels. She writes the following on page six: “A constant exchange of matter and energy creates a natural balance.”

It is all it takes just a few hours in the woods and I am able to grasp the balance I need. Although the majority of us live in urban areas, we are very much part of the link and this relationship that the author writes about, futhermore at the end of the book she provides websites and suggestions on activities and practices that are great for the environment.

This blog is not just about small game and varmint hunting but also about conservation, if you leave a room -shut off the light. This simple yet great gesture will indirectly affect your hunting environment in a positive way allowing you and future generations to benefit from the wilderness as well.

I highly recommend this book as it was an enjoyable read, so much so that I finished it in just two hours. The book is extremely informative and helps you better understand life in a deciduous forest and there are some great points about its wildlife such as the black bears, ruffed grouse and other small game.

Education and awareness are key, thank you Dianne!

Read Full Post »


Fresh dirt in front of the den

I slowly adjusted the diopter setting wheel on my Bushnell binoculars all the while taking in the heat from the engine on my chest and elbows. The driver side door was wide open and I had just come around the front and was now resting on top of the hood in order to stabilize my body providing me with a better focus base.

The weather network had predicted around three millimeters of rain but it never came, and although the sky had a slight overcast, it was still very clear. The temperature was at about twenty degrees Celsius above zero and every few minutes there was a very refreshing north-easterly breeze that swept across. This helped with the bugs but only for a short time; therefore I had also sprayed myself with some much-needed bug repellent.

I had a full panoramic view of the eastern hayfield which included its trees, the wired fence with its old wooden posts, and the dense brush on its south side. I started scanning the northern part of the field and then tediously moving my way to the right towards the southern edge, examining every dark object and anything that looked out of the ordinary.

It was now early in the afternoon and it would be feeding time soon for the woodchucks as they often feed on average about three to four times a day. An experienced varminter would focus on known openings of their dens looking for fresh dirt that had been pushed out from under their claws. This could be seen from quite a distance unless it was hidden behind tall grass. He or she may even inspect the nearby boulders to check and see if they were sunbathing. But would you think of looking up?

At the top of the seventh post there was a large brown object perched in a ball and it looked like a wet piece of dark wood. So, I opened my eyes as wide as I possibly could, adjusted my eye relief behind the lenses and noticed some slight movement. I remember reading in one of my books “Mammals of North America” that woodchucks can be accomplished climbers. Well this is true!

There he was: a large chuck on picket duty keeping a watchful eye on his territory. I now had to come up with a plan to flank the woodchuck from the north-west, and the hunt was on.

Now that I had a plan in mind and had located my first chuck of the day, I took my time to analyze my approach. It does not necessarily matter if you scare the woodchuck because it might often come right back out within a few minutes or sometimes it can take several hours. It becomes more of a personal challenge to get as close as you can without causing them to scoot and it also depends on if you want it to be a quick hunt.

Almost every time they come out of their dens, they will sit back in their holes about three or four feet deep from the entrance and listen for danger. Then, if there is no further un-natural sound, they will inch out and come out to feed or sun bathe.  I have also noticed small insects will hang around the entrance of the den on very warm days and normally shortly thereafter the woodchuck will appear. Just like flies in proximity to cattle or horses.

I like to let them come right out, so that I may get a clean shot because they have a very tough layer of fat and fur later in the spring and summer.

So, with this in mind I stowed away some of my unwanted gear, took a drink of water, locked the car and set off across the field to my left heading north. The field was extremely wet, quite similar to that of a rice patty and I placed my boots very carefully into the water so that I did not make too much noise nor did I want to trip and fall.

I took my time cutting across the field, taking everything in and picking up every scent in the air. There was the musky smell from the woods, the pine, cedar and the odor coming up from the creek. The grass all along the fence was about knee-high, so once I crossed the creek separating the east to west fields, I hugged the fence line and moved my way closer to the seventh post.

If you are able to tell when the woodchuck is eating or when he is watching, you can attempt to still-hunt until you are close enough for a shot. I once got within ten meters. I got right up close and the woodchuck climbed down the post and made his way through the wire and down his hole.

I moved away from the den entrance and stood still for several minutes then advanced toward the hole. Sure enough the chuck slowly inched forward exposing just his head and shoulders.

I carefully took the Savage off safe then squeezed the trigger and the woodchuck tumbled back into his hole. I had harvested the eastern field Picket Chuck.

Read Full Post »


Humility is the right antonym in every sense of the word when dealing with vanity. If Bert Popowski practiced humility while hunting, then he would not be the rightful author of the book that I just finished reading today: The varmint and crow hunter’s bible.

When it comes to reading books on hunting, especially small game, it does not take me long to reach the back cover, but for some reason this book took me longer than usual and it was not because it was a difficult read but rather due to the fact that I considered its text quite rich.

As I was reading, it would be comparable to a person with a sweet tooth eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake and wanting to enjoy every mouthful rather than just polish it off with great speed. Knowledge is what I seek and this book most definitely delivered.

I particularly enjoyed the following chapters: The Canny Coyote, Woodchucks for Rifleman, Cow Pasture Pests, Those Canny Crows as well as the Lesser Bird Pests as the author named them. Also near the ending of the book are two other great chapters: Shotgun Efficiency and Varmint Cartridges which focus on rifle and shot gunning. Both chapters enable you to understand some of the science behind the art of shooting when dealing with varmints.

As an avid varmint hunter, I highly recommend this book. Throughout the pages the author brings out very specific hunting knowledge and skills that are a must know if you wish to be a successful hunter. For example when hunting woodchucks “depending on the elevation, temperatures and food supplies they take the air during the idyllic months of spring and summer.” (Page 10)

“The average mature woodchuck offers a sizeable hunk of target. He owns so tough a hide that, in the days of ox-, horse-, and mule-drawn transportation, a strip of it was often used as the “popper” at the tip of the skinners’ whips. His body, even when encased with considerable fat in preparation for hibernation, is of solid and muscular flesh. And, what is most important, he has considerable life tenacity. He must be hit well -often with power enough to stop a yearling deer-to be dropped in his tracks.” (Page 14)

If you wish to be in business for hunting crows learning the three basic calls: The distress, come-back and mourning calls amongst other great information on crow hunting is well covered in “Those Canny Crows” chapter.

The Canny Coyote”
“A light wind helps conceal what sounds the hunter normally makes, plus hiding the natural movements of mounting the call and his gun. However, if the wind blows up around 10 miles-per-hour, such velocity severely limits the caller’s range of coverage.” (Page 92)

“Coyotes that are thoroughly sold on the authenticity of the dying-rabbit squall have been known to run in almost atop concealed caller-hunters. That’s why some hunters carry both rifles and shotguns. If the tolled critter gets in within 10 to 30 yards the shotgun is ample weapon for clean kills-if loaded with Number 2’s or coarser pellets. But a hesitant, undecided or suspicious ki-dog may have to be taken from 75 to 125 yards, when a scope-sighted rifle is the only suitable weapon.” (Page 93)

Mr. Popowski has now joined the ranks of what I consider to be the authentic authors on the subject of hunting and the outdoors. In doing so he has provided me with the knowledge that will enable me to fine tune my skills as a small game hunter and enjoy many seasons to come. I sincerely hope this book may do the same for you.

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: