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Posts Tagged ‘west’


During my migratory bird season, when the Canada geese usually fly in toward the farm where I hunt, more specifically the South side, they quite often choose the two best spots in that area. Either they land across the creek on the edge of the ridge at the start of the hay-field or they land on the North side just shy of the tree line close to the creek.

Both positions offer a great view of the surrounding open ground, which enables the spotter geese to identify a threat and call out if danger is approaching. But it is also near the creek and the swamp which is in the back toward the South-West. In addition there is plenty of food.

It is not by coincidence that they select these two preferred spots and this is why is pays off to be observant. As a waterfowl hunter once you have chosen your approach plan, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and adapt to get close enough to your birds for a harvest.

In my last post, I mentioned that I like to change some things during my hunts to see what works and what doesn’t, this also includes changing my plan of approach during my still-hunts. Just like the geese, I too have a preferred path which I use to close the gap between the geese and I when I stalk them and this is always done on my knees or leopard crawling.

On this particular hunt, I noticed that only six geese came in and flared their wings and landed near the creek facing north. I decided that coming in from the East would be very challenging, having noticed where the spotter geese were standing. So, I changed up my approach plan and worked my way in from the West completing the top part of my approach heading down a ridge and coming up from the opposite side of my usual approach path.

There I lined myself up with an old barn that I used to cover in order to gain more ground. From a bird’s-eye view try to picture a perfect slice of pie superimposed over the field and the tip being where the geese are located, by this time I had now traced the outline of the triangular slice and was coming up the one of the side legs of the triangle heading toward the tip.

The only problem was that now there was nothing but open ground and still several meters to the geese. Once I reached the corner of the barn, I looked through the board gaps and studied the geese position and the spotter geese and decided that coming from the Eastern side would be best. So, I looked to the ground and took several breaths, took three shells and slid them in the buttstock holder and placed the rest in my right pocket and buttoned it shut.

I lowered my face mask then got down on my belly and started to crawl forward toward the East. The first few meters were extremely tough and it was incredibly warm, also making my way over a log. Every few meters, I would stop and place my face into the ground and breathe in a rhythm to control my breathing and not allow myself to get too exhausted.

Once in a while I would slowly lift my head about five inches and check my alignment to ensure I was still in line with the birds. The farm field is full of uneven ground which is perfect to slip into a small trench and gain more ground. On my final approach, I was only pushing with the ball of my feet to propel myself forward and then using my elbows to lift my body of the ground and push ahead.

I was able to get within twenty-five meters of the birds and slide in behind an old upside down claw foot bath tub, which was most likely used to for the cattle to drink a long time ago. I loaded my three shells and pumped the action and placed the 870 on safe. Now I had to figure out how to get to my knees without getting too high and giving away my position. After a couple of minutes, I raised my barrel and rested it on the tub and aligned myself for the first shot.

It did not take long for the birds to call out and burst into the air and with just inches from the ground, I released my shot into the closest goose and it tumbled to the ground with a broken wing. I had to release a second shot into the same bird and while pumping the action to release the second shell and load the third, the spent shell jammed before I could clear it for the third shot and possibly another harvest. It was too late and the others had already set considerable distance between them and I. Quite often with my Remington 870 even if cleaned and pumping the action properly, I find that the shorter shells extract better with my pump-action; one day I hope to be able purchase the new Versa max. This will for sure eliminate the expended shell jams and with the semi-auto action I might be able to release my shots quicker and possibly harvest two or three geese in one single approach.

Just the same I was extremely satisfied with this harvest and the approach. It can be said that in a blind setup, one can harvest a greater number of birds yet I find that still-hunting is so much more rewarding and so far it has proven to be a very positive start of the season with this feathered fox.

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My woodchuck woodburn

My woodchuck wood-burn

The groundhog numbers this summer at the farm have almost been non-existent with only two harvests recorded so far.

Last year I harvested close to eleven groundhogs and I know that this has had an impact on the overall population in the area; also if we take into consideration disease during hibernation when the parasites attach themselves to the groundhog before they go into their dens for the winter months or if the animal hasn’t stored enough fat it starves.

On my property alone, I removed five and now the only young single groundhog from this spring, is very cautious and only comes out to eat in short periods of time and also later in the evening which is not usual behavior.

If he was part of last years family, then there is a possibility that similarly to crows their awareness of danger is passed down through the genes and learned in the field no pun intended.

So, when I got to the farm and started to still-hunt, my skills would have to aid me in my search of the groundhogs.

They were no longer in the open at their ordinary times taking in sun rays. Neither were they found near their dens but instead they were using the tree line and rock formations just meters inside the forest to use as cover.

I started my way into the western field but had to wait until the cattle crossed over to the south before I could push further west. I then worked my way southeast and parallel to edge of the woods.

It was extremely hot and my sweat was dripping off my forehead like a tap, drinking was so important but also taking breaks. The bugs were also harassing me and my hat came in very handy, not only against the sun.

I finally reached the far side of the field and found the rock formation stone cold with no groundhog in site. I scanned the edge of the woods and this is when my eyes caught some movement up near the base of a tree.

It was lightning quick, I froze in my spot and waited for more movement, if groundhogs are alerted, they will whistle then run and hide either in deep brush to find and escape hole or dart directly for the den but they will come back out if they think that the danger is no longer present. Normally, in small steps and they might even thump their paws and let out sharp whistles, almost like there are provoking the potential danger in order to get a reaction as well as alerting others.

So, I waited patiently and sure enough he came out from hiding but this time he was in the high ground on my left or south. He was moving in an out of the grass and disappearing momentarily in the dark green vegetation, even though he was visible, he was not in a safe shooting position because of the large rocks behind him and a barn on the right.

I chose to wait and this is when the groundhog jumped up on a log and ran along it in short bursts, stopping to check for danger, his nostrils were moving very quickly. I did not move an inch, I waited for him to move further along the log to the east and then I swung around at the same time then got into perfect alignment with his vitals with a well-chosen back stop of solid dirt.

He was indeed the log runner, I took my rifle off safe, fired and released a single shot, it was my third harvest and one varmint less for the farmer.

 

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870 & Chuck

My hip was carefully placed up against the tailgate of the truck in an attempt to avoid shaking too much, so that I could focus better with my binoculars. I was looking toward the eastern field and standing just meters from the farm-house; scanning north to south and concentrating in and around the new hay bales which were freshly cut and rolled.

It was thirty-one degrees Celsius and the heat was almost unbearable. The cattle were down by the creek getting some shade under various deciduous trees, while others waded through the cool waters. Once in a while some cloud cover would move in and with it a fresh breeze would blow in, changing the colors of the various weeds and hay.

Earlier in the morning, I had climbed over the electric fence then headed down diagonally through the northern field closest to the farm-house and cut across the hedge row near the creek, just meters from the road. I then looped around to the south-east back into the other field where there was an opening for the tractors.

I had noticed the groundhog several weeks ago in the field to the east but the weather did not roll in my favor with heavy rains. I was forced to abandon my hunt because the groundhog had retreated below the ground.

The network consisted of two main den entrances at the start of the slope toward the west and with two other escape holes one near the fence to the east and the other in the center of the field where the grass was much darker and just high enough to provide good cover.

Only a few minutes had passed and finally I made out what I thought was a small brown animal on its hind legs. So, I adjusted the center focusing wheel on the binoculars and confirmed my findings. I slowly unzipped my right pocket on the orange hunting vest and pulled out my cell phone and checked the time, it was almost three in the afternoon and it was now going to be cooler and the animals would start coming out now; birds too since I had only seen two yellow warblers and four grackles.

I packed away my phone and binoculars, zipped up my pocket and then grabbed a single shell from my ammunition box on the tailgate and headed down the road to the north. I had to move quickly because I did not want the chuck to move underground.

As I made my way over to the eastern field, I was studying the low ground and aligning the groundhog with each hay bale, thus identifying which bale offered the closest shot and then chose the right bale to use as cover.

I decided on the second bale since it was slightly further away from the groundhog but directly in line with me. I moved in through the tractor opening for the second time of the day and turned in toward the low ground. Once in a while I would stop, catch my breath, because I was speed walking and crouched over. I normally pace myself and take about five to six steps then stop, listen and observe, breathe then set off again.

I was closing in on the groundhog and he still couldn’t see me. By the time I reached the first hay bale, I was only thirty meters out and the shot was possible one but I could not guarantee a confirmed harvest. I also wanted my shot to end up in the dirt and not go over the fence toward the tree line.

So, I stopped, took a knee along with a few deep breaths and prepared myself for the shot that would soon come. I leaned over to the right hand side of the bale and noticed that the groundhog was still standing on watch with its head very high above the hay. I then turned back in toward the center of the hay bale and got down on all fours and leopard crawled over to the hay bale to left or east.

I would crawl, and then stop; look up just popping my head above the hay line to make sure the groundhog was still there and then I would inch forward again. Twice I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead with my hunting hat. My forearms were cut and burning because of the grass blades and various insects. It was only six meters away but it took me a while to get across to the other bale.

Once I reached the second bale, I slowly stood up and had a look over the top of the bale and checked that the groundhog was still there. This time it heard something and let out a whistle but did not move instead it stretched its head further up for a better look much like me.

I loaded one shell into my Remington 870, lined up the bead sight with the target using the hay bale as a stabilizer and focused on my breathing. Once I was ready, I took the weapon off safe using the quiet push method, and then slowly squeezed the trigger…Vlam! Grass and dirt spat up, the groundhog was ejected from the den and fell flat on its back side.

I had harvested one of the largest groundhogs this year and it was now time to head back to the truck and find the groundhog on the southern field near the second barn. I took the time to reflect on the hunt and feeling good about having helped a farmer with his varmints. I decided to bury this harvest using one of the abandoned holes in the field closets to the fence.

My painting of Ron's Coyote

A couple of hours had passed and I was now back at the truck having a drink of water planning my next hunt in the southern field. The cattle had moved in closer to the barns for the evening, therefore shooting was no longer an option at least in the southern field; I had to prepare myself and maybe pack up for the day and head home.

I checked my 870 for a third time after my initial shot and cleared it to make it safe, then I carefully placed it on the ground near the truck on its cloth gun case. I then pulled out a granola snack bar and began to relax.

Once in a while, I would look toward the south then over to the east. The birds were singing louder now, the red wing black birds and grackles were flying in low to feed off the grain on the ground nearby.

I took another drink from my water bottle then placed it down on the tailgate and this is when something caught my eye to the south-east. I could not make it out at first as it stealthy made its way out of the tree line to the south just behind the fence about forty meters from where my harvest was buried. It blended in perfectly with the hay color.

As it got closer and within range I was now able to identify my visitor, I could see its ears were straight up and its fur had a healthy golden shine. The animal would stop; look with its tail straight down near its hind legs. It was incredible! I had seen this animal many times before but I was fascinated, this time it was much different.

It was only two hundred meters away just on the other side of the fence, she moved with such grace and prudence. Coyotes are very intelligent and extremely beautiful animals with an incredible sense of smell. It had picked up the scent of my harvest and she was going to get a free meal; this is something that I love about nature. The simple fact that nothing goes to waste and I was quite aware that my harvest would not last long in the soil.

The coyote was moving in toward my harvest and I snapped to; so I grabbed my binoculars and headed down to the creek to circle around. We were like two cowboys in a duel moving in toward each other but by the time I got to the edge of the creek, amid the excitement the coyote caught my scent and disappeared into the hay, through the fence and into the wilderness.

I did not consider this encounter a failure but rather an awesome experience with an amazing animal. For that very moment I was proud as always to be part of this northern wilderness with this Canis Latrans.

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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.

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I was standing very still with my binoculars surveying the low ground over on the eastern field, trying to find any early signs of woodchuck presence. I set out to the farm shortly after lunch knowing that the groundhogs preferred to come out and move later in the afternoon. The wind was blowing hard in a north-easterly direction and the low dark clouds moved quickly through the sky and caused the field to change color. The spots where there was fresh dirt turned over or where a broken fence post lay played visual tricks on your eyes.

The air was chilled and the temperature was at about plus two degrees Celsius, the weather station had predicted about two centimeters of snow and this definitely was not ideal weather for the chucks. But I had seen about four others in nearby fields located at the other farms. As soon as it started to snow, the ice pellets started bouncing off the mud and the car parked on the side of the road, the sky got dark quite fast.

I had no choice but to sit and wait it out until the sky cleared. Twenty minutes had passed and the sun finally broke though. Still no sign of the woodchucks and I did not blame them especially with this weather being so un-predictable.  So, I decided to turn my focus on the Red Wing black birds and Rock Doves.

The farmer had scattered some grain for his cattle along with a few hay bales and this had drawn in a flock of Red wing black birds; this presented a fun challenge as they can be a difficult bird to harvest because they are easily alarmed and they travel in flocks so if you startle one bird they all disperse.

On the southern field and its northern side of the creek, were three old barns where I had harvested one of my first woodchucks of last summer. The first two barns were smaller and bunched together with only a few meters apart resting on the slope but the third barn was about thirty meters away and closer to the creek on leveled ground near the forest’s south-western edge.

The pigeons, red wing black birds along with robins and starlings were all gathered in the flooded field to the south of the third barn. So, I decided to descend the southern ridge and move my way along the electrical fence between the first two barns and begin a very slow and muddy stalk to the third barn towards the birds.

Earlier in the afternoon I had noticed the cattle were still feeding on the north side of the western field which was connected to the southern field with no fence separating the two. If you were to include the eastern hay field combined they would create a “U” shape around the main farming complex. As a general rule and as a question of respect, I always kept a safe distance from the cattle especially since they had several new calves this year and I was quite aware that this could change the whole dynamics of my current situation.

As I carefully stalked toward the third barn, I was constantly keeping watch for the larger bulls that were part of the drift of cattle. I made sure; I was stepping on solid ground and not sinking into the mud and always watching up the ridge to my right. The only time I did not have control over my position was between the second and third barn. So as I approached the western side of the second barn and made my way over a worn out wired fence. I positioned myself so that I could see the eastern side of the third barn to my front, the creek to my left and on my right the southern edge of the western field where the mob of cattle were feeding.

After several minutes of hard stalking I was now inching into position, and the birds were now within shooting distance lined up in my sights. Unknown to me for the first few seconds, I was also being stalked and considered a moving target. My right eye caught some movement and when I turned my head, I found myself face to face with a two thousand pound bull and he was only forty meters away.

He had seen me come down the ridge on his left and he had subsequently moved in parallel into the middle of the field were there was a slight depression and caused him to disappear momentarily; from there he could protect his drove of cattle and calves.

We were both looking right at each other and for those who thought cattle can not see very well; I just proved it they sure can. He lowered his head and was swinging it aggressively left to right letting out these incredible huffs that came from deep within the beast. He had this thick white saliva dropping out of its nose and from around its mouth and I can assure you it did not take me long to get the message. Just like in the Spanish Corrida de Torros, he dug his front legs into the fresh mud and lifted large chunks of dirt and then would lower his head into the mud and rub the saliva into the ground.

The charge was coming but I had anticipated this and only had six meters to cover back to the second barn or a fifty meter dash to the tree line to the west, so I slowly moved backward to the northern side of the barn and took cover behind the old wired fence and made my way back around the first barn and then behind the electrical fence.

Once I showed the bull, my intentions were to stay clear and move away, he just locked his eyes on me and continued to move large chucks of dirt under his hooves, letting out huffs and puffs.

I finally circled the bull from the east behind the protection of the electrical fence, and then I talked to him in a gentle voice complementing him on the way he protected his drove. He was an absolute stunning bull, pure black, the true definition of power and I will never forget his huffing and puffing, it was so deep like a fog horn and it made every bone in my body shake.

Awareness is so important during any hunt.

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I don’t know about you but when ever I come back from a hunt, all I want to do is share my experiences in great detail to my family and friends. Even if sometimes they may be pretending to be interested but are not really listening, as long as they say “Really” or “Neat” once is a while that works for me. After all not everyone understands hunting.

When I post a hunting story of mine on my blog, I want the readers to be there and share the experience with me, breathing in the fresh air, being surrounded by the elements. Now imagine yourself learning about turkey hunting at its best and yet at the same time feeling that you are also right there with the author.

This is the way Ray Eye’s book on practical turkey hunting is written. Being a turkey hunter and having successfully called in several Tom’s in various weather conditions, this book is awesome and the strategies are extremely practical.

I only have five chapters left and I find it very difficult to put the book down. Throughout the chapters, Ray demonstrates his true character and his perseverance to learn and master the art of turkey calling and hunting starting from a very young age. He is without a doubt a seasoned veteran and a well-respected turkey hunter. 

The book: Practical Turkey Hunting Strategies: How to Hunt Effectively Under Any Conditions is a must read. Ray has been very generous in sharing his knowledge. I can not wait for the spring turkey hunt to start now and add his flavor to my hunt.

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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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