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How to Size a Black Bear

……… WHEN SIZING UP A BEAR

WawangLakeBear
A big bear swaggers and walks with attitude. He doesn’t jump at every sound like a small bear will.  A big bear doesn’t have to; he believes he’s got nothing to fear. Once you’ve spotted your bear on the bait site, it’s time to get serious about analyzing how that bear is behaving.

It is important to note that long before you judge the size of the bear, you must judge the sex of that bear and here are some things to take into consideration:

A big, old sow will have all, or more correctly, almost all of the physical characteristics of a big, old boar. She’ll have the nasty looking face that’s seen one too many years in the ring, the potbelly and the sway back.

Watch to see if the bear stands on his hind legs and rubs his back on a tree, that’s a boar.  If it walks along and straddles small trees, wiping its scent on that tree, it’s a boar.  If it stands up and breaks saplings over its shoulder, it’s a boar.  If it encounters another bear and gives chase, it’s a boar and if it is following a smaller bear, it’s a boar.

SCALE:  There is one last general appearance tip to judging black bear that makes the top three in importance, and that is scale.   A big bear looks big . . . but so does a closer, smaller bear.   Here’s a help tip on how to gauge more accurately.  If the bear is 150 yards away but the hunter thinks the bear is 200 yards away, the hunter will overestimate the bear’s relative size by somewhere near 25 percent.   In other words, the hunter is in for a serious case of ground shrink when he walks up to his bear.  TIP:  Let the bear get as close to you as possible and preferably on the bait itself.   The closer the bear, the less chance there is of misjudging the distance to relative size.

SPECIFIC TIPS FOR JUDGING BLACK BEARS: If the bear fails any one of the above general conditions, then it’s advisable to pass up on it or let the bear walk. It’s tough and you could be wrong, but at least there isn’t a dead small bear lying on the ground.   Call it a personal aversion to guilt.

BODY SHAPE:    Bigger bear are older bears, and like most of us, they don’t have the svelte bodies they once did. They tend to look “heavy” and out of shape. Remember, they monopolize the best feed and habitat, and therefore exert less energy to live.

HEAD SHAPE:   A big bear (boar) will have a deeper, wider and longer snout than a smaller bear or a female. His ears will appear to be wide apart and small. If he is aware of you and looking your way, his ears won’t stand up on top of his head like a dog’s ears, they’ll seem to be aimed out to the side of his head. A big bear will have well developed “bulging” muscles on the top of his head.


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LEGS:   A big bear will have massively developed front shoulders. His shoulders will look big and burly. A sow’s wrist will pinch in directly above the foot. Not so with a boar. The lower forearm, wrist and the foot on a big boar are all the same width. A big bear often appears to have shorter legs because the body is so much thicker, but keep in mind that the best-scoring bears for the records book are often the lankier looking, longer-bodied bears.

There are bear that have meatier heads; bear that look great and are great trophies, but that don’t score well.  There are others that have short skulls, block- headed beasts that look impressive, but that don’t score well at all and there are lanky, skinny bears with donkey faces that score like the devil, but that a hunter seriously looking for  a  records book bear wouldn’t walk across the street for. Black bear morphology is just too darn diversified to make a science out of judging.

The best way to hunt for a record boar is to simply shoot the bear that looks good to you and that hopefully  you’ll  appreciate all the time and effort you put in for the hunt.  If it’s got a nice hide, be happy with your animal. If it has long claws and weighs a ton, good for you and congratulations. If it isn’t as big as  you’d like, don’t fret, you’re not alone and the rug on your wall will still look great. If it happens to be one of those rare few bears that has grown a skull that qualifies for the record books, thank your guide for the good fortune that made that bear come to the bait site.

To easily judge, remember:

  • Check out the ear size in relation to the head
  • Mickey Mouse ears means a small bear.
  • Watch to see if the belly is low to the ground
  • Legs that appear short means big bear.

Watch the bear’s behavior around the bait – small bears will be skittish and afraid of a larger bruin in the area.

Look for a log around the bait and use it as a reference, check to see the length and height of the log before climbing into your stand. When the bear enters the bait site use the size of the log to help determine the overall size of the bear.

 

SKULL MEASURING

 

WawangSkull

Hope this information helps develop your judging skill on your next hunt, and,  good luck out in the field.

For further information, or, to book your next bear hunt please contact us at:
1-888-534-9217 or EMAIL

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Calling in Coyotes & Wolves

Thanks to the prevalence of electronic calling devices, anyone can become a decent coyote caller with the press of a few buttons. But if you really want to step up your game, you need to first understand what makes these animals tick.

coyote-hunting

Prey Distress
Coyotes are nature’s great omnivores. Studies of stomach contents have found that coyotes will swallow almost anything that they can get in their mouths, including rocks, plastic packaging, harness buckles, and even the occasional rabbit. Knowing this, it doesn’t matter much which sort of prey distress call you use—most modern electronic callers offer everything from a whitetail fawn to a house cat—as long as you set up within a coyote’s earshot.

The manner in which a coyote approaches a distress call depends on its security level, which is influenced by its latest experiences. An unpressured coyote will often come in quickly and boldly to almost any distress sound. A pressured coyote, however, will take much longer to approach a call. He’ll wait downwind of the sound before slowly slinking in, wary nose to the air.

Upon hearing the initial prey distress cries, the test coyotes would usually run to a downwind position without exposing themselves and remain there until we left. They would later approach our stand area to investigate. One wary old alpha pair (the male was 10 years old) waited 17 hours before approaching the calling location, and then spent 45 minutes at our stand site sniffing around.

The takeaway? One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a distress call is leaving a location too soon. Spend at least 30 to 45 minutes on stand.

Another important factor is the time of day you target coyotes. Only 10 percent of respondents in a recent poll of about 1,400 coyote callers said dawn was best. More than half the hunters chose 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then dusk, each of which got about 20 percent of the vote.

Whines & Yelps
These nonaggressive vocalizations—often made by pups—are probably the most effective sounds in a coyote caller’s repertoire because they trip so many behavioral triggers at once. With the press of a button you can target social interaction, territorial instincts, and protective maternal/paternal instincts. At certain times of the year, a case could probably be made that you’re appealing to their hunger, too, since several studies have documented coyotes cannibalizing pups.

Before switching to a different sound, we’ll increase the volume and intensity of the whines and yelps for three or four series in order to reach out to distant coyotes. This has proven extremely effective in all seasons and geographic locations, and at any time of day.

Challenge Howl
The challenge howl is a misnomer. A challenge is an invitation to fight, to do battle, such as a monarch bull elk bugling at a satellite bull. Coyotes don’t do that. Biologists call this vocalization the threat-bark howl because it more accurately describes the intent of the coyote: to threaten and demand that the intruder leave. Now. Field observations have shown that coyotes (unlike wolves) will avoid fights whenever possible. A wolf pack will run down an intruder and kill it. A pack of coyotes will run down an intruder, make him submit, and then let him leave the territory.

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For these reasons, callers should use this vocalization only if they know they are set up in a pack’s core territory. If a caller sets up near a den during whelping or denning season, the results can be spectacular. Having resident coyotes charge in on a close, loud, aggressive call rivals any approach of a rutting buck or strut of a spring gobbler. However, if you set up in overlapping home ranges and demand that every coyote within hearing distance leave, they probably will.

The key to locating a pack’s core area is to home in on their group-yip howls. Listen for a pack’s group howl night after night. If you are able to pattern their howling with some regularity, you should be able to determine their core area. Once you’ve plotted that on a map or GPS, study the terrain. Coyotes will typically hide out in the thickest, most secluded cover in the area. Make an educated guess and move in close before threatening the pack.

Many callers will break off a stand when a coyote bark-threat howls in response to their distress calls because they believe that it means the coyote has busted them and will not approach. That’s not always the case. The coyote may simply be protesting the source of the sound even if it hasn’t identified it. You can often get a barking, threat-howling coyote to expose himself for a clear shot if you wait him out and weaken your return howls, keeping them less aggressive than the coyote’s. Another tactic is to retrace your steps and then circle around to a different location. If the coyote doesn’t see or scent you, you can call him in to the new setup with whines and whimpers.

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Group and Solo Howls
Coyote calling is a numbers game. You want to offer sounds that appeal to the largest number of coyotes without alarming or intimidating them. The most effective howl to draw them in is a lone howl that is low frequency, high pitched, and long. It announces the presence of an unknown, young, small, nonaggressive coyote that any other dog within hearing distance will be willing to investigate.

Louder, long-range howls are more likely to get howls in return, but they are less likely to draw a coyote in to your stand.

 

 

Knowing that, here’s a simple formula for success: Locate coyotes with a group-yip howl (the collective yowling that you have undoubtedly heard on calm evenings) and call them in to gun range with a lone howl.

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Most of those vocalizations are aggressive in nature. This is important to know because such vocalizations will alarm and/or intimidate most coyotes. Submissive coyotes will often retreat to their core areas after howls are broadcast and remain there until joined by another group member or until enough time has passed for them to call back or investigate. That’s the exact opposite of what you want your howls to do.

It is important to remember that coyotes will sometimes investigate the source of your group-yip howls, so don’t get caught unprepared.

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Dropping the Hammer

By: Al Voth

How Safe is Your Vintage Firearm?
If you’re a serious gun nut and you haven’t noticed the increased interest in shooting, reloading and hunting with old style guns in the last decade you’ve probably been in a coma. Rifles and shotguns that haven’t come out of the closet in eighty years are being brought into the daylight, getting cleaned off and carried out to ranges and hunting fields. This particularly includes classic old lever action and single shot rifles. I haven’t been immune from this old-gun bug myself, as an 1894 lever action in .38-55 is one of my current project guns.

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Firearms with external hammers are common. At the top is a lever-action rifle, a pump-action shotgun occupies the middle spot and at the bottom, a bolt-action .22

The Winchester I’m working on is a great example because it’s been in production for well over one hundred years. But that old lever gun and all the other golden oldies hunting again aren’t the same guns Winchester and other manufacturers are producing today. Today’s guns might look similar but they are built of better materials, to tighter tolerances and have improved safety features. On the 94 in particular, the manufacturer has added a tang safety and a rebounding hammer. And while I often hear knowledgeable gun people bemoaning the addition of a safety as a cosmetic detraction, I never hear anyone complaining it makes the gun less safe. While those same Winchester experts will know every intricacy of the 94’s mechanism, including how to use it properly and safely, too many hunters don’t. A recent incident I’m familiar with serves as an illustration.

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Hunting with older guns, like this lever-action, can be dangerous if you don’t understand the principles of handling an external hammer.

Ignorance Can Kill
Two friends went out after moose, one of them carrying an older Winchester 94. By today’s standards that is hardly a state of the art moose rifle and the hunter in question had more than one ultra-modern rifle at home. For whatever reason, he chose to use the older 94 that day. By all accounts, he was a skilled and capable hunter. However, he didn’t understand the manual of arms for the 94 and in this case, what he didn’t know killed him.

As a testimony to their skill and abilities, these two had a moose on the ground before noon. The available evidence then shows that when the shooting stopped, our hunter pointed the rifle in a safe direction and carefully and conscientiously lowered the cocked hammer.

In the process of moving his truck up to the kill, our man with the 94 had occasion to rest the butt of the rifle on the running board. Being safety conscious he pointed the muzzle upwards in a safe direction as he fiddled with something else, confident in the knowledge that although the rifle chamber was loaded, the hammer was safely down. But like many hunting days it was wet and snowy and the running board was slippery. Somehow, in all the activity, the Winchester slipped off the running board and the rifle fell butt first toward the ground; his grip was still on the barrel, but it was insufficient to slow its fall.

From the heel of the butt to the spur of the hammer is about fourteen inches and the rifle weighs six and one quarter pounds. When the rifle fell, it dropped all of those fourteen inches and the spur of the hammer struck the running board with what was probably most of the rifle’s weight. The rifle discharged and the bullet struck the owner, killing him.

Was this a bizarre accident resulting from freak circumstances; or maybe a failure of the firearm’s safety devices? What about operator error? Do you know why the gun discharged? If you or a friend has a hammer gun sitting in the closet, then you better read on.

How Do You Hunt?
There isn’t a hunter in the country that would walk the woods with a round in the chamber of a lever-gun and the hammer at full cock. It’s too dangerous and it’s obvious that it’s dangerous. At the same time, I’ll bet you a steak dinner there are a significant number of hunters in the woods carrying old hammer guns with the chamber loaded and the hammer fully down; a condition which could be argued as being at least as, or even more dangerous, than carrying it with the hammer fully cocked. It’s a safe bet for me, because since encountering the fatal incident mentioned above, I’ve been asking every shooter I encounter with a hammer gun to show me how they make such a loaded gun safe. Too many ease the hammer to a full down position on a loaded cartridge.

Why is this dangerous? Simple, with the hammer fully down, it rests on the firing pin, which is in direct contact with the primer. A sharp blow on the spur of the hammer and the rifle will fire.

The generation for which older external hammer guns were originally made was comfortable with the idea of manually operated, exposed hammers. Having the hammer visible and easily manipulated by the operator was considered a safety feature. That generation of gun-handlers was comfortable with the concept that a firearm with the hammer fully down wasn’t necessarily safe, especially if it was loaded. Somehow, that principle has been lost to this generation. With the resurgence of interest in those old rifles, we need to relearn some of the lessons of our grandparents.

Hammer Down is Dangerous
We’ve already discussed lever action rifles, but there are other firearms we can add to the list as well; including a number of bolt action rimfires, pump-action .22’s and lots of exposed hammer shotguns. Some of these models are no longer manufactured but others are, in modernized versions. It can be difficult to tell from serial number ranges or a visual examination when a firearm’s internals have been changed. And how do you know some previous owner hasn’t deactivated a safety feature?

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This double-barrel shotgun demonstrates graphically how the hammer contacts the firing pin, which in turn contacts the primer, even when the hammer is at rest.

But let’s not limit our discussion to old guns. Have you ever seen someone load the chamber of a modern bolt-action rifle, and then while holding back the trigger, ease the bolt handle down? Their theory is that in this condition the rifle can’t fire because it isn’t cocked. And all that’s needed to ready it for shooting is to lift up and press down on the bolt handle, thus cocking the rifle. They think they’re being extra safe. Wrong! Depending on the design, their method is quite likely putting the firing pin in direct contact with the primer and even a light tap on the back of the bolt will fire the rifle.

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In rifle design, it doesn’t get any more modern than stainless steel and plastic. But like an old fashioned hammer gun, if you lower the striker on a live cartridge and hit the rear of the bolt, this rifle will fire.

To answer the question as to whether or not your particular firearm is dangerous to carry with the hammer down, do the following test. First, you’ll need a primed cartridge case. That’s no bullet, no powder, just an empty cartridge case with a live primer in place. If you’re a reloader, it’s a simple matter to make one up. If not, you’ll have to pull the bullet from a factory round and dump the powder. This is easily done with an inertia bullet puller available from most gun shops. With a double and triple check to ensure your case is only primed, slip it into the chamber of your firearm. Carefully point it in a safe direction, close the action and gently lower the hammer to its full down position.

A kinetic bullet puller, like this RCBS model, will quickly and safely convert center-fire cartridges into primed-only cases.

A kinetic bullet puller, like this RCBS model, will quickly and safely
convert center-fire cartridges into primed-only cases.

Then with the smallest hammer in your tool box, give the rear of the hammer a tap. Use about as much force as you might in driving a small finishing nail with that same hammer. Odds are your little tap will generate a little bang. If it did, any questions you had about the characteristics of your firearm are settled. The only thing left to do is repeat that demonstration to everyone who uses that particular gun. Don’t just tell them about it. Telling is theoretical. Put a primed case in the rifle and repeat the test, showing them what happens. It’s a lesson they won’t forget.

Testing a pump-action .22 to determine if a blow to the hammer will discharge the rifle.

Testing a pump-action .22 to determine if a blow to the hammer will discharge the rifle.

If silence was the result of your tap, you need to extract the cartridge case and take a close look at the primer. You’re now down to two possibilities. Either your gun is safe for hammer down carry or you just didn’t tap hard enough. A close inspection will tell you which the most likely scenario is. If there is any denting in the primer at all, you had some energy transfer and the firearm is unsafe to carry with the hammer down. If there is no mark at all, you may want to try repeating the test with a slightly harder hit. If there is still nothing, odds are you’re okay for hammer down carry.

A Browning 92 demonstrates the three positions commonly found on guns with external hammers; full-cock, half-cock (or safety position) and fully down.

A Browning 92 demonstrates the three positions commonly found on guns
with external hammers; full-cock, half-cock (or safety position) and fully down.

What About Half-Cock?
Any discussion about hammer guns and in what condition they are safe to carry invariably turns to the half-cock or safety notch. This is an intermediate hammer position somewhere between fully down and fully cocked and is intended to keep the hammer away from direct contact with the firing pin. The most common question, once people understand its purpose is-is that intermediate notch safe?

I think the answer is the same in every case. It’s far safer than hammer down-presuming the notch and sear are in good condition. Whether it’s safe enough for carrying in that position is dependant on the firearm’s individual design. Probably the best known example of one that isn’t safe is the Colt Single Action Army revolver. That’s why the universal recommendation to handle it with only five of its six chambers loaded, and the hammer down on the empty one. Lever action rifles, however, are generally far more durable and trustworthy. Each design has its own characteristics.

Short of taking your particular hammer gun apart and inspecting the parts, there are a couple of simple tests that will give you some indication of the gun’s condition. First, with the hammer in the safety notch position and the gun empty, pull the trigger firmly. Apply approximately three times the amount of force normally required to fire the gun. If the hammer drops, your gun needs attention. A second test is to reposition the hammer in its half-cock or safety notch position and then using your thumbs, try pushing the hammer forward. This is called a push-off test. Obviously, the hammer shouldn’t move. Never strike the hammer with another object to test the safety notch, use only a firm pushing motion. If your hammer gun passes both of these tests, the intermediate notch is probably in good condition.

In the half-cock or safety position the firearm's sear usually rests in a deeply undercut hammer notch. On the right hand hammer this notch is intact; on the left one the notch has broken out, making the gun unsafe.

In the half-cock or safety position the firearm’s sear usually rests in a
deeply undercut hammer notch. On the right hand hammer this notch is intact;
on the left one the notch has broken out, making the gun unsafe.

Your gun checks out okay. Does that mean its safe to carry hammer down? It’s still possible for the safety notch to break away completely and thus allow the gun to discharge. Certainly, you’re not going to allow that to happen deliberately, but if sufficient force were to strike your hammer, it could shear and the result would be unstoppable.

You’ve come to the point where you have to find your own comfort level with the mechanism. The job I recently retired from required occasional attendance at autopsies and maybe it’s a result of seeing too many gunshot wounds, but my comfort level with all safety mechanisms (not just safety-notches) is pitifully low.

Hunting Choices
Perhaps an example will serve to illustrate. I sometimes use a lever action model 92 in .357 Magnum when I’m calling predators. When I leave my vehicle, I typically load five cartridges in the magazine and leave the chamber empty while walking in to my stand. Sure, I can blunder into a coyote while moving in, but a flick of the wrist is all that’s necessary to go from safe to fire. When I reach my destination and set up to call, I lever a cartridge into the chamber and set the hammer at the intermediate notch. I judge that to be a safe condition considering the activity I’m engaging in.

Notice the difference. One situation is dynamic and active and for it I keep the chamber empty. The other is sedentary and in those circumstances I’m comfortable with a loaded chamber and a half cocked rifle. When I start to move again, I go back to chamber empty. That flexibility, in my opinion, is the key; adjust to the circumstances and you’re as ready as you need to be and still safe.

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3 Guys, 3 Bears…One Awesome Trip!

There is nothing more fun for a hunter than taking a long road trip with the guys and getting away from it all. The difference between the average ‘getting away from it all’ and a hunter’s ‘getting away from it all’ is that the hunter’s version often times includes a stand and some great harvest stories. This rang true for Dave, Tim and Jason. One week in September they arrived at my front door with weapons in hand and excitement in their eyes. Though it was Dave’s second hunt with us, it was both Tim and Jason’s first time hunting a bear. Dave had acquainted them with what to expect and the basics of our operation and much to the boy’s excitement, we were providing them all with baits that seemed to be jam packed with bruin. The first night came with all guys coming to camp empty handed but Dave letting us know that his bait was just a Bear Highway….they were everywhere! Tim had heard a bear and Jason had yet to have any sign of.

The following night had proven fruitful to both Dave and Tim, taking their trophies earlier in the dusk hours. Jason had heard several sounds around him but had yet to spot. He was fine with that though as the following day was his birthday and he felt that a birthday bear would be that much more fitting. The next morning as the boys began to prepare their bears, Jason prepped and began that drive to his stand. Thoughts raced through is head as to what his day would hold and how he was going to handle harvesting that bear.  Early that evening, I spotted the truck pulling in, my heart was wild with anticipation….had he gotten his birthday bear? As Jason emerged, his face was pulled with a frustrated look and the color was drained. “I missed!” was all he said. After a few minutes of silence, Jason filled me in on the adventure. “I was just opening my pb and j and having a bite. I saw a set of ears pop up and slowly put the sandwich on my lap. I lifted my gun just as the bear emerged to my right and he stood and sniffed the air…I think he wanted my sandwich! He dropped and began to lick the tree directly broadside and I fired……the bullet went low and right below. No hit but just hit the ground. I have NO IDEA what happened! The bear took off like a bat out of hell and that was it. I sat for about thirty minutes and had to get out of there. I am so frustrated that I know I couldn’t shoot proper a second time. Tomorrow I am taking my .270.”

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With that we both agreed that this could happen to anyone and that it’s better than wounding and wasting a bear. I knew tomorrow he would have a different plan. The next day Jason came in for his coffee and sat quiet. The thought of the day’s play could be read in his eyes and it was obvious that today he woke up with serious intention.  Dave and Tim decided to load the boat and spend the day kicking back while Jason set out as tightly wound as he could be. The day wore on and not a truck in sight. As the night fell, Jason arrived with a tired, defeated look in his eyes. “Nothing. I didn’t see a thing today. It was a long day.” I knew that the events of the day prior had made today seem much longer but I knew that his determination hadn’t left. The following morning, Jason met with Terry and they came up with the new game plan. It was a variation of the original but the outcome was planned the same….Come home with a bear! As Jason left for the day, we all settled back into our daily routines, me in the lodge, Tami back to marketing and Terry back out to the baiting. At 3:12pm a black truck made a hasty entrance to the resort and straight over to cabin 6. Jason was back! He was energized as he exited the truck and fists pumped the sky! “I got it! It’s down!” With a couple of high fives and congratulations I could just see the pride in his eyes. He had finished the group with 100% success rate! As he tied the tell-tale orange flag for the other two on the lake to see, he began to load the truck with retrieval supplies. As they all arrived back with Jason’s bear, the camaraderie was thick. Each were successful and each just as happy for each other as themselves.

When a hunter ‘gets away from it all’ it’s what they come away with afterwards that counts!

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Maximizing Your Hunting Time With Trail Cameras

cameraOver the last five years, probably no other “gadget” has changed the way we scout more than the trail camera. For many of us, running trail cameras is a hobby in itself, bringing a whole new excitement to our deer hunting efforts. Much more than just something to pass time, however, running trail cameras can give you a unique insight into the patterns of deer on your hunting properties and really tip the odds in your favor for harvesting a mature whitetail. Let’s take a look at the features to look for when purchasing a trail camera, and how to get the maximum benefit from the camera once you have made your purchase.

As the popularity of these scouting tools has grown, so has the number of companies offering their own line of cameras. The features on these cameras cover such a wide spectrum that choosing the right one for you can be a daunting and sometimes confusing task. While this article isn’t meant to tell you WHICH camera to buy, it IS meant to help you sort through some of the most common differences among the various trail cameras to help you narrow down your search.

RESOLUTION
The resolution of a trail camera is a measure of the image size that the camera creates. So a 5.0 megapixal trail camera will give you a much larger image – and therefore more detail – than one with 3.0 megapixals. Which resolution you choose really depends on how important it is to have a large, crisp image. If you are only concerned with having a general idea of what deer are in the area and when they are traveling through, then about any resolution offered on today’s cameras will suffice. If you want a larger, more detailed image to print off for your friends, then you may want to shoot for something with at least 3.0 megapixels.

BATTERY TYPE & LIFE
In my mind, this is one of the most important considerations when choosing a trail camera, as it will have a huge effect on the cost of maintaining the camera. I have seen some “cheap” trail cameras that burn through six C-sized batteries in a week, and suddenly the “cheap” camera gets VERY expensive! Others claim to operate up to a year on eight AA batteries. So before you go buying a camera based on price alone, keep in mind the battery life, as it may be the most expensive choice you could make in the long run.

TRIGGER SPEED
Another important feature is the trigger speed of the camera, which is simply how long it takes the trail camera to shoot a picture once something has “triggered” the motion sensor. A faster trigger speed can be the difference between having a great shot of that trophy buck and just having a picture of a deer’s butt as it walks out of the frame. If you plan on placing your trail cameras over feeders or a mineral lick, then trigger speed will not be as much of an issue as it would if hung along a trail.

FLASH TYPE
This is almost a moot point, since most trail cameras today have gone to infrared flash. An infrared flash, as opposed to the incandescent flash found standard on most consumer cameras, is less likely to spook deer, uses less battery life, and is less likely to be detected by other humans (i.e. thieves!). While I’ve gotten plenty of pictures of big, mature whitetails with an incandescent flash trail camera, there is no doubt that some animals are spooked by the bright flash. If you can afford the infrared flash, the benefits certainly outweigh the small increase in cost.

OTHER FEATURES
While we have covered some of the most important features to consider when buying a new trail camera, there are many more options that could impact your decision. One of these options is the size of the unit. Size varies greatly amongst trail cameras, and some companies are now producing models that are as small as your hand. Other models go as far as being able to send the pictures it takes directly to your email or cell phone, so the only time you have to check them is when the batteries need replacing. How’s that for convenience?

Before you head out to buy your next trail camera, take a minute to think about how it will be used and what features are most important to you. This will make the task of narrowing down your choices much easier when you start the shopping process.

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MAXIMIZING TRAIL CAMERA USE
Once you have waded through all the details, made your decision and laid down your hard earned money on a trail camera, all that’s left is to hang that thing on a tree, right? Let’s take a look at some ways you can be sure you are using your camera to its potential this season and getting the most bang for your buck.

DRAW THEM IN
One of the easiest ways to maximize the effectiveness of your trail camera and insure that you see a good representation of what is in your hunting area is to use some type of attractant to lure the deer into camera range. Probably the most common attractant used across the country is shelled corn – it’s cheap, readily available, and the deer love it. For the purpose of getting trail camera pictures, there is no need to invest in an expensive feeder; just simply spread 100 pounds on the ground in an eight to ten-foot circle area where you want to hang your camera. For safety reasons, do not place the corn in large piles or in an area that holds moisture, as this can result in molding that can cause disease in both deer and turkey. Depending on deer density and other available food sources, this should get you five to ten days worth of pictures. Be patient, as it may take a few days for the deer to really key in on the corn and for you to start getting good pictures. Once they find it, though, it won’t last long!

Before you start dumping corn on your favorite hunting property, check your local game laws regarding baiting. If corn or other “feed” is prohibited, but would still like to attract deer to your camera location, then you may want to consider creating a mineral lick. You can buy one of the many commercial mixes available today, or simply create your own by mixing 50 lbs of trace mineral, 50 lbs of feed mix salt, and 10 lbs of dicalcium phosphate. Break the soil up with a shovel in the area where you want to create your lick and work your mix into the soil. Once the lick gets a good rain on it, it shouldn’t take long for the deer to find it and start paying regular visits.

KEEP IT MOBILE
Unless you are hunting a really small property, or you have the money to invest in lots of trail cameras, then you are going to need to move your cameras around to really get a good idea of what the deer are doing on your hunting property. Don’t get caught in the trap of leaving your camera in the same spot all season. This will not only limit your ability to pattern the deer, but it may keep you from discovering that trophy buck that could be hanging out on the other side of the property!

images40V5Z2FA2By experience, two weeks seems to be enough time to get a good representation of what deer are in the area, without your camera spending too much time in one location. You can always bring the camera back to the same spot at a later time, but the idea is to cover as much of your hunting area as possible.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS
Once you have moved your camera around your property and gotten plenty of pictures to look at, the real work has just begun. Now is the time to sort through the pictures, identifying as many unique animals as you can, analyzing what camera sites each deer is visiting and the times that they were there. This should start to give you an idea of the travel patterns on the property, as well as potential stand locations.

This season, make sure you use these tips to get the most out of your trail cameras, and the next picture you get of that monster buck may be the one with you behind him holding his antlers, OR, even that BIG bear 🙂

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Hunting: Muzzleloader

Muzzleloaders are a lot of fun to shoot! The concept of a single shot makes shooters try to do their best on every shot. Large puffs of smoke belching from the muzzle after each shot, makes this a very visual shooting sport. As well, muzzleloaders are capable of firing a variety of bullet weights and powder charges, giving them the ability to be a multi species firearm.

For years, people have shot muzzle-loading guns. Most shooters fired old style flintlock guns with open sights. Some shooters found these early muzzle-loading firearms reminded them of their forefathers and helped these individuals re-live the past. However, for many shooters, these guns were unappealing, inaccurate and were a royal pain in the butt to shoot and clean. Thus, there were a very limited number of people involved in muzzleloader shooting and hunting.

Over the course of the past several years, the interest in muzzleloaders and muzzleloader hunting has grown and continues to grow. Much of this growth is due to several gun manufacturers developing inline muzzle-loading rifles that are built with today’s technology, using yesterday’s ideas. These fine firearms are fun and easy to use, have high percentage ignitions and are highly accurate. In addition, they’re easy to disassemble and clean.

These new muzzle-loading guns resemble modern center-fire rifles. They have excellent safety mechanisms and precision rifled barrels. Many of them come tapped and died directly from the factory, so all a shooter has to do is add bases, rings and a scope. It’s very common these days for shooters using in-line muzzleloaders with scopes to achieve one inch groups or better at a hundred yards.

Along with the invention of new muzzleloaders, there has also been a major advancement in gun cleaning solutions. There are all kinds of effective no fuss, no mess gun cleaning solutions designed specifically for muzzleloaders. These new cleaning chemicals make cleaning muzzleloaders a breeze. With these new products, gone are the hours of cleaning after each session at the range or in the field!

Hunters are also quickly discovering that muzzleloaders offer new hunting seasons, high levels of success and many other unique opportunities.

Extra Seasons and Hunting Benefits
Many states and provinces, including my home province of Saskatchewan offer special muzzleloader hunting seasons that are separate from regular rifle seasons. Many of these special seasons are approximately a month before the regular rifle hunting seasons and are often set up to coincide with or run just before the peak rut of the big game species. Hunting with a muzzleloader during these bonus time periods can prove very exciting and productive. Antelope, deer, moose and elk become more mobile and visible just prior to and during their rutting periods as they try to prove their dominance or search for mates.

In many jurisdictions, special muzzle-loading seasons are often held after all other hunting seasons are over. Typically, these extra seasons are several weeks long. They give hunters ample opportunity to get out in the field and get in some bonus hunting action when big game animals are often patternable as they concentrate on cold weather feeding areas.


Inline muzzleloaders such as this one, have made muzzleloader hunting for
big game animals, much more enjoyable.

During muzzleloader seasons, there are usually fewer hunters in the field than during a regular rifle season. This gives muzzleloader hunters an excellent opportunity to harvest an animal. Fewer hunters means less pressure and less pressure means that the animals should continue acting in their natural ways. With the animals’ daily habits remaining unchanged, muzzleloader hunters should be able to pattern the animals. If the hunter is able to determine when, where and why an animal will be in certain location, it should increase the hunter’s odds for success.

Since in many areas muzzleloader seasons generally start before the rifle seasons, the muzzleloader hunter is able to get a jump on the rifle hunters. This early start accompanied with the fact that there are fewer hunters in the field, should allow the muzzleloader hunter to see more animals and get more opportunities at harvesting a big game animal before the rifle hunters move in.

Muzzle-loading Tactics
Using game calls to attract big animals can be very productive during the muzzleloader seasons. Whitetail and mule deer will often respond to grunt and bleat calls. In the early part of the season, when the rut is just starting to fire up, they may come to your call out of curiosity. If this is the case, be patient as their approach will typically be very slow. Later in the season when the rut is in full swing, be prepared for fast action, as the deer may come storming in to investigate your call.

Many a muzzleloader hunter has rattled in a whitetail deer. To be successful during the early part of the season, you should just tickle your rattling antlers together to stimulate a minor sparring match. Try to scrape your rattling antlers on trees and bushes, trying to fool a buck that there is another buck in his territory. Later in the season, when the rut is more advanced, you can use more aggressive rattling techniques to stimulate full-scale battles.

Elk can be called into range with bugles or cow calls. If the bull elk are bugling, try bugling back to them. With any luck, they will respond and move into muzzleloader shooting range. If the bulls are not calling, try using a cow call to entice them into shooting range. Often a simple series of cow calls will bring in an entire herd of elk.

If you get a chance to hunt moose just prior to the breeding period, bull grunts can be used to effectively coax a bull into range. The reason for this is that bulls will be competing with one another for dominance. However, if it’s breeding season, the bulls will be more interested in checking out the call of a cow in heat as opposed to responding to a bugling bull looking for a fight.

Some muzzleloader hunters pursuing antelope will use a decoy to try and lure in their buck. Although this technique can be highly productive, it can also be very dangerous. Other hunters may see the decoy and be fooled by it. The result could be someone shooting at the decoy and killing or injuring the hunter hiding behind the decoy. In most antelope/muzzleloader situations, I prefer to set up near a watering hole and try to catch a love struck buck as it comes in for a quick drink.

Added Bonuses
Muzzleloader hunters are usually able to go hunting in decent weather conditions. During a typical muzzleloader season, the temperatures are usually moderate to warm. Snow and winter blizzards are a rarity. This means the traditional hunting attire of long johns, toques and parkas can be replaced by T-Shirts, sweat shirts, light jackets and ball caps.

Many gun ranges have realized the growth of muzzle-loading. As a result, special muzzleloader ranges have been built to meet the unique needs of smoke-pole shooters. Having spent time on such ranges, I have found that muzzleloader shooters tend to be friendly, outgoing individuals who are willing to help other shooters, teach them tricks of the trade and talk hunting and shooting for hours on end.

Book, magazine publishers and Internet websites, such as www.biggamehunt.net have also recognized the growth of muzzle-loading. Over the past few years, there has been a steady growth in the number of books and articles published on muzzleloaders and muzzle-loading hunting. With increased access to product reviews, reference materials, hunting stories and hunting techniques, muzzleloader shooters are able to learn more about their sport. Increased knowledge means greater satisfaction and a greater desire to participate in the sport.

Game of Accessories and Gadgets
Muzzleloader shooters will also find that shooting a muzzleloader requires a variety of accessories and gadgets. These items are fun to accumulate. They are even more fun to use!


A few accessories: bullets/sabots, ram rod T-handle, cleaning jag, wire brush,
ball/quick starter, speed loader and cleaning solution are needed for your muzzleloader.

The ramrod is probably the most used muzzleloader gadget you require. One of the main functions of the ramrod is stuffing bullets down the barrel. However, it is also used for maintaining and cleaning the muzzleloader barrel. Ramrods are typically threaded on both ends for adding a variety of gun care attachments.

In addition to your ramrod, you’ll also need a jag (ribbed attachment for cleaning), ramrod extension, bullet puller and a short starter or bullet starter.

For those shooting loose powder, a powder measurer and a flask are essential. For a couple of dollars, you can also get a powder can nozzle that allows you easily pour powder right out of the can.


Just a few of my favorite things: bullets/sabots, speed loader, powder flask,
powder measurer, T-handle, ball/quick starter and a jag.

Whether you shoot loose powder or pellets, express loaders are a very good investment. These small tubes are made to hold a bullet and premeasured charge of powder. Express loaders make reloading a quick process and one that you’ll appreciate, especially when you have a 1200 pound moose requiring a second shot coming straight at you.

A capper unit serves a dual role of helping you put percussion caps on your gun’s nipple and allowing you to carry a few spare percussion caps. Speaking of nipples, a nipple wrench is necessary for removing and replacing the muzzleloader’s nipple. In most muzzleloaders, the nipples must be removed before the gun can be cleaned. Since the nipples are threaded and generally tucked away, a specialized nipple wrench is another must.


A variety of muzzleloader accessories resting on a possibles bag. Included are a powder flask, primers, ball/quick starter, powder measurer, capper and a speed loader.

Black-powder and pyrodex are highly corrosive propellants as they attract moisture. At a minimum, you require cleaning patches, a wire brush, cleaning solutions and gun oil. However, as previously mentioned, with today’s technologies, there are a variety of cleaning solutions and accessories that help make muzzleloader cleaning an easy event.


Cleaning is made easy these days!

After shooting your muzzleloader, you should clean it. For best results, get in the habit of cleaning it after every hunt. If you shoot your gun and store it away without cleaning it, you’ll be in for a big surprise (and it won’t be pleasant) the next time you go to use your muzzleloader.

A small glass jar with a lid on it is ideal for soaking small parts in cleaning solution. As well, an old toothbrush works great for cleaning hard to reach areas of your muzzleloader.

You will require a good set of screwdrivers for taking your gun apart and ensuring that everything is tight. Teflon tape is great for wrapping around the threads on the gun’s nipples. A simple wrap of teflon tape makes the nipple easier to remove and prevents it from seizing. If you are shooting your muzzleloader with a scope, a roll of electrical tape is a good investment. Since black powder and pyrodex are so corrosive, you can save damage to your scope’s finish by covering the scope tube with electrical tape.

When hunting, you will need to carry your muzzleloader accessories with you. Some hunters like to go with backpacks or bags they can carry, while other prefer a pouch that attaches to their belt. Whatever style you choose, make sure that it is big enough to carry all the equipment that you need, yet not so bulky that you continually leave it at home or in your truck. As well, make sure it seals shut, so that you don’t loose your equipment as you stalk across the countryside.

Limitations and Potential Restrictions
Muzzleloaders have changed dramatically over the past few years. However, it’s important to remember that they are still only capable of firing one shot at a time. In addition, they also have a limited effective range. While stories abound of hunters taking big game animals at long range shots with muzzleloaders, they really are a close to moderate range firearm. While many of the new in-line muzzleloaders loaded with a maximum charge have the capability of taking animals out to ranges of 200 plus yards, I personally try to limit my shots to 150 yards and prefer those in the 100 yard range.

Before heading out on a muzzleloader hunt, take time to check the regulations for the jurisdiction you are planning to hunt. Some states and provinces may have restrictions in place that do not allow hunters to use in-line muzzleloaders or scopes on their muzzleloaders. In addition, there may be restrictions in place for minimum caliber sizes…………Article by: Mike Hungle

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Pay Attention to Detail

Scent can be your biggest ally or your worst enemy

wawanglakebear
Black Bear are attracted to the aroma of a free meal, but if they catch a whiff of you, you can often kiss them good-bye for a day or two.   Keep your clothing and footwear as scent-free as possible. Be alert at all times while hunting your bait. You will most often see bear before you hear them. With padded feet they move with calculated precision. Remember, when they come into a bait station they know the treats were left by humans.

 

Shot Placement

Regardless of your choice of weapon, whether it is a gun or bow, learning when and where to shoot can mean the difference between an expedited kill, or, the outcome of tracking a wounded animal. We advise our hunters to wait until the bear is preoccupied with the bait and is facing away while standing broadside or quartering away. Bears are extremely tough, so a double lung or heart shot are always your best option therefore taking your time will be important.

wawangshotplacement

When archery hunting, bows must meet the following specifications.

Crossbows: Draw length must be at least (11.8 in.);

  • Draw weight must be at least (119 lbs.);
  • Bolt head must be at least (0.9 in.) at the widest point; and,
  • there must be at least two cutting edges of straight, sharp, un-serrated, barbless steel.

Re-curve Bow:    Draw weight must be at least (48.5 lbs.) at draw length of (27.6 in.) or less;

  • Arrow length must be at least (23.6 in.);
  • Broad head must be at least (0.9 in. at the widest point; and,
  • There must be at least two cutting edges of straight, sharp, un-serrated, barbless steel.

For bow hunting Black Bear we recommend a compound bow with a draw weight of no less than 50 pounds and a 100 grain broad head

Recommended Knowledge base
www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/Publications/MNR E001275P.html

For rifle hunting black bear we recommend using nothing less than a .270 caliber.
Other recommended calibers: 7mm magnum; .308; .30-06.  NO 30-30’s

Firearm Information www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/index.htm

The bottom line – baiting is a proven strategy for attracting a wary game animal with a voracious appetite. It involves much more than just tossing out a few tasty morsels. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it and our experienced guides take pride in their skills and knowledge. Keen attention to detail and listening to the guide is the key to your success.

In order to ensure the highest possible success to our hunters we take only an average 14 hunters a year. Should we have an increase in bear sighting throughout the spring and summer we may take a few more hunters but our first obligation is to ascertain a healthy black bear population together with satisfied hunters for years to come.

Most importantly, remember baiting is a ton of work and takes weeks on our part for each hunter. From collecting legal paper work to buying and picking up the ingredients, materials along with travelling for miles and then finally establishing and maintaining each site daily prior to your hunt. It requires foresight and commitment on our part and we do this because of our passion for the outdoors and careful management of our Black Bear.

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