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Posts Tagged ‘woods’


A few days ago, I had the privilege of going outside and cutting some firewood amidst the confinement, all in preparation for the fall. I had been working away for three hours and had taken my gloves off because my hands began to sweat. I would lift a log into position, then cut away. The smell of fresh Cedars was heavenly. A few Mallard ducks flew over head calling out faintly and the geese were feeding peacefully nearby in the water.

The cedar stumps were very large and under one of the last pieces I failed to notice a wild rose branch stuck on the inside. In one vigorous lifting motion with the stump in hand, I stood up and the thorn cut through my hand like razor wire.

There was quite a sting to the cut, but I continued to lift another piece of Cedar. The second stump had a tear in its bark. The open part exposed some resin, which accidentally smeared onto my cut and this instantly stopped the bleeding as well as the pain. Another helpful thing is that just like pine resin, it also reduced the inflammation. Within days it was all healed up. Gotta love nature.

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For the newcomers to this great north american continent, the wilderness was a vast expanse to explore and survive, for the first nations it was their home. I believe that no matter how you interpret the wilderness, it is much greater than us, and our short history will remain an insignificant slice in this phenomenon called time.

There is one thing for sure, if you spend enough time in its core, it will become part of your very fabric and its mysteries will reveal themselves to you. This is of course, if you learn to interpret what the wilderness has to share.

A few weeks, ago I was immersed in the great white spruce cathedrals of this wonderful northern country with my hunting buddy, I had just taken a few steps forward breaking the snow crust surface with my snowshoes. We were pursuing the elusive snowshoe hare, when I suddenly turned to my buddy and said the following “I don’t know why but I can feel a great amount of energy in this area, I know we are being watched.”

My buddy, tells me I was like a hare whisperer, I knew that I could not put into words the very feeling but it was overwhelming. I took four more calculated steps, all the while looking into the dark shadows at the base of every tree, and almost in an instant on my left there was the hare in its famous freeze pose just like the Robert Bateman painting.

In a flash, I swivelled to the left, released the safety, aimed and fired. Once the smoke and snow cleared, my harvest was confirmed. It is difficult for me to share in writing the energy I felt and this almost instinctive hunt.

It is an experience or a slice of time in the wilderness, that transcends all modern logic and technology, it is pure mastery of the woods, which to this day leaves me humbled.

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Shortly after noon, my friend and I breached the Southern forest making it to the road and then continuing into the rich northern territory of the farm. We were headed deeper into the white wilderness, the sights were simply breathtaking with the majestic evergreens covered with their imperial winter coats.

There was a consistent snow fall with a slight North-Easterly wind. As my bare hands gripped my shotgun keeping the barrel clean of debris, the snow from a nearby tree fell onto my shoulders as I leaned under the ever green canopy and disappeared further into the bowels of this raw Canadian wilderness.

As I turned for a last look at the road, I knew we were not alone, there had been a lone coyote, walking right down the middle and you could see his curious pauses along the trail as there were paw tracks heading right towards the trees, then back stepping into his trail and continuing North.

His presence was a positive sign, as both him and I had successful harvested the famed snowshoe hare in these woods in the past. My friend and I finally found some fresh hare tracks and began our tracking, which lead us to an abandoned barn full of great hiding places for snowshoe hare.

The droppings were harder to find, but we focussed on the leads and on all possible hidden spot a hare could be found. Time seemed to accelerate as we looked into our environment and the tracks, our focus was consumed.

I suggested we work our way to the Western side of the forest because I knew there was a high probability that a hare would be in its freeze pose amongst the low hanging spruce bows.

With my friend on my right, we pushed forward.

I got down on one knee to get a closer look at the ground level and under the spruce. I was looking East and in an instant, as soon as my friend pushed through the pine, moving at an incredible speed the white ghost sprung diagonally in front of me from right to left. I immediately raised my shotgun and pushed it off save, but did not have a clear shot, the hare had already covered lots of ground and zigzagged through the trees and gave me no opportunity for a clean shot.

The pursuit was on, I yelled out to my friend that I spotted one and took off after it, kicking up snow as  fast as I humanly could. I pushed my safety back on, and started pushing through the wintery trees, keeping my eyes locked on the fresh tracks and hare leaping forward, he was a good size hare.

Just like a grouse chase, I was being drawn deeper into the wintery woods and I had maintain my bearings on the road as to avoid getting lost. This chase was classic and reminded me of the opening hunting scene in the movie “Last of the Mohican”.

The flush was on and by the time, I would catch up to the fresh tracks, I could see him ahead of me and in an out of wide trees, I could not get a clean shot off and he was starting to circle back to the road toward my friend.

With no clear shot, I turned back and met up with my friend and we began our push toward the abandoned barn, this triggered another snowshoe hare, who burst in from the east to the west in matrix move worthy of Neo, I swung around and released my shot and by the time the snow burst settled it was a confirmed miss. I saw him fly into the deeper trees. The sound of my shot was not that of a usual shot in the open, the trees muffled it like was confined in a cylinder, like a “Whammffff” sound. Just incredible!

The silence that followed in the cold wintery woods, ended my hunt and I must admit it did sting not to harvest, but this was my reality and I had to accept it for this day was coming to an end. On the drive home, I could see the hare “Neo” flashing in front of me, at speeds of around sixty five kilometres an hour through trees, and that on this day the flush was not going to produce a snowshoe hare harvest.

I can’t wait to hit the wintery woods again soon, to continue my pursuit of this famed white ghost, the snowshoe hare.

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Everyone experiences a moment in time, when there is a shift in their thinking, you accept who you have become, what you have accomplished and all of a sudden things seem a whole lot simpler. Living a life free of judgement.

As a result the simplest of things in life become extremely rewarding. Over the past few months, I had been saving up to pick up a Stoeger M3500 but life kept on throwing me curve balls, I had no choice but to go back to the drawing board and conduct more research.

One night after work, I decided to go for a nice drive through the country roads, the breeze on my face was heavenly, a little country music did not hurt either. I drove out to one of the small towns nearby and stopped in a local sports shop, and came across an Inertia driven shotgun with the similar mechanism to that of the Stoeger, it was the Girsan MC-312. The price was a fit for my current budget and so it became my new duck gun for the fall.

I took it out to my friend’s farms to break it in and possibly harvest a few pigeons, the fact that it was so light weight compared to my 870, made it incredibly easy to manoeuvre through the brush and along the creeks.

Once the cattle cleared the field to the north, I was able to harvest a woodchuck on the edge of the forest, that the farmer wanted removed. It was my first shot out of the Girsan. I had some left over two and three quarter, number three shells from last fall and it cycled perfect.

The waterfowl season will be here soon and I know that with my new duck gun, I will have many stories to share, it will be simple Girsan time.

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The heal of my waders slid in the fresh mud off the bank into the shallow black waters of the creek, my left hand was raised as to prevent the low hanging branches from scratching my face with my right hand cradling my Remington 870. Within a few steps, I was immersed into the edge of the woods. I was in pursuit of the famed Rock Dove.

I had a look through the trees into the neighbouring field and saw nothing but fresh wild grass and hay, there were black birds, and common house sparrows, and red wing black birds flying about in the absolute nature. Once my feet were placed firmly at the bottom of the creek, I swivelled to the front and back with my eyes to get a better glimpse.

The fast flowing current was slipping around my boots and like a serpent continued into the heart of the woods, on either side there was thick brush, rich in color and sounds, it was place where the love for the woods is moulded into your soul.

I stood their very still and saw a ripple in the waters just up a little ways up, a beaver came swimming towards its dam in total silence, gliding through the water with a sense of purpose all the while very weary. Be humble in the woods and respect the environment for it can teach us great things.

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The snowmobile plowed through the soft snow leaving a large cloud of mist in our trail, which turned into billions of crystals that glistened as the sun rays pierced through. Following a few turns around the frozen lake, the temperature gauge lit up on the dash and we knew something wasn’t right.

We pulled off the trail closer to the shore and lifted the hood and confirmed the worse, something was wrong and we were losing coolant and we only had barely enough to make it back to the cottage which was well over a kilometer away.

I volunteered to walk back, making the sled lighter thus giving my friend a better chance of making it back to the trailer. We lowered the hood, started the motor and within seconds, I was standing all alone surrounded by pure snow-covered wilderness.

I was like a child that had just received one of the best gifts in the world, the feeling was overwhelming, I couldn’t resist, I raised my arms into the air and started to skip up the lake kicking the fresh snow with my boots.

I would breathe in, closed my eyes and listened to the stillness, it was incredible. Once I hit the halfway mark, I left the openness of the lake and started my way into the woods to the west. I felt alive, it is very difficult to put into words but its like you become part of the forest, it is no longer this cold hostile environment that has the ability to arouse primal fears.

snare

Within minutes, I had found snowshoe hare leads and began to follow them along the edge of the lake through the thick spruce and pine growth. Once I was within a few hundred meters of the cottage, I began to set some snares, rubbing the wire against the spruce tree trunk, to shape the wire and get rid of my scent.

This was perfect, before I knew it several hours had passed and time no longer had the same meaning as it does in the city. In the province of Quebec, a certified hunter can use snares for snowshoe hares under their small game license. 

I wish everyone an incredible new year!

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My boots entered the cold muddy waters as I stepped through the creek heading in the direction of the southern field; I was closing the gap between the large boulders and I. For today the weather network had called for thunder showers along with strong winds but this hadn’t materialized yet and I still had some time to be out in the open, while walking up the ridge. I arrived at the farm late in the morning just before noon and had a great chat with my farming friend, we talked about family and the farm.

With the incredible amounts of rain that we have had this past spring and summer, there has been lots of growth and abundant hay but not necessarily quality hay. I am always concerned for the cattle and that they will have enough food for the winter. Once I reached the southern field, I leaned forward while walking to give myself a lower profile. When ever I come up to large boulders or groupings of small trees, I keep a sharp eye for small brown objects which move quickly, and these can be a woodchuck.

I raised my head from time to time to get a better look, a nice breeze came in and I instantly picked up the scent of the wet cedar, it was awesome. It was natures way of providing its form of aromatherapy. I kept pressing on and once I caught my breath I walked right through the green curtain of trees following a well used cattle trail.

I barely had the time to lift my head again and I had already triggered an alert with the first woodchuck of the day, who dove into his hole. In this situation, I usually wait a few minutes, as they tend to come back out and investigate in order to identify if you are in fact a threat or just another animal.

I stood tall and placed my shotgun perpendicular to my body and slipped in behind a wide tree. Every few seconds, I would take a deep breath and tilted only my head forward and glanced at the woodchuck. The woodchuck was coming out again, but only its head was out of the ground and it was not a sure harvest shot. I wanted a clean harvest because I was planning on having a great meal later in the evening.

Now with the woodchuck standing half outside the hole, I carefully raised my 870, loaded a shell pumped the action and fired my shot. I had my first confirmed harvest of the day and loaded the woodchuck in my game bag. I pumped the action again and ejected the empty shell then looked up at the sky to check out the darker cloud formation coming in from the West. I headed right toward the opening in the field and made my way back to the creek, this is when I spotted another woodchuck further up the ridge to the south-west.

He was positioned in front of the large boulder but it was too late, he had made me and ran back into his hole. I had considered circling and coming around from the back using the tree line and the high ground but it was too late. I finally decided to go back to the truck place my first harvest into the cooler then try for a second try at the large boulder woodchuck.

Thirty minutes had gone by and I was now lighter with the first harvest in the cooler, had a drink of water and set off again. I was keeping my eyes open for the cattle, because I did not want to cross the creek with them too close to me. I stepped over the electric fence surrounded by tall wild grass and headed down another cattle path between two barns and back across the creek.

This time, my plan was to circle to the right, heading toward the swamp and using the low ground and small bushes as to cover more ground without being spotted. I had stopped just prior to the creek and used my binoculars to confirm that he was back on top of the boulder. He was indeed and facing the north-east with this back to my front. This was perfect, I moved through the low ground winding in and out of the brush and finally hit an open area. He had spotted me and jumped down from the boulder and back around the front back into his hole. My initial approach worked for a while but he keen eyes had spotted me.

I still pressed on and bent forward again and got really low to the ground, I was now on his right and about twenty meters out. I got down on my knees and placed my 870 in my left hand and used my right hand as support as I crouched and moved up to a large bush growth on a smaller boulder just meters before the woodchuck hole. It provided great concealment and now with my controlled breathing, I raised my head like a periscope and noticed the woodchuck had come out and turned sideways just a short distance from the opening of his hole.

I dropped a shell into the breach slid the action forward instantly locking a shell then slid the push safety on. I raised my head once more and then carefully positioned myself into a good firing position, pushed released the safety off, then let out my shot. The second harvest of the day was confirmed and just in time because the storm had moved in and the presence of lightning was my queue to head home for the day.

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