Public Land Hunting and Fishing

Public lands are tough.  Fishing and hunting opportunities and often limited due to over use and too much competition.  Or are they?

We decided to figure this out for our selves last weekend.  Dave and I loaded up the car with the canoe, our shotguns and fishing rods and headed north of Kington to the north Frontenac parklands.  Snow had fallen in the Kingston area the day before however it had melted in the city proper.  This was not the case as we approached Parham on highway 38.  Snow had began to accumulate and it as obvious the plow had made its rounds on the roads to the north.

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The snow was a surprise although not altogether unwelcome.  Prints would be fresh and our quarry (grouse) would be more visible.  We continued on in anticipation, admiring the fresh blanket of white and the quaint architecture of small town Ontario.

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We arrived to our destination, parked the car at the trail head and began our hike.  We intended to camp that evening but decided it would be better to get on the trail early and worry about our camp later in the day.  With our hopes high we began our trek with guns loaded and eyes peeled into the mysterious Frontenac Parklands.

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The parklands have long been on our list of properties to visit.  These parklands constitute a large area north of highway 7 from Lanark county west to highway 41.  These lands are a prime example of the Canadian shield where rock outcrops and plutons are common.  Topography is highly variable and the forests contain a rich variety of conifers and deciduous trees.

These lands are also home to some pretty exquisite looking lakes containing all manner of finned creatures.  One of the more prominent of these being the brook trout.  With this knowledge in our heads, we were sure to pack our spinning rigs and so after several kilometers of hiking we stopped at one such lake rumoured to contain these desirable creatures.  To be clear, many of these lakes are put and take, as in they are stocked by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  We tied on a couple of small silver spinner baits (panther martins and mepps to be exact) and took a cast into the pristine waters.

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After a few casts Dave sounded off that he had a hit, and a follow and another hit.  Seconds later he had a fish squirming on the bank and our impressions of the area grew.  Minutes later I felt a familiar tug and set the hook on a chunky little brooky.

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These creatures are impressive, for their fight, but also for their colour.  Nothing looks quite like a brook trout sporting some colour on its belly.

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After a couple fish from the first lake, we moved on in search of another quarry: grouse.  We walked for some time taking in the scenery and covering alot of ground however no grouse were seen.  The curse of public land seemed to be on us.  Although I’m not one to put much stock in the metaphysical, the curse seemed as real as the ATV tire tracks we followed along the path.

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We continued to hike along the path for several kilometers, and remained grouseless.    Discouraged we decided to change our tactic by taking a smaller path into the bush.  The path began to petered out into nothing until we ended up hiking in old logging cuts.  With all the small bushes and conifers around we were sure we would scare up a grouse.  Approximately 16 kilometres later, many of which were off the beaten path in the woods, we sluggishly stumbled upon one bird.  One bird which, we were not even close to being ready for.  It seemed we had our answer to the public land question.  We did however manage to get a couple more brook trout for the pan from another little lake, which rounded out are dinner nicely.

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We visited several different lakes in the area and drank in as much of the scenery as we could in one and a half days.  Regardless of how much this place gets hit by other hunters and trail riders, it hasn’t detracted from it’s beauty.

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It also hasn’t detracted from the deer population which seems to be thriving despite the numerous tree stands we encountered.

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North Frontenac is gem.  Its an amazing amount of land generally close to Kingston.   Although it receives a lot of pressure, it remains a great destination for many other activities.  The area boasts several campsites and lots of room to roam free on or off trail.  Bring a topo map, compass and enjoy!

Cheers from the wild

Albert

 

Beginners Guide to Backcountry

At a glance, back country trips can seem mystical and awe inspiring.  Photos of your friends or “favourite blogger”… cough.. retracing the steps of explorers and voyageurs long since gone can be mesmerizing.  The concept of becoming “one with nature” on these trips, is not only mystical and romantic, but quintessentially Canadian.  After all, our country was built on hardy folks who had an unhealthy penchant for spending most of their lives in the backwoods.  Unfortunately when it comes time to actually plan one, the weight of the task can leave you feeling inadequate and unconfident.  Especially if these sorts of trips weren’t part of your youth.

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So how do you go about planning and actually executing one of these trips? I’m sure there are many folks out there who are infinitely more qualified to answer this question, but I’d like to weigh on with a beginners/intermediate’s point of view on the subject.  Here is what I have learned.

Have a Good Plan

Decide how much time you want to spend on a trip. Decide where in the province, country, or even world you want to go. Once you have answered these questions narrow down your search to a specific route.  In Canada, Canadian Canoe Roots  would be your best option.  Alternatively you could look up Trails.com  for trails in the states.  Once you have narrowed it down to a specific route, get your hands on  a map of your route showing the path, portages, portage distances, and topography.  I’m a big fan of Jeff’s maps http://jeffsmap.com/ .  They guy has seen a good portion of the parks in Ontario and has lots of handy notes on his maps.  Not to mention they are fairly current, and best of all made available through donations.  Thanks Jeff!

If your still deciding on what route to take consider your level of physical fitness when selecting a trip that’s right for you.  Consider choosing a trp that is well travelled if your new.  There may be others present should you get into a bit of trouble.

Don’t be a hero and don’t bite off more than you can chew.  A two day trip may not sound as epic as a week long excursion, but its definitely easier and safer. Every year lots of people decide to head into the woods with very little gear or food expecting things to just work out.  News flash, they wont, unless you prepare for it.

Choose Experienced Trip Mates

Personally, I prefer learning by doing and by seeing.  So it worked out when I was invited on my first trip by some seriously experienced trekkers.  I got to learn the ropes with minimal risk to myself.  I recommend this method of grafting yourself onto a trip.  I bet there is nothing worse that being in the middle of a trek running out of food and having no idea how your going to get back and no one to ask for help.

Plan Your Meals

Understand what your dietary needs are and pack accordingly.  Its important to watch your weight here though, and I don’t mean your waistline.  I’m taking weight of your pack.  Bringing a case of beer and fresh steaks may work for a 2 day canoe in trip where you don’t mind packing it in, but that wont really fly on a long haul 7 day trip with numerous portages.  Your not going to want to haul that crap in or haul the remaining garbage out. Consider meals that are light and full of calories like wraps and peanut butter or oatmeal.  Dried meats are a favourite as well.  Basically anything that doesn’t require refrigeration and is light.  Remember, its not the food that usually weighs a lot, its the water present in your food.  Try to avoid bringing meals that contain lots of water and rely more on things like pasta, rice, or oatmeal.  They have a high calorie/weight ratio.

Water

Consider how you will get your water.  A couple Nalgene bottles wont cut it for a long haul trip.  Bring a water filter designed to remove all the lovely bacteria and parasites or use purification tablets/drops.  Simply boiling your water wont save you from a severe case of “beaver fever”.  Oh and avoid drawing water from swampy boggy areas or from near shore.  These areas can be teaming with parasites.  If in an emergency you need to drink untreated water, get it from a fast moving stream or from the middle of a deep cold lake.

Gear

Gear needs are tied directly to the trip you plan to take.  You’ll need at least: a compass, your map (preferably in a water proof case), fire starting equip, pack, sleeping bag, therma-rest or sleeping pad, water filtration or purification equip, minimal cooking gear (preferably pots that fit within one another), a stove or way to cook (something light is great like a whisperlite or similar), life jacket (if canoeing), and assortment of medication (ibuprofen, Benadryl, antihistamines, personal meds).  A bit of rope and a good knife are never bad things to bring along.  Try to minimize gear and reduce redundancies.  Discuss equipment with your group to avoid duplicating gear.  No need to haul 6 camp stoves in when one will do the trick.

Resist the urge to bring along your favourite axe, clunky propane BBQ, or other gear that has no direct use on trip.  Believe me, you’ll only make the mistake of over packing once, especially if you have a few long portages to deal with.

Maintain a dry set of clothes, but don’t bring the whole wardrobe.  Accept that you wont have a fresh set of clothes to wear each day unless you pack them in.  I keep one set of dry clothes for camp and one for the hard day of paddling and hiking.

Organization

Reduce clutter and loose items. Make sure you reduce items that need to be carried in your hands or that are loose.  This makes for easy portages and minimizes lost items.  You will tire quickly of having to pick up a ton of crap each time you move.  Also, one pack containing all your gear is easer to pick out of the water than a mess of gear if you capsize.  As a plus, your pack will likely float minimizing loss of equipment!

Read Trip Reports

Although you may be hoping to experience your very own Lewis and Clark moment once you are in the woods, its likely someone else has been there before.  Use resources such as myccr.ca folks on that sit have piles of information for the new adventurer.  Don’t forget to use Google and read posts like those you may find on your favourite outdoor blog based in Southern Ontario “wink, wink”.  If there is a problem with a trip, someone somewhere is likely to mention it.

Weather

Be prepared for it or plan around it.  Remember as nice as a light rain shower is in the summer, the same rain can be deadly if your travelling in cold temperatures.  Staying dry is key when the mercury drops.

Stay off the water during thunderstorms or in high winds. Likewise, learn your route and constantly be looking to landmarks that indicate where you are. Stay alert!  you don’t want to be the person who misses the portage only to head into a class 5 rapid un-expectantly.

Well that’s my two cents.  I’m not a pro by any stretch, but hopefully this information will help you make some good decisions up front about your trip.  If I can leave you with one thought its this: don’t be intimidated.  This may seem like a lot of things to think about when tripping, but you’ll learn quick.  Start small, be eager to learn and humbly take advice for more experienced trippers.

Lastly, and above all else, enjoy the experience.

Cheers from somewhere in the middle of nowhere,

Albert

Provincial Park Hunting?

Most of us don’t even consider Provincial Parks when we think of places to hunt.  Myself included.  Then a couple years back I was asked to join a winter camping trip with a group of friends to a provincial park north of Peterborough and I was surprised when one of the guys mentioned he was brining along a firearm.  Of course I was skeptical at first but after some extensive research I was surprised to find out that many provincial parks in Ontario allow hunting.

I feel I should immediately clarify to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, Hunting is only permitted in a select few parks, so please don’t head into the care camping heart of Algonquin or Bon Echo decked out in camo with your with your favourite 12 gauge.  You will scare a lot of people, piss off the park warden and get into heaps of legal trouble.

To elaborate, most parks that allow hunting are non operational and have hunting built into their management policies and landuse.  It is very important to be 100% clear on this if you plan to participate in hunting on these lands.  How do you find this info out?  Well there are several sources, one being the MNR crown landuse atlas website https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/crown-land-use-policy-atlas .   Check the info section on each park parcel using the “Get Land Use Information” tool.  Each of these parcels should have a report available in PDF in either French or English.  The permitted uses will either be clearly listed or will reference a ministry land use policy.  Another way would be to head to  http://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/provincial-park-management-direction and find your park of interest from the list.  Once found, take a read at its management policy and confirm the permitted uses.

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Since my first hunt on that winter camping trip I have often considered travelling back to one of these parks to hunt.  Finally, about a week ago, I found some time and a friend and I headed out to for a quick morning hike and hunt in one of these non-operation parks.  Our target was small game and conditions couldn’t have been better with crisp temperatures in the early morning, broken by some sun warming approaching noon.

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Ice had already claimed most of the smaller lakes and a light skiff of snow covered the ground.  Quite the perfect setting for observing tracks!

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The trip was very refreshing and served to provide us with some welcomed weekend exercise.  Interestingly enough, it was obvious we were not the only ones hunting as we came across a mineral lick and a crossbow bolt just off the path.

The hunt itself went very well if three birds being flushed with a moderate amount of effort.  Of the three we even managed to harvest one (pictured below).

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We had a great time exploring a new area and observing some pretty interesting geologic formations found in the park.  However, as enjoyable as it was, the concept of conservation was never too far from our minds.

Fundamentally, these areas are put in place to conserve a specific feature, be it geologic, protected animal, plant, or features of cultural importance. Because of this intent, I firmly believe that conservation should be the underlying guideline for all uses in these areas.  And although hunting in these areas can be a great experience, it is important for us as hunters to remember that we share them with other people and wildlife.  Being public places, they can be susceptible to over hunting, accidents and can be the site for disputes between hunters and non-hunters.  Respect and practicing safe, legal,  hunting practises are the key concepts here.

Remember, these areas are there for the enjoyment of all, not just one.

Cheers from the wild

Albert

A Leisurely Afternoon Hike at Lemoines Point –

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Spring is finally here in southern Ontario.  Well mostly here.  We still have a dusting of snow in some spots, and there is lots of snow left in the wooded areas.  Regardless, the remnants of snow aren’t stopping me and my family from enjoying the outdoors and it certainly hasn’t stopped mother nature from thumbing her nose at old man winter.

Sunday came and the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees Celsius with full on sun.  My wife and I bundled up the little one, leashed the dog and headed to one of our favourite spots around Kingston: Lemoines Point.

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Lemoines point has always been one of our favourite spots to walk the dog and take a step into nature.  The park itself is a conservation area that covers 136 hectares and is located on the west side of Kingston near the airport.  Although minutes from the city and heavily trodden  by the local Kingstoniains, this park still seems to support a vibrant wildlife scene and maintains its wild charms.

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Our walk began at the Rotary park entrance which is near the Collins bay Marina.

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Immediately upon entering the park we were bombarded with a plethora or birds.  Sightings included chickadees and other smaller birds, morning doves, robins, a woodpecker, colourful blue jays and even a peregrine falcon

(couldn’t snap a shot 😦 of the falcon)

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(below is a shot of the author with one of the parks residents)

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Possibly, one of the most notable things about the park (aside from its bio diversity) is the resident population of tamed chickadees that will willingly eat bird seed from your hand.  Loads of fun for young kids and adults too.

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Aside from the plethora of birds, Lemoines point is home to many types of terrestrial animals.  Some of which we encountered on our walk.  The little guy below seemed to have a craving for peanuts and sunflower seeds! One good thing about sharing your home with local kingstonians is that, if your cute and furry,  they make sure your well fed!

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We continued our walk though the woods eager to see the next animal.  Lemoines point is funny that way; some days there is nothing but the birds to see, and then there are days like today….

As we turned the corner of one of the trails we saw movement in the woods.  There ahead of us was a beautiful white tail deer eating some of the grain and peanuts left by the parks patrons.  Lucky right? Well lucky was an understatement, because a couple minutes later the rest of the herd broke out of the bushes and we were staring at 6 healthy deer.

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The deer weren’t shy at all as they pranced down the path towards us.  Obviously they were used to being fed by the parks patrons and they have lost their fear of humans.  Normally I’d say this is a bad thing, but seeing as how the park is pretty well segregated from anywhere else, I’d say this specific arrangement works out pretty well for all parties involved.  The deer get fed, and the patrons get lots to look at.

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After an hour and a half, our walk was coming to a close.  On our way out our attention was captured by one last creature chattering away in the trees.  Id say this creature looked a bit “squirrely” wouldn’t you say? (Excuse the bad pun)

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Its amazing some of the natural treasures we have so close to our homes. All it takes is the effort to get up and out and go see it for yourself.

Personally, I cant think of many better ways to  spend an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

 

One Year in the Wild…

WordPress sent me an alert today; Apparently it has been one years since my inaugural post on this blog. Time certainly does fly when your having fun, or in my case, when your catching fish.
Thanks to all my readers and followers for your patronage and bearing with me on the learning curve to a successful outdoor blog!
Cheers from the Wild
Albert

Get outside…with yor kids! An Outdoors Charter for Kids

The provincial government has recently put together an initiative to promote outdoor activities among our youth in Ontario.

http://www.childrensoutdoorcharter.ca/

Finally! In my opinion the current generation of kids are missing out on the richly diverse experience that is our outdoor environment.

In support of this, they have developed a website outlining a vast array of activities children can take part in.  This is a good first step, and here is hoping they are able to implement activities, outreach programs and connect with other existing programs to actually get kids outside.

oh BTW, kudos to the website for including “Harvest something to eat”.  As a forager, I am happy to see this way of life promoted.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

OFAH – Protecting Ontario’s Wild Heritage

A big shout out to OFAH and all the work they do to preserve Ontario’s wild heritage.

If not for them, I am sure I wouldn’t have much to write about on this blog!

http://www.ofah.org/fishing

Take a few minutes to look into what they are about and perhaps make a donation if you are so included!

OFAH