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Category Archives: hunting equipment

Bargain vs. Premium Ammo

You get what you pay for. That’s an adage we generally believe in. But does it hold up with respect to ammunition? We set out to answer that question by testing the accuracy of a variety of value-priced .308 hunting ammo against more costly stuff.

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Methodology
Using three .308 rifles in the test—one hunting rig and two precision rifles that we knew would be ringers.

We put a number of budget and premium loads through all three rifles over the course of one day, ensuring the results wouldn’t be influenced by different environmental conditions. We also used a standard 5-shot-group protocol, and shot two groups with each load at 100 yards. As a control to establish a baseline level of accuracy for each rifle, we also shot 5-shot groups using Federal’s Gold Medal load with 175-grain Sierra BTHPs.

Using the baseline match load to calculate a ratio for each hunting load by dividing the size of the hunting-load groups into the size of the match-load groups. The closer to 1 that ratio is, the better the hunting load performed. None of the hunting loads outshot the match load, so all these ratios were greater than one.

Results
The outcome was interesting. The best hunting ammo was Hornady’s American Whitetail 150-grain Interlock SP. Compared to the baseline groups with the match ammo, this budget-priced load ($19.29 for a box of 20) shot nearly as well as the match ammo in all three rifles and had an impressive 1.41 average ratio. Federal’s Fusion, another bargain ammo ($21.49 for a box of 20) was second best among the loads, with an average ratio of 2.02.

The only expensive load that delivered consistent performance in all three rifles was Federal’s 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip ($34.49 per box), The two Winchester loads had nearly identical levels of performance, though again, the less expensive 180-grain BST (2.11 ratio average) outshot the more expensive 150-gr. XP3 (2.81 ratio average).

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It’s worth noting when purchasing premium ammo that the promise of greater accuracy is certainly implied because it uses better quality components, but that much of its benefit is based on the idea that it will perform better on game.

Conclusion
It pays to try different loads in several different bullet weights in your rifles. Investing money to find an accurate load is the cheapest way to get the most from your rig.

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Top Ten Fire Starters

fire-starter-wawang-lake

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Sharpen Your Bow Skill During the Off Season!

bow-hunting-wawang-lakeWe practice with our bows all summer long, but after opening day its easy to get wrapped up in the hunting and forget about practicing. But even if you’re spending your time in the field and can’t hit the archery range every day, you can still keep your edge. Shooting in hunting situations is obviously different from target shooting. In the real world, weather conditions, shot angles, brush and other obstacles can impact your shot. Also, when the time comes to take a shot during a hunting situation you’re usually either stiff and cold from sitting in a treestand or sucking wind from running up a hill. All this combined with the fact that you must make a clean shot with the first arrow makes it all the more important to keep your shooting skills sharp. Here are a couple tips.

Practice Drawing
One of the biggest challenges to making a “cold shot” is that often the muscles I use for properly drawing my bow are stiff. The simplest way to cure this is to periodically pick a target, draw your bow, aim, hold, and let down your draw. This keeps you loosened up, plus drawing and aiming without actually shooting helps you focus on the target.



Practice Shooting

Although just drawing and aiming will help a lot, the single biggest help is to actually shoot while out hunting. A common practice among traditional shooters is to carry one or two blunt pointed arrows in your quiver so that you can stump shoot in your down time. Stump shooting is fantastic for keeping you warmed up, but unlike just drawing, actually completing your shots will bring your release into play, as well as give you all sorts of angles and situations to practice.

Small game is even better than stumps (grouse and rabbits taste a lot better too). Grouse can be deceivingly tough to hit. You want to aim for the base of the neck or the head. Sometimes they flush at the shot, but grouse will go in the direction that their head is pointing, so if you use a snaro point, you can either take their head off or hit them in the body as they flush. The best thing about grouse is they often give you extremely challenging shots, and if you can become consistent at taking them, you will be ready for the big game (make sure to check your local regulations before taking any small game with a bow).

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Planning your hunt

Planning a black bear hunt often a painstaking, long drawn out event that involves researching outfitters, contacting references, arranging for lodging and transportation, and choosing the proper weapon.

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Most people must apply for tags by lottery depending on location, but did you know that if you go through an outfitter in Ontario, Canada you are GUARANTEED a tag?!  With that in mind, let’s visit the outfitter planning phase.

NW Ontario is renowned for not only population but size of black bear.  In the last 3 years of our hunts, we have had 44 hunters.  Of those 44, 33 harvested 6 spotted and passed up and 5 did not spot  Pretty impressive stats.  We go a step further when we can boast that over 45% were 300lb+ with 8 being over the 400lb mark and our record (taken last year) was 475lb (dressed weight) and squared out at 7′

Whether you choose an outfitter (suggested for first timers) or set up your own hunt, be prepared to start planning at least as early as a year prior.  Do you have your area picked?  Do you know the native food sources? What was the weather pattern like this hunt season?  Were the bears active and what was the harvest from the season(s) prior to your arrival?

A good outfitter will have all of this information readily available as well as a list of references.  That list should include people that did and did not get their bears.  It should include multiple years and an honest overview. You need to know exactly what to expect when you arrive and during your hunt.

Patterning the animal by baiting is often preferred up here in the boreal forest as spot and stalk is very unlikely with our dense forest and thick canopy.  The bonus to baiting is the ability to cull the size and sex necessary to help maintain and manage the population.  Often times, in our area, those that spot and stalk often take the first animal they see as it may be the only one and most refuse to pass up the opportunity 😦

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Baiting and sitting a stand may seem like a ‘canned hunt’ but as most can attest to, it can be a grueling experience that will test your fortitude.  Most first time bear hunters assume (incorrectly) that if you feed them, they will come…..while that is often the truth, bears are as individual as people and even with food, there is no guarantee of compliance on the animal’s part….remember, you are dealing with a wild creature and trying in 14 days or less to train it to your will.  Those that have children or pets know that training anything can be a very difficult task but consistency is key!

When planning your hunt, ensure that you are prepared for the task at hand.  Don’t think that just because you showed up that the bear is going to get the memo.  Be prepared to sit that stand!  You cant harvest a bear from your cabin/tent/motel.

When you contact potential outfitters, ensure that they have answers to all of your questions and they are engaged with your plight.  They should be just as focused on you getting a bear as you are.  Your outfitter is your link to the area as well as in most cases in charge of ‘conditioning’ your bear prior to your arrival.  A good outfitter will be promoting consistency with baiting (by example of course).  We bait each and every day to ensure cycles and patterning is noted.

As mentioned earlier, bears are unpredictable to some extent and a bait that could have been hitting each time it was checked (hopefully daily) could quiet down for a day or two.  Be patient, if you trust your outfitter they will help you through this phase and often have backup plans including alternate baits that may be still consistent.  Ensure that your outfitter is the type that cares enough to keep up with you and your hunt and puts your success as a priority.

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No hunt is guaranteed but what you can guarantee is that doing your homework can save you the disappointment of an unfulfilling hunt, bear or not!

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Sharpen your bow skill during the off season!

 

bow1

We practice with our bows all summer long, but after opening day its easy to get wrapped up in the hunting and forget about practicing. But even if you’re spending your time in the field and can’t hit the archery range every day, you can still keep your edge. Shooting in hunting situations is obviously different from target shooting. In the real world, weather conditions, shot angles, brush and other obstacles can impact your shot. Also, when the time comes to take a shot during a hunting situation you’re usually either stiff and cold from sitting in a treestand or sucking wind from running up a hill. All this combined with the fact that you must make a clean shot with the first arrow makes it all the more important to keep your shooting skills sharp. Here are a couple tips.

Practice Drawing
One of the biggest challenges to making a “cold shot” is that often the muscles I use for properly drawing my bow are stiff. The simplest way to cure this is to periodically pick a target, draw your bow, aim, hold, and let down your draw. This keeps you loosened up, plus drawing and aiming without actually shooting helps you focus on the target.



Practice Shooting

Although just drawing and aiming will help a lot, the single biggest help is to actually shoot while out hunting. A common practice among traditional shooters is to carry one or two blunt pointed arrows in your quiver so that you can stump shoot in your down time. Stump shooting is fantastic for keeping you warmed up, but unlike just drawing, actually completing your shots will bring your release into play, as well as give you all sorts of angles and situations to practice.

Small game is even better than stumps (grouse and rabbits taste a lot better too). Grouse can be deceivingly tough to hit. You want to aim for the base of the neck or the head. Sometimes they flush at the shot, but grouse will go in the direction that their head is pointing, so if you use a snaro point, you can either take their head off or hit them in the body as they flush. The best thing about grouse is they often give you extremely challenging shots, and if you can become consistent at taking them, you will be ready for the big game (make sure to check your local regulations before taking any small game with a bow).

 

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Hypothermia

 hypothermia-wawang-lake

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Tree Stand Safety

tree_stand_tips_wawanglakeAlways be cautious using a tree stand.   As hunters begin to set up tree stands as part of their preparation, safety is still rule number one whether you are scouting a location, trimming shooting lanes and putting up your tree stand, even on a trial basis, use the same precautions you would during hunting season.

Use a lineman-style belt in addition to a full-body harness when first putting a tree stand in place.  This minimizes the chance of falls and potential injury,  and,  always select a healthy, straight tree for placement.

Other recommendations:
Never carry anything as you climb — use a haul line to raise and lower equipment.

  • Maintain three points of contact when climbing.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions.
  • Don’t exceed manufacturer’s maximum height settings.
  • Have an emergency signal device with you.
  • Tell someone where you plan to go.

As with any piece of equipment, tree stands need inspection before use.

Replace:

  • Rusted bolts
  • Frayed straps or, if needed, buy a new tree stand.

Leaving a tree stand up from one season to the next has some inherent problems that outweigh any convenience. When a tree stand is exposed to the elements due to long-term placement, it may have damaged straps, ropes and attachment cords — any of which may potentially lead to breakage and failure.

 

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Know your Rover, Know its Range

by 

a chocolate lab, pointing

“Here, Penny. Come here, girl. Whoa. Now Whoa!” The panicked expletives started the minute I turned my brittany, Penny, loose to quarter the covert. The problem was, it wasn’t me shouting the commands. It was my hunting partner who had only hunted upland birds over his labs.

He didn’t understand that the range for a pointing dog was vastly different than that of a flushing dog, (but really shouldn’t have been commanding or cautioning my dog at all).

He was used to a very close working dog and thought that a wider ranging dog was going to bump birds before we got in position to shoot. What he didn’t know was that a pointing dog, unlike a flushing dog, will (or should) hold birds on point until the guns arrives for the flush.

Range is simply the distance a dog can effectively hunt from its master, and this will vary from dog to dog, breed to breed.

To my mind, range is simply the distance a dog can effectively hunt from its master, and this will vary from dog to dog, breed to breed.

A dog’s natural range is first dictated by genetics and then molded by handling and training in the field. Each breed has its own general parameters in which it works effectively.

Being mindful of the differences between breeds makes the potential owners more informed and more likely to be pleased with their hunting companion.

Point or Flush?
Flusher Retrievers
Flushing dogs, such as retrievers and spaniels, do as their name suggests.

Upon scenting game, they chase and ultimately flush birds. In order to be effective, these dogs must work within a distance of typical shotgun range (10 to 25 yards). If the dog pushes the envelope and starts popping birds up at 35 to 40 yards, the number of missed birds will increase.

The way to train a dog to handle within range is to make sure it’s successful at finding birds in range of the gun during training. Planted birds and solid basic obedience training will convince the dog that if it stays close enough to the shooter, a mouthful of feathers and a retrieve are the reward.

Pointers
Pointing dogs on the other hand can, and should, stretch out the field a bit more. As long as the dog is dependably holding birds until the gun-totting hunter arrives, it can be trusted to reach out a little more.

To ensure that a dog remains steady on point and doesn’t flush birds prematurely, never shoot birds that the dog bumps or flushes.

Soon enough the dog will understand that the only way he gets the reward of a mouthful of feathers is to remain still and hold the bird on the ground until the handler flushes the bird.

Best Breed Debate
The debate over which breed is best for a particular game bird has gone on for decades and will certainly continue. With that in mind, I suggest for the rough shooter who expects to shoot both upland and waterfowl on a given hunt, one of the flushing/retrieving breeds might be most appropriate choice, flushing/retrieving breeds might be most appropriate choice — a springer spaniel or Labrador, for example.

With training, these breeds work close to the gun and will also be happy to hunker down in a blind while waiting for waterfowl to pitch into the decoys.

If, on the other hand, you like to keep your boots dry and hunt upland birds exclusively, then pointing breeds are a better fit. Pointing dogs have a style and range that add a unique flavour to the hunt. True pointing breeds, such as setters or English pointers, are specialists — as are those who tend to own them.

For those who don’t want their dog to dictate the kind of game they pursue, there are always the dock-tailed Continental breeds, such as German shorthairs, Hungarian vizsla, pudlepointers and even brittanys. Pointing, tracking, and retrieving of upland birds, waterfowl, and furred game is all in a day’s work for these versatile breeds.

The distance your dog works from you is ultimately a matter of choice. Regardless of what breed you prefer orgame you hunt, it’s important that you recognize the skills your own dog brings to the field and allow it the room he needs to be effective.

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Trip Planning Tips

So many people WANT to go on a hunting or fishing trip but find the task daunting and the thought overwhelming so they tend to avoid it….

Truly, if you know a few simple tricks, planning can be expedited and you could find yourself in a boat or tree stand much quicker than expected.

wawang lake, wawang lake resort

U. S. Passport Card

First and foremost, you do NOT need to purchase a passport.  For half the price ($55.00 adult, $40 child) this handy card lasts for a period of 10 years and allows ground transport between the US and Canada and Mexico. If you plan to fly, a passport will be required but most of us travel will plenty of hunting and fishing equipment so driving is much more common.

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/information/card.html

Also a note regarding those pesky DWI’s….if you have had one and it has been over 6 months, there is a good possibility you can still enter Canada!!  https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/402/~/entering-the-u.s.-and-canada-with-dui-offenses

Next, when choosing a trip, make a list of ‘must haves’ such as:  The resort MUST HAVE running water, indoor plumbing, somewhere to prepare food etc.  (We have that…shameless plug lol)

Next devise a budget.  Remember to calculate travel and food costs.  And also remember to find out if the cost is per person or an overall cost.  Always add an extra 15% to that number to ensure you have money for unexpected incidentals such as a flat tire etc.  Also, never forget to calculate the local taxes into the cost.

Once you have a targeted budget, begin your research.  Remember, most resorts do have varying rates depending on the season as well as various other specials during the year.sunset bear

When utilizing specials, ensure that you understand the weather patterns and fishing patterns at that time of year.  Some places have a change over in ease of catching species or hunting migration patterns.  Make sure you ask about this so you aren’t disappointed.

Take us for example, in June our regular Housekeeping fishing rate is $655 per person but offer various discounts from July 20% Off- August 25% Off & September 25% Off.     And for those of you who are paying attention, our lake is a closed off headwater, spring fed and our fish cant leave…they just tend to migrate from one part of the lake to another so fishing will only be affected by color, depth and presentation 🙂  Feel free to check ALL our rates at:   http://wawangresort.com/rates.htm  If you’re looking for that fish of a lifetime, to catch your first trophy fish OR to just catch LOTS of fish then Wawang Lake is the place for you.

Last and not least, get referrals!  There is nothing more disappointing that driving (or flying) all that way only to find it isnt what is what you were expecting.  Though no trip may be perfect, you should understand the basics of what to expect.

Ensure that you also contact the lodge representatives with all questions and they should respond promptly, honestly and with as much information as possible…..remember, they should be looking forward to meeting you and be excited to share what they can provide for you.

Remember…this is YOUR vacation and it is within your control to make it the best possible!

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Tips For More Grouse

trees3Learn to Recognize Good Cover
Some hunters seem to have a sixth sense about where the grouse are. This isn’t magic but rather the culmination of years of experience, observation, and a working knowledge of what the birds need. These guys are constantly reading about grouse habitat and lore; they take note of wherever they hear drumming in the spring. They know that good grouse cover holds food and provides protection from predators — if it is near an evergreen stand or gravel so much the better.

Take a page from these hunters. Every time you or your dog move a bird, have a good look around after the smoke has cleared — you’ll see a pattern soon enough. Study grouse biology at home; carry field guides when you hunt; learn to recognize common grouse foods in your area. After a while you’ll develop that sixth sense too.

Keep a Log
Every serious grouse hunter I know keeps a hunting log. Some maintain elaborate leather-bound journals in which they detail particulars of the hunt such as the date, cover, number of flushes, dog work, weather, harvest, and crop contents of the birds. Other keep it simple, by marking covers on their handheld GPS. Either way, the hunter is reminded of the places that produced grouse last season.gps

Do this consistently and it won’t take many seasons before you have a bevy of early, mid, and late season options. The more options you have, the better your chance of having a grouse dinner.

Break Some Clay
Over the course of a season, few of us get enough shots at grouse. So it only stands to reason that a hunter ought to make the most of each opportunity. I do this by honing my shotgunning skills in the off-season. Skeet, trap, or sporting clays keep a hunter sharp so that mounting and swinging his scattergun becomes second nature. You’ll still miss — grouse have a way of humbling everyone — but you’ll also make some shots that you might not have without the off-season practice. It just takes a few of these to turn a mediocre season into a great one.

Don’t Forget the Dog Days
Spring and summer are tailor-made for training your dog. Despite this, few of us take advantage of the opportunity. Instead, we expect our dogs to work flawlessly on opening day and we’re actually surprised when that doesn’t happen.

Does your flushing dog hunt too far ahead and blow cover before you get there? A little “hup training” (teaching your dog to sit on command, no matter how far away) in the off season goes a long way towards remedying this. You might also consider brushing up on retrieving drills or introducing your dog to pigeons or game farm forays prior to the season. Some advanced training, such as steadying to wing and shot (where a dog sits down automatically at each flush) might require the help of a professional dog trainer. If that’s what you want, the off-season is the time to do it.

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Pointing dogs have their own set of training needs, which might include bolstering staunchness, retrieving, hunting range and finding dead birds. Whatever your canine hunting partner’s flaw is, the off-season is the time to address it.

The idea is to learn to handle your dog so that you perform as a well-oiled team during the hunting season. There are plenty of great dog training books and videos — the off-season is when you should benefit from them most.

Follow the Food
Grouse eat hundreds of types of food and each provides a clue as to where the birds are hanging out. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the crop of every bird you shoot. Knowing what grouse are eating helps you understand their habits and tells you where you should focus your hunting efforts. If the last three birds you shot were full of blackberries, for instance, it’s definitely time to hunt any of your covers that hold these shrubs.

Against the Wind
A dog relies on his nose to find birds. So why would you hunt with the wind at its back? We all know that there isn’t any good reason for doing so, but it’s one of the first things excited dog handlers forget when approaching good cover.

If you hunt into the wind, your dog will work closer, scent more game and, hopefully, find more birds. It’s a simple but often overlooked strategy that can make the difference between a full and empty game bag. This is also an important consideration when looking for a lost bird. Take your dog downwind from where you think it fell and let it start hunting from there.

Stop and Start
A good grouse hunting dog provides opportunities that you might not have otherwise had, but that’s not to say that a dog less hunter can’t do well. The key, for a dog less hunter, is to stop and start through likely cover and change direction often. These unpredictable patterns unnerve grouse and invariably pressure them into flushing. Another added bonus is that when you stop you can sometimes hear the put-put-put of a grouse moving just ahead of you. If that’s the case, get the gun up and rush it.

Don’t Hesitate
A good upland shot doesn’t hesitate. He takes the first available shot, even if it’s not a great one.

If you wait for a better chance you’ll rarely get it. Similarly, if you are leading a bird that disappears behind a screen of leaves, follow through, and shoot anyway. You’ll be surprised how often you connect. If not, shells are cheap.

While we’re on the subject of shooting, be ready for the second flush. Often, especially, early in the season when birds are still in their family groups, multiple flushes do occur. If you keep this in mind, they won’t catch you flat-footed — or with an empty gun.

Follow Up
Whenever you flush a bird and don’t fold it, mark where you last saw it. Most times they won’t fly much further than 150 yards. If you marked it well and follow up immediately, you have a good chance of forcing a second flush.

 

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Another advantage of following up on grouse is that they sometimes lead you to new covers. If that’s the case, don’t forget to mark it.

Lastly, never assume that you missed any grouse that you shot at. After the shot, keep quiet and listen. Sometimes you’ll hear a mortally wounded grouse doing its death dance against the ground — that’s the one that you thought you missed.

The Right Tools
A fast-handling 12, 16 or 20 gauge shotgun is ideal for birds. Most gunners like double guns. Some happen to prefer a pump because that’s what they shoot best with.  However, don’t discount the light weight, easy to carry .410 shotgun.  Nice little gun with ever growing in popularity in our neck of the woods.

Whatever, your preference, you can’t go wrong using 2 3/4-inch shells filled with 7.5 shot. Grouse aren’t tough birds and it doesn’t take much to bring them down. Since most shots are within 15 yards, the more open-choked your barrels are, the better.

Other essential grouse hunting tools include a quality blaze orange upland hunting vest with a lined game pouch; brush pants; comfortable, well-supported hunting boots; and a compass and/or GPS. If you are hunting with a dog, a whistle, water bottle, portable dog dish, dog first aid kit, and lead are important too. When working heavy, thorny cover, a pair of shooting glasses that protect your eyes are worth their weight in gold.

Conclusion
No one ever said grouse hunting was complicated. But it does take some planning, know-how and skill. Over the last few years, these strategies have made many a much better grouse hunter. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.

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