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

First Deer

I was recently invited to join a work friend (Jordan) and his family for the first week of this year’s  annual deer hunt.  They hunt a large group of properties in a small town north of Kingston using dogging methods.  This was my first experience dogging, so being a still hunter, I was naturally excited to experience it’s relative fast pace.

Starting out..

We headed out early Monday morning to meet the other members of the group at the family farm.   All the other members seemed to be well seasoned deer hunters.  Thankfully they didn’t give me too much of a hard time for being a green horn.  In fact, I think they were glad to have another gun on a another stand which gave the deer one less out and increased our odds.  With an arrival at 4:30 am, we had plenty of time to make the introductions and to discuss how things would play out over the course of the days to follow.   Once we had some direction from the more experienced hunters, we departed the farm towards our stands which were situated on a nearby property.  Finally the season was about to begin.

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(I could argue that some of the best sights to be seen are from a tree stand just as the sun begins to rise)

The first run turned out to be unsuccessful, as did the following runs that day.  Even so, I was able to learn a lot about how the group functions and about dogging in general.  Typically the group completed 3 to 4 runs with the dogs in a day, all on different properties so as not to pressure an area too much and to maximize coverage.  Hunters are placed in strategic locations along deer runways or prime escape routes on each hunted property in an attempt to remove all exits from the property.  The method relies on the dogs pushing deer present in the area into their preferred escape routes, where the hunters have hopefully been placed.  This is where the group’s extensive experience with the land shone through, as time and time again they put me in stands that were obviously on throughways for deer.  Its one thing to hunt a property, its all together another thing to completely understand it and how animals interact with it.  Regardless of the lack of success, I could see it was just a matter of time.

The days progressed quickly, with silent periods broken by quick jokes on the radios or the howling of the hounds.  Ever time news of a sighting came across the radio, my heart seemed to jump out of my chest and I found my eyes would flit across the landscape with renewed focus in hopes of spotting our quarry.  I didn’t know half of the areas the radio conversations were discussing but I knew that deer are fickle things and they could just as easily wander in front of my stand as any other.

Although the methods seemed well practiced and time tested, It just seemed like there were very few deer around to even push.  Everyone seemed to agree the deer were not in the areas we were pushing, and that they were likely posted up in the large swamps nearby.  Not to mention, we had been experiencing some above average temperatures which some say will keep the deer from moving too much.   Thankfully, the stars aligned on the third day.

Day 3 Success

We hunted another previously un-hunted piece of land right off the bat on day 3.  Despite some pretty heated runs, and encountering a buck and multiple does, no deer were taken.  The deer seemed to find convenient cedar rows or thick bush to escape to.  There was no question though, more deer were being sighted.

On the last run of the day we shifted to another property that we had previously hunted.  According to the land owners, this was one of the gems amongst their huntable lands since so many deer used the area as a throughway.  Its deer population could vary so greatly over short periods of time which made it a good candidate for multiple runs.  The property was a mix of fields and planted pine rows next to a small lake but the interesting part about this property was a thin 60 yard sliver of dense cedar and mixed bush that separated the fields from the lake.  This sliver formed a natural funnel/runway for deer and they placed me and my Winchester Model 94 30-30 smack dab in the middle of it’s main arterial deer path. This would be the first time the little winnie would see any action.

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It was a couple hours into the hunt when I a heard a twig snap just beyond my field of vision. Its funny how you realize the subtle difference between a deer moving and a squirrel playing once you actually hear a deer move!  Moments later a beautiful 8 point buck casually popped into view.  My chest pounded.  This was the best chance I had ever had at any deer, and the first time I had seen a buck through the sights of my rifle.  At the time I didn’t even realize that the animal was on the upper side of average and actually a fairly good size for the area.  I just saw a jumble of deer horns and bush.  Likely a bi-product of the adrenaline.

The buck was cautious and advanced at a snails pace.  He had yet to detect me but made it clear he was aware something was afoot.  Beating back the buck fever, I took a breath and slowly raise the 30-30 to put the bead sites on as much of the deer as I could see.

The brush was very dense and the deer had not stopped in an ideal location so clear shots were almost impossible.  I waited.  I sat patiently for what seemed like an eternity with bead fixed, and hand steady.  Then he took a couple small steps, advancing a foot or so and revealing his neck and broad chest in the process.

His eyes met mine in a moment of final realization.  He knew and I knew a fraction of a second was all I had.

It was at this instant I took the shot.  Moments later, the deer lay still in the same place as he was once stood.  A clean shot and a quick end.  A successful harvest.

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I shot a second deer that week.  The second looses none of the excitement, but there is something about the first that remains seared into my memory.  I’ve had a lot of firsts in the outdoors during the course of my life.  First fish, first bass, first goose. etc.  All of them exceptional, life altering experiences.  But, I can honestly say, they pale in comparison to overwhelming excitement you get when you pursue a large animal like a deer for the first time.  These animals aren’t so easily tricked and their senses are much sharper than our own making a successful hunt all the better.

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Tradition

As profound an experience as it is to harvest a deer, harvesting is not the only valuable aspect of hunting.  For myself, tradition plays just as significant of a role.  I was lucky enough this year to hunt with an established group that gave me a chance to take part in an family tradition that has been developed over decades.  It was immediately clear that this tradition was built on the ideals of family, mutual respect, conservation, and enjoyment as well as preservation of the sport for the future.  I could see this when members of the party brought their young kids out to teach them about the experience.  Or when we discussed the reasons for selective harvesting as a means of conservation.  For this group, hunting is as much about the tradition and preservation as it was about the shooting.

But no need to look at hunting in such philosophical terms.  Hunting is really just a week or two every year where you get to relive the past experiences, share hunting stories, tell the same jokes and enjoy the company of other like minded folks.  A time to share a real connection with other human beings and time to pass down much needed lessons through the art of some “back in my day” story telling.  Its a time to pass time in the outdoors, reflect on things, and gain a bit of clarity. And in our busy lives, who couldn’t use a little bit of that?

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Cheers from the Wild

Albert

A Golden Early Season Goose Hunt

Here in southern Ontario we are lucky enough to have an over abundance of Canadian Geese.  Although many people consider these large birds to be a nuisance, Hunters know these birds make for some exciting heart pumping hunts, not to mention delicious table fare.  It was for these reasons I decided to head out last weekend with a group of friends to a small back lake north of Kingston.

Unfortunately, as it is with all new hobbies, proficiency depends directly on experience and in some cases, trial and error.   So as it was this time around,  our trip to a back lake north of Kingston, did not yield any geese.   Looks like more tinkering with our set up and maybe a day or two shooting skeet is required.

Regardless, we had loads of fun shooting at the odd solo bird.  As a bonus were able to switch over to fishing to continue the fun once the goose hunting hours dwindled.

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Fishing started slow, just like goose hunting, however it began to pick up as Dave caught a meatly little largemouth.

Our approach mostly consisted of senkos and drop shots near rock points and rip rap shores which is standard fall basin tactics here in Southern Ontario.  An when the third member of our group hooked up with a hefty fish we were sure the method had paid off with a giant bucket.  We were in for quite a big surprise when he landed this beautiful golden walleye instead of a largemouth.  And on a senko of all things!  In most cases, this would be just a fluke, but when a second walleye came on the senko minutes later, we decided to give it some credence.

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This shook up everything we thought we knew about walleye fishing and we scrambled frantically to figure out this new pattern.

In the end, the pattern didn’t really revolve so much around the lure, but lure placement.  We managed several other decent fish with two well within the slot.  Knowing that the lake seemed to have a decent population remaining, we kept two of the fish that were in the slot for the table and headed back our of the lake towards the car.

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Most walleye anglers have a preferred recipe for cooking walleye.  Although I have tried numerous recipes, I am no different from most as I always come back to the classics.  A flour, salt and pepper dredging and a light fried in butter has always been my favourite way to cook walleye and was the recipe of choice for the fish we kept from this outing.

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The complaint I hear most often from people who don’t like fish is that it tastes or smells too “fishy”.  Why does it taste this way? Well, to put it bluntly, your tasting the initial stages of decay in the fish and that means the fish is not as fresh as the supermarket advertisements would have you believe.

Real wild caught walleye (and most other fish for that matter), prepared properly and ate relatively quickly after it was caught, is a true thing of beauty.  The taste is often described as sweet and has a light and flakey texture.  No fish taste, no fish smell.  Fish the way it was meant to be ate.  Even though I was craving goose, fresh walleye is definitely an allowable substitute.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Delicious Wild Game

Spring is here in a big way which means the spring foraging season will soon be in our midsts. Soon the forest will begin to green and the early rising leaks with again dot the hill sides.
I for one, am on the edge of my seat awaiting this time of plenty. But, were still a few weeks away from any real foraging prospects. So until then I’ll just have to satisfy my wild cravings with some venison meat pies from last deer season. Tough break eh?
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Remember, ontario is blessed with an abundance of wild edibles.
Don’t miss out on the bounty this year! Get outside!

Cheers from the wild
Albert

Range Work – Blast Away the Winter Blues

Here in southern Ontario, winter continues to press on with snow storms and demoralizing drops in the mercury.  This can be disheartening for those of us looking forward to spring turkeys and the spring foraging season.  So with a free Saturday on my hands and -10 temperatures outside, I was looking for a compromise; something fun and entertaining outdoors that didn’t require too much exposure to the lingering cold temps and bitter winds.

Then the phone rang…. It was my uncle.

Range you say?

Getting to shoot a plethora of hunting rifles in preparation for the up coming season you say?

The range is within a partially enclosed structure and the wind is blocked you say?

I say: YES PLEASE!

Back Story

Now most years I have hunted in areas where regulations only allow the use of shotguns and slugs for deer.  This year, however I have been invited to hunt in an area where rifles are the gun of choice which allows for significantly longer shots.   This style of hunting is new to me and my gun cabinet for that matter, so I jumped at the chance to test out my deer rifles.

And with that, I packed up my rifles and started the 2hour trek to my uncle place near Bethany, Ontario.

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For those of you who hunt, you already know how invaluable a range like this can be.  A few hours spent here can mean the difference between a successful hunt  and the bitter taste of a ” Deer Tag Sandwhich”.  These facilities are located across Ontario and offer a safe, controlled environment with targets set specific measured distances.  Usually 50 yrds, 100 yrds, 200 yrds and up catering to any kind of firearm.  Coupled with something called a “lead sled” these facilities can help a shooter hone in the accuracy of their firearms.   What is a “lead sled”?This piece of “high tech” technology basically consisted of a cradle for the firearm which allows you to securely place the gun in a rest and a weighted base to absorb the shock of the recoil after firing.  The lead sled then can be adjusted to provide a relative reference point for each shot.  This is the most accurate way of sighting in a rifle.  For those non-shooters, shooting in the standing, crouched or even prone position can still introduce a ton of variability in the shot from sources like flinching or even something as innocuous as breathing.  The lead sled, negates these problems.

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My choice for deer this year includes an .270 and a .30-30.  we tarted with the Remington .270 and cycled a variety of shells ranging from 110 grain all the way up to 150.  During our down time last deer season we had put together a variety of shells within this range of bullets all using differing amounts of powder.  Basically, the ballistics change with the grain size of bullets and amount of gunpowder used.  Being able to fire a range of bullets with a range of powder charges allows the hunter to find the exact combination that fits his gun and his shooting style, essentially optimizing the hunting rifle for the specific person using it.  This, coupled with physically setting the scope for specific distances can greatly increase the accuracy and turn the rifle into a finely tuned hunting machine.

Sound a bit fanatical to you?  Don’t get me wrong, Im not a gun nut by any stretch of the imagination.  I do however believe, if your going to do something, do it right the first time and ultimately, knowing your gun and what powder/bullet combo works the best can help you as a hunter make better shots. This in turn minimizes missed and foul shots.  Something no hunter ever wants to experience.

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Next up, was the .30-30.  This calibre and make of gun has quite a bit of history and is often the choice for deer hunters who hunt areas with thick bush.  Equipped with open sights and a lever action, this guns is one of the fastest non-semi automatic deer guns available.  Its downside: it is pretty useless after 150yrds. Upsides: this gun definitely brings the FUN factor to shooting and if you ever dreamed of being a cowboy as a kid, this rifle is for you! YEEHAW!

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(an excellent grouping for 100 yrds!)

Ranges offer great fun and are a great tool for hunters to hone their firearms.  Even if your not a gun owner or hunter and are interested, it is worth checking with any friends that may have memberships and with the ranges them selves to see what the access requirements are.  Non Pal holders may be allowed to attend and enjoy the facilities if accompanied by a PAL holder. The following link lists a few gun clubs throughout Ontario.

http://www.firearmscanada.com/resources/gun-clubs/#Ontario

Cheers from the Wild Range

Albert

2013 Deer Hunting Season – An Ontario Tradition

Here in Ontario we are nearing the end of good weather and the cold depths winter are slowly approaching.  The days are shorter and the threat of a crisp frost is ever present.  Its this time of year when the minds of most people start to drift southward to warm beaches and cool drinks.  But, for some of us, our thoughts drift to colder climates full of tree stands, warm coffee, and a the prospect of the hunt.

For a few of the faithfull, it is time to sight in the rifles and shot guns, wash the camo clothes with scent-free soap and don the traditional blaze orange vest and hat.   It is time for the great tradition of the Deer Hunt. Continue reading

Is venision leaving a bad taste in your mouth?

A few years back I was hunting as part of a group in south eastern Ontario near the Belleville Area.  As luck would have it, one of the newer additions to the group shot a beautiful 8 point buck.  As a lover of all things wild (especially edibles), I was ecstatic.  This was the first deer I had an part (albeit indirectly) in killing and I was going to enjoy the meat.

Unfortunately, the meat did not taste very good and to this day I have often wondered why that was.

After bumping around the internet a bit I recently came across this well written article (see link below) by Will Brantley, a freelance writer for Reeltree.com.  Thinking back now, and comparing to this article, I am sure that many mistakes were made in the handling of the meat.

Hopefully this article will help all those hunters who have experienced the same issues as I have.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

http://www.realtree.com/hunting/articles-and-how-to/12-reasons-why-your-venison-tastes-like-hell