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ID the Morel – Spring’s Best Mushroom

When the spring gobbler season and shed hunting is in full swing, you’ll probably spending a lot of time in the woods looking at the ground for antlers and turkey sign. Something else you ought to be on the lookout for is a weird little pitted thing that looks like a small, lumpy, brown brain. This time of year, that organism is most likely a common morel mushroom, a popular item of spring foragers. Here’s how to properly identify this delectable fungus.

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ID a Morel
The common morel (Morchella esculenta) is a prized wild mushroom that grows in forests and shady areas, primarily in April and May. These mushrooms are usually 2 to 4 inches tall. The tan, gray, or brownish colored head with irregular pitting is well camouflaged against leaf litter. If you cut the mushroom completely in half, it should be entirely hollow inside. Look carefully for the cone-shaped head to be fully fused to the stalk at the lower end.

mush2If the head is only attached at the top, and hangs like a skirt, you are probably looking at a false morel, which can be very poisonous. False morels (the genera Verpa and Gyromitra) usually grow in the summer and fall, which are great times to avoid anything resembling a morel. Another way to properly ID an edible morel is to make a spore print, which, for a common morel is yellowish. Here’s how do that.

Make a Spore Print
1. Handle your foraged mushrooms carefully, and assume that any unidentified mushroom is deadly. Get the whole thing if possible, but the cap is the part you need for spore prints.

2. Wrap each individual mushroom in wax paper or a piece of aluminum foil for transport. Plastic bags will make them sweat, and putting multiple mushrooms in a bag can create confusion.

3. Place the mushroom cap gills-down on a piece of white paper and set a cup or bowl over it. Allow it to sit several hours or, better yet, overnight.

4. Remove the cover and lift the mushroom cap. Observe the color of the spores that were deposited, and use that color for identification. Some mushrooms deposit white spores, which are hard to see on the white paper. Set a strong flashlight beside the paper, shining across the surface, to assist in your identification of pure white spores. Check this color against several guides, and double-check the mushroom’s structures against similar mushrooms to ensure that you have the right mushroom ID.

How is the morel hunting in your area so far this spring? Have you ever had a bad run-in with a misidentified mushroom?

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Five Ways To Control Your Scent

Deer have always been prey species. They use all of their senses to avoid being killed by predators like coyotes, wolves, bears, hunters, and automobiles. Their most refined defense is their nose. Whitetail deer are believed to have noses one hundred times more sensitive than a dog’s. Uneducated deer are usually not exceedingly wary of human scent. But if you want to get close to a mature buck you’re going to have to control your scent. Here are five great tips for controlling human odor while deer hunting.

SCENT-WAWANG-LAKEScent Control Clothing The first step is scent control clothing. Some clothing utilizes activated carbon, others use silver to eliminate odor. Just about everything from base layers, socks, gloves, pants, jackets, hats, and facemasks are made to control odor. Of course, rubber boots are also an important addition. It doesn’t matter what you wear if you don’t take care of your clothing. If you’re wearing your scent free clothing in the truck or during breakfast you might as well wrap yourself in bacon. Don’t put on your hunting clothing until you’re in the field and have everything else ready to go.

Don’t wash your scent free clothing in normal detergent. Use scent free, phosphate free, UV brightener-free detergent. In fact, wash a load of your normal clothes in this detergent before doing a load of your hunting clothes just to get any residual detergent out of the machine. Once clean, clothing should be stored in a sealed, scent-free container.

De-Scenting Shower Your body is constantly creating odor. Bacteria is the chief cause of human odor and most scent killing soap is designed to kill bacteria. Lather your entire body and leave the soap on for about a minute before rinsing off. Letting the soap sit on your body will allow it to kill more bacteria. Be sure to wash a supply of towels with your scent free laundry detergent too. Before dressing, apply scent free antiperspirant.

Dirty Mouth One of the most bacteria rich environments on your body is your mouth. As you exhale, much of the scent from your mouth is dispersed into the air. Brush your teeth with unscented baking soda toothpaste at home and just before going into the field. Plaque is a chief producer of scent. Regular visits to the dentist can help control plaque and in turn, control scent. Chewing gum flavored with vanilla, apple, or mint can mask your scent.

Scent-Eliminating Sprays Just about everybody sprays down before hunting these days. But are you doing a good enough job? Buy your spray in bulk at the beginning of the season and don’t be shy about using it. Spray down at the truck and again in the stand. Spray down everything including yourself, your equipment, decoys, calls, and anything else you may have with you.

Using Scents There are two basic types of scents; cover scent and lures. I have seen deer lure scents work but personally avoid them. Using a deer lure scent is essentially asking deer to use their nose at a heightened level. Think about walking into your house when something really good is on the stove. You try to figure out what it is that you are smelling and are very aware of the scents in your home. If you come home before dinner is on the stove your house just smells like it always does and you’re probably not thinking about scent at all. The same principle applies for deer in my opinion. I do like cover scents but I don’t buy commercially produced scents. I prefer using scents from my hunting area. For example, we have junipers, apple trees, and various pines scattered throughout the property. I’ll use branches and apples to mask my scent. I’ve also been known to walk through cow pies on the way into my stand.

You’re never going to completely eliminate your scent. But if you can control it well, you can make a buck and possibly even a bear think your 200 yards away when you’re really just 20 yards away.

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Posted by on January 11, 2019 in hunting, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Grouse Population

 imagesPOPULATION
Ruffed Grouse normally have a short life span. From a brood of 10 or 12 hatched in late May or early June, usually 5 or 6 will have died by mid-August. Among those living to disperse during the fall shuffle, about 45% will have been lost by late fall and early winter. Another 10% die over winter and during early spring, so that only about 45% of the young grouse alive in mid-September live to their first breeding season. In subsequent years a given cohort (a season’s crop of young birds ) continues to shrink by about 55 to 60% per year. So from 1000 chicks hatched in late spring, about 400 normally survive to early autumn, 180 survive to the following nesting season, 80 are alive a year later, 36 live to breed a 3rd time, 16 may breed a 4th time. One out of 2200 chicks hatched may live as long as 8 years.

Most Ruffed Grouse die a violent death to provide a meal for one of a number of meat-eating predators, for in the natural scheme of things, Ruffed Grouse are one of the first links in a complex food chain. Some also die from disease and parasites, or from exposure to severe weather, or accidentally by hitting trees or branches while in a panic flight after being frightened.

grousewawanglakeAcross the major portion of the Ruffed Grouse range, the winged predators or raptors are most efficient at taking these birds. Although the goshawk is certainly the most efficient of all grouse predators, the horned owl probably kills more grouse annually than any other predator. This is due to the cosmopolitan distribution of these owls and the likelihood that any woodland capable of supporting grouse will have resident horned owls, or at least be regularly visited by them. Yet, where cover is adequate, grouse can find security and maintain their abundance even when goshawks and horned owls live and nest nearby.

Conditions are seldom static in the world of the Ruffed Grouse and their numbers fluctuate from year to year, and from decade to decade. Across most of their range in the northern states, Canada and Alaska, Ruffed Grouse numbers have risen and fallen in a somewhat predictable pattern for most of this century, in what is often called a “10-year cycle”. In the Lake States, for example, periods of abundance usually coincide with years ending in 0, 1 or 2, and the bottom of the depression in years ending with 5 or 6. This is not invariable, but a general, regional trend. These “cycles” sweep across the continent more or less as a wave, beginning in the far Northwest and Northeast, and progressing southward and southeastward.

The factors responsible for these periodic fluctuations remain poorly understood, and appear to involve a number of different factors interacting with one another in different ways at different times. The one factor which does not appear to be important is hunting during the period of fall dispersal.

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The primary causes for the short-term fluctuations in Ruffed Grouse abundance appear to be related to weather trends and variations in the quantity and quality of food resources. These are interrelated to a large degree. Superimposed upon these two basic factors is that of predation – as predators take advantage of grouse placed in jeopardy by unfavorable weather conditions or inadequate food resources. A favorable combination of weather factors and food resources may allow these grouse to survive the winter nearly immune to predation. These combinations of factors also affect annual production. If grouse spend the winter feeding on poor quality foodstuffs, or have to use an excessive amount of energy to keep warm, hens may not have sufficient reserves to produce a clutch of viable eggs, or vigorous, healthy chicks in the spring. Across most of their range, the most productive and most abundant Ruffed Grouse populations are those living where they spend most of the winter burrowed into 10 inches or more of soft, powdery snow, and emerge for only a few minutes once or twice a day to take a meal of the male flower buds of the aspens. Our Ruffed Grouse can be considered snow lovers or “Chionophiles.” Ruffed Grouse tend to be less numerous and less productive if they live in regions where they cannot burrow in snow and feed on aspen (poplar).

grousewawanglake2There also seems to be a poorly understood relationship between the color-phase of a Ruffed Grouse and its ability to survive severe wintering conditions, and its vulnerability to predation.

Longer term changes in Ruffed Grouse abundance reflect how we have treated our woodlands and forests. There is also reason to suspect that much of the severity of the “10-year cycle” is largely a result of how we have treated forested lands. These birds depend upon the food and cover resources produced by a group of short-lived trees and shrubs growing in full sunlight which develop following the severe disturbance of forests. In earlier times, fire and windstorm were the ecological agents periodically renewing forests and creating satisfactory habitat for Ruffed Grouse and many other species of forest wildlife. Ruffed Grouse should be considered a “fire-dependent” species in the natural scheme of things.

giphyOur current reluctance to cut forests, even under strict management plans and the suppression of fire to protect growing forests, have upset this natural sequence of events. In the early part of this century, farm abandonment and the recovery of forests from unregulated logging and fires produced habitats which probably resulted in the greatest abundance of grouse in recent times in most of Canada & northern  United States. But as forests mature under protection from fire and cutting, they lose the habitat qualities Ruffed Grouse require. In many regions, Ruffed Grouse numbers have declined as forests have become more extensive and older.

Ruffed Grouse abundance can often be readily restored by proper harvest management of forested lands, or through the judicious use of prescribed fire that is ongoing in northwestern Ontario.

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Posted by on January 4, 2019 in grouse, hunting, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Don’t Forget To Breath

Whether we are at the range shooting targets, or in the field hunting, breathing is important. We want our sight, scope or pin to be on its mark when we pull the trigger.

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Education, shooting positions and firearms are all very important to shooters. Breathing is a very important factor as well. We all breathe. From the day we were born we have unconsciously learned to breathe in and out. That natural motion can help or hinder during shooting.

Controlled breathing is a necessity in shooting accuracy. When you breathe in and out your chest rises and falls. This movement can cause your gun barrel or arrow sight to float on its target. Your breathing may cause you to move at the exact moment you pull the trigger to fire.

Sometimes when you are hunting, you get excited and/or the terrain and conditions cause your heart rate to accelerate. Your breathing becomes more rapid and harder to control. If you hold your breath, you may become light headed and your shot may be off target. It is important to practice your breathing techniques as you practice shooting positions at the range.

There are multiple methods of breathing during a shot. The best thing to do is practice them and determine which works best for you. Once you’ve determined your breathing technique, practice it so it becomes instinctive when you are under pressure.

untitled4Exhale & Pause – When you are in shooting position, put your cheek against the stock of the gun. Take in a deep breath. Exhale just a portion of that breath, pause briefly and pull the trigger. The pause should allow you to hold your gun barrel and sights in perfect alignment on the target at the very moment the gun fires.

Inhale & Pause – Relax and practice steady breathing. Double check your shooting position. In your rythm of relaxed breathing, inhale. When your lungs are about half full, pause and pull the trigger. The inhale and pause is similar to the exhale and pause method. Your gun barrel and sights should be in perfect alignment on the target at the exact moment the gun fires.

Full exhale – Make sure you are in proper shooting position. Breathe slowly to relax. Focus on your target. As you breathe naturally, and you are at complete exhale, pause when your lungs are empty and squeeze the trigger.

untitled2Breathe Naturally – Breathing naturally takes the focus completely off of breathing technique. You do not  pause at all. Focus on your form and your target as you breathe naturally and squeeze the trigger. Sometimes being consciously focused on breathing can increase heart rate and breathing patterns. The natural breathing technique takes the focus off and you begin to unconsciously form a habit of correct shot timing.

When you are pausing, remember just that. It is a pause, not a hold. When a shooter holds their breath, their muscles tighten and their heart rate can change. This will dramatically change the accuracy of a shot.

While you are practicing, if you become short of breath, stop. Re-group and practice your natural, relaxed breathing. It is important to steady your breath to decrease the amount of movement your body is making. If you are able, step back. Take a deep breath in. Then exhale and then reacquire your target.

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Posted by on December 28, 2018 in gun hunting, hunting, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Top Ten Fire Starters

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Bear Facts to Success

imagesS12UAEG6Simple Fact: The more effort you put into masking your scent, the bigger the Black Bears coming into your target zone will be.

All experienced Black Bear Outfitters have their little tricks to make their bear hunters hunt more enjoyable and also help with their success. If you are new to bear hunting you should know what you are up against. Every hunter wants a big trophy bear and this article should bring you a little closer to that goal, but remember, to thoroughly follow the advice of your outfitter, if you’ve chosen one, and, above all else:  DO NOT DEVIATE from the routine they have already established.

Black Bear hunting to the outfitter is about luring bears to a target zone for their hunting guests by baiting with food the bears like such as high-carbohydrate foods. Bread, pasta and other high starch content foods are rare in nature but it’s what the bears want most so they can quickly store fat for the winter. It’s also about setting up stands at strategic spots where big bears have been scouted. Black Bear hunting for the hunter is all about stealth, with the two biggest factors being sound and most of all, smell.

Black Bear’s Sense of Smell: Olfactory Receptors

imagesN9DAOG1VThe Black Bear has the best sense on smell of any land walking mammal on Earth. It’s really hard for a human to comprehend how well a bear can smell as we basically have to stick our nose in the pot to smell the sauce. Comparing the amount of Olfactory Receptors between a human and a Black Bear is mind boggling.

Olfactory Receptors are microscopic bulbs on the end of nerves in a mammal’s nose. The more you have the better your sense of smell is.

  • Humans:
    6,000,000 Olfactory Receptors (6 million)
  • Blood Hounds:
    1,800,000,000 Olfactory Receptors (1.8 billion)
  • Black Bear:
    12,600,000,000,000 Olfactory Receptors (12.6 Trillion)

A Black Bear can smell 2100 times better than a human. In addition the Jacobson’s organ in their mouth can taste the air, adding to their brains perception. A mature Black Bear can smell your breakfast from 20 miles away if the wind is right. Big mature bears can smell better than smaller younger bears as their noses are larger and more developed. Bears also know what unnatural smells are and associate them with a human presence. This can explain why Black Bear hunters that are not fanatical about the way they smell rarely see big trophy bears. There are procedures you can do to minimize unnatural smells to keep the bears concentrating on the bait that the outfitter has put out for them.  It is wise to check with your outfitter before applying anything new to the bait station that they normally don’t use.

1) Before your bear hunting trip; pick a couple of sets of clothes that you will only wear at the tree stand while hunting. Wash your clothes with scent-free detergent and when done, run them though the wash twice again with no detergent so they are well rinsed. This will ensure your clothes are scent free. If you live in the city and have chlorinated city water then go to a pet store and buy a small bottle of Aquarium Water Conditioner and add ½ oz. to the last rinse cycle you do with your clothes. The water conditioner will neutralize the chlorine in the water and keep the chlorine smell out of your clothes. Remember, they can smell 2100 times better than you so don’t feel silly getting fanatical. Then pack the clothes in a plastic bag to keep them scent free. If you consistently use fabric softener in your clothes dryer it’s best to hang your clothes up to dry because residual clothes softener might go on your clothes. If you are a smoker, do not smoke while wearing your hunting clothes.

Before we go to the next points you should be aware that Black Bears love the smell of mint. If you go on a camping trip in any of Ontario’s provincial parks the wardens will tell you not to keep mint toothpaste or mint gum in your tent because the bears will smell it and go after it. The bears craving for mint can be used to your advantage.

2) Think Mint: Go to one of those hippy tree-hugger heath stores and buy mint soap. The morning before the hunt take a shower using the mint soap. Brush your teeth with mint toothpaste. Chew mint gum while in the tree stand and if you really want to go all the way, have a glass of mint tea before the hunt and even keep a few bags of mint tea in your pockets. This will help cover up any scent.

3) Smoking: If you are a smoker and you smoke in the tree stand you are basically wasting your time if you expect a big trophy bear to come within sight. Wind direction can give you a little luck but it’s not something you should count on. It’s best to wear a nicotine patch while in the tree stand and if you need to; chew mint gum to keep your mind off smoking. Remember to brush your teeth and wash your hands and stop smoking before you put your scent free hunting clothes on.   This would also apply to cigars and chewing tobacco as well.

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Black Bear Hearing:

The shape of Black Bear’s ears is mainly responsible for their great hearing. When detecting sound based on volume a bear’s hearing is about four times that of a human. However, a bear can hear a much broader frequency range; both higher and lower frequencies. Rubbing of cloth or twisting of your tree stand can produce sounds that the bear can hear and the hunter cannot. Big old male bears develop a crowned head and their ears move out to the sides giving them stereoscopic hearing, which allows them to pinpoint the origin of the sounds they hear. This is another reason why big old bears are harder to get.

With this in mind try to stay absolutely still. If you have to move; move very slowly. Take some nose drops before the hunt and if you have a cold or allergies. If your throat is dry and itchy bring some mint flavored lozenges with you. You can also oil the joints of your tree stand to make them a little quieter.

Black Bear Sight:

During the day a Black Bear basically has the same site as a human but older bears tend to be near sighted. As a result they cannot focus on things from a long distance. When one of an animal’s senses becomes diminished their brain rewires itself to compensate by making other senses more acute. This is known as neural placidity. As a bear gets older they become near sighted so the brain compensates by being more sensitive to color differentiation. If the bear sees colors it thinks are unnatural and he sees those colors move the game is up. Bears cannot see the same range of colors as a human. Hunter orange looks gray to them. But they can see dull reds and yellows as well into the blue/green cool color spectrum. This is why there are many different forms of camouflage clothing.

Picking the right Camouflage:

You need to talk to the outfitter when you book your hunt and ask what kind of plants will be at the tree stands. If the hunt is taking place in the southern range of Ontario’s bear hunting country during the fall you may have a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees, thus you will need a camouflage that represents pine needles, pine bark and colored fall foliage. If you are father north in an area with only pine trees you will need a camouflage that represents pine bark and pine needles, which means dark brown and green. You need to blend into the scenery so their bear cannot see any unnatural color pattern.

Black Bears are nocturnal. They have a reflective layer in the back of the eye called the tarpetum lucidum. Just because you can’t see them does not mean they cannot see you. Since dusk is the hottest bear hunting time it’s also when you should concentrate the most on being quiet and motionless.

Bear Size:

In most cases, big ears mean a smaller bear. A small ear is usually a bigger bear. Once a bear reaches three years old (approx. 100 lbs.), the bear starts to grow into its ears. The ears and eyes don’t grow as much as they do in the first three years. Sometimes if a bear has a hard year with food, the ears will look bigger because the bear is thinner. Read our article:  How to Size a Black Bear

Cubs:

When a sow is with cubs, 90% of the time the cubs are in the lead. The cubs will make more noise than a single bear. Most of the time, adult bears make little or no noise.

Sow:

You can’t shoot a sow with cubs in the Ontario spring hunt, and in the fall we continue this policy on our BMA – DO NOT SHOOT SOWS with cubs.. So make 100% sure you know what you are shooting at. Take a really good look around to make sure there are no cubs. A sow’s ears are usually closer together, as a male bear’s cranium grows wider on top and the ears look farther apart. They also look smaller, which is really an illusion.

These tips and techniques are just a guide line for some things to consider and think about. Ultimately the outfitter is the person you need to discuss the different factors with. Bear hunting can be quite different in different regions.

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KNIFE BLADES – Guide

how-to-knife=guide=wawang-lake

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Posted by on December 8, 2018 in hunting, knives, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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